Look who’s back in the party - Macleans.ca

Look who’s back in the party

Wajsman returns to the Liberals after being ‘banned for life’


Look who’s back in the partyBeryl Wajsman is many things to many people: well-connected gadfly, perpetually angry newspaper columnist, silver-tongued orator with a weakness for Robert Kennedy quotations. To the Liberal Party of Canada, he was persona non grata, one of 10 people “banned for life” by former prime minister Paul Martin for being linked to the sponsorship scandal. It may seem strange, then, that Wajsman is once again in the party, as an organizer charged with bringing a variety of social groups and unions back into the Liberal fold. He has even consulted on policy issues and speechwriting for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

“He’s an influential guy, and has been very helpful in re-cementing some of those old ties, within the Montreal Jewish community but also with labour and community leaders,” said a senior Ignatieff strategist for Quebec. “He is one of many organizers and opinion influencers who Michael has successfully wooed back and is helping get it back together.”

Wajsman’s tenure as a party organizer came to an abrupt end in 2005, following the testimony of the disgraced president of ad firm Groupaction, Jean Brault, at the Gomery commission. Wajsman, Brault alleged, was present at a lunch where he left an envelope stuffed with $5,000 in cash for Liberal fundraiser Joe Morselli.

Wajsman vigorously denied any involvement, and was never charged with wrongdoing. Nevertheless, then-Liberal Quebec lieutenant Jean Lapierre, at Martin’s behest, removed Wajsman, along with nine others, from the party. What this actually means, however, is a matter of debate—particularly since Wajsman wasn’t (and isn’t) a member of the Liberal party. Until December 2006, when it was amended, the party’s constitution didn’t even allow for such bans.

Liberal spokesperson Dan Lauzon said he couldn’t comment on the status of the banned members, including Morselli and former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano. “It was political payback,” Wajsman says now. “I was tagged because I opposed Martin and Lapierre, or because I made fun of the Gomery commission, or because I defended Joe Morselli so much. Take your pick.”

The party’s Quebec wing, which suffered the most fallout from the sponsorship scandal, concurs. The Liberals were badly beaten in Quebec in the last election in part because of the continued infighting between the entrenched Chrétien and Martin camps. “I think I was the only one who wasn’t speaking to the press,” says board member Brigitte Garceau of the many embarrassing leaks during and after Stéphane Dion’s campaign.

All things considered, Ignatieff is off to a good start in the province. He has polled well and is popular among its Liberal MPs, thanks largely to his 2006 motion recognizing Quebec as a nation. Yet his supporters concede the party is still divided. “It’s fragile, and it’s still a work in progress,” said the senior Ignatieff source, of the truce between the Chrétien and Martin camps. Bringing back people like Wajsman serves its purpose.

Wajsman, whose world view teeters from the cynical to the outright misanthropic, is positively effusive about Ignatieff. Calling him “the most independent Liberal leader in the last 20 years,” Wajsman believes Ignatieff “can restore the Liberal party to small ‘L’ liberalism, put an end to tribalism and bring a new national vision for the country.”

But he still bumps up against old ghosts. Lapierre himself was at Montreal’s city hall in January while Wajsman was accepting the Martin Luther King Legacy Award for community service work. Wajsman saw him, cursed and proceeded with his acceptance speech. Lapierre sat and listened, clapped politely and quickly left the room before the applause was over.


Look who’s back in the party

  1. So typically Liberal – big splash about doing something about their corrupt festering party and then when the dust settle, go back on their word. This proves they knew about the corruption and were quite fine with it. Like I said, typically Liberal.

    • i know, they totally did that with senate appointment, the fixed-elections laws, and the income trust too!

      • Good for Canada that Harper changed his mind on these!

  2. It wasn’t Iggy who crafted the Quebec is a nation motion, it was PM Harper. The whole reason that motion was brought about was because Iggy had made some ill-advised comments during the leadership convention that Duceppe tried to exploit in the house for his agenda.

    In fact Dion boasted that he helped the PM craft the motion. Iggy was not a player in it. I’m sure the author of this story will correct his mis-information right away.

    • I seem to remember a motion within the Liberal party, possibly at the leadership conference or some such event, where Iggy pushed a “We Liberals think Quebec is a nation” type of motion. It could possibly be that motion – assuming it’s not a figment of my imagination – that the author is referring to. Although I agree it could have been more clearly stated.

