INDEPTH: SPONSORSHIP SCANDAL|
Gomery report: Tracey Madigan's Online Diary
CBC News Online | November 1, 2005
Tracey Madigan is CBC.ca's online journalist in Montreal. She was a television and radio reporter before she joined cbc.ca/montreal when it was launched in 1999.
There's a kind of buzz here in Montreal. People know what they think of the Gomery Commission hearings. But they're eager to hear what Justice John Gomery thought of the whole affair.
Today, I will be speaking to average, everyday citizens. Not the politicians who have a vested interest, not ad execs or others who are linked directly or indirectly to what has become known as the Sponsorship Scandal.
Instead, I want to find out what the taxpayer thinks of this. I'll be spending the day talking to Montrealers, getting their first impressions of Justice Gomery's impressions.
I'm sitting with Raymond Lévesque in his east-end Montreal home. The 64 year-old watches his television intently, soaking in every word regarding every player in this affair.
When the reporter remarks that Paul Martin couldn't have hoped for a better report, Lévesque laughs. It's more like a vocal smile. He's pleased because he likes Martin.
"Although I liked him more before he became prime minister," he points out.
Lévesque attended virtually every day of the testimony when the hearings were here in Montreal. On the days he didn't attend, it was because the witnesses were not interesting, he explains. But he taped the hearings every day. And would watch them a second time every evening.
He was definitely an addict, he laughs. Now, his neck is getting sore from nodding at what he's hearing from the Gomery report. He agrees with it. Except he thinks Jean Chrétien has gotten off easy. He's disappointed that Chrétien wasn't criticized more. How can Jean Pelletier be handed so much blame and not Jean Chrétien?
His voice is rising. Chrétien knew everything that was going on, Lévesque insists.
Listening to Justice Gomery, Lévesque, a long-time Liberal supporter, concurs.
Mr. Gomery heard what I heard during the hearings, and has reached the
same conclusions I had, jokes Lévesque.
The former technician at the Université de Montreal has been retired for four years. The day he heard the hearings would sit in
Montreal, he knew he'd be taking advantage of his free time to soak up the details of the commission.
"I had access to information that I couldn't have picked up by watching the hearings on TV," he explains in his only language, French. Talk in
the hallways, he says... even the men's washroom!
Here's the surprising part: Lévesque is convinced that this whole
affair is nothing but a waste of time.
The whole thing. The witnesses, the testimony, the report. All of it
was Paul Martin's public relations ploy. A chance to slam Chrétien publicly, says Lévesque, who saw the tensions between the Martin camp and the Chrétien camp years ago, when he was a proud Liberal.
Martin has been exonerated, Lévesque says. That's what Martin wanted, but also what he needed, Lévesque says.
"Did you see the huge smile on his face this morning? Hopping up the steps with the Globe and Mail under his arm? That image says it all,"
I thanked Mr. Lévesque for his time, and hopped a cab to see George Stamatis. George is a political science student who has a special interest in corruption in politics.
He jokes that the Gomery Commission was almost custom made for his interests!
He, too, attended the hearings almost every day when they were in Montreal. Politics remains politics, he says.
"The government was willing to do anything to regain the public's confidence," Stamatis says. "The government got what it wanted. It managed to cover up how the game is played."
Stamatis is energetic and opinionated.
Politics is more now about how to get people's support, how to get people's money. It might sound cynical, but Stamatis says that's only because he's informed.
Gomery can say anything he wants, Stamatis says, but is anyone listening? The opposition will use the findings of the report to their advantage.
Frustration. That's what Stamatis is exuding.
He growls as he breezes through news websites outlining the release of
the report. "Martin. He really bugs me."
People still don't know the truth, the 24-year-old grumbles.
He refers to the notes he was taking, directly on to his laptop during
the hearings, saying the Prime Minister wouldn't ask questions or be
informed of certain of the draft reports.
"What the heck is the Prime Minister there for? Just for show?"
The commission did uncover part of the truth, Stamatis concedes. The
public is now a little more informed, he says. Unfortunately, the
public has found out that not only are politicians corrupt, but bureaucrats
Remember, Stamatis loves the topic of corruption in politics.
