I have an admission to make. I was glad several years ago to see Mulroney –and his hyperbole and all his theatrics—exit the Canadian political stage. It was a common attitude, I think. People were fed up with the man, just sick to death of hearing and seeing him. So spending a couple million dollars (the cost of the settlement with the former PM) to have him just go away seemed a small enough price to pay. It had less to do with whether I believed Mulroney had done something illegal or not, and more to do with the fact that I didn’t care. What I cared about more was Chretien’s new government which should, I thought, look toward its own future and what it wanted to accomplish. Why waste energy on something that would be perceived as a Liberal vendetta? Again, as I recall it, this was a fairly common view at the time. Seeing Mulroney on television this week brought this all back to mind.
My admission today is: this way of thinking was lazy and, in a certain sense, corrupt.
Fast forward to Adscam. I don’t think that this would have been half the media event that it became if it was not backed by groups inside and outside the Liberal party. There were some that were motivated by a desire for clean government and some that had less innocent motivations. For the former group, I have nothing but respect on this issue even though it is not what interests me about politics. I am interested in such issues as dealing with climate change and an effective policy in Afghanistan. In this sense, I and a lot of others have unwittingly been part of the problem for those who want clean government. The real issue in Adscam, all partisan exaggerations aside, was not that the Liberal party or its membership were corrupt, but rather that there was a toleration of illegal activity, a blindness for corruption. And the public has spoken on this issue quite clearly.
During the last election, I was in the passenger seat of a car winding myself up into a strong defense of the Liberal record. It was already dark when the driver reached over to turn up the radio to hear the news report about the launch of an investigation into Ralph Goodale’s involvement in a potential budget leak. (Although the allegations against the honourable Ralph Goodale were later disproven, the news report played into the ongoing narrative of Liberal corruption. It was really about Adscam). I had the good sense to blush and a few short words came out of my mouth that do not bear repeating here. The outcome of the false allegations are well known. They served to remind people about Adscam. There was a dramatic shift in the polls over the following week and the Liberals eventually lost the election.
I had the good sense to blush.