      • You are quite right that Iggy did make that motion in Parliament of which Gilles Duceppe jumped all over that; Prime MInister Harper had to smooth over that statement that Quebec is a nation within a United Canada. Thereby recognizing the Quebecois. This is also something that Brian Mulroney tried to do through Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords: Which the Libs PET vehemently denounced and railed against.

  3. Iggy never made any such motion. The Quebec wing of the party put forth a resolution to be debated at the convention, which was widely criticised by many Liberals, most notably Justin Trudeau, who disagreed with the premise.

    Duceppe capitalized and tried to put forth a motion in the house putting the squeeze on the federalist parties, at which time the PM crafted his own motion.

  4. Justice done! Here’s what L.Ian MacDonald wrote in the National Post at the time, ” Beryl Wajsman, though a flamboyant character, never raised a nickel of unreported or illegal money, and never benefited from sponsorship largesse. So how did he get shunned, along with the others? He was simply unwanted in this party under its present management. ….In politics, one makes certain allowances for hypocrisy. But there are limits.”

  5. Yeah! On another note, why is Ryan Sparrow back in the CPC? Incompetence must be an Ottawa thing.

    • I thought Sparrow was just put in the penalty box for bad behaviour…don’t think it was ever implied that he was being expelled or banned. Just on a time out to think about his actions.

  6. Political parties are coalitions and alliances of various vested interests, clearly the Martin Liberals divested themselves of Wajsman and his associates for reasons of their own interests: the Iggy party is re-vesting Wajsman and his alliance/coalition associates into another version of the Party.The Cons did it by purging progressive thought from their alliances, but now that Harper can follow Obama everywhere he goes because the PM has no actual leadership skills of his own, we ca expect a return of some progressive voices in the Con ranks as the more reactionary ones get silenced so that Stephen can achieve his only real agenda item, to destroy the Liberal Party before he loses power. But remember, it’s not the Liberal Party he is so singularly intent on destroying, it’s the alliances and coalitions in every nook and cranny of the country that come to power with the Liberal Party that his own local coalitions and alliances want to destroy.

    • What!!! This Prime Minister has shown more leadership in the last 3 years than the previous 4 liberal leaders. If you want some accurate news and information please tune into CNBC Kudlow report in the U.S. and see what the Americans think of Mr Harper as compared to Obamarama. One comment was Canada is very fortunate to have a leader with the economic and political savvy of Mr Harper during this economic turmoil. At least we won’t get grandiose spending plans like a universal day care and a universal pharmacare program a la NDP and Libs, that end up costing billions. Can anybody remember the Gun Registry that was supposed to cost 2 million dollars and ended up costing 2 billion. Or the HRDC boondoggle.

  7. time for a change; independent MPs, my vision of better representation. it’s a great way to remove ppl like SH without a vote of confidence that triggers an accompanying election.

    time for the MPs to represent us.

  8. with the Liberals, NDP, and conservatives, we go from bad to far worse. and those decent MPs trapped in nowhereland in those parties deserve a chance to actually represent us.

  9. This is the type of reporting we recognize as being a Toronto Star sideways slide in developing an inaccurate reference material for further reference as fact. Mr Ignatief made a mess of the reference of Quebec as a nation and provided the separatist party with ammunition for a claim of discrimination. Prime Minister Harper diffused the issue and earned political points by recognizing Quebec as a nation in the Commons. This sideways effort by a Liberal biased report indicates the importance of the issue by the move for the Liberals to change the understanding. Revisionist history such as the Liberal Party taking credit for Tommy Douglas’ success in pushing through the Canada Health Act with Prime Minister Trudeau’s minority government will not happen this time. I expect the bloggers will once again organize to bring the sloppy and/or ineffective editing into the light. Thank you paulsstuff for your initial post on this deceptive activity.

  10. The good times are back, American Iggy is bringing back all the members of the Chretien school of denial. Now we have Banned for Life Wajsman returning to the Quebec wing of the crookedest party in Canada. Whoppee !!! Happy days at the trough of near. Next we will have small town cheep running for Prime Minister.

  11. What was the reason? He wasn’t named for any blame.And he wasn’t involved with the ad companies.
    He just didn’t like Martin and Lapierre. He tried to teach Canadians a civics lesson. More should listen.

  12. Part of being new is the courage to admite past mistakes. Many innocent people were smeared through drive-by character assasination at Gomery including Wajsman. So for Liberals to say “we made a mistake” is refreshing. Banning is not exactly a liberal mindset. And by the way, the banning never happened. The party never effected it because it didn’t have the right or power in its own constitution. Wajsman wasn’t a member, but if he had been his card could not have been pulled without notice and hearing. It never happened. That’s a good thing.

  13. Excuse me!? Coderre and Fragasso? Last I heard Quebec Liberals were still part of a national party. And Coderre himself got the same kind of smear by association and innuendo that Wajsman went through. Remember Boulay and Groupe Everest?

  14. I guess the biggest problem I have with this commentary debate is that I know there is a horde of Con bloggers in here, like say gal64, who, every time I read things like “I have voted Liberal 98% of my life” enables me to know that the commenter has never voted liberal, ever. These commentaries become misinformation threads. I have never voted Con in my life, but have voted Liberal, NDP but now more consistently Green. I trust Cons less because they joined the Bush League and play every game like third stringers, hack jobs, pretending to defend libertarian or sometimes communitarian values when they all all just neo-corporatist shills, and shrill ones at that. All this spinning in the name of feigned ethics makes me understand why young people want nothing to do with the Liberals or the Conservatives, and why I will keep using my vote to protest both your Houses.

    • Your writing is filled with meaningless cliches and actually says very little considering the volume of words.

  15. The party never voted on it as was confirmed in a La Presse report. Gomery was also judged guilty of bias against Chretien, how much more so was he against those who opposed Martin and Lapierre. He actually said that Wajsman was more interested in telling us what he did than in anything else. As for the self-promotion, maybe Canada needs that instead of its false piety. As Churchill said, “I may be a shameless self-promoter but no one can do it as well.”

  16. Your mistaken Jerry: I spoke the truth about voting for the liberals most of my adult life. If I hadn’t, God, why would I lie about something like that??? I have voted twice for the Conservatives, once for Ugh Brian Mullroney (first time he was in) then this last time for Harper. I am disappointed to my roots that you vote to protest. Sounds like Quebec.
    The Liberals are in a freefall, and it bothers me to no end.
    Before you say people are not tell the truth, maybe you should look in a mirror.

  17. Gal64
    I have almost never been represented by someone whose views approximate mine. We have three corporatist parties, the neo-libs, the neo-cons, and the NDP – ie by having to represent corporate labour, he NDP thas no choice but to remain in a losing dialogue with the same ideology. For me the Greens are Other.

    • Sorry Jerry, but if I ever wanted to throw away my vote, then the Green party would be it.
      I don’t vote for losers and they sure are. Their lofty ideas don’t work in the real world, and by my age I can tell you what does. First of all, I am a product of my young adult life of the sixties. We made a mess of everything. No respect for the police, teachers, government and worse our parents, and doing are own thing. So these young ones coming up behind us are not even able to think for themselves on anything. I have learned in my long life, that only 20 families run the world, and we can gripe until the cows come home, nothing changes. You can’t buck cityhall, we tried that in the sixties. Your best to make the best life you can for yourself, and if a friend or neighbour needs food, by a shoping bag full for them. Don’t use credit cards, and don’t rely on one job for life, never going to happen anymore. Take it from this senior, for the one good idea that gets through, we suffer with a thousand bad ones. Good luck with your protest vote, it is just a waste of your time, and the rest of us.

  18. I have met Wajsman several times and he always seems to be on the side of the little guy and against injustice. He paid for buses to take protestors to Ottawa for the demonstration against human rights abuse by China just before the Beijing Olympics. I find him very learned and inspiring. I just am sorry he is not working for Harper instead of Ignatieff.

  19. Phin White said:

    “The party never voted on it as was confirmed in a La Presse report”

    Actually, you are dead wrong and so is La Presse.

    The PLCQ – LPCQ Executive voted on the ban. The resolution passed.

    Don’t believe me? Call the Opposition Leader’s Office. They will confirm it as will the PLCQ President who presided over the vote, Robert Fragasso.

    Wajsman’s ban on Party membership is in force. If he or anyone from Toronto want to try and overturn it, they are welcome to apply for a review with the PLCQ Executive.