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Harper alleges organized crime helped Liberals in Adscam

[PoliticsWatch Updated 1:00 p.m. November 24, 2005]

OTTAWA  —Conservative Leader Stephen Harper made allegations of organized crime involvement with the Liberal party and government interference in police investigations in a speech he made to table a non-confidence motion aimed at toppling the minority government Thursday. 

"A party that has been named in a judicial inquiry or Royal commission, been found guilty of breaking every conceivable law in the province Quebec with the help of organized crime cannot lecture the separatists or anyone else about respecting the rule of law," Harper charged in the House of Commons. 

Harper made the comments after tabling a straightforward, non-confidence motion that was seconded by NDP Leader Jack Layton. 

The motion simply states: "This House has lost confidence in the government."

A vote on the motion is expected on Monday and if passed by the three opposition parties will force Prime Minister Paul Martin to call an election for as early as January 9. 

Martin was not in the chamber during the debate as he was attending a historic First Ministers conference with aboriginal leaders in Kelowna, British Columbia. 

Harper's speech was a stinging, verbal attack on the Liberal party, which was specifically cited in Justice John Gomery's fact-finding report on the sponsorship scandal. 

Gomery also accused one senior party organizer of operating what he described as an "elaborate kickback scheme" aimed at funneling government money into the coffers of the Liberal party in Quebec. 

Gomery never made specific links between the party and organized crime per se in his report on the sponsorship scandal. 

However, he did hear testimony about unusually large sums of cash being given to Liberal party organizers in envelopes and even in suitcases, a practice more common in organized crime than political parties. 

Michel Beliveau, who was executive director of the Liberal party in Quebec, testified before Gomery that during the 1997 election campaign Jacques Corriveau, a sponsorship subcontractor who was considered a friend of former prime minister Jean Chretien, handed him an envelope containing $75,000 to $100,000 in $20 and $100 bills. 

That money was given to another Liberal party official to help out in ridings in Quebec where the Liberals did not have seats. 

Marc-Yvan Cote, a Liberal party official in charge of many of the so-called orphan ridings, said Beliveau gave him $60,000 in cash in two envelopes containing $100 bills. He also said he received instalments of $40,000 and $20,000 in cash several weeks later. 

Gomery found both men's testimony on these matters credible.

In a 2000, news conference in Ottawa, RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli said criminal groups were focusing on Parliament, courts and other institutions to destabilize Canada's political system. 

"For the first time in this country, we are seeing signs of criminal organizations that are so sophisticated that they actually are focusing on destabilizing certain aspects of our society," Zaccardelli said at the time, without providing specific details. 

"That's a real threat to us. There are criminal organizations that target this destabilization of our parliamentary system."

Harper also alleged a cover up of the scandal by the ruling party, noting that so far only four people have been charged in the scandal, and the only person charged from government has been Chuck Guite, the senior bureaucrat who ran the program. 

Guite told the inquiry that he was operating the program with the direction of senior political figures in the Chretien government at the time. 

"So far, criminal charges have been pursued against relatively small fry in the sponsorship scandal and no one has gone to jail," Harper said in his speech.

"As long as the guilty party remains in governing this country, as long as it remains in office, nobody will ever be held truly responsible. Nobody will ever be truly punished. And no real reforms will ever be made."

Liberal MP Paul Szabo said in response that the Liberal party has not been charged criminally for Adscam and must be presumed innocent. 

"He knows very well that the Gomery inquiry did not have the mandate or the authority to find criminal liability," Szabo said. 

He also noted that Martin sent Gomery's findings to the RCMP. 

Harper's allegations of criminal involvement and interference in investigations comes the same day the Globe and Mail reported the Liberal party planned to run a negative campaign against the Conservative party in the upcoming election. 

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