RM Issue #031020
The sleaze factor
(note - this URL will probably not be good for long, as it just goes to the current Steward column - but his email address is on here somewhere if you want to check it out - but I don't make stuff like this up - really!!)
Canada's esteem slips badly thanks to government scandals
By HARTLEY STEWARD -- Toronto Sun
October 12, 2003
The decade-long rule of Jean Chretien has seen plenty of suspect government. There is much for which the prime minister and his cabinet should be held accountable.
Favouritism runs rampant. Patronage on an embarrassing scale. Extravagant spending. Careless handling of our tax dollars. Arrogance of an unparalleled nature. Man- handling of the very democratic principles on which Canada is based. An indulgent search for a prime ministerial legacy which has paralyzed the workings of Parliament.
But more than any of it, the Chretien regime must take responsibility for ushering in an age of corruption unprecedented in our history. The scandals, criminal and immoral both, have been so persistent, so relentless, our initial national outrage has given way to ennui.
We are no longer shocked. We shrug in the face of missing millions. We accept without reaction the untendered contracts, dubious loans, inexplicable grants, untenable appointments, the nepotism, the double dipping and the astonishing abuse of expenses.
We have been convinced, almost by the sheer volume of shameful episodes, that this is the way government in Canada works. Our indignation has withered in the face of world-class stonewalling. We have come to believe it has always been thus.
But it hasn't always been this way. All our governments have had their missteps, to be sure. Petty thievery in large government operations is impossible to eradicate. Power will always be abused by some who suddenly find themselves in charge.
But the fact is, historically, it has not been endemic to our governing class. Surely we never regarded the governments of Lester Pearson and John Diefenbaker as corrupt. Incompetent, sometimes, for sure, but not criminal.
We Canadians have not traditionally been taken advantage of on such a grand scale by our elected representatives as we have been by this government. We have had few scandals in our past of the size and nature of the Human Resources Development Canada fiasco, which saw millions of dollars granted, many with no paper trail, no written justification and few or no conditions.
We have never seen the sort of high-level intervention on behalf of government-connected businessmen seeking federal loans and grants.
The recent government contracts to Quebec advertising agencies with close ties to the Liberals, which often produced no reports or duplicated reports or scant reports, is a new phenomenon in Canada.
Our national police force, the RCMP, has never been called in to investigate wrongdoing on the present scale.
The dubious machinations of this government have not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world.
While once we were regarded as a model of honest, wholesome, democratic government by most other nations, we have slipped in esteem badly.
Transparency International, a non-government German agency which ranks the governments of 133 countries based on the perceived corruption of politicians and public officials, has reduced Canada's standing this year from 7th to 11th.
It cited instances of public officials misusing expense accounts, improperly awarding contracts and taking or offering bribes as the reason Canada's squeaky clean reputation has been tarnished. The agency called Canada one of the "noteworthy examples of worsening."
The head of the group's Canadian chapter said Canada dropped four places because of scandals involving the present and former prime ministers, members of Parliament and Canadian companies.
"Canada suddenly doesn't appear to be quite as clean as it used to be," he told the press.
How did such a thing happen to us? Where did these guys develop such contempt for the Canadian electorate? Where did they learn to abuse the trust we put in them with such flair, as if it were a Canadian tradition, as if they had been doing it all their lives?
My guess is the genesis of it can be found in the Liberal party's belief it is the rightful ruling party of Canada. The emphasis, for most of them, from the first term, has been on politics, not policy. Jean Chretien and his gang swept into power believing their first job was the care and feeding of the Liberal party and its friends, rather than the nation's business.
I think their notion of the divine right of Liberal rule was rationale enough to excuse the sleaziest of activities. The result has been the loss of a precious Canadian innocence. Our international reputation for honest government has been hurt, probably beyond repair. Corruption has got its foothold.