Sunday, July 17, 2016

Justifying the Means

Money and corruption will save Canada

A country united by a slush fund

Years prior to the 1980 Quebec referendum, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau put it bluntly: "One of the means to counter-balance the attraction of separatism is to use the time, the energy and enormous sums of money at the service of Canadian nationalism." For Mr. Trudeau and the federal Liberals, all means were justified to preserve national unity.

More than fifteen years later, forces fighting sovereigntists would steal a page from the 1980 referendum when all the stops were pulled out to keep Quebec in Confederation, including slush funds, secret contributions and political infiltration.

Much like in the 1990s, the late 1970s saw obscure pro-Canada committees raising secret funds, a Liberal-friendly ad firm executing Ottawa's visibility campaign and there was also an informant -- none other than the Parti Québécois' minister of intergovernmental affairs, Claude Morin, mastermind of the entire PQ referendum strategy -- who was on the RCMP payroll.

As a paid RCMP informant Mr. Morin (he admitted that fact in May of 1992) would give the Trudeau Liberals every reason to believe that they could succeed in halting the separatist threat. In 1974, Mr. Morin persuaded Parti Québécois leader René Lévesque to introduce in the party program not one but two referendums in order to achieve sovereignty: one to receive a mandate to negotiate sovereignty-association with the rest of Canada and another to approve the deal. The strategy served to put the brakes on the momentum the separatist PQ gained when it took office in 1976.

"It was in the mentality of the Liberal Party of Canada at the time to build a steamroller and use whatever means necessary to avoid caving in to Quebec and to finally crush the separatists," said Richard Le Lay, a former Progressive Conservative organizer who was a founding member of a pre-referendum committee.

"The federal Liberals' objective was to take power, hold on to it and eliminate the separatists."

The Canadian Unity Council was a federal government-funded body founded in the 1960s to promote national unity. Two years before the 1980 referendum, a pre-referendum committee was founded after Mr. Le Lay persuaded leading council figures, Jocelyn Beaudoin (the Quebec government's representative in Toronto until his role in Option Canada was revealed) and Louis Desmarais (brother of Power Corp. founder Paul Desmarais), to begin promoting national unity before the adoption of a new law in Quebec that would prohibit corporate contributions to election and referendum campaigns.

Mr. Le Lay headed a public relations firm called The Communications Associates and worked with ad firms such as Vickers and Benson on a number of national unity contracts. Michel Robert (former Chief Justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal who stated that separatists should not be named to the bench) eventually took charge of the pre-referendum committee, made up of seven provincial and federal parties and many pro-unity groups that received direct funding from Ottawa.

At the same time, money from private corporations began flowing into the coffers of a discreet committee of business leaders called the Pro-Canada Foundation, headed by Montreal tax expert Redford MacDougall.

The list of donors, the amounts contributed, the names of fundraisers and the amounts spent were all kept secret. The money was needed to fund ad campaigns promoting national unity and to ensure the federal government's visibility in Quebec. A report was later leaked to the media, which unveiled that the group alone had received $2.7-million from about 115 corporate donors from across Canada who worked closely with the federal Liberal government to defeat the separatist threat.

"As soon as [Jean] Chrétien and his assistant Eddie Goldenberg took over [the pre-referendum committee] before the referendum campaign, everything changed and we were all excluded," Mr. Le Lay said. "It was obvious that under Chrétien and Goldenberg . . . the end justified the means."

The federal Liberals dumped Mr. Le Lay's company and brought in the ad firm BCP, headed by Jacques Bouchard, a close, personal friend of federal Liberal cabinet minister André Ouellet. BCP created a subsidiary firm, Communicateurs Unis, to launch thousands of dollars in ad campaigns for various federal ministries aptly aimed at persuading Quebecers to vote No in the referendum.

"We never knew how much the Pro-Canada Foundation had truly raised or spent before the campaign. It was never declared," Mr. Le Lay said. The money was never reported as official contributions as was also the case in the 1995 referendum, especially during one event when Ottawa recruited corporate support for a major rally in Montreal only days before the vote. It was estimated that the event cost several million dollars.

In both cases Ottawa argued it was not required to abide by laws in Quebec limiting spending. But the Gomery inquiry has offered a look at the workings of the Liberal Party in Quebec, a structure that also has its roots in the pre-referendum politics.

In 1978, when Claude Ryan, a stern Quebec Liberal with impeccable integrity, took over the provincial party, he never suspected the extent of Ottawa's involvement in Quebec politics but he had had misgivings about some of Ottawa's pre-referendum tactics. His main political organizer, Pierre Bibeau, recalled how a shouting match erupted between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Chrétien, then Mr. Trudeau's Quebec lieutenant, at a meeting he attended with his federal counterpart, Mr. Goldenberg, several weeks before the 1980 referendum.

"Mr. Chrétien argued that the campaign was about the breakup of Canada and wanted Ottawa to play a more prominent role. But Mr. Ryan insisted that under Quebec law he was the boss of the No side and refused to cave in," Mr. Bibeau said. "Mr. Chrétien didn't trust the Quebec Liberal Party."

The mistrust partly explained why Mr. Chrétien funded a parallel structure that gave a greater role to the Canadian Unity Council, which before that had limited prominence. When Mr. Chrétien became prime minister in 1993 he was determined to defeat the separatists. He came within a whisker of losing the country in the 1995 referendum and did not want to let it happen again.

"The visibility in Quebec of the Government of Canada had been significantly reduced from the mid-1980's until I became prime minister," Mr. Chrétien told the Gomery commission. "We would ensure that the threat of a new referendum would be removed... We were going to restore the visibility of the Government of Canada in Quebec."

To hell with the rules *

When Jacques Parizeau was asked about the difference between Chrétien’s methods from Pierre Trudeau’s, he noted "there’s a difference in means, but the spirit is the same. Ottawa looks to prevent at all costs the independence of Quebec whatever it takes. Trudeau went as far as to jail 500 Quebecers (in October 1970) for no reason other than to battle sovereignty and paint it as a violent movement."

As for Chrétien, Parizeau added, "he summed up his vision of things pretty well when he declared in 2002 that results showed that his government acted properly since support for independence was lower than it was back in 1995." In other words, for Chrétien, the end justified the means.

Here's how you screw over Quebec and make money...
What he was defending with polls was the unleashing of a pro-unity campaign of unprecedented scope to increase Canada’s visibility in Quebec and strengthen Quebecers’ identification with Canadian symbols in order to reduce support for sovereignty. This, he hoped, would either abort a third referendum for lack of support or win it, should one ever be held again.

A central aspect of Chrétien’s Propagandagate was the sponsorship program: the corruption and money laundering which sprang from the channeling of $250 million of public funds to sponsor events in Quebec, including $100 million that went to Liberal-friendly communications firms. Given the scope of this scandal and its raison d’être to prevent another referendum, Parizeau said this should prompt sovereignists to reflect on how it might affect their own approach.

"One thing is now clear: Through all these years, we followed the laws adopted by René Lévesque on the referendum and the financing of political parties. We obeyed the law and we were had like children. Now we see that the federal side resorted to illegal means and influence peddling. So we must ask ourselves what to do in order to remain respectful of the criteria of honesty we chose for ourselves while no longer being as naive as we were."

Based on an article by Rhéal Séguin , The Globe and Mail,  May 2005.

* “In Canada two weeks before the referendum in 1995 Yes were suddenly eight to 10 points ahead. It was more difficult for us because it was a provincial issue and the federal government I led could not get involved. But in the last nine days I said to hell with the rules and organised a huge meeting in Montreal in which thousands of people flew in to send a message that we wanted Quebec to stay with us.

Jean Chrétien, Sunday Post, September 21 2014

1 comment:

  1. Any dictature require a substantial and continuous amount of corruption to endure. Exactly what we see here.