Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It will not be the end of the world

I have read some of the reaction to the musings about letting Mr. Coté et. al. back into the Liberal fold and I am most intrigued by those who say it would be disasterous for the Party.

Let's be clear that these three and any others that were banned for life because of their roles in the sponsorship scandal should remained banned for life. What they did was unconscionable. However, if by some miracle they actually do become Liberals again it will not be a big deal from a political point of view.

The reasons (in no particular order):

1) The sponsorship scandal was not as big a political disaster as conventional wisdom makes it. Look at the results of the last election. The revelations of the Gomery Inquiry were fresh in the minds of Canadians. The Liberals ran a hopeless and hapless election campaign and they were sideswiped by the announcement of the RCMP Income Trust investigation. By all rights, the Liberals should have been crushed. Instead they held the Conservatives to a very slim minority and they only came up 6 points short of the Conservatives in the popular vote.

One year later the flame of anger of the sponsorship scandal has all but burnt out so its impact will be even less. Yes it will cause the usual suspects to get their backs up again but most people have moved on and it will not be the ballot question except for the most ardent Liberal haters.

2) The current government rejected most of the recommendations of the inquiry called to investigate the sponsorship scandal. It is difficult for them to re-ignite the fire in people if it is demonstrated that they did not even care enough about what happened during Adscam to take the suggested measures to prevent a repeat of it. Indeed, it makes them look hypocritical.

3) The Accountability Act is supposed to prevent people like Mr. Cote and Mr. Gagliano from doing their dirty deeds again. So if the Conservatives push this too hard they actually undermine the credibility of their centre-piece legislation.

4) The Conservatives are now the government with their own ethics record to defend. Everytime they bring up sponsorship, Liberals can mention how the Conservatives broke Election Financing laws and how the man who issued the report stating that suddenly and surprisingly resigned. There is probably no connection but the optics are bad, just as bad as the optics of welcoming Mr. Cote, et. al, back into the Liberal fold. As well, Liberals can mention the scores of patronage appointments made by the Conservatives just days before the Accountability Act came into effect, thus breaking the spirit of their centre-piece legislation. Finally, all of these are more recent than the sponsorship scandal.

5) It will probably be a sad coincidence that the next election campaign will take place at the same time as the expected spring offensive of the Taliban in Afghanistan. If it does come to pass and Canadian service men and women lose their lives that will push the last vestiges of the sponsorship scandal out of the Canadian consciousness. As well, even if there are no Canadian casualties, daily reports of their struggles will be much more compelling to Canadians than a refried sponsorship scandal.

6) The environment appears to be shaping up to be the issue of the next election. Canadians feel a real sense of urgency that something needs to be done about GHG emissions and that will probably not subside much in the next few months. It is this issue and the Afghan mission that will probably be the ballot questions for most Canadians in the next election.

7) In the very short term Canadians will be more transfixed by the Pickton trial what is happening with the Official Opposition.

Letting these folks back into the Liberal Party is wrong on a matter of principle. They violated the trust of Canadians and of Liberals. They do not deserve the priviledge of belonging to the Liberal Party.

However, the political impact of such a move would be minimal.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ottlib I hope you are correct re the political impact.
The last federal campaign was a complete disaster for us Liberals.
I campaigned for candidates both in urban and rural ridings and I have never been so ashamed to be a Liberal.
We deserved the electoral result and should be greatful it was not worse.
Let's put this horrible chapter behind us and move forward.

January 24, 2007 9:21 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...

I campaigned as well but I was not ashamed to be a Liberal because those folks are not and were not representative of me or any other Liberal I know.

That is one of the reasons why I believe they do not belong in the Liberal Party.

January 24, 2007 10:08 PM  
Blogger knb said...

Really well said and thought out.

Thank you.

January 24, 2007 10:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In order to move on the Party (which includes all of us Liberals) needed to take responsbility for the actions of these individuals.
We, as Liberlals, lost the faith of the electorate.
We, as Liberals, did not respect the sanctity of public office.
We, as Liberals, should have been ashamed.
Until yesterday, I was certain that this responsbility was aknowledged and for the most part forgiven by the electorate.

January 25, 2007 9:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dion has to step up and show leadership on this issue.

He has to come out firmly against the idea of readmitting these people.

If he does not, he will hand Harper the gift of being able to describe himself as Mr Clean, while associating Dion with the sleaze of the sponsorship scandal.

This is the kind of issue which separates leaders from managers; voters will take note of Dion's reaction, and put him in one of these categories.

And the Liberal Party will gain or lose as a result.

January 25, 2007 12:04 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...


The idea that Mr. Harper can continue to depict himself as Mr. Clean is a rather dubious one. They have their own ethical baggage now that will put a dent in such claims if they choose to make them.

As I stated in my post, this issue will not have much political impact regardless of how Mr. Dion handles it.


All of the Liberals I know are not happy with the Liberal Party's role in Adscam.

They are sincerely sorry for it and judging by the results of the leadership convention they have sent a clear message to the old guard that they let us down.

However, an extended period of self-flagellation over this is counter-productive and it does a disservice to Canadians who are expecting us to get our shit together and provide good opposition to the Conservatives and to become a viable government in waiting.

January 25, 2007 3:40 PM  

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