The Globe and Mail has the latest machinations of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and the Adscam Scandel:
Prime Minister Paul Martin returned to the airwaves Friday, expressing regret that he did not know about the sponsorship scandal sooner and vowing that the government would go to court to keep the Gomery inquiry going if necessary.
Only 12 hours after delivering a national, televised address, Mr. Martin appeared on CTV’s Canada AM, again saying that Canadians need to hear all of the Gomery commission’s findings .
He also said Ottawa would take legal recourse if a challenge by former prime minister Jean ChrÃ©tien to the proceedings proves successful.
Mr. ChrÃ©tien has mounted a legal challenge to the sponsorship inquiry, which he has called biased. The court has agreed to start hearings June 7.
Mr. Martin also said Friday that his office has not contacted Mr. ChrÃ©tien, asking that the former Prime Minister apologize for the situation.
â€œWe are going to fight to keep the inquiry going and there’s no doubt in my mind that the courts â€“ if, in fact, it came to that â€“ will allow the inquiry to keep going,â€ Mr. Martin said.
â€œIt’s very, very important that the inquiry be allowed to continue its work.â€
On Thursday night, Mr. Martin â€“ faced with a faltering Liberal minority government and the threat the Opposition members may force an election â€“ said he would call a vote within 30 days of Justice John Gomery’s final report on the inquiry, due in December.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who called Mr. Martin’s TV address a â€œsad spectacle,â€ has suggested that his party may look to send Canadians to the polls this spring.
He reiterated his criticism on Friday. â€œIt’s great to say we’re trying to fix this scandal, which has been going on for two years, and we need another eight months,â€ Mr. Harper said in a later appearance on the CTV program.
â€œThat really doesn’t provide me a very good reason to morally, ethically or politically to prop up this government.â€
Mr. Harper would not say specifically that he would press for a spring vote. He said instead that his party would â€œlisten to the people in the next week, and our caucus will meet when we return, and we’ll probably have a pretty good idea of the timing.â€
Earlier reports in The Globe and Mail have suggested the Conservatives have set May 19 as the day they will most likely attempt defeat the minority government, paving the way for a June 27 election, although the dynamics of the House of Commons suggest a no-confidence vote would be close.
Meanwhile, the acrimony over the situation again spilled over into the House of Commons, with Conservative MPs grilling the government over what they say are discrepancies between Mr. Martin’s testimony before the Gomery inquiry and that of other witnesses.
Claude Boulay, one of the ad executives embroiled in the sponsorship scandal, testified Thursday that he met with Mr. Martin at least twice a week when he worked on the politician’s election campaign in 1993.
Mr. Boulay’s wife Diane Deslauriers testified she saw Mr. Martin daily during that campaign.
â€œHow can the Prime Minister, with these glaring on the record expect Canadians to believe him,â€ deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay asked.
Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, however, challenged the Tories’ interpretation of the situation, saying Mr. Martin stands by his testimony and again called for the Opposition to wait for the commission to do its work before drawing conclusions.
Earlier Friday, Mr. Martin said again that Canadians need a full picture of how the sponsorship scandal played out before drawing their conclusions.
â€œThey want to know what happened,â€ Mr. Martin said. â€œI think they want to know who is responsible and I think they want to know that the government’s going to punish them.
â€œI’m going to do that and I think they want Judge Gomery to report before they have to pass judgment on the government.â€
Although Mr. Martin acted as Finance Minister while the sponsorship program was in place, he said his job at the time was to set the nation’s fiscal framework.
â€œIt is not the minister of finance who follows where the money goes,â€ he said. â€œAnd none of the senior officials, the deputy minister of finance didn’t know about this and therefore there’s no way the minister of finance in that capacity would have known.â€
That being said, he added, he doesn’t believe that is the way governments should work and, once he became Prime Minister, he brought in â€œa whole new set of spending controls so that won’t happen again.â€
As well, he said he doesn’t believe members of his department kept information from him in an effort to protect him at a time when his rivalry with Mr. ChrÃ©tien was coming to a head.
â€œIf that were the case, I would be very, very mad.â€
But, Mr. Martin also said he was sorry that the situation arose in the first place.
â€œI do regret very, very much that the government â€“ and I was â€“ not more vigilant in checking it out,â€ he said.
â€œBut the deputy minister of finance didn’t know, therefore it’s very hard for the minister to know.
â€œBut I now take my responsibilities as Prime Minister and I changed that fact and I do very much regret that we did not know.â€
Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, meanwhile, was ready to pull the election plug, saying Mr. Martin has “no more moral authority or moral legitimacy.”
He said there would be no need for a vote if Mr. Martin resigned. NDP Leader Jack Layton, on the other hand, struck a conciliatory note when asked about an election.
“Ultimately, Canadians will let us know when they think it absolutely is time, but in the meantime let’s try to do something positive for the Canadian population,” he said during an interview on CBC.
He has said he would like corporate tax cuts removed from the budget bill: “I’d like to see a budget, an improved budget, passed by the House.”
Paul Martin should cut a deal and resign post haste.