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Dare To Call It Treason

The Corbeil Allegations and the Oligarchy of Canadian Politics

Beryl P. Wajsman

22 April 2005

“You have dishonoured this place by your contempt. You are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government. A pack of mercenary wretches. Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? You have grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. Upon the peril of your souls depart from this place. You have sat here too long to be of any use. Go I say! In the name of God, go!


~ Oliver Cromwell



This week we witnessed a singular act of courage in the Canadian political landscape. Perhaps born out of necessity, but no less brave for it, the former Director-General of the Liberal Party of Canada’s Quebec wing Benoit Corbeil, at great personal risk –  admitting to  mistakes committed - gave us an inside look at the attempted usurption of our country. If we have the courage to understand; the conscience to act; and the compassion to realize that even worthy efforts are not without shortcomings; we may still be able to take our country back.


The grave import of his revelations not only help to clarify many of the unanswered questions that leap out at us from the confusing and contradictory testimony we have witnessed at the Gomery Commission, but also bring into stark relief the suspicions held for many years on the political street regarding the internecine relations between Chrétien, Martin and “les hommes dans les ombres” and their influence over the compromise of Canadian consequence and the subversion of the sovereignty of the people’s suffrage.


Corbeil alleged that a relatively small group of highly influential political, corporate and legal mandarins had as their foundational, over-reaching purpose the “…acquisition of power over this country; the consolidation of that power; and most importantly the exploitation of that power…” And how that power was obtained and manipulated through control of the institutions of what he termed the “…réseau Libéral …” the Liberal network.


A network that operated at the national level using the various provincial wings as facades to conceal the real work of their machine. A machine whose core was the Federal Liberal Agency for Canada with the complicity of the party executive and the electoral commission. A machine that had its own fund-raising apparatus depositing in Ottawa; whose orders were to be strictly obeyed at the regional and local levels; and whose members included the highest ranking elected and operational representatives of both the Chrétien and Martin camps.



If Corbeil is correct about the aims of this group,  that “…met behind the closed doors of the most powerful law firms in the land and decided judgeships, contracts, grants and mandates…”, it would explain why Chrétien gave his fierce and bitter rival, Paul Martin, a man he personally detested, the control over the policies of the public purse. Arguably a job almost as important as his own. Were certain respected “eminences grises” involved in this “merger”?


Both men’s public links to certain members of the group Corbeil alludes to have been known for years. However, what has been generally known only to the professional political street are the private intimacies of these two men to that same circle. Names, of course, cannot be mentioned here because paper trails are scarce.


Corbeil’s allegations that all leaders at the top of the Liberal Party were aware of, and acquiesced in, all the strategies and tactics that led to the first Federalist win in Québec in the 2000 election in twelve years would make sense. For not only did Chretienites and Martinites realize they had no future without a country to govern, the mandarins who ran the machine realized that in order to continue to profit from the maintenance and manipulation of power over a country, they needed a country to maintain in order to manipulate.


It would also be fair to speculate that a decision was made to enlist the talents of both Chrétien and Martin to keep this momentum going. Chrétien for his considerable political skills in organizing and propagandizing, and Martin for his financial acumen at fine-tuning the budget priorities and ordering, or re-ordering, the necessary fiscal rules and regulations that would be of benefit to this group. One could be forgiven for concluding that a “cold” peace was imposed. Chrétien and Martin were necessary sides of the same coin.


A peace that produced two parallel and positive results for the men in the shadows. Chrétien accomplished his political task of maintaining political stability and nearly eviscerating the separatist option in Quebec. Martin pushed forth the money agenda so important to those who had invested so much of their treasure in this endeavour.


Retroactive tax changes for the movement of capital. More generous regulations for off-shore corporate havens. Transfers of surpluses from the Canada Pension Plan and the Unemployment Insurance funds coincidently coupled with the greatest growth in corporate welfare in the history of Canada. Export Development Guarantees for questionable deals for sick companies. Subsidizing the China trade to allow cheap labor pools for Canadian vested interests. Added fiscal advantages for wealthy Canadians. In short, generationally and foundationally systemic changes for the benefit of the privileged.


Compared to the gravity of the above, the deals that Chretienites and Martinites alledgedly benefited from through communications companies and contracts to consulting firms like Earnscliffe might be characterized as mere tips to keep the hired helps’ collective beaks wet. As pollster Allan Gregg once wrote in the Globe and Mail, the amount of money supposedly wasted according to Sheila Fraser would be equivalent to $15 lost in a $100,000 stock account. He calculated it at .015% of the Federal budget from 1995-2000.


So why all the fuss and bother and the $85 million spent so far on Gomery? What is becoming clear from many sources, Corbeil being just one, is that much of this was a tragedy of hubris.




It has been a source of speculation for some years that after the near disaster of the 1995 Referendum, leading businessmen began to take play a more intimate and active role in the operational and strategic decision-making of the Liberal Party. Particularly to assure that money would always be available in case of another sovereigntist challenge. It is well known that Mr. Chrétien had been quite shaken not just by the narrow outcome of that 1995 vote, but by the sorry financial state of the “NO” Committee some six weeks before the vote at the time of the famous 150,000 person rally in Montreal.


The men who rescued the situation came from the financial world. They had a comfort level with Martin that many have said did not exist with Chrétien. For them Martin seemed to be the steadier steward and, equally important, they understand each other’s cultural shorthand. As a result of all this, Martin’s position in the “concordat” with Chrétien was substantially strengthened.


The cold peace imposed on Chrétien and Martin seemed to reign until Martin starting pushing the envelope in 1999 to get Chrétien to quit, believing that the latter had reneged on a supposed promise to leave after two terms. The same conflict we are now seeing in Britain between Prime Minister Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.


The Martinites sniping gained momentum amid the leaks aimed at Gagliano.  They took advantage of the situation tin order to undermine Chrétien’s credibility. They piggy-backed on the attacks against the most caricaturistic member of Chrétien’s team. They had no real objections to Gagliano. In fact, most had heard that if Chrétien would leave, Gagliano would support Martin. They were friendly. But Gagliano was the soft underbelly of the Chrétien defenses. He was an easy target. And more importantly he was choice fodder for the press.


As matters escalated and spun out of control, Chrétien made the mistake of letting the new Public Works Minister Dan Boudria send the whole mess to the Auditor-General even though she had already twice investigated sponsorship and found the problems corrected. The press latched on to the small stuff of the story: the ad companies, the jobs for friends, because it was easy. They missed the big picture behind the scenes. Because for all the enmity behind the two camps, both Chrétien and Martin still realized they had residual common interests. And those interests demanded that the central vehicle of control, the Liberal Party, remain in tact and in power.


That was why Chrétien offered Martin to stay in office an extra few months and handle the fallout from Fraser’s report. It would be better for the party. But Martin wanted the office so badly he said no. But then he made his “Boudria” mistake. He listened to his junior political staffers and appointed the Gomery Commission thinking he’d score political points. What he forgot was how intertwined both camps were.


He never imagined that the Gomery blowback would expose the institutional intimacies between the two camps, as we saw from the fourth day of Jean Brault’s testimony, where Brault implicated half-a-dozen Martin intimates as alledgedly being in contact with, or benefiting from, the same big, bad agencies. And now we have the same House Accounts committee that Martin closed down in its investigation of the ad agencies, starting its own investigation of Martin’s relationship with Earnscliffe and the activities of his top aides.


The powers in council rooms apart threw up their hands at trying to herd these fighting cats together early in 2004. But as further proof of the institutional memory of Martin, he realized he had to do something to keep the core of the party in tact. He realized that just as Chrétien had offered to stay through Fraser, it was now time for Martin to be a good soldier. That is why at the end of the Ottawa phase of Gomery, Martin actually applauded Chrétien’s testimony to the Liberal caucus as “…a tremendous job for Canada…” punched the air with his fist and led the caucus in a standing ovation for the former Prime Minister.



And here is the heart of the Pandora’s Box that Benoit Corbeil has so boldly opened. It’s not about the money. As Allan Gregg wrote, the money is not the issue. Hewlett-Packard ripped off the Department of National Defense for more money than the ad agencies and in a shorter time. The gun registry was $1 billion over budget with no inquiries. Martin’s “mis-statement” on CSL receiving $167 million, not $167,000, in contracts on his watch was dismissed as an accounting oversight. When the Landry government suffered through the Oxygene Neuf scandal the Premier fired those responsible, after using the appropriate police and judicial procedures to ascertain guilt without ruin to reputations, and refused to call an inquiry because he rightly said “…public inquiries quickly become public inquisitions…”


Money is part of every aspect of life in liberal economic democracies, including politics, and shall always remain so. As I’ve said in speaking to social action groups, if you have the money to spend $100 on hockey tickets, get 1000 people together and get $25 from each and give it to the candidates of your choice. You’ll have clout. There is nothing wrong with using the tools of the powerful for the benefit of the vulnerable. We need not  sink into the mire of false pieties.


The over-riding concern that Corbeil alludes to is of a different dimension entirely. An almost pre-meditated institutionalized plan to permanently subvert our state imperatives and priorities to the dictates of one willful group. And the arrogance of that mindset permeating our elected representatives as well. Ministers dictating directives to agencies of law enforcement; investigations set up apart from normal judicial procedures; curtailing of due process; engagements between elected representatives and corporations. In short, a Liberal Party that has nothing liberal about it. It is about as “liberal” as the Institutional Revolutionary Party that ruled Mexico for 70 years as the tool of the vested interests was “revolutionary”. Words, images and circuses for the diversion of the masses.


Canada has been taken through the looking-glass. Black is White. White is Black. The risk, the great and agonizing danger we face today, is that relief from the prejudices already suffered; renewal of constitutional rights already abridged; restoration of rule of law already corrupted; and revival of the sovereignty of our suffrage already compromised, may come too late. The governance of our commonweal is becoming a mystery to the uninitiated and a snare to the unwary. The system of justice it is grounded in, a two edged sword of craft and oppression.


To call the bodyguards of lies that have led this nation to such levels of low limitation and narrow circumstance treasonous, may not be too harsh a judgment.


It is perhaps time to remember the words Oliver Cromwell spoke to Charles I and say to these men in the shadows and those they control,


You have dishonoured this place by your contempt. You are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government. A pack of mercenary wretches. Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? You have grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. Upon the peril of your souls depart from this place. You have sat here too long to be of any use. Go I say! In the name of God, go!









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