Gomery report on Sponsorship Program released

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Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Justice John Gomery has released a preliminary report into Canada's Sponsorship Program, which was run from 1996 to 2003 by the federal Public Works Department to win support for federalism in Quebec. The program has recently come under fire for allegedly scandalous practices and has been accused of being a front to reward Liberal Party supporters.

The issue came to a head in the spring of 2002, when the Globe and Mail, using Canada's Access to Information Act, discovered that $550,000 had been paid to Groupaction Marketing for a report that could not be located.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien then ordered Auditor General Sheila Fraser to look into the matter, who promptly launched a full investigation with assistance from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In 2004, Fraser's audit was released and found that over $100 million was incorrectly paid to communications agencies rather than for social and cultural events which was the original intention of the program.

According to Fraser, officials "broke just about every rule in the book."

Under intense criticism from both the public and opposition parties Prime Minister Paul Martin launched a public inquiry into the scandal which was to be headed by Justice Gomery.

The report found evidence of political involvement in the handling of the program, and found an "implicit link between the contributions and the expectation that the government contracts would be awarded."

The report also claims that Chrétien holds some personal responsibility for the mismanagement. "Since Mr. Chretien chose to run the program from his own office," the report reasoned "he is accountable for the defective manner in which the sponsorship program and initiatives were implemented."

Among those accused of wrongdoing are Jean Pelletier (Chrétien's former chief of staff), Chuck Guité (the bureaucrat in charge the program), Jacques Corriveau (president of PluriDesign Canada), and Jean Brault (president of Groupaction).

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