No doubt Paul Martin wishes he could turn back the clock. If he could, he would likely turn it back a couple of weeks ? to before Auditor General Sheila Fraser tabled her report on the Public Works sponsorship scandal. However, even then there was little he could do differently to avert the damage inflicted upon his reputation and political career.
Mr. Martin?s opportunity to demonstrate credibility and integrity passed more than two years ago when he was first notified, in writing, of suspicions that tax dollars were being misused within the federal sponsorship program in Quebec. It?s too late now.
Now, the Prime Minister is under attack from Canadians who believe he knew more about the misappropriation of $250-million than he claims. In fact, a new survey says that just 11 percent of Canadians believe Paul Martin was unaware of what was happening when the sponsorship program was in full swing. That?s likely because his reaction, both then and now, goes entirely against human nature.
Mr. Martin says he?s as ?mad as hell? about the scandal now. Yet why wasn?t he equally ?mad as hell? two years ago when he received a letter from the national policy chair of the Liberal Party of Canada, alleging criminal and corrupt activities within the sponsorship program. In the letter, Mr. Martin was referred to as “our government’s chief financial officer and our party’s most senior Quebec minister.”
Now, the Prime Minister is also under attack from within his own party. He has used every media opportunity available to protest his innocence and Liberal insiders say this has made Canadians think he ?doth protest too much?. Liberals are also furious that Martin aides have been secretly attempting to deflect all blame onto Jean Chrétien.
And in another blow, Liberal MP John Bryden quit the Liberal party and caucus this week saying, ?I’ve lost confidence in Mr. Martin. It’s an organization, I’m sorry to say, that I’m not sure can still lead the country in good governance.” He added, ?unless the Liberals can demonstrate in a very short term that they really are worthy of the public trust ? then perhaps voters should be looking to other parties.”
Now, the Prime Minister is under attack from the media. Reporters have been relentless in pointing out his inconsistent, contradictory and implausible statements in the affair. Mr. Martin appears surprised that, despite his pleas of ignorance, this is an issue that will not simply ?go away?. And no wonder.
That $250-million blown boosting Liberal political fortunes in Quebec equals the income tax paid by everyone in a town roughly the size of Fort Nelson or Mackenzie. It equals $60 for every man, woman and child in British Columbia.
The HRDC Billion Dollar Boondoggle. The $2-billion federal Firearms Registry. Shawinigate. $161-million in federal money for Paul Martin?s family company. Now this.
Although I take no personal satisfaction in seeing yet another scandal involving the fraudulent use of Canadian tax dollars ? I am truly grateful that after 10 years sitting in Parliament, as scandal after scandal has come to light ? it finally appears that Canadians have had ?enough? of these corrupt Liberals!