The Liberal Party of Canada could be targeted in a taxpayer-funded lawsuit to recover millions of dollars that went missing in the federal sponsorship program, a newspaper report says.
In its Thursday edition, La Presse quotes a source who says the Harper government has told its lawyers to prepare to sue the Liberals for "all the dirty money," an amount it estimates is between $1 million and $40 million.
In addition to recovering funds, the move could have political benefits for the minority Conservatives, keeping the sponsorship scandal in the minds of voters until the next federal election.
The Liberals repaid $1.14 million after the Gomery public inquiry found that some money paid to outside companies under the federal sponsorship program found its way back into the coffers of the party's Quebec wing.
The inquiry also heard that some ad firms in Quebec agreed to keep Liberal organizers on the payroll in return for lucrative sponsorship contracts.
All sorts of fascinating legal questions arise from this proposed action.
Whom will the government sue? The Liberal Party of Canada, or just its Quebec wing? How many individual party officers and directors will be named?
Where will the government sue? In Quebec, where most of the fraud took place and the principals reside, under civil law, or in Ontario, where the Liberal Party of Canada is headquartered, under common law?
On what grounds will the government sue? This will vary depending on where the suit is brought. And I know nothing of civil law save that Quebec lawyers would be lost without their little red Code Civil at their side.
How long before this gets to trial? If it isn't dismissed (quite possible) or settled (virtually unlikely), it'll be two or three years before the matter gets to trial.
How will the Liberals respond? Legally, by denying that there was a fraud, or in the alternative, that the party was a party to the fraud, or in the alternative to the alternative, that it did not knowingly receive embezzled funds.
Politically, by screaming that Stephen Harper is trying to litigate his opposition out of existence and using the courts to crush political dissent.
Nonsense. Political parties are not above the law, and if the Liberal Party ends up bankrupt to satisfy a civil judgment for fraud, it will have gotten no more than it deserves. If a party becomes too deeply corrupted by fraud--witness the Progressive Conservative party in Saskatchewan--dissolving it is not an affront to free government, but an aid thereto.
See you in court!