PM calls on Harper not
to force election
[PoliticsWatch Updated 12:00 p.m. April 8, 2005]
OTTAWA — A day after his government was rattled by the release of damaging testimony alleging money laundering and kick backs to high-ranking Liberal party officials, Prime Minister Paul Martin is urging Conservative Leader Stephen Harper not to force an election on the issue.
"The challenge that this Liberal government issues to Stephen Harper and the Conservatives today is this," Martin spokesman Scott Reid told the
Canadian Press. "Will the leader of the Opposition give Canadians a guarantee that he will let Justice (John) Gomery report his findings - that he will not force voters into an election until they have the answers that this prime minister has said that they deserve?"
Gomery will end the testimony phase of his inquiry in early May, but will not start filing reports until the fall. His final report is expected in December.
Almost 24 hours after a publication ban was lifted on the testimony of a key figure in the sponsorship scandal, the prime minister has yet to comment publicly on the allegations which some are calling the biggest revelations of government corruption in Canadian history.
"I'm not going to take any questions," he told reporters en route with him to Rome for Pope John Paul II's funeral.
Groupaction president Jean Brault told the commission over five days that he donated over $100,000 to the Liberal party to receive millions in sponsorship contracts, but that wasn't enough.
In addition, Brault said he gave Liberal party organizers an additional $1.1 million in money through various methods including putting a dozen Liberal party organizers on his payroll whose real job was to work for the party, using fake invoices to pay companies owed money by the party, leaving cash in envelopes for party organizers in various locations and giving bribes to have government procurement processes fixed to favour his firm.
Brault's vivid testimony appears to have changed the tone and substance of the inquiry, which at times has been a bit clinical and the stuff that would excite only forensic accounts.
His testimony was detailed and, unlike many of the other witnesses who appeared before the commission, he appeared to answer every one of the commission's questions to their satisfaction.
The nature of Brault's testimony and the details in the stories he told are politically explosive as they depict seedy bag men using various methods to extract money as pay back for the scandal.
"Suddenly, the probe into the sponsorship scandal has gone from daily soap opera to sounding more like an episode of The Sopranos," wrote
Sun Media's Greg Weston on Friday.
An unscientific online poll at the Canada.com website asked its readers
"Has the latest testimony before the Gomery Inquiry convinced you the Liberals have lost the moral authority to govern?"
As of mid day Friday, 99.83 per cent of respondents voted "Yes" compared to 0.27 per cent who took the other side.
The issue of whether the Liberals have the moral authority to govern in light of revelations at the inquiry could allow the opposition parties to table a motion of non-confidence against the Liberals before Gomery files his reports.
The Bloc and the Conservatives alone have
enough votes to defeat the government on such a motion.
Earlier this week, Harper said he wanted to wait until the Canadian public absorbed the gravity of Brault's testimony in what it meant.
However, he said he has already made his mind up about whether the Liberals have the moral authority to govern.
"I believe this government lost its moral authority a long time ago," he said. "The people of Canada -- at least a significant percentage of them -- did not share my judgment on that in the last election."
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