(This column was published in the North Shore News on Mar. 15, 2000)


Job grant scandal needs full RCMP probe

By Leo Knight

AND then there were 19.  


At least that's how many police investigations we have been told about relating to the job grant scandal plaguing the federal Liberal government.  


Even at that it's been like pulling teeth trying to get accurate information from anyone in government let alone the minister responsible, Jane "Dough" Stewart.  


Sources in Ottawa have suggested there are many more investigations yet to be revealed to the public, which seems to be a little shell-shocked with the daily revelations.  


Interestingly enough, although I suspect not for the prime minister, none of the investigations include any of the 459 projects flagged by that damning internal audit that exposed this mess in the first place.  


Don't forget the load of codswallop Jean Chretien served up to the Canadian people from the outset of this scandal when he stressed there were only 37 projects of the 459 examined that had problems.  


While it was true the audit flagged the 37 projects saying they required further review, Chretien said the rest of the thousands of projects were fine.  


Clearly that's not true. It remains to be determined whether that was just political damage control or the prime minister was deliberately misleading the House. Given that three of the investigations involve the PM's own riding and his pal, Rene Fugere, is in this up to his chin, I suspect the latter may be true.  


Fugere is a long-time Liberal high-flyer and crony of Chretien. He never registered with the Office of the Ethics Commissioner as a lobbyist even though that is clearly the role he has taken. He seems to have a miraculous way of greasing the bureaucratic wheels to obtain grant money merely by asking.  


Add to all of this 14 investigations relating to federal funding under the umbrella of Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). On Monday, Mounties announced charges of fraud and forgery in three of the cases involving attempts to get money from the agency.  


One of the files under investigation in which charges have yet to be laid involves a company called Planta Dei Pharma Inc. The company is now bankrupt and had secured $915,000 in funding from the ACOA and a further $70,000 from Jane "Dough's" generous staff.  


Despite the police investigations, despite the forensic audits, despite the findings of the internal audit, Jean Chretien has all but announced he is now going to seek a third term in the top job.  


He has not called for anyone's resignation nor has he disciplined any of the myriad of civil servants who have failed utterly in their responsibilities.  


The RCMP has yet to step in and set up a broad investigation.  


Why not?  


It's not like they need a complainant to initiate such action. As the federal police force, it is not only within their jurisdiction but, I would argue, it is also their duty to find out what is going on.  


The Liberal party of Jean Chretien has been using these grant programs as their own political slush fund, buying our votes with our money and greasing the palms of their friends.  


There is absolutely nothing in any of this that merits the dispensing of so many dollars.  


The HRDC ministry itself has admitted that many of the "jobs created" numbers are not realistic.  


Any government that claims to "create" jobs hasn't got a clue.  


Yet, listening to the pathetic bleating from Stewart one might think that she either believes what she is saying or she, too, is lying.  


I suppose we are no longer shocked by the spectre of a politician lying. It seems as though we expect it. Why do we no longer get angry when our government throws our money around for their own benefit while waiting rooms in hospitals begin to look like bread lines?  


There seems to be no doubt that our system is broken. Our supposed democracy functions more as a dictatorship. Power is centralized in the office of the prime minister. Cabinet ministers have little power to do anything not sanctioned by the unelected power brokers surrounding the PM, and backbenchers might just as well stay home for all the clout they have.  


A poll released this week suggests that over 60% of Canadians think Jean Chretien should retire. Most, however, think he is doing a good job. One wonders what those people surveyed think a bad job is.  


The Liberal government of Jean Chretien is at least as corrupt as the Brian Mulroney crowd. The various police investigations may yet reveal that Mulroney was a virtual boy scout compared with the current crew.  


If the public cannot get upset by this scandal then truly, I despair for the future. The corruption, patronage and feather-nesting will continue with our hard-earned dollars until we, as a country, finally say enough is enough.  


The air must be cleared for Canadians to have any respect remain for our so-called leaders.  


The money taps at HRDC must be shut off immediately. Likewise for the Department for Indian Affairs and Northern Development and all the other tools of corruption used by those intoxicated with power in Ottawa.  


Finally, the RCMP needs to shed its political yoke and re-assume the arm's length relationship with this government, step in and conduct a thorough and far-reaching investigation.  


Enough is enough.





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