(This column was published in the North Shore News on Mar. 8, 2000)


Apathy over ‘Shovelgate’ a mystery

By Leo Knight

THERE are now 10 separate police investigations and three forensic audits into aspects of the grant scandal dubbed "Shovelgate."  


Although, in the admission made by Stewart, she said, "There are two police investigations and seven RCMP investigations."  


A Freudian slip on the politicization of the Force, or does the federal government no longer consider the RCMP to be police?  


For four weeks now Human Resources (HRDC) Minister Jane Stewart has been weathering a barrage of accusations and demands for her head in the daily 45-minute theatre of the absurd, Parliament's Question Period.  


Question Period does seem rather appropriately named, judging from the responses (or lack thereof) emanating from Stewart and Prime Minister Jean Chretien.


The opposition asks the questions and the government ducks, dodges, bobs and weaves, stalls, spins and sometimes, even lies, but it never actually answers anything.  


Jane "Dough" tried bravely to hold her ground from the outset, but now has taken to sprinting past the baying media pack as she leaves the Commons to return to her money dispensary -- sorry, uh, office.  


But despite the pounding, she has managed to provide some brief moments of mirth, albeit unwittingly.  


On Feb. 16, the beleaguered minister attempted a counter-attack against her main critic, Reformer Diane Ablonczy:  


"Mr. Speaker, I say again that I am very proud of the investment that went to this company and ensured that 156 citizens of my community who were not working before now have employment.  


"The real issue here is that day after day the Reform party stands up and undermines the effect of the Transitional Jobs Fund and the Canada Jobs Fund, but day after day I received phone calls from the offices of individual members and letters from the offices of individual members. The Reform party cannot suck and blow at the same time."  


An unfortunate choice of words evidently as the House erupted with shrieks of laughter.  


The Speaker, Gilbert Parent, struggled to regain control of the House as Bloc MP Suzanne Tremblay, according to Hansard, kept asking, "What did she say? We did not get the translation."  


Parent, struggling with the ungentlemanly raucous laughter, suggested to the honourable members, "My colleagues, sometimes some words are more difficult to translate than others, so we should stay away from it."  


Wise choice, Mr. Speaker, now back to reality.  


In addition to the police investigations, Stewart was backed into a corner by a Bloc MP over the issue of a grant given to a numbered company in his riding of Rosemont in Montreal, only to see the business shut down and move to the prime minister's riding causing a further loss of 20 jobs in Rosemont.  


It has now emerged that the situation is also the subject of a lawsuit filed by the owners of 9027-6072 Quebec Inc.  


The lawsuit alleges that George Goldberger and Mavitizis Stamatios forced their company to close its doors after the new partners (3393062 Canada Inc.) pulled out with no explanation and set up shop in the PM's riding.  


According to the lawsuit, in return for promising they could deliver substantial government grants, the owners of the Rosemont company folded their assets into Goldberger's numbered company and was abandoned when the grant of over $150,000 was delivered by HRDC.  


When Jane "Dough" was questioned about it in the Commons, she immediately resorted to her standard responses.  


But she also indicated a significantly raised level of knowledge when she said the business was re-located as a "business decision." Unfortunately for her, Goldberger contradicted her.  


The truth will emerge in this grant at some point. What puzzles me greatly is the Canadian public's apparent apathy in not reacting to this huge scandal.  


Last week a poll was released in Ottawa showing that the majority of Canadians were angry about "Shovelgate," but almost 50% said they would still vote for the Liberal party again.  


What does it take to shake their faith in this government?  


Or is it simply because there is no apparent alternative to the Liberals?  


God knows there is no one currently in opposition who seems to possess the "Royal Jelly" so to speak.  


(Hands up anyone who thinks they could stand another Joe Clark government.)  


Gilles Duceppe and his Bloc Quebecois are definitely not le choix outside Quebec.  


Preston Manning is busy trying to carve out a palatable alternative, but seems to have alienated a significant portion of the old guard in his party.  


The infighting in Reform at this crucial point in its history will ensure St. Jean the Arrogant will be able to keep control of the public purse.  


The inherent incompetence, corruption and arrogance in the face of the Canadian taxpayer is shocking. More shocking is the fact that Canadians have not been screaming from the ramparts.  


The fact that there are now 10 separate police investigations and three forensic audits suggests to me that the Mounties really need to step in and conduct a thorough, overall investigation of what has gone on with this billion-dollar boondoggle.  


It's really beginning to look more like criminal activity and not just sleazy politics.







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