Prime Time Crime


(Published in the Similkameen Spotlight week of Sept.  26, 2005)

And This Little Piggy Stays Home

  By John Martin

Coming as no surprise whatsoever, Paul Coffin, the first person to be charged and convicted in the Sponsorship Scandal, was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day to be served in the community.  Coffin was one of the major players in the Adscam swindle that cost Canadians at least $250 million and benefited friends and family of the Liberal Party.

For five long years he stole $1.5 million from Canadian taxpayers.  Coffin regularly submitted phony invoices for work never done and double billed for the work he did do.  He charged for meetings he never attended and submitted bills for employees who didn’t exist.  And being a good, loyal Liberal; he kicked back a portion so Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin could keep winning elections.  Campaigns cost money after all.

Oh yes, the two years less a day non-sentence includes a 9:00 p.m. curfew on weekdays and no restrictions on weekends.  He can essentially do whatever he wants.  Canadian justice at its finest.

But wait, there’s more.  As part of his sentence, Coffin will be giving lectures at several universities in Ontario and Quebec.  The topic?  Why, business ethics of course.

Many white collar criminals in the U.S. hit the lecture circuit after their sentence.  In this country, that is their sentence.  Justice should be blind – not blind drunk.

The judge was apparently impressed that Coffin has paid back two thirds of the money he stole, without interest mind you.  The crown had asked for a reasonable prison term of 34 months.  Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Guy Boilard was having none of that.  He decided that any jail time at all would be inappropriate.  Why would any judge want to send a good Liberal to jail?  That might rule out future appointments.

People in this country who like to bash the U.S. are fond of noting how corrupt the American system is and sneer that the rich can get away with anything they want.  Yeah, right.  Here’s how the U.S. deals with high level white collar criminals.

Andrew Fastow got 10 years for his role in the collapse of Enron. 

Bernard Ebbers was slapped with 25 years for defrauding WorldCom shareholders.

John Rigas got 15 years for his role in the Adelphia communications scandal and his son got 20 years for looting the same company and lying about its finances.

More recently, former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski was given 8 to 25 years for his pilfering of the manufacturing conglomerate.

I could go on.  But you get the picture. 

The single biggest swindle and most extreme instance of government corruption in Canadian history didn’t even warrant a day behind bars.

Steal what you want.  If you get caught, cry a little and offer to pay some of it back.  And so long as you’re on good terms with the Liberal party of Canada, you don’t have a thing to worry about.

Make no mistake about it.  Crime pays in this country.  How well?

Considering it looks like we’re going to reward the Liberals with another mandate in the next election, I’d say it pays very well.

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

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