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Maclean's/La Presse

20 - 27 February 2009

Beryl Wajsman’s return to the Liberal fold
has caused a stir in Ottawa

by Martin Patriquin
Friday, February 27, 2009

Last week’s Maclean’s story detailing strategist and organizer Beryl Wajsman’s return to the Liberal Party of Canada has erupted in Ottawa. Wajsman, whose name appeared on a list of ten prominent Liberals “banned” from the party following the sponsorship scandal in 2005, has since returned to the Liberal fold, primarily as an organizer for Michael Ignatieff advisor Alfred Apps.

Conservative Public Works Minister Christian Paradis brought up Wajsman’s return in the House of Commons yesterday, and followed up with a press release saying the Liberal Party “has clearly not learned its lesson from the Sponsorship Scandal.”

Paradis alleges that Wajsman was heavily involved in the scandal in 2005, even though Wajsman was never accused of any impropriety or crime. Yesterday, through his lawyer, he fired back at Paradis. “You made remarks alleging [Wajsman's] involvement in the sponsorship scandal. This constitutes defamatory libel. We demand that you immediately apologize and retract these statements,” wrote Montreal lawyer Julius Grey. “There is no evidence that Beryl is anything but honest,” Grey told Maclean’s. “There is only so much a citizen can take of having mud thrown at him.”

Reached for comment, Wajsman said he is pursuing Paradis and the Conservative Party in order to right his reputation, something he says he didn’t do in 2005. “Maybe I should have gone after them back then,” he says, referring to former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Liberal Quebec lieutenant Jean Lapierre, who were responsible for banning him. (The ban never actually occurred, as it was illegal under the Liberal Party’s constitution at the time.) “But now, I’m going to finish this. It’s enough. I’m a leader, not fodder for people’s careers,” he says, of Christian Paradis.

Neither Paradis or Conservative spokesperson Ryan Sparrow returned Maclean’s emails for reaction.

Apps, who is also running for the President of the Liberal Party of Canada,  says Wajsman has played a consultative role behind certain Liberal policies–for which Apps makes no apologies. “I think there’s an effort here on the part of the Tories to slam people with guilt by association. Beryl is one of the militants that is helping with the party, and his help is welcomed.” The presumptive next Liberal President–he is currently running unopposed–suggests the so-called “banned list” on which Wajsman appeared was less about meted out justice than it was a vestige of the old, bitter feud between Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien. “That list was created before the Gomery Commission had made any of its findings,” Apps said.

le 27 février 2009

Beryl Wajsman envoie une mise en demeure
au Parti conservateur et à Christian Paradis

(Ottawa) L'une des 10 personnes bannies du Parti libéral du Canada lors du scandale des commandites en 2005 a envoyé une lettre de mise en demeure au Parti conservateur et au lieutenant québécois de Stephen Harper, Christian Paradis. Beryl Wajsman, ancien organisateur du PLC et aujourd'hui éditeur de l'hebdomadaire montréalais The Suburban, a exhorté M. Paradis à s'excuser pour des propos tenus dans un communiqué de presse, mercredi. Il lui demande de se rétracter et l'invite à discuter de paiements de dommages et intérêts.

 Dans cette déclaration, le ministre Paradis a invité le chef libéral, Michael Ignatieff, à «s'opposer au retour de Wajsman». «Le Parti libéral n'a définitivement rien appris du scandale des commandites vivement dénoncées par la commission Gomery, a-t-il affirmé. Il accueille à bras ouverts dans son équipe de proches conseillers un des acteurs-clés du scandale des commandites.» C'est un article du magazine Macleans qui a mis le feu aux poudres. On y rapportait que des membres de l'entourage de M. Ignatieff avaient recommencé à consulter Beryl Wajsman pour des questions de politiques publiques et de rédaction de discours.

Vendetta politique

M. Wajsman a retenu les services du célèbre avocat montréalais Julius Grey dans cette affaire. C'est le bout de phrase, «acteur-clé du scandale des commandites» qui lui cause un problème dans la déclaration du ministre Paradis. Il s'agit selon lui de diffamation. Joint par La Presse en fin de journée, il a plaidé qu'il n'avait rien à voir avec le scandale des commandites. Il estime avoir été pendant trop longtemps victime d'une vendetta politique de la part de Paul Martin et de son lieutenant politique de l'époque, Jean Lapierre.

Le nom de M. Wajsman avait été soulevé par Jean Brault dans l'un de ses témoignages à propos d'un repas au cours duquel une enveloppe remplie d'argent avait été remise au libéral Joe Morselli. «Il n'a jamais dit que j'avais donné l'enveloppe d'argent à Morselli, s'est défendu M. Wajsman hier. Il a dit qu'il l'avait mise sur la table et qu'il est allé aux toilettes. Il a dit que quand il est revenu, l'enveloppe n'était plus là, et que moi, j'étais à table.»

