Monday, January 08, 2007

Adscam Again?

Within the Canadian media there has been a swirl of possibilities a federal election may be forced. Here are the options so far:

1. The Bloc Quebecois were going to bring down the Conservative minority government with a non-confidence motion over the government’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.

2. The Conservatives were going to end the current parliament by forcing the opposition parties to vote against the current upcoming budget.

Well, now there seems to be another weapon that could be used by a party to create the likelihood of a federal election: Adscam.

We interupt this political pontification for a quick Question & Answer period:

Question:”Hasn’t the country been through this before in the previous election as Paul Martin and Liberals were decimated over the handling of Adscam?”

Answer: Yes, they were soundly defeated and Martin resigned causing the Liberal party to go into disarray.

Question: “Isn’t Adscam over with since the Gomery inquiry has been completed?”

Answer: Not so says Sun Media columnist Greg Weston:

“We recently received an unusual call from a member of the RCMP commercial crime squad in Montreal, seeking our assistance in the feds’ ongoing criminal investigations of the sponsorship scandal." — excerpted from this column.

In other words Weston believes that the RCMP are really close to laying more charges against even more people involved in the ‘sponsorship scandal’.”

Weston continues:

Of specific interest to the Mounties was our investigative piece in 2004 that exposed an apparent shakedown of federal contractors in the 1990s, a fleecing operation run through one of the Liberal-friendly advertising companies at the centre of the AdScam fiasco.

Our report detailed how one communications consultant with a $200,000 Health Canada contract had been ordered by a senior federal official in Jean Chretien’s government to invoice the feds through the Montreal ad company.

In turn, the ad firm extracted $50,000 from the consultant for doing nothing but passing along the bills to the Liberal government for payment. What happened to all that easy money remains a mystery, and is presumably a focus of the RCMP probe.

In the meantime, the RCMP investigator asked us to share whatever other information we might have in our files on the incident, and any others like it.

(While we wish the Mounties every success in their investigation, they also accepted with utmost professionalism our long-standing journalistic rule that we don’t disclose what we don’t print, and the conversation ended there.) Aside from providing a brief interlude of intrigue, the phone call also serves as a timely reminder that AdScam is anything but a dead issue. Far from it.

For several months now, sources have been telling us the Mounties are “only weeks away” from laying a slew of new criminal charges against individuals other than the three AdScammers already doing jail time. With the next federal election expected by spring, the likely return of AdScam to the front pages any day now can’t be good news for the federal Liberals and their newly anointed leader, Stephane Dion. “

Now back to the regularly scheduled political pontification:

The arising of further Adscam charges, that Weston notes above, and Stephane Dion as Liberal leader might present the perfect storm for Stephen Harper to force an election.

Here is what could happen over the next couple of months in Ottawa:

1. Stephen Harper has a spring budget released that he knows the opposition parties simply will not stand for but will be pretty nice looking to tax weary voters (i.e. a budget full of tax cuts).

2. The opposition parties bring down the government following days (weeks?) of political bashing over the government’s tax break budget.

3. Meanwhile the RCMP have held a press conference to announce more people connected with the Liberal party have been charged with fraud in association with the federal sponsorship program.

4. Harper visits the Governor General to get the rit for the election.

A perfect storm has been brewed in Stephen Harper’s favour for a spring election:

-Stephane Dion and the Liberals are not ready for an election yet because Dion has not had the chance to re-unite the party following years of political infighting between the former Chretien and Martin camps as well as the damage done to the Liberal name following the sponsorship scandal (even funnier is the chain of events during the sponsorship scandal that I highlight here).

-Harper can lambaste Dion, just like Harper did to Paul Martin in the last election, by pointing out that Mr. Dion is more than willing to take credit for creating The Clarity Act, but refuses to acknowledge he knew anything about the workings sponsorship program.

-the budget will be the tool used by the Conservative team to sell to Canadians the idea they are going to receive even further tax relief. This seemed to have worked in the last election with the promise of the GST cut. The Conservatives will also point out that all the other parties voted against tax relief for Canadians by bringing down the government over this very budget.

Now with this scenario in mind, Harper has to be wondering if this will be enough to finally return a Conservative majority back to government since The late 1980′s and early 1990′s when then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney held the last Conservative majority government.

Only time will tell if Harper’s dreams come true in launching a political drama. Watch your television folks: This spring in Canadian politics could get interesting!

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