Muddy legal battle to the end
t’s the scandal that keeps costing money. The federal government will now have to pay former prime minister Jean Chretien $200,000 toward his legal costs fighting the sponsorship inquiry findings.
Make that the taxpayers will pay - after being shafted for mega-millions for a scheme that proved the beginning of the end of the Liberal reign in government.
You could almost see this final bit of icing coming, considering the way Chretien’s turn on the stand was played out at the inquiry in 2005. As infuriating as the kickback scheme was, it’s not surprising the former prime minister would fight to the end to show he was thrust in a bad light by Justice John Gomery during the proceedings.
Chretien and his late chief of staff, Jean Pelletier, were fighting the conclusion by Gomery that, whether or not they knew about the kickback scheme, the two bore some responsibility in not having safeguards in place.
That might have been fair comment from the justice. But he went further. He commented to the media about “juicy” evidence to come. He described signature-embossed golf balls Chretien had given out as “small-town cheap.”
In the midst of hearings, that’s not the kind of thing that stacks up confidence in a judge’s impartiality.
Little wonder Chretien would fight back - an issue of legacy, it’s not unlike former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney fighting tooth and nail to keep his reputation intact over dealings with German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.
Spokespersons for the Conservatives say taxpayers will be upset by this latest chapter, the reimbursement to Chretien. Doubtless they will, but it’s been such a long, convoluted affair, starting with the pro-federalist publicity campaign in Quebec that started it all, through the ensuing kickbacks and then the warts on the inquiry, it’s hard to say where to start getting angry.
At any rate, the affair helped some lawyers from going hungry. Very seldom is the public the winner.