Mr. Justice John Gomery will not be so easily pushed aside, however, and he's going to court to keep Chretien out of his way:
Sponsorship inquiry commissioner John Gomery is going to Federal Court to clear the air regarding allegations of bias levelled at him by former prime minister Jean Chretien.
Chretien withdrew a legal challenge on May 30 but a letter the same day from the Justice Department to Chretien's lawyers raised the possibility the challenge may be renewed at a later date.
Gomery and Chretien have repeatedly crossed swords since Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed the Quebec Superior Court justice to head the inquiry.
Chretien has tried on several occasions to have Gomery step down for making comments the former prime minister believes are prejudicial, including calling Chretien "small-town cheap" for having golf balls imprinted with his signature.
Chretien's latest challenge against Gomery came earlier this month when his lawyers argued the judge's final report must not be based on any advice given privately by commission counsel.
Gomery swiftly rejected the motion.
Morphy accused the government of inconsistencies for at first urging Chretien's challenge be expedited and now suggesting Chretien can withdraw his motion and re-issue it later.
But Justice Department lawyer Brian Saunders doesn't see how the court can prevent Chretien from withdrawing his motion now and from relaunching one once his report is completed.
"Mr. Chretien was ... fully within his rights to discontinue his application for judicial review without our consent," he wrote in a June 9 reply to Morphy.
"It was his decision to discontinue. We do not see any basis upon which the attorney general could move to set aside the discontinuance and force Mr. Chretien to proceed with the application."
Paul Martin would love nothing more than to have Gomery lay all the blame on Chretien and company for the sponsorship mess, especially since Chretien moved up his resignation to let the Auditor-General's report on the sponsorship program explode in Martin's face instead of his.
But Chretien's threatened court challenge might save Martin's skin. Paul Martin foolishly put the gun to his own head by promising an election call within 30 days of the release of Gomery's report during his televised plea for mercy. Anything that can delay the report will give Martin time to contain the damage therefrom.
Mr. Justice Gomery's alleged bias has never been the real issue for the Liberals. The real issue has been how to spin the report to their advantage, no matter who takes the brunt of the blame.
If Gomery blames Chretien, they'll forget the claims of bias and sell it as solid gold exoneration of Martin and call an election.
If Gomery blames Martin in any way, they'll claim that Gomery had to bend over backwards to avoid even the appearance of bias against Chretien and ended up biased against Martin instead. The inquiry's findings will be dismissed summarily and there'll be no election call.
Either way, it's win-win for the Liberals.
Source: Canadian Press