Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Watergate in Canada

Scandal Threatens Canadian Government (washingtonpost.com): "Canadians call it their Watergate -- a kickback scandal that has badly damaged the Liberal Party and now threatens to bring down the government of Paul Martin...

The scandal, based on a secret program that dates back to the 1990s and the Liberal Party leadership of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, erupted anew last Thursday when a judge probing the alleged misuse of public funds lifted a publication ban on testimony by a Montreal ad executive.

The executive, Jean Brault, who faces fraud charges stemming from the now-defunct program, told the federal inquiry that senior Liberals forced him to secretly divert more than $818,000 to the party's Quebec wing in exchange for sponsorship contracts. During his six days of testimony, Brault spoke of hushed-up payments to Liberals in restaurants, money being given to a brother of Chretien, and reluctant contributions strong-armed out of employees.

Brault said he got $141 million in government business for his firm.

Chretien and Martin have vehemently denied any personal knowledge of wrongdoing.

"The problem with corruption, when it occurs -- and Watergate was a good example of this in the United States -- it undermines confidence in not just the people who are involved, but in the institution that they represent. That's the real worry," said Wesley Cragg, head of Transparency International Canada, a global anti-corruption coalition. "

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