Thursday, February 02, 2006

Follow the Money

An indictment of election financing and a leader reluctant to let go.

By: Sheila Copps
Exclusively for

As we sift through the aftermath of Gomery’s second report, the public could be forgiven for thinking the ethical issues surrounding political parties financing have been resolved. Nothing could be further from the truth. While Justice Gomery has provided some useful advice for the new government accountability package, when it comes to political parties, the report is silent. By design, Gomery's mandate was limited to zero in on the murky world of advertising but, more than $80 million later, there are still so many loopholes that another breach could occur in a nanosecond.

For example, one area Gomery was specifically excluded from reviewing was the polling research done for government. A well-placed contract by an unscrupulous politician can easily be directed to someone who then returns the benefit in kind. In the dying days of the campaign, the Conservatives promised to review these practices with the same attention Gomery paid to the issue of advertising.

The bigger danger in the funding system is political parties. While thousands of government documents were reviewed for Gomery, resulting in only a few examples of malfeasance, (most of which had already been referred to the RCMP), very little attention was paid to the party process.

The public literally gasped aloud when they heard stories of thousands of dollars in cash being carried around in paper bags to pay political operatives for political work. But, until the recent election financing changes, cash was the truck and trade of many campaigns. During a nomination battle, it was nothing to see dozens of candidate’s agents showing up at party headquarters with thousands of dollars in cash received from cash membership purchases. Once the money landed at party headquarters, it became impossible to follow.

Same holds true for leaderships. If anyone wants to know why the list of successors to Prime Minister Martin is shrinking by the day, simply follow the money. The cost of the campaign is usually about $2million officially. Unofficially it is about four or five million. Delegates going to conventions are prohibited from having their fees paid by candidates but nothing stops sponsors, representing candidates, from paying for hotels, plane fares costing millions.

The party’s own processes are not subject to the same kind of scrutiny that government departments endure. The Auditor General has no authority to look at the books of political parties. The kind of transparency demanded in corporate Canada does not exist for political parties.

Prime Minister- elect Stephen Harper has an opportunity to establish a new stamp on government by extending his accountability legislation to political parties. It is a tough call because no party likes to have its internal working reviewed by outsiders. While in opposition, parties typically demand change but other priorities impinge when they form government. But the kind of transparency and accountability that people expect in government should logically extend to the instruments of election to government.

When Paul Martin decided to stay on as Liberal leader while the respected Bill Graham would do the work in the House of Commons, it was a decision designed to retain his grip on the same party process that ensured his coronation. That process, largely untouched, has turned the Liberal Party constitution into a parody of democracy. Memberships are proffered or denied based on official support for a candidate. Party office doors are slammed on potential nominees in the name of star candidates. Party officials delete membership information to ensure a particular nomination outcome.

Until that process is publicly exposed and abandoned, the $80 million plus cost of Gomery will be money ill spent.


not a lib fan said...

While I often disagree with Sheila on issues, I always respected her as an honest and ethical MP. All MPs should follow her example. I really enjoy her columns in the Sun papers and really wish she was given a fair shake at the leadership convention and in that rigged nomination meeting. If there were more like her then, maybe, there would be more respect for politicians of all stripes. The way the Libs have parachuted candidates and rigged nomination meetings have besmirched would be polticians of all stripes.
Thanks for your continued insights,Sheila, and I sincerely hope you don't run for the leadership of the LPC as you could be a serious threat to the Conservatives.

screid said...

Great blog here. And great post by Sheila.

No doubt many of us who sit on the outside of the Martin regime viewed the outgoing PM's election-night resignation announce with a healthy degree of both surprise and skepticism. Could it really be that a man who has spent decades stopping at nothing to achieve power would suddenly up and give it away so easily? With such dignity?

Of course not. Even in defeat, Mr. Martin has once again found a way to leave his tainted fingerprints on the election process of the next party leader. He just could not let go.

Watch for much more evidence of Team-Martin's electioneering throughout this upcoming race. It's what they do. It is all they seem to know.

Mark said...

No you stupid idiot, it was because the Leader and the caucus cannot determine the interim party leader. That power, since Mackenzie King's passing, belongs to the party membership. The national executive makes that decisions. But how would Sheila Copps know? She's only cared about Liberals when it suited her own purpose. Stupid, ignorant Sheila.

MississaugaPeter said...

Good post Sheila!

jack said...

Outstanding Sheila. And necessary.

A Canadian Publius said...

Sweet jesus, give it a rest.

Gomery specifically exculded from discussing polling contracts? Uh, yeah, because it had nothing to do with the sponsorship scandal.

Polling contracts, like any other government business, have to be publicly tendered.

If it is not put out to open tender, then it must justified through an open notice (on-line) allowing any other company to object and request an opportunity to bid.

Even then, if it is awarded, it must be done publicly justifying whatever process was used and allowing anyone to point out how the award may have been flawed.

Oh, and then, the results and questions have to be made public.

Frankly, this is a bit rich coming from Sheila Copps. But then process was never her strong suit.