So for him, the Gomery Commission is vindication. The Université de
Québec a Montréal student says he's been trying to convince fellow
students for years that politics is a game.
Now I'm in a cab and the cabbie is fit to be tied.
"Martin is just as involved as everyone else. Who are they trying to kid?"
Everyone involved is guilty. We knew that from the very beginning, Pierre Dorneval says.
But before long, he simmers down. In fact, he's shrugging his shoulders. He starts asking me questions: what are we supposed to do now that the report has been released? Will criminal charges be laid? Will it force the resignation of people involved? What exactly are we supposed to gain?
Pierre Dorneval is even more disappointed with the answers. He asks the zinger: how much did this whole inquiry thing cost, anyway?
The call-in shows are brimming with disgust. Radio hosts, as well as the callers, are almost unanimously disappointed.
It's actually kind of repetitive: "They're all crooks." "Why don't they just call them what they should be called: liars." "It's all a cover-up."
Stephen Harper being interviewed by the radio host in French. Same message, different language.
I'm at Restaurant-taverne Chez Magnan, which can charitably be described as a hub of public opinion here in Montreal.
No political electricity in here today, that's for sure.
The big screen TV is showing highlights of the Habs' win last night, which is probably the furthest one could get from the coverage of Justice Gomery's report. Fast-paced, hard-working team players who warm Quebecers' hearts on a cool November day.
The place is packed. I mosey through, listening to fragments of conversations. Here's what I hear: talk of sales meetings, business deals, the Habs' win last night (of course).
Not a peep about Justice Gomery from these businesspeople. Not from what I can glean, anyway.
There's an older man playing on the video lottery terminal. He doesn't seem to be itching to hear what Justice Gomery has to say.
I sit down beside two men having a beer with their lunch. Have they heard anything about the Gomery report? I heard that Chrétien gets most of the blame, says Denys Murphy, with the hint of a French accent.
Murphy says he is, indeed, interested in Gomery's findings because he is, he admits, a federalist. And he needs to know if he should vote Liberal next time around.
Yet murphy isn't the slightest bit scandalized by what he heard during the inquiry.
"They're a bunch of hypocrites," he says, matter-of-factly.
Of course, Paul Martin knew exactly what was going on in this whole affair, Murphy states. But I really think Martin was doing it for - he raises two fingers from each hand to punctuate his reasoning with air quotation marks - the cause. He was doing it to keep Canada together, Murphy says.
"I don't think either of them, Martin or Chrétien, was doing it for personal gain. They didn't put any money in their pockets. Martin has plenty of cash of his own."
Murphy says he'll download the report tonight, and scoffs at the idea that copies of the report are available at a cost of $50.
Murphy's lunch partner, Tony Badia, has less time for the political hubbub.
Not only will Badia forgo downloading the report, he has very little interest in hearing more than just the nightly news report.
"It's the status quo. Why should I care about something that is the same old story?" Badia says.
Yvan Cliche describes himself as resigned, angry and even bitter.
The Montreal businessman is surprisingly sober when he talks about the Gomery report, because he is actually emotional about the whole affair.
Cliche is resigned to the political and financial corruption he has seen in the federal government because he has travelled extensively lately, and has remarked that Canada gets off pretty easy when it comes to dishonesty in office.
He is angry enough that he was prompted to write to his MP for the first time ever. In fact, he wrote to MP Marlene Jennings twice.
But he's still bitter. Why? Because he says the Liberals will likely get away with this. The Gomery report likely won't stop the Liberals from winning a healthy number of seats in the next federal election.
"They most certainly don't have my vote, but I bet you Ontarians, despite their complaining about the Liberals, will vote for them in large numbers. I can't figure that out," he says in French.
Yet Cliche, not unlike Murphy at Chez Magnan, believes Jean Chr�tien was not acting in bad faith. Well, not really. You see, the message Chr�tien gave to his troops was: Save Canada at any cost. And the message was heard.
Especially the "at any cost" part.
Here's how Cliche sees it: hand out a task without setting limits, and something is bound to spin out of control.
Cliche's only hope is that Gomery's second report will offer guidelines on how to prevent this degree of dishonesty in the future.
After all, he says, "rules are there to keep human nature in check."