Prime Time Crime  


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of May 16, 2005)


  By John Martin

When we’re trying to attach a name or slogan to one scandal or another we tend to look to the past.  When the British Columbia NDP was found to have been stealing from charities for years, commentators recalled the mother of all scandals; Watergate, and coined the not so original, “Bingogate”.

And once it became known that the federal Liberals were involved in recruiting sex trade workers from Eastern Europe in order to comply with organized crime’s request for a regular supply of “fresh meat”, journalists came up with, “Strippergate”.

So now that the Government of Canada is soiled and neck deep in the ugliest instance of corruption, extortion, kickbacks and money laundering in the nation’s history, it was inevitable that a label would be attached.  “Sponsorgate” was a natural but it sounds a bit lame.

Hence, the term “Adscam” seemed to be appropriate and it stuck.  But this too is a play on an earlier scandal.  In 1980 the FBI set up a sting program known as “Abscam”.  The ploy identified thirty-one elected and public officials, including members of Congress, caught in the act of taking bribes in exchange for political favours to Arab oil interests.

One witty entrepreneur quickly designed and sold thousands of bumper stickers that read “U.S. Congress – The Best Legislators Money Can Buy”.

Not to be outdone, it seems a group of Canadians have hit pay dirt with the latest in political merchandising.  A recent issue of Western Standard magazine ran a cover that was a take on the popular Sopranos ad showing Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Alfonso Galiano and a host of other shady characters looking much like a gang of mobsters and thugs. 

Immigration Minister, Joe Volpe, had a hissy fit and accused the Conservatives of being racists, intolerant bigots and Klansmen, even though they had nothing to do with the artwork.  And of course, there was no such venom from the Minister toward those who stole millions from the public treasury. 

But all publicity is good publicity and the magazine sold out quickly.  A first for the new publication.  The “libranos” were, pardon the expression, a hit.

Faced with demand from across the country, now they’re selling posters and mounted prints of the infamous magazine cover.  Additionally, t-shirts are available with the artwork on the front and on the back the caption, “Sponsorship Scandal? Fuhgettaboutit”.

Libranos screensavers and desktop wallpaper are also available.  Coffee mugs, drink coasters and bumper stickers can’t be too far off either.  Personally, I’m waiting for the libranos ice pick.

Unlike Watergate and Abscam though, we shouldn’t expect to see any high level government officials going to prison.  Canadian politicians, as opposed to their U.S. counterparts, are, for all practical intents and purposes, above the law.

Still, it’s nice to see someone making an honest buck off the sponsorship scandal.  We should all be so enterprising.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at


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