INDEPTH: SPONSORSHIP SCANDAL
Gomery report v 2.0
CBC News Online | Feb. 1, 2006
On Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2006, Justice John Gomery ended his year-and-a-half long probe into the federal sponsorship scandal by releasing his second report. The first report – which tried to sort out who knew what about the misuse of federal funds in Quebec following the 1995 referendum – was released on Nov. 1, 2005. It eventually led to the fall of Paul Martin's minority Liberal government.
Why is Justice Gomery releasing the report now?
Gomery has run a pretty tight ship since he was asked by Paul Martin to head up the public inquiry into the sponsorship scandal. He kept to his schedule. Early in 2005, he said he would release his first report on or about Nov. 1, 2005 and his second and final report on or about Feb. 1, 2006.
At the height of the explosive testimony in April 2005, Martin took to the airwaves to ask Canadians to let the inquiry finish its job before passing judgment on his government. But less than four weeks after Gomery released his first report, the opposition parties toppled the government, arguing it lacked the moral authority to continue governing.
The Jan. 23 election injected complications into the timing of the release of the second report. On Feb. 1, Paul Martin is a lame duck prime minister, but Stephen Harper is still almost a week away from being sworn in.
The report was released to the Privy Council Office. It had the option of sitting on it until after the new government was sworn in – or releasing it immediately. The PCO opted to release it immediately.
Last time, Prime Minister Martin received the report 12 hours before it was officially released? Is that happening again?
No. The Opposition was incensed that the government was given a head start in November. They argued that letting Martin go over the report before the rest of the country had a chance to see it gave him an unfair advantage in trying to spin the report in a more favourable way.
This time, the report went to the PCO Wednesday morning. The PCO distributed it to
Martin and Harper. Journalists were locked in a room at noon, where they had two hours to digest the report before it was released to the public at 2:00 p.m. EST.
What will this report address?
The second Gomery report looks at the lessons that have been learned from the sponsorship scandal and recommends how to clean up government so it never happens again.
While the first report dealt with sorting through who said what and who knew what, when, this report deals with how to make a complicated system more transparent and accountable. The contents of this report may not be as exciting as the first report, but they could mean much more for cleaning up government and restoring trust in a shaken system.
What happens next?
In May 2005, when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to leave the Conservatives and join the Liberals, she was given a cabinet post. Part of her responsibilities were supposed to be implementing the recommendations that would be outlined in Mr Justice John Gomery's two reports.
She won't get that chance.
On Feb. 6, 2006, Governor General Michaëlle Jean will swear in a new government, headed up by a new prime minister, Stephen Harper. Among the new cabinet ministers, will be the new point person charged with implementing Gomery's recommendations.
In the election campaign, all parties pledged that – if they formed the government – they would implement Gomery's recommendations.
Among Harper's key campaign pledges was a Federal Accountablity Act, which he said would be the first piece of legislation his government would introduce. It has been billed as "a sweeping plan to clean up government." Harper is promising new restrictions on the power of lobbyists, new auditors hired and more money given to the auditor general, and a new, stronger, ethics commissioner will be appointed.
The Conservatives' campaign platform said the FAA would:
Gomery expressed his frustration during the inquiry with a system that makes it difficult to fire officials who are incompetent. He said it seemed that the most that could be done was to move an inept bureaucrat from one department to another.
- Extend to five years the period during which former ministers, ministerial staffers, and senior public servants cannot lobby government.
- Require ministers and senior government officials to record their contacts with lobbyists.
- Open up the bidding process for government advertising and public opinion contracts to prevent insider firms from monopolizing government business.
- Review and amend all contracting rules to make the government’s procurement process free from political interference.
- Appoint a Procurement Auditor to ensure that all procurements are fair and transparent, and to address complaints from vendors.
- Create the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, with the responsibility to conduct prosecutions under federal jurisdiction.
- Ensure that all Canadians who report government wrongdoing are protected, not just public servants.
- Establish monetary rewards for whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing or save taxpayers dollars.
He also lamented that the rules do not go nearly far enough in holding cabinet ministers and top bureaucrats accountable for mismanagement.