(This column was published in the North Shore News on Mar. 28, 2001)

 

Chretien's current term clouded by scandal

By Leo Knight

As the accusations in the House of Commons become more pointed and the calls for the resignation of the prime minister become louder, it is Jean Chretien who seems to have shed his coat of Teflon, chanting the mantra: deny, deny, deny.  

 

As the scandal over money given to the Auberge Grand Mère has unfolded, Chretien has gone from denial to stonewalling to vague admissions to spinning and back to denial.  

 

One cannot help but wonder how much longer he can claim legitimacy in his office.  

 

With all due respect to Stockwell Day and Joe Clark, who have been battering down the front door of the PMO on the whole question of Shawinigate, perhaps we need have a peek around the back door to gain an understanding of some other aspects of the growing scandal.  

 

In 1996, Louis Leblanc, a vice-president with the Quebec accounting firm Levesque Beaubien Geoffrion, set up a meeting between Jean Chretien and Gordon Fu of Imperial Consultants. Leblanc deals primarily with immigrant investor funds and has extensive Liberal connections.  

 

Imperial Consultants has been the subject of several police inquiries both here in Vancouver and in Hong Kong, and in fact came up several times in the investigations of allegations made by former foreign service officer Brian McAdam relating to the issue of fake immigration receipts.  

 

In 1996, brothers Robert and Gordon Fu were charged with trying to bribe two immigration officials with $50,000 each. The case was stayed by the Crown in 1998, partway through a preliminary hearing.  

 

During the election campaign, the prime minister admitted to meeting with Gordon Fu of Imperial at Chretien's Parliament Hill office on Feb. 28, 1996. But he brushed it off with his typical shrug, saying in the Commons, "People from my riding and MPs come all the time, we shake hands, we discuss things for two or three minutes and then they go. This visit was of the same nature."  

 

Ten days after the meeting, $1.75 million was invested in the Auberge Grand Mère by a group of immigrant investors including, according to the Canadian Alliance, Gordon Fu.  

 

Added to the $615,000 loaned to the Auberge Grand Mère by the Business Development Bank after Chretien lobbied the president of the bank, Francois Beaudoin, a total of $2.36 million went to the financially strapped hotel formerly owned by the prime minister and now owned by his friend Yvon Duhaime.  

 

All of which is very interesting and decidedly suspicious. But it becomes even more interesting when we take a look at the federal government public accounts.  

 

Those documents reveal that Levesque Beaubien Geoffrion received a mind-boggling $3,359,282 from HRDC in fiscal year 1999-2000. Unfortunately, the documents don't indicate what that money was for.  

 

Now the government has been vigorously defending the prime minister, trying to diffuse the growing scandal. They have been constantly saying the same thing over and over again, claiming the ethics counsellor, Howard Wilson and the RCMP have investigated and cleared the PM.  

 

Dealing with the RCMP first, they have not cleared the PM of anything. They are still conducting multiple, separate investigations into HRDC grants in the PM's riding. What the Mounties have done, in responding to calls for an investigation by Stockwell Day and Joe Clark, is look at the facts surrounding the BDB loan and the meeting with Fu and say there is no basis for a criminal investigation.  

 

Fair enough. The RCMP does not investigate conflicts of interest by federal politicians.  

 

Back to Howard Wilson. Inasmuch as he reports to the prime minister and not Parliament, one has to question his independence in all of this. Moreover, the investment of over $1.75 million in immigrant investor funds might well place Wilson himself in a conflict of interest.  

 

Prior to becoming Chretien's ethics counsellor, Wilson was the guy who made the rules on immigrant investor funds for the federal government.  

 

The calls are just starting for the prime minister to step aside, with editorial pages in the major dailies getting on board.  

 

One wonders how much longer the PM can hold off the wolves baying for his blood?  

 

Perhaps we are witnessing the final chapter in Jean Chretien's political story.

 

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