Please Sheila, run for leader.

Every party needs a pinata.

Capital L said...

I think this is a very interesting discussion and I think that Mark's response is a good indication of what is wrong with the L party right now. Too much infighting and bickering...Mark how can you say she only cared about the L's when it suited her?...wasn't Sheila the victim in her riding? - do you actually think she was treated fairly?

If nothing else, your response shows how divisive and sad the party has become.

heythere said...

You lost me at "stupid idiot".

Good post. great blog.

Alex said...

Hey Mark you stupid idiot, Sheila Copps dosn't deserve the title of idiot. She has been a walking target of the Liberal party for a long time. Stick up for the truth. Sheila always spoke the truth even when it wasn't popular to hear. Just like now.

Alex said...

Hey Tobias,
What about what about Justin Trudeau. He could be the next face.

tobias said...


We think Justin Trudeau would be a great post. We will work on something over the next few days. While young and inexperienced, we could see him coming out at this stage and building a foundation for his 2012 entry to the frey...

Andy said...

Mme Sheila Copps is full aware of this reality that the Liberals, who are corrupted , are those persons, who have created GULAG of poverty, unemployment, ailments and the gradual deaths in all cities.

If Mr. Paul Martin in his last gathering with his friends is takiling about his great accomplisments without saying how deeply people are suffering in the poorest neighbourhodds, Mme Sheila Copps knows that Mr. Martin and his friends are lying to people of Canada.

Mme Sheila Copps knows very well that the corruptions in the Liberal party is not only stealing of the taxpayers' money or abusing public resources and spreading of media viruses but
personal and political dishonesty, and she knows well thatthis also breeds cynicism.

Mme Sheila Copps with her experiences in the politics knows very well that the perception of the current Liberal politicians, who have accumulated the surpluses in the federal budget with imposing of severe fiscal imbalance in the provinces, is based on the political shenanigan; these politicians are very big liars; they reinforce by hurling that abuse at each other.

Mr.Paul Martin's Liberals, who harmed deeply in many ways the health and the career of Mme Sheila Copps, are those, who are not responsible for 83 kilos cocain in the sheila-Anne ship of CSL in July 1, 2004; they claim, the divers in Venezuela did put all these cocain in the ship of Sheila-Anne??

Mr. David Herle et al are those dear ftiends of Paul Martin, who tried to humiliate Mme Sheila Copps after Jean Chretiene's era with the patroanage appointment and sending her to other careers; Meme Sheila Copps refused the suggestion of Mr. David Herle and Paul Martin' she didn't want to be their baby!

She preffered to be honest and accountable; sheknows that people are aware of all sort of deception and lies in Ottawa.

The Liberals, today, with their very bad image among people have no place and are in the beginning steps of a walk in the political backwoods, even they don't trsut each other in the party. They are seeking a new leader; but they see everywehre those Liberals as candidates who have no images among people; and fresh ideas don't exist in party.

People in Canada say, if cynicism is the twin brother of apathy, their parents are corruption and
alienation of the vast majority of citizens from the political process in Canada, when very uncapable chicken-like politicians in the Liberal Party are not learning the basic lessons of accountability, honesty, transparency and responsibility.

The vast majority of the people in this Canada, but especially the scientists and academic immigrants, who are suffering in GULAG of unemployment, poverty and the gradual deaths see themselves excluded from any basic rights.

This country is now so divided between the rich minority, who have the giant big corporations and have their own lawyers in Toronto's Bay Street, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver, who are legalizing all kinds of exploitation and slavery for the businessmen who are connected to the politicians in Ottawa.

And the poor majority,who are livging in the poorest neighbourhoods of the major cities with the lowest incomes share their deep concerns to the accountability of these corrupted Liberals, who try to foolish people by their political trickery and lies.
The political shenanigan in Ottawa is the reason for expantion of GULAG of poverty in all cities.
All kinds of gangs, crimes, guns and addictions are the results of cutting of soical assitances, which were implemeneted by the policies of Paul Martin since 1995.

People are very disappointed.

Abbas Diba, PhD

Joel Howe said...

"When Paul Martin decided to stay on as Liberal leader while the respected Bill Graham would do the work in the House of Commons, it was a decision designed to retain his grip on the same party process that ensured his coronation."

Please, Sheila. Everyone knows how much you dislike Paul Martin, so hopefully everyone will be able to see through this crap. How kind of you to refer to Graham as respected, with no such adjective given to Martin. Martin officially stayed on as leader because a leadership convention must be held within 12 months of the leader's resignation. The Liberals might want to have their convention in March of 2007 or even later so they are just keeping their options open.

The rest of your post contains good ideas, but I wish you wouldn't degrade it with a last-minute cheap shot at Paul Martin.

savvy_student said...

I am dissapointed with all the name calling going on on both sides of thise debate.

That said, due to a lot of ill-thought-out comments, Ms. Copps has ceded the moral authority to challenge the liberals right now. Perhaps a new voice will come out that does not speak to the old Chretien-Martin civil war...

P.S. visit

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