Muddy le­gal bat­tle to the end

Sackville Tribune - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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