The Right Coast

February 19, 2004
Worthwhile Canadian Scandal
By Maimon Schwarzschild

Corruption scandals are engulfing the new Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, and the Liberal Party which he heads. The Liberal Party has dominated Canadian politics for decades, and comes close to monopolizing it: there is really no other national party in the country. The scandals couldn't happen to a nicer group. The Liberals have a sniffy Euro-leftish view of the United States, and Liberal dignitaries keep calling George W. Bush a "moron" even when the microphone turns out to be embarrassingly open. Corruption and self-righteousness: who could imagine that those would go together?

For a fascinating and hilarious account of the scandalous goings-on, read Andrew Coyne's new blog. (Coyne is hilarious in an understated Canadian sort of way, of course. Coyne's day job is as a journo on Canada's National Post.)

(If the ins and outs of Coyne's story seem complicated at first, keep scrolling down. It soon starts to make sense. And it gets funnier, too, the more you read.)

To appreciate the in-grown quality of what is going on with the Liberals, it may help to know that Paul Martin, the new Liberal Prime Minister, is the son of Paul Martin (senior), a Liberal cabinet minister in the 1950s and 60s who perennially and unsuccessfully fought for the Liberal leadership, finally losing out in 1968 to Pierre Elliott Trudeau. One of Trudeau's proteges was a tough Quebecer named Jean Chretien, who went on to become Prime Minister in 1993 and has now just yielded the job, very ungraciously, to Martin (junior). By all accounts, Chretien and Martin hate each other.

While in office, Chretien -- ably assisted by various Liberal and Quebec cronies -- apparently kept themselves busy diverting hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to themselves, to their relatives, and to pork barrel projects in a handful of Quebec parliamentary districts, especially Chretien's. (Chretien's district, or "riding" as parliamentary districts are called in Canada, was the town of Shawinigan, Que: so inevitably we have the "Shawinigan shenanigans".) (Or as Mark Steyn says, "A Shawinigan win-again".)

No one accuses Paul Martin of having been directly involved in the Shawinigan shenanigans. But since Martin was Minister of Finance in Chretien's government, and since Martin's Leader and his party were evidently and exuberantly corrupt, questions like What did he know? When did he know it? and Why didn't he do anything about it? are rearing their ugly head(s).

Goodness how sad, as Evelyn Waugh would say.

Still, what can you expect of a country whose political leaders, in so many cases, turn out to be the sons of prominent politicians themselves?