INDEPTH: SPONSORSHIP SCANDAL|
Gagliano and Canada's other ambassadors
CBC News Online | February 10, 2004
Alfonso Gagliano got a free trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2002 when then-prime minister Jean Chrétien appointed him ambassador to Denmark. It's a nice, well-paid gig in a faraway, friendly country, and Gagliano seemed to be enjoying himself in the northern kingdom.
"I wish to say how delighted I am to be here," Gagliano said on his website soon after his appointment. "During my term here, I hope to be able to visit most of your country and meet as many of you as possible to discuss issues of benefit to both our countries."
On Feb. 10, 2004, the day the auditor general's report landed with a dull thud in Ottawa, Gagliano had been recalled, sacked, and was preparing to return to Canada.
Gagliano was a Quebec MP and cabinet minister. He served Canada as labour minister, deputy House leader and the minister responsible for Communication Canada, Canada Post, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Royal Canadian Mint and Canada Lands Company Ltd.
Gagliano and Chrétien are old political allies, both from Quebec, both involved in what has come to be called the scandal-plagued sponsorship program in the late-1990s. The program was a reaction to the narrow federal win in the 1995 Quebec sovereignty referendum.
Ottawa's Public Works Department decided to heighten the federal profile in Quebec with banners and flags, contributing millions of dollars to various cultural and sporting agencies in the province. It soon became perceived as a great boondoggle, as Ottawa hired advertising firms to pump up the flag-waving, paying the firms $150 million over six years.
There was talk of fake and inflated invoices, and advertising firms on the government payroll. Whatever, Chrétien decided it might be wise to get Gagliano out of Canada, so he dispatched him to Denmark.
Not all Canadian ambassadors are appointed this way. Ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls general often receive their appointments as rewards for diligent service, but most are appointed for their experience and ability. Canada's civil service has always enjoyed a good reputation throughout the world.
Canada has government offices in 148 countries in the world, from Afghanistan to Yugoslavia, though not all have embassies or high commissions. Some countries have representatives serving in more than one location, as in Australia, where Canada has representation in both Sydney and Canberra. Similarly, in Brazil Canada has representation in Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Foreign embassies often provide lively news, whether it involves visiting dignitaries or deploying Canada's RCMP Musical Ride to a local fair in the south of England or arranging a royal visit. Often they're a refuge and sanctuary for wandering or lost Canadians. Sometimes it's the building itself that makes news, as happened with the opening of Canada's embassy in Washington, D.C.
- Germany, with representation in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart
- China, with representation in Beijing, Chongging, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shanghai
- United States with representation in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco and Seattle
In 2002, the Canadian Embassy in Washington was voted one of the 10 ugliest buildings in the world. A Canadian Press story reported that a poll of architects by Forbes.com, the internet arm of Forbes magazine, placed the $90-million structure as among the ugliest in the world "because they cost so much and look so awful."
There have been recent reports of low morale among Canada's 1,047 foreign services officers.
Graham Fraser of the Toronto Star commented in 2001 that many of the best and brightest serving in Canada's many embassies and consulates wanted out because of low pay and poor working conditions. He based his column on the "Foreign Service Retention Survey" done by the consulting firm William Mercer Ltd.
The Mercer survey got responses from 837 of the 1,047 foreign service officers. It summarized its findings by saying: "While 77 per cent of respondents answered that when they entered the foreign service they viewed it as a lifetime career, only 28 per cent responded that they intend to spend their entire career with the foreign service."
Despite high education and professional training nearly half have post-graduate degrees, 15 per cent have engineering, law or medical degrees, and nearly all are multilingual their starting salaries [in 2001] were $38,000.