Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Gomery: No Saints Day

November 1 is the traditional feast of All Saints in the liturgical calendar, but today in Canada, we instead mark the feast of No Saints with the release of the Gomery report.

Though some would say that today is the feast of St. Paul Outside the Loop, patron of the wilfully blind, politically lame and lost causes beyond even St. Jude's intercession.

Justice Gomery has made it all too clear what happened with the sponsorship program and who is to blame.

While Jean Chretien and his cronies will bear the greatest blame, Paul Martin goes away with an exoneration that does nothing to clear his name, after everything has been taken into context.

The senior cabinet minister from Quebec, the man in charge of the public treasury, the man who spent years taking over the Liberal party organization in a slow-motion coup that squeezed Jean Chretien, his allies, and all serious leadership rivals out, the man whose financial aptitude supposedly pulled Canada back from the brink of bankruptcy, is now also the man who saw nothing amiss when his chief political rival asked for a taxpayer-funded slush fund to be run out of PMO for the benefit of his friends, and still saw nothing going wrong while top party organizers acted and spent strangely in Quebec with the money.

That is incompetence of the first rank. And while the Liberal Party may forgive corruption, even embrace it, it will never forgive political ineptitude.

Paul Martin's political ineptitude reveals itself again with his decision to restart the Chretien-Martin civil war. From his illusory high ground, he has begun opening fire on his fellow Liberals by sending the file to the RCMP and banning 10 senior Liberals, including responsible minister Alfonso Gagliano and the man with the dirtiest hands, Jacques Corriveau.

Chretien and company have already begun firing back, starting with Warren Kinsella:

Try as he might, Gomery's $80 million inquisition could not find any evidence, whatsoever, of Jean Chrétien and Jean Pelletier having any personal involvement or culpability in wrongdoing. That's what he and the Martinites wanted most of all, so great is their well-documented hatred for Jean Chrétien. But they didn't get it.

Gomery disregarded evidence. He quoted evidence wrongly. He spun evidence, he even seemed to make evidence up. His objective - as Ipsos public opinion polls bear out - was to smear a man he had called "small town cheap" and assorted other insults. Canadians know that, too. That's why Canadians loved Chrétien's golf ball jest - because they loved seeing the Shawinigan streetfighter make short work of the imperious, loose-lipped Westmount judge.

Chrétien called in the AG. Chrétien called in the Mounties. Chrétien was the guy who moved on this mess first, not Paul Martin. That's the facts.

The sponsorship scandal has been sinking the Liberal Party in Quebec and Paul Martin is now blasting holes in the deck.

His inability to stop running for Jean Chretien's job, two years after winning it, will be his undoing.

Fighting a full-out civil war during an election will almost certainly guarantee a Conservative victory, because the Liberals will be too busy shooting at each other to shoot at Stephen Harper.

Paul Martin's exoneration, and Jean Chretien's condemnation, will strangely produce the opposite results to what was intended. Martin will be forced out after losing an election he boxed himself into calling and the Chretien people will be lining up behind whoever will let them back in control of the party.

How fitting. The sponsorship program produced the exact opposite results as well. Quebec separatism has never been stronger and the Bloc Quebecois stands poised to obliterate the Liberal Party.

If only Paul Martin had asked just a couple of questions a decade ago, he wouldn't have the scant consolation of an empty exoneration as his legacy.

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