Former Sponsorship boss Chuck Guite and a leading witness will soon take the stand at the Gomery Inquiry and Justice Gomery has again imposed a publication ban:
MONTREAL (CP) – A key player in the sponsorship scandal saddling Paul Martin’s Liberal government appears before the Gomery inquiry this week, but a publication ban will temporarily keep the contents under wraps.
Former sponsorship boss Chuck Guite could testify as early as Wednesday about his role in controlling sponsorship funds during an era when rules and laws were allegedly broken and money was funnelled to middlemen for little work.
But inquiry justice John Gomery, in a bid to protect a potential jury pool, has slapped a publication ban on Guite’s testimony, which could run until early next week.
The ban applies as well to testimony by ad man Paul Coffin, who also faces trial and is scheduled to take the stand on Tuesday.
The judge will hear arguments from various lawyers, including those from the media, before deciding whether to lift the ban following testimony by each of the men.
Current and former prominent politicians could be implicated directly if Guite spills the beans on his political masters, including former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano.
Guite, who was described by Gomery before Christmas as a “charming scamp,” has already said his elected bosses cleared every move he made while running the sponsorship program in the 1990s and had the final say in every spending decision.
He has also said he dealt directly with ex-prime minister Jean Chretien’s chief of staff, Jean Pelletier, when discussing sponsorship matters in 1996.
Gagliano, Chretien and Prime Minister Paul Martin all denied in the Ottawa phase of the inquiry that they knew about any wrongdoing or controlled where the sponsorship money went.
The sponsorship inquiry drew international headlines earlier this month after Gomery lifted a publication ban on testimony by ad man Jean Brault of Groupaction Marketing.
Brault blew the whistle on an alleged conspiracy with top federal Liberal officials to secretly funnel $1.1 million to the party in exchange for sponsorship contracts.
The allegations have thrust all parties into election mode. The Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives appear favourable to toppling the government and forcing a spring election.
Many of the details of Brault’s testimony had been leaked to a U.S. blog site before the ban was lifted, allowing Canadians to read the forbidden details and making the contents the subject of innuendo on Parliament Hill.
While Guite approved massive commissions pocketed by Brault and other sponsorship middlemen, it isn’t clear whether he knew about the alleged scheme to fatten Liberal coffers.
Brault and Guite are to be tried together on fraud and conspiracy related to sponsorship contracts. Jury selection in the trial will begin June 6 after a judge decided the original date of May 2 was too close to his appearance at the sponsorship inquiry.
Coffin faces 18 counts of fraud in a separate trial for allegedly submitting fake and inflated invoices totalling almost $2 million in sponsorship contracts.
Chuck Guite, the public works official who ran the federal sponsorship program until 1999, faces questioning this week.
Captain Ed over at Captain’s Quarters opines:
…Gomery’s publication ban only applied, of course, to rebroadcasting the specifics of Jean Brault’s testimony. If one was either fortunate or well-connected, seats were available for the public hearing in which Brault testified to accepting and making bribes and kickbacks in exchange for contract renewals, as well as hiring Liberal Party workers who never performed any work at all for Brault — but spent their time on party business, off the books.
Politicians will know the specific testimony of the two witnesses at the end of each day, if not almost in real time. Some media sources will watch and hear GuitÃ© and Coffin tell everything they know about Adscam and the politicians who profited most from it on live TV feeds that they will be barred from rebroadcast. The only people left in the dark will be those Canadians who have seen their money stolen by the people they trusted to wield power lawfully.
As part of the ‘imperfection’ mentioned tangentially in the Montreal Gazette, I had hoped that the brouhaha over my publication of Brault’s testimony would have convinced Justice Gomery of the folly of publication bans. Apparently not. If my original source can get me reliable information on the testimony under the ban, I will republish it again here.
So, is Justice Gomery trying to stir up media attention again? Or is he really serious about preserving fair trials? Or bringing down the Liberal Party and Canadian Government?
Probably the latter rather than the former.