Le Parti conservateur et Christian Paradis n'avaient pas encore réagi à la mise en demeure au moment de mettre sous presse.

Look who’s back in 
by Martin Patriquin
Friday, February 27, 2009

Beryl Wajsman is many things to many people: well-connected gadfly, perpetually angry newspaper columnist, silver-tongued orator with a weakness for Robert Kennedy quotations. To the Liberal Party of Canada, he was persona non grata, one of 10 people “banned for life” by former prime minister Paul Martin for being linked to the sponsorship scandal. It may seem strange, then, that Wajsman is once again in the party, as an organizer charged with bringing a variety of social groups and unions back into the Liberal fold. He has even consulted on policy issues and speechwriting for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

“He’s an influential guy, and has been very helpful in re-cementing some of those old ties, within the Montreal Jewish community but also with labour and (other) community leaders,” said a senior Ignatieff strategist for Quebec. “He is one of many organizers and opinion influencers who Michael has successfully wooed back and is helping get it back together.”

Wajsman’s tenure as a party organizer came to an abrupt end in 2005, following the testimony of the disgraced president of ad firm Groupaction, Jean Brault, at the Gomery commission. Wajsman, Brault alleged, was present at a lunch where he left an envelope stuffed with $5,000 in cash for Liberal fundraiser Joe Morselli. Wajsman vigorously denied any involvement, and was never charged with wrongdoing. Nevertheless, then-Liberal Quebec lieutenant Jean Lapierre, at Martin’s behest, removed Wajsman, along with nine others, from the party.

What this actually means, however, is a matter of debate—particularly since Wajsman wasn’t (and isn’t) a member of the Liberal party. Until December 2006, when it was amended, the party’s constitution didn’t even allow for such bans.

Liberal spokesperson Dan Lauzon said he couldn’t comment on the status of the banned members, including Morselli and former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano. “It was political payback,” Wajsman says now. “I was tagged because I opposed Martin and Lapierre, or because I made fun of the Gomery commission, or because I defended Joe Morselli so much. Take your pick.”

All things considered, Ignatieff is off to a good start in the province. He has polled well and is popular among its Liberal MPs, thanks largely to his 2006 motion recognizing Quebec as a nation. Yet his supporters concede the party is still divided. “It’s fragile, and it’s still a work in progress,” said the senior Ignatieff source, of the truce between the Chrétien and Martin camps. Bringing back people like Wajsman serves its purpose.

Wajsman, whose world view teeters from the cynical to the outright misanthropic, is positive about Ignatieff. Calling him “the most independent Liberal leader in the last 20 years,” Wajsman believes Ignatieff “can restore the Liberal party to small ‘L’ liberalism, put an end to tribalism and bring a new national vision for the country.”

But he still bumps up against old ghosts. Lapierre himself was at Montreal’s city hall in January while Wajsman was accepting the Martin Luther King Legacy Award for community service work. Wajsman saw him, cursed and proceeded with his acceptance speech. Lapierre sat and listened, clapped politely and quickly left the room before the applause was over.


What a great article and more importantly justice done. I would have loved to be there to see Jean Lapierre leave the MLK Awards ceremony. You are the best! 

~ Charles S. Coffey


Tu fais encore la "une" des journaux bien malgré toi.  Il semble que la grande famille libérale soit  incapable de se distancer de ce qui fut le plus mauvais spectacle politique à ce jour au Canada, la "COMGOM". Comme l'avait dit Charles de Gaulle, " il ne faut jamais insulter l'avenir".  Il semble que certains membres favori ne suivent pas cette règle, pire, ils insultent le passé, en continuant de t'associer à ce qui fut le "MartinGate", la porte ouverte vers le pouvoir temporaire. Espérons que ton brillant avocat fasse valoir tes droits. 

~  Me
France Simard, Montreal

No one who is sane, can believe you to be guilty of anything. I am very happy that the Liberals have at last lived up to their name,by refusing any more to condemn an innocent man on the back of motivated smears.

~ Prof.
Madhav Nalapat, New Delhi
Dean of Geopolitics,Manipal Academy
New Delhi


Good news!

~Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Lewis W. MacKenzie, Ottawa


Great stuff!

~Patrick C. Gagnon, President
The Parliamentary Group

Wajsman's  is a first class intelligence and the Liberal Party is very fortunate to have him available. Look at his work, his published writings and whatever your political preference, you will find his opinions to be principled and inspiring.

~Prof. Peter March
St.Mary's University

I called it years ago.


Welcome back Beryl. Anyone who says that Jean Brault is “full of shit” is cool with me.

~ James Bowie

I have met Wajsman several times and he always seems to be on the side of the little guy and against injustice. His Institute paid for buses to take protestors to Ottawa for the demonstration against human rights abuse by China just before the Beijing Olympics. I find him very learned and inspiring. I just am sorry he is not working withHarper instead of Ignatieff.

~ Nicola Timmerman





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