Thursday, April 07, 2005
Is Brault a big fat liar? The Liberals better hope so.
There are two potential problems for opposition parties wanting to exploit the now released details of ad executive Jean Brault's controversial testimony at the Gomery inquiry.
The first is that there is no one single smoking gun which will associate the Liberals with mass corruption. With Nixon there were the tapes. With Adscam there is detailed testimony outlining various transactions done, deals made, and understandings established. Much of this has to be pieced together to form a coherent picture of government malfeasance.
The second problem will be one of Brault's credibility. He will be depicted as someone who has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to the Liberal Party of Canada. After all, he was the one who was criminally charged for actions related to the sponsorship program. He is the one who has the most to gain by trying to shift the blame sensationally to a political party already crumbling under the weight of scandal.
However, if the public can be convinced of the credibility of Brault's testimony, and can form images in their minds of specific acts which essentially incriminate the federal Liberal party, then we might be looking at the prospects of a tectonic shift in the electoral landscape of this country.
Some of the specific allegations made by Brault might accomplish just that.
When you first start looking at the evidence you begin to wonder how much is really there. Allegations are made. Characterizations are given. Dramatic scenes are portrayed. It can all have the effect of a television drama unfolding on screen as opposed to a precise condemnation of Liberal party conduct.
However, the extent and persistence of the accusations should have Liberal officials scurrying to provide a compelling defence of their party - if one exists. The fact that none of their cross-examination of Brault seems to have hit the mark might be a sign of things to come. If the lawyers couldn't poke holes in Brault's testimony, will Paul Martin? Scott Brison? Anne McLellan? I wouldn't bet on it.
The picture Jean Brault paints for us is one of systemic flows of money channeled to the Liberal Party of Canada; one of blatant favours sometimes taking the form of hiring relatives of Prime Minister Jean Chretien himself; one of envelopes disappearing in restaurants for the purpose of bribing political officials, one of shady characters demanding ever greater sums of money to keep government contracts coming, etc, etc, etc.
Some of this stuff will certainly make a dramatic impact on the public. It also brings into the scandal prominent Liberal officials who are now current members of the government of Canada. The potential taint transcends what Paul Martin describes as a 'small group of individuals'. If the testimony Brault provided withstands the test of scrutiny, what we have on our hands is a federal political party which engaged in the regular practice of outright corruption in order to advance themselves politically and enrich politically friendly operatives - all at the expense of taxpayers who worked hard for that money. Not a pretty picture indeed.
What remains to be seen is if the public understands some of the implications of these allegations and if what Brault has to say passes ultimate scrutiny. He mentions a lot of people. He describes many transactions. He details numerous practices. He leaves an awful lot on the table. This provides the Liberals ample opportunity to discredit some or all of what he claims. No doubt some of that will happen. Yet the very fact that he was so willing to provide so much, and has seemingly little to lose at this point, might give plenty for the Liberals to worry about as they try to deal with the fallout. He's either a big fat liar, or he's a whistleblower whose testimony will only be corroborated at the Gomery inquiry in the days and weeks to come.
In my experience, big fat liars don't sit down for days and provide detailed evidence of their own wrongdoing. Liberals better hope Mr. Jean Brault is a different kind of liar. They could be buried if he isn't.
UPDATE(9:59pm): Paul Martin has a lot of courage asking the other parties to wait for the Gomery inquiry to finish before having an election. He didn't wait last year when he called one. He wasn't willing to wait a couple of weeks ago when Kyoto was the issue.
Chretien somehow wore nerve better than his successor, don't you think? Martin promised to be a better kind of politician. Instead, it seems like we got a very poor imitation.
UPDATE (Sat. April 9, 7:18pm ): The Toronto Star tag-team of James Travers and Thomas Walkom are two of the last in the political press getting ready to jump off the Paul Martin bandwagon. You can file this under the category, "You know it's over when....."
For Travers, Martin has one Hail Mary pass that could save his government. He could finally stop being on the defensive and personally promise to root out corruption from the way the system now works in this country. Other than that, the Liberals have been a mess. Paul Martin hasn't shown the leadership to change it.
I don't know why Travers thinks any actions by Martin will change the dynamic at this late stage. Perhaps one glimmer of hope is Harper's lack of a plan himself. But Harper isn't a Liberal. That might be enough this time around.
For Walkom, the Liberal enemy isn't corruption, since most people have made up their minds on that front. The enemy is Harper. Canadians were almost ready to vote for him the last time. He has worked hard to deal with the reservations they had in that last election. Martin doesn't seem up to the job. A competent and moderate Harper might be given the chance because of that.