So what did he actually say? He starts off by patting himself on the back by telling us that he's actually doing something about AdScam.
I want to talk to you directly tonight - about the problems in the sponsorship program; about how I’ve responded to them as your prime minister; and about the timing of the next general election.
Next, he accepts responsibility by pleading incompetence and in the process avoids any notions of complicity or guilt.
Let me speak plainly: what happened with the sponsorship file occurred on the watch of a Liberal government. Those who were in power are to be held responsible. And that includes me.
Make a note of that one sentence "And that includes me" as we'll come back to it shortly. Next, he admits incompetence again and reminds us that he apologized a year ago - a desperate attempt to tug at our heartstrings. He also pats himself on the back again by reinforcing the claim he's done something.
But taking responsibility is about more than words. I want to tell you what I’ve done as Prime Minister to deal with the sponsorship scandal - to make sure it does not happen again, to make sure that those who violated the public trust will be identified and will pay the consequences.
So what did he actually do?
On December 12, 2003, I cancelled the sponsorship program. It was my very first act on my very first day in office.
Why would he cancel the sponsorship program a full 2 months before Auditor-General Sheila Fraser released her report? At that point in time allegations of wrongdoing were just that, allegations and hearsay. At that point in time he was busy claiming ignorance of any and all things related to the program. Was it simply a preemptive strike? (the implication being of course he knew something) What else has he done aside from calling for an inquiry?
In addition, I fired Alfonso Gagliano, the minister responsible for the sponsorship program, from his appointment as Ambassador to Denmark.
Whoa! He fired Gagliano. This is an extremely important point as it ties into something he said earlier. Remember the statement "And that includes me"? He canned Gagliano simply because Gagliano headed the program. There was no and I repeat no evidence directly linking him to the scandal. The move was simply one of aesthetics - he wanted to be seen as doing something. The hell with due process and all that other fine stuff. So if Martin is so quick to satisfy the blood thirsty masses by presenting them with Gagliano's head despite the lack of any real evidence why doesn't he present us with his own head? Why hold everyone else up to such high standards? He's very quick to fire everyone else but he himself refuses to do the honourable thing by stepping down. Instead, he begs us for more time. I know I screwed up but hey I canned that Alfonso guy. Please please please don't fire me. I promise I'll make everything better - you'll see.
He continues by saying,
I put in strict new controls on spending within every single government department.
Huh? What strict new controls? He then refers to the whistleblower legislation he brought in.
My government brought forward whistleblower legislation to ensure that when public servants and others come forward with evidence of wrongdoing, they are protected, not punished.
That sounds nice in theory but if he is so concerned about exposing corruption why did shut down the public accounts committee last year when it was trying to get to the bottom of this mess? Why did he call for an election before any of the sordid details began to become public? Next he promises to act on Gomery's recommendations.
I committed to acting on the recommendations of Judge Gomery when he brings forth his final report. And I myself testified before his commission, answering any and all questions.
Notice his choice of words. He said that he is "...committed to acting on the recommendations." He didn't say that he will implement any or all of the recommendations - there is a big difference. Then he tries to reassure us by informing us that he called in the bean counters.
Finally, I ordered that the Liberal party bring in auditors to conduct a forensic examination of its books - and call in the RCMP to investigate what took place during that period.
Once again his choice of words is curious. He said forensic examination. That's not true, it's not a forensic examination. It is an ordinary review. In bean-counter-speak this is an important distinction. In a normal review, the accountants merely confirm the validity of receipts - it's called book keeping. In the case of AdScam a book keeping review is ridiculous. He then continues,
Let me emphasize that point: if so much as a dollar is found to have made its way into the Liberal party from ill-gotten gains, it will be repaid to the people of Canada. I want no part of that money.
Again, this makes for a nice soundbite on the six o'clock news but that's all. How in the world will he ever prove how much money went where when he hasn't called for a forensic audit? He then once again talks about the mess and once again promises us all that he's on the ball.
As Prime Minister, I will never hesitate to describe what happened on the sponsorship file for what is was: an unjustifiable mess. It’s up to me to clean it up. That’s my job. I am cleaning it up. And I am willing to be judged on my record of action.
Sorry Mr.Martin but you don't atone for your errors from your address on Sussex Dr. In the real world people like you are fired, axed, canned. Plain and simple. Drunk drivers don't avoid punishment by agreeing to drive senior citizens to medical appointments for free. Again I refer to Alfonso Gagliano. Then he goes so far as to deflect blame on the Opposition.
In recent weeks, fallout from the sponsorship inquiry has led to speculation about an election - which in turn is consuming virtually all political discussion, at least here on Parliament Hill. Initiatives to improve health care, strengthen our economy and ensure for Canada a role of pride and influence in the world are being obscured by partisan jousting.
In short, the Parliament you sent to Ottawa less than a year ago is preoccupied with election talk and with political strategy – not with the job you sent us here to do.
The PM claims that all other issues are being ignored in the House. To anyone who watches Question Period as I do they know this is an outright lie. Of course AdScam should dominate the debate as nothing of its magnitude has ever been seen in this country before but to suggest that other areas of concern are being ignored is bullshit. Besides, he wants to talk about partisan jousting? Why did he refuse to answer a simple question in the House put forth to him by Conservative leader Stephen Harper? Remember when he asked Martin if he ever discussed the directions of contracts over lunch with Claude Boulay? After numerous attempts to illicit an answer from Martin the PM turned the tables by accusing the Conservatives of having a hidden agenda when it comes to health care?! What? What the hell does that have to do with the question that was put forth? And he has the gall to talk about partisan jousting?!
He goes on to discuss due process again.
We’ve all heard that the opposition may defeat the government and take the country to the polls for the second time in a year.
I am prepared to face Canadians and have them judge my response to this serious test of leadership. I will be politically accountable. But I believe that before there is an election, you are entitled to answers - to the answers that Judge Gomery is working toward. I believe that Canadians deserve a full and frank accounting of all the facts. Fairness and due process require nothing less.
Again, I charge he has the audacity to talk about lofty ideals like due process when he threw Gagliano to the wolves? Whether or not Gagliano was guilty is not the point - the fact he was robbed of due process is. I guess the only one entitled to due process is Martin himself.
Then he indulges in a little fancy stick handling.
For that reason, I commit to you tonight that I will call a general election within 30 days of the publication of the commission’s final report and recommendations. Let Judge Gomery do his work. Let the facts come out. And then the people of Canada will have their say.
This is a very important point. He said that he would "...call a general election within 30 days of the publication of the commission’s final report." The conclusion date of the inquiry and the release date of its report are 2 entirely different things - hell the report may not be out for another year or so! Very slick move Martin. This is simply a stall tactic in light of the fact the Opposition has threatened to defeat the government in a confidence vote over the budget. The last thing Martin wants right now is an election! How many people will even remember AdScam a year from now? Voters are notorious for having short memories. Further backing up his claim why an election call at this point in time is not a good thing he says,
If the Opposition forces an election before then, that is their choice. But I believe we can do better. I believe we can - and we should - use the coming months to pursue the public’s business. To act on the issues that matter most to you and make a difference in your life.
If we are to have an election, one that will be at least in part about the work of Judge Gomery, surely that election should occur only when we have the work of Judge Gomery.
Why do we have to wait for Gomery's final report? Didn't Martin claim earlier in his speech that he is willing to be judged on his record? Why do we need Gomery to influence our decision? The testimony we've heard so far is incredibly damaging. I'm quite confident that Canadians are capable of rendering judgement instead of waiting for some judge's interpretation of the events. The next part is priceless,
But I trust your judgment. And I will not dishonour this office by trying to conceal or diminish such offensive wrongdoing. I have too much respect for this place.
My pledge to you tonight is that I will live up to that ideal. I went into public life because I believe in the good that government can do. And I will do my all as Prime Minister to make sure that your government is worthy of your respect.
Ah yes. There's those lofty ideals again - honesty and decency and morals blah blah blah. Why was the Somalia Inquiry cancelled just when it was getting to the juicy parts? What about his position on Free Trade or same-sex marriage or the GST? We've all seen what a Liberal commitment really means.
He then once again tries to tug at our heart strings by mentioning his late father.
When I was young, I practically lived here in the Parliament Buildings. My father was a cabinet minister in four Liberal governments. He taught me that those who serve in public office have a duty to protect the integrity of government.
To summarize, as I said at the start, this speech was aimed at a broad audience and not at people who closely follow politics in general or AdScam in particular. This speech was too self-congratulatory for me. He told us over and over that he's on the ball and that he's cleaning up the mess. He avoided admitting guilt but used the incompetence defence all the while begging for more time. The fox got caught in the henhouse but that's okay - we'll give the fox another year or so in its role as henhouse security guard. He is prepared to call an election but only at his convenience. Sorry Mr.Prime Minister. You were correct when you said Canadians will judge you on your record. We will do just that - and it won't be on your terms.
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