Montreal — A high-ranking Liberal organizer says he received tens of thousands of dollars in sponsorship cash in 2000 from the president of Groupaction Marketing and funnelled the funds into the hands of “fake volunteers” working on the Liberal campaign.
Benoit Corbeil, the former director-general of the Liberal Party's office in Montreal, said in an interview that he received approval from some of his superiors for the cash transactions that were part of a regular flouting of electoral law.
If you recall earlier, Brault stated that he gave funds to Benoit Corbeil (former director-general of the Liberal Party's office in Montreal) for the Liberal Party. Mr.Corbeil said,
“I took the bills [from Mr. Brault] and with that, I paid people, without declaring it [to Elections Canada],” Mr. Corbeil said, refusing to state exactly how much money he received that day.
“I have to admit it, that's the way it happened,” he said.
Mr. Corbeil said most of the recipients of cash payments were Liberal supporters who took unpaid leaves from their positions in ministerial offices to work on the general election.
“I liked to call them fake volunteers,” he said.
Corbeil went on to explain that after he requested funds from an as-of-yet unnamed official, Groupaction handed over cheques via Commando Marketing, a company owned by one of its employees, to 5 Liberal volunteers totalling nearly $100,000. He also stated he had the approval of his superiors. Corbeil currently refuses to name any of the people involved but said that he will reveal all when he appears in front of the Gomery Inquiry in early May.
He did state that some wanted to get their money right away while others were willing to wait. Some of the beneficiaries, according to Corbeil, included lawyers, engineers and accountants from major firms hoping to land contracts after the election.
“They don't want to get paid right away, they want to get paid later,” he said, noting that many of the lawyers have since been named to the bench.
If that's not shocking enough, Corbeil charged that the main purpose of the sponsorship program was to benefit the Liberals.
Mr. Corbeil said the problems originated in the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty, in which the federalist camp exceeded the spending limit through a major demonstration in Montreal dubbed the “love-in.”
Mr. Corbeil said the viewpoint at the time was that this was a “war” against Quebec separatists, and that all means should be employed to ensure victory.
He said that after the referendum, two goals were approved by the highest authorities in the Liberal Party: Annihilate the Conservative Party in Quebec to unite all of the federalists in Quebec under the Liberal banner, and ensure that the Liberal Party became synonymous with Canada in the province of Quebec.
That, he said, led to the creation of the sponsorship program under which flags and banners were placed at events all over Quebec, and the establishment of ministerial tours under which federal ministers regularly travelled across the province.
I can hardly wait for him to appear before the inquiry. His testimony is going to be dynamite.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Martin plans to address the nation on TV tonight. The context of his address is not known but it will only be 5 or 6 minutes long. That means the English portion of the speech will be a mere 2 or 3 minutes. I can't possibly imagine what he'll say in that amount of time although there is much speculation.
"He'll address the sponsorship issue and the current parliamentary context," Amy Butcher, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister's Office, told globeandmail.com.
She indicated the gravity of the address.
Beyond that she refuses to go in to detail. She did say, "He [Martin] will not prorogue the House, nor dissolve Parliament."
As I said, I can't possibly imagine how he will address this on TV tonite in the span of a few minutes but I'll be watching.
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(cross-posted to Rite Turn Only)