(This column was published in the North Shore News on Mar. 10, 2004)
Revolution needed in revolting Canada
By Leo Knight
"Perhaps there were a few million dollars that might have been stolen in the process, but how many millions of dollars have we saved . . . ." -Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
READING the news reports emanating from the nation's capitol chronicling the latest revelations in the so-called Adscam scandal and resulting attempts at spin control by the federal government, leaves one to think it might just be time for a revolution.
No, no not a storming of the Bastille or anything quite so dramatic. Something more along the lines of the California tax revolt which took shape in 1978 in what was called Proposition 13. While primarily concerned with local property taxes, the tax revolt served to tell the elected representatives, "We're not going to take it."
Just on the surface of things, in California, post Proposition 13, their so-called Tax Freedom Day is April 29, more than two months before the day when we, in our demented Dominion, stop earning to pay taxes and start earning for ourselves.
Realistically, how much more blatant irresponsibility with our tax dollars should we tolerate before we say "we're not going to take it?"
I suppose I'm being a bit generous with that description too, aren't I? Since the Adscam scandal began topping the headlines across the country, the words theft and corruption have been more commonly used as descriptors. According to Auditor General Sheila Fraser's scathing report, more than $250 million went to Liberal friends and insiders and at least $100 million of that went to supposed commissions, much of it for work of dubious value or work not done at all. In less politically correct terms, it might well be called fraud. And perhaps that is why there are so many police investigations surrounding these grants.
The new prime minister, Paul Martin, has steadfastly maintained he knew nothing of the problem and is blaming his strained relationship with former prime minister Jean Chretien for the lack of specific knowledge of the sponsorship fiscal fiasco. But this just doesn't hold water for a number of reasons.
In the first place, Martin was not only minister of finance when the scheme was hatched in 1997, but he was also vice-chairman of the Treasury Board, which has as its mandate, the requirement to scrutinize every spending program in the federal government. At the least he ought to have known or is malfeasant for not making it his business to know.
But notwithstanding that obvious fact that he tries to make not so obvious, the auditor general had lit the fuse on the Adscam rocket way back in late 2001.
All Martin had to do to learn about the cancer growing in the Ministry of Public Works was to read a newspaper or listen to the Opposition in the House during question period.
More to the point, an internal audit was done in 2000 and that report released on Oct. 11 of that year.
That audit found some troubling things: double billing, false reporting, unexplained spending and the politicization of the grant process. Imagine that. And that was before the auditor general's report in 2001 that triggered the removal of Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano and his shameful appointment as ambassador to Denmark.
So, with all the warnings, reports, news stories and question period hammering, how is it possible that Martin can still deny any and all knowledge of what was occurring?
But we can still take that one step further. Martin was the senior minister from Quebec. All of the money was ostensibly earmarked to combat the rising tide of Quebec separatism in the wake of the 1995 referendum. How could such a significant decision be made without the lead minister from that province?
Notwithstanding the relationship between Chretien and Martin, the latter was a leader in the Quebec caucus.
And then there's Gagliano.
Quite apart from the allegations of corruption, and they are many and varied relative to his time in cabinet, he has significant links to the Mafia which have been well documented.
In 1994, the French newspaper La Presse reported he had been the accountant to Augustino Cuntrera, a leader in the Caruana-Cuntrera mob family described by Interpol as the Rothchilds of the Mafia.
Gagliano admitted his role, but tried to minimize it by saying he was simply an accountant to two legitimate Cuntrera companies. To believe him would suppose Canadians don't understand the correlation between a mobster's illegitimate activities and the legal companies formed to launder their ill-gotten booty.
Add to that, Gagliano's role in founding an Italian society in Montreal and holding the presidency prior to Augustino Cuntrera holding the same office.
The RCMP questioned the relationship when conducting the routine background check on Gagliano after Chretien announced he would be appointed to executive council. In fact, my sources tell me the Mounties rejected him initially. How he ultimately got clearance, mandatory for all cabinet ministers, is a question best asked of the former prime minister, who had the only authority to override the national police.
So where are we in all of this?
A new prime minister claiming he didn't know what was going on when clearly he either did or should have. A minister of the Crown responsible for doling out millions of taxpayer dollars with clear links to high-ranking mafia members.
A former prime minister admitting millions of dollars were stolen, but minimizing the ramifications.
And all of this is before taxpayers start taking into consideration the HRDC scandal, the gun registry, two new prime ministerial jets, fountains in the Shawinigan River, justice system strangulation, helicopter bungling, armed forces fiscal starvation, George Radwanski, and the patron saint of all the pigs with snouts in the trough, Queen Adrienne.
I'm thinking something of a revolution is in order.