“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost bad men,” says historian and moralist Lord Action. True enough, no government is exempted from the evil repercussions of power, not even ‘The Great White North’, Canada.
Among all of the world’s regimes, no one would ever think that with the smooth run of things within the country, it would not have its fair share of scandals. However, the past few years have shown an unfavorable light on Canada’s political scandals, proving that it’s not all snow and maple up north. Here are some of the most infamous political scandals.
10 Maxime Bernier’s Julie Couillard scandal
Maxime Bernier had everything going for him. From being the vice president of the insurance company Standard Life of Canada, he eventually became a Member of Parliament for the riding of Beauce in Quebec. Although his intrusion into Karzai’s Afghanistan and his hoax aircrafts to Burma have put him in jeopardy, it was the controversy surrounding his girlfriend, Julie Couillard, that put him under intense scrutiny. Couillard had past amorous links with Hells Angels members, and had gotten access to classified NATO documents after Bernier left them at her house. This has subsequently prompted his resignation, though he still serves in the government, now as Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism.
A scandal that rocked the 90's, it was here that former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was accused of profiting from real estate deals and government policies in his hometown of Shawinigan, Quebec. Chrétien falsely announced that he sold his recently purchased Grand-Mère Golf Course and Auberge Grand-Mère Hotel properties to close friend Yvon Duhaime and Toronto tycoon Jonas Prince, respectively, when in fact, he didn’t. The golf course remained his while secretly persuading the director of the Development Bank of Canada into giving Duhaime an almost $800,000 loan to expand the hotel. Though this lobbying was clearly seen as illegal, the ethics counselor which Chrétien appointed that time declared that no violence was committed, and the Prime Minister continued to serve for 3 more years.
8 Charbonneau Commission enquiry into the Quebec construction industry
Formed in October 2011, the commission is a public inquiry into the potential corruption regarding the awarding of public construction contracts in Quebec. This lead to the resignation of Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, who, after police searches in two of his residences, municipal buildings, and safety deposit boxes, was found to be receiving 2.5% from these contracts as part of an “organized structured network”. Businessmen, lawyers, and other entrepreneurs were also revealed to be part of this intricate crime network. He is now facing a grave charge of “gangsterism” in the city where he formerly ruled as a monarch.
7 John Edward Brownlee sex scandal
Going back a few decades earlier, the once promising Alberta provincial Premier John Edward Brownