Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gomery, in Two Excerpts

Two excerpts from our very best columnists, on why the sponsorship scandal holds (or should hold) consequences for the Liberal Party of Canada:
"...The Gomery report describes what it calls a "culture of entitlement" among senior officials in the Liberal Party, the same culture that finds it acceptable to ship cronies into the Senate, that treats appointments to Crown corporations as a reward for good and faithful service, that accepts the right of the perpetually governing party to use the grease of patronage to lubricate its rusty machine.

Mr. Martin shows not the slightest discomfort with that culture, which is why he recently sent his former principal secretary, Francis Fox, to the Senate without even blushing. Every Canadian who doesn't call the Prime Minister by his first name turned away in disgust.

That is why healthy democracies rotate political parties: to exploit the brief period of probity that accompanies a new party's arrival in power, until the culture of entitlement seeps into their souls as well..."

The personal responsibility or otherwise of Mr. Martin is irrelevant to the question of whether the Liberal party should be held accountable. Suppose a corporation were discovered to have dumped toxic waste in the local river. And suppose, in the wake of the scandal, the corporation brought in a new CEO -- not just promoted the senior VP, but hired someone wholly unconnected with the firm. The new CEO could protest with absolute justice that he could not personally be held to blame for the misdeeds that had gone on under his predecessor. But would that absolve the corporation as a whole of liability? No it would not.

The corporation would still be legally liable, that is, with all of the rules of evidence and standards of proof that implies. But the Liberals, whatever their legal liability, may be held to another standard, that of political responsibility. The public does not need to know, to form such a judgment, which persons broke which laws. It is enough to ask: How did it occur to so many people to do so? And, as important, how did they think they could get away with it? It wasn't only a "culture of entitlement" that was at work here. It was -- is -- also a culture of impunity.


Blogger The Tiger said...

Ah, but James, you don't include the next bit from that Globe column:

"But the Conservatives alienate so many Canadians, for so many different reasons, that power continues to elude them, leaving this dysfunctional mess as a status quo with little hope of change."

It's sad, and I don't think it's quite fair, but there it is. Bet he and his colleagues vote Liberal next time, holding their noses.

All the same, if francophone Quebec goes solidly Bloc, the Liberals may yet be tossed from power -- for a time.

I'll be watching the next election campaign like it's a spectator-sport, or like it's a soap opera. I ran through my righteous indignation last time, and it isn't going to come back -- in part because I'm still quite annoyed at the party whose membership I still hold (till Dec. 31st, anyway) and whom I... well, if I were home in TO, I'd vote for Peter Kent, but since I'm abroad and I can't swear that I intend to return within five years, I guess that I can't vote in the next election.

8:40 PM  
Blogger James MacDuff said...

I took the next bit for granted, actually. I realize there is little hope, it's one of the reasons I have been speculating on how the current government might be humbled short of the Conservatives completely taking over. Alas. The wait continues.

9:18 PM  
Blogger The Tiger said...

Though they make my bile rise, the Paul Martin Liberals aren't terrible.

They're just mediocre, and they'll continue the drive for mediocrity and nothing more.

And they'll remain unhumbled, no doubt. :-)

9:33 PM  
Blogger Shari said...

I think there need to be general guidelines such as these...


2:20 AM  
Blogger Liam O'Brien said...

It's really sad when Canadians try to respond even to proof as strong as the report of a judicial inquiry showing some of the worst culture of political crookery with "well, they're not that bad . . ."

As I often say to friends I have known from Australia, NZ, UK, and Ireland . . . if you want to see a "new normal" every other week, come watch all the Canadians who apologize for or downplay corruption as par for the course. . .

7:28 PM  
Blogger The Tiger said...

Well, in Canada isn't it actually par for the course, now?

(Written from the US of A.)

8:28 PM  
Blogger The Tiger said...


8:55 PM  
Blogger James MacDuff said...

Tiger - that's pretty rich coming from the States, considering that the House Majority Leader is currently under indictment, Bush's pro-torture policy being exposed for what it is, the investigation into the White House leak investigation is revealing misconduct at the highest levels of the Executive, the gerrymandering of districts leaves probably less than 50 of over 400 House seats competitive, and the pork-busting efforts in the Senate got soundly trounced.

Just saying... the smugness with which you praise (rather uncritically) the country of your current residence grates at times. I think it is a bit much to claim that corruption is "par for the course" in Canada, especially in comparison.

9:03 AM  
Blogger The Tiger said...

Here's the difference: they've been indicted. They're being investigated -- even while they're still in office.

As for getting rid of gerrymandering -- we'll see how the special elections/referenda go on Tuesday in California...

2:04 PM  

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