Gloating via proxy: Liveblogging Jean Chrétien’s “spokespersons and lawyers” on the Gomery decision


12:49:13 PM
Well, that’ll teach a girl to plan a leisurely afternoon of running background checks on the beneficiaries of the recent flurry of federal appointments. Sorry, Google, I’ll have to take a raincheck. When the Gomery signal flashes in the sky, we have to follow.

Slowly but surely, the room is filling up. The gallery was given very short notice of the press conference, so the turnout is surprisingly robust, considering. It’s not like there’s much else happening, other than that aforementioned flurry of appointments, but still. When it comes to Gomery—in fact, the whole sponsorship scandal—I know I’m speaking for at least a few of us reporters when I say that the very name sends me into a state of twitchy catatonia, which has nothing to do with any sympathy for the former Liberal government or any of those Quebec ad firms, and everything to do with the fact that this was the story that devoured Canadian politics for nearly four years. So many thousands and thousands of words, and yet it’s apparently still not over.

12:58:48 PM

Just got a copy of the decision – I’m not even going to pretend to be able to read it in the thirty seconds before the presser is scheduled to start, but the key word is “bias”—and the reasonable apprehension of thus. That’s what the court has concluded, insofar as Gomery’s treatment of the former PM, and that is what his spokespersons and lawyers—but not, sadly, the man himself—will be talking about in just under a minute.

I have to wonder what Judge Oliphant is thinking right now. This isn’t exactly a rousing confidence-booster as far as inquiring into the actions of former prime ministers.

1:02:32 PM

And we’re off. At the dias for Team Chrétien: Senator Jim Munson, former Chrétien chief of staff Eddie Goldenberg, and Chrétien’s lawyer, whose name I managed to miss. Sorry about that. I was trying to get the diabolically counterintuitive earpiece to fit over my shell-like ear, and eventually gave up. I hate those things SO MUCH.

1:04:54 PM
Eddie Goldenberg takes over, and begins with a hearty thanks to the lawyers for all their good work. Chrétien is in Europe, he notes, presiding at a conference for former heads of government, and is very happy with the “total vindication.”

He doesn’t want to be partisan, but the Gomery report unnecessarily did “huge damage” to the reputation of a “great institution” (the Liberal Party).

As for the $50 million that the inquiry cost, it was “money badly spend.”

He hopes this can “turn the page” for all of us, and undo some of the damage done to reputations, particularly Pelletier’s.

1:08:55 PM
Oh, this is going to go over well; Goldenberg brings up yet another former prime minister, Paul Martin, and suggests Martin owes Pelletier, at least, an apology. You can’t hold grudges forever, so show some grace and class, and say you’re sorry.

1:10:42 PM
Finally, Jim Munson wraps things up by noting that Chrétien is “very happy in Stockholm”—and who wouldn’t be, really? What hurt him most, he says, was the “small town cheap” crack, which he saw as denigrating not just Chrétien, but all rural Canadians. Which is a bit of a stretch, but it’s his day, after all.

1:12:21 PM
First question: CBC’s Julie Van Dusen, who wants to know what exactly it was that bothered Chrétien, other than, you know, everything. Answer: You know, everything. Oh, and they can’t give his exact words upon learning of the decision, but he was very, very pleased.

1:13:52 PM
Canadian Press wonders if “Eddie” is suggesting that Martin apologize to Chrétien as well as Pelletier, but Goldenberg sidesteps that; he is most particularly concerned with Mr. Pelletier, who has had a particularly rough time.

1:15:23 PM
CanWest’s Juliet O’Neil wonders if this means that everything that came out of the Gomery inquiry should be disregarded, and Goldenberg sort of says yes, but not explicitly so. The factual findings should be set aside, yet, the judge ruled on what was in front of him. Did anything of value come out of the report? No, not really, according to Goldenberg. Much had already been uncovered by the Auditor General—and the rest has now been thrown into doubt by the finding of bias. He just wants this to go a little way towards restoring some of the faith that Canadians have lost in government, the democratic system, and presumably the Liberal Party, although he restrains himself from saying that.

1:17:58 PM
Bob Fife really, really wants to know how Chrétien reacted—how did he feel? Did he do a jig? Curse a jovial blue streak? Strangle a passing protester? Sadly, none of that comes out. He was “very happy,” as was Aline—not so much for them, but for the country. Oh, and Jean Pelletier.

1:19:39 PM
An interesting question, and one I’ve been musing over since the story broke: what does this mean for future inquiries? Especially, say, one into a former prime minister that is just about to get underway? This was just a bad public inquiry, notes Munson. It went off track. That doesn’t mean that a future inquiry wll suffer the same fate. Goldenberg notes that it highlights the importance in choosing the right person for the job.

Yeah, I have to think Justice Oliphant is going to want to read every word of this ruling.

1:22:15 PM
Global’s Hannah Boudreau wonders, if the whole report is “null and void” now, what are Canadians to think? That’s up to Canadians, says the lawyer. The decision sets aside the facts—the first phase of the report—and, as Goldenberg points out, slightly impishly, the current prime minister has “thrown out” much of the second phase.

Has anyone been in touch with Pat Martin or Pierre Poilievre, by the way? I’m worried that this may do untold emotional damage, given their ardent and—at least until now—unshakeable devotion to the former judge, and his eponymous report.

1:25:02 PM
More questions about Pelletier. Somehow, an apology from Paul Martin—a public apology—might help him in his battle against cancer.

1:25:53 PM
Hey, it’s Colleague Wells! He wants to know if Paul Martin, who is still in the House, at least according to the seating plan, can remain silent to the Canadian people, given what a fiasco the Gomery report has seemingly turned out to be. “That’s not why I’m here,” says an enigmatic Goldenberg.

1:27:34 PM
Oh, now we’re getting existential: Was there ever really a sponsorship scandal? Yes and no. Man, if there wasn’t, I want four years of my life back.

1:28:24 PM
Nobody seems to know if the government will appeal the ruling – but Jim Munson gets ten out of ten for political opportunism at its finest by referring to the “green shift” while suggesting that it may be time for *another* sort of shift. Blame shifting, for instance. As for the Liberal Party – it’s time to move forward. Would that include jumping in a time machine and going back to, say, 2002 with a copy of this ruling? Because that’s not exactly forward, but I’ve got to think that it’s exactly what Paul Martin is longing to do right now.

1:31:55 PM
And now it gets a little meta. According to the lawyer, the judge found that Gomery was overly concerned about the media. We all tut tut solemnly

1:32:50 PM
Tonda McCharles gets the last question – and it’s a good one. What will the party say next time Stephen Harper demands that they give back the “missing” $40 million, which I guess isn’t missing after all, since that was part of the findings of fact that this ruling has set aside. Munson suggests that the Conservatives might want to pay more attention to the in and out scandal.

And with that, it’s over. Forever? I wish, but somehow, I doubt it. The story that would not die will survive to fill the headlines for another day.

1:36:27 PM
One last tidbit, before I forget: Word is that Gomery isn’t yet prepared to comment on the decision – and yes, he’s been asked. Apparently, he wants to talk his lawyer first. If he’d been that circumspect during the inquiry, we wouldn’t be here today, but at least someone has learned something from this whole ordeal.


Gloating via proxy: Liveblogging Jean Chrétien’s “spokespersons and lawyers” on the Gomery decision

  1. So can the Liberal Party have our government back now, please?

  2. I think the point about legitimacy of the inquiry is a valid one. If Gomery was found to be biased, how can we not question the outcome of the inquiry?

  3. I want an interview-or something- with Chrétien. Just so I can see the guy on TV again.

  4. You mention Pat Martin and Pierre Poilevre and their inclination to treat Judge Gomery as a hero. During the years of Gomery, there were also a few of your colleagues who had blinders on and were not unbiased in there glee for scandal.

  5. Soo…. are the questions over?

  6. Yikes. Sorry about that delay. My fault. The grand finale should be up now.

  7. @bigcitylib

    I quite agree with you.

    Too bad we can’t sue the Conservatives for the lost years and the damage done to the economy.

    The outcome almost makes the last election invalid. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get the Liberals and NDP to gang up and do the 1984 Ontario government thing and turf out Harper just like Rae & Peterson did to Miller?

  8. Paul Martin was overdue for today’s comeuppance. It should’ve been wider, angrier, and more specific.

    British Columbians with respect for electoral fairness (and more) will think Small Paul has got off very, very lightly after his leadership team “Martinized” the entire roster of B.C. Liberal ridings to suit his own special need to be prime minister.

    Three of his top campaign lieutenants stand accused in B.C. Supreme Court; a dark cloud hangs over the Martin campaign team as well as over the so-called Liberal government of Gordon Campbell. But time goes on … and on and on, without Paul having to account for himself in any way. Thanks to the compliant CanWest media in the West, nothing much is ever said about all that.

    So today was a good day for anybody who retains even slightest resentment about the damage Small Paul has done to this country.

    BC Mary
    The Legislature Raids



  9. This blog post made the front page of google news through the macleans gateway.

  10. Oh God, when will this be over. Chretien and Martin should go away to the woods or something and hash their problems out and start acting like statesmen – same for Mulroney.

    Do any former prime ministers get along? This is pathetic.

  11. Kady, or anyone, where do I go to see the list of federal appointments? I have no idea how to even search for this.

    Thanks in advance.

  12. Hmm… so we are to believe that a biased judge’s finding of bias means the sponsorship scandal never happened? The money was never found. Why the rush to exonerate the Liberals?

    It’s common knowledge that Kady is an honourary Liberal party staffer masquerading as a journalist, as anyone around Parliament familiar with her after-hours socializing is well aware… but is this whole blog a Liberal party love-in?

  13. Penlen – I’ve been getting the announcements as they’ve been coming out via the gallery listserv; you could check the central government website, but I’m not sure if every one of the more minor appointments makes it there. You can also wait til Saturday, when the Canada Gazette comes out; In the notices section, it will have a list under Industry/Appointments.

  14. Kevin- the exoneration goes to Pelletier and Chrétien, not to the Party as a whole. It has been acknowledged that there was wrongdoing. THe question now, however, is ‘If he was biased about this, why shouldn’t he have been biased about that?’ Also, naturally the judge’s finding of bias in Mr. Gomery’s report couldn’t possibly have been a fair ruling. Because the whole world is controlled by a vast, left wing conspiracy, right, Kevin?

  15. Kevin, I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that I see this decision as an exoneration of … actually, anyone, really – other than Chretien and Pelletier, at least, as far as the legal record. If you agree with the judge that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias, I can see how you might argue that this knocks out the underpinnings of many of his conclusions, as well as the first phase of the final report. Over at Inkless, Colleague Wells is going through Gomery-era testimony to do just that – but he doesn’t dispute the basic thesis that there *was* a sponsorship scandal.

    I’m actually most curious about the implications this ruling may have on another inquiry into the actions of a former prime minister – the one that hasn’t even yet begun to hold hearings. I don’t think Judge Oliphant will be sitting down for a Christmas chat with Don Martin, but it will be interesting to see how he handles what is sure to be a similarly frenzied media environment.

  16. It will be harder, I think, for Jude Oliphant than it was for Gomery, not only because of recent events, but because Mulroney has long held the opinion that there exists a vast, left-wing, media conspiracy designed to give all Liberals a free ride who attack him purely because he’s a conservative. As anyone who read Peter Newman’s book on him will attest, this fixxation seems to border paranoid at times. SO one can only assume that we are in for a very long couple of years of accusation of bias, unscrupulousness, lying and prejudice. Sounds. Like. Fun.

  17. I just hope he’s okay with liveblogging from the inquiry. Although he does still have the option to conduct interviews in private, according to the terms of reference recommended in the Johnson report, so who knows how much of the raw testimony will ever see the light of day? That would, however, be one way to keep it from turning into a dog and pony circus spectacular, though.

  18. Thanks for the info Kady!

  19. I think the time has come for public inquiries to be truly national in this country, and that cities should compete with one another to host them like the Brier or the Junos.

    I’m putting in my vote for Winnipeg, which has done itself credit with the Grey Cup party as recently as 2006, the Brier this year, and the Junos a few years ago. Well suited for hosting any major sports or entertainment event.

    Judge Oliphant is from Manitoba, and Winnipeg was the venue for the opening gambit in Karlheinz Schreiber’s attempts to win friends and influence polticians in that case by paying to fly in anti Joe Clark delegates to the 1983 PC convention.

    Those federal per diems will go a lot further in our excellent multi-ethnic, but reasonably priced restaurants, plus we have a longer sakting rink thatn Ottawa as of last year.

    I say let’s host the inquiry in Winnipeg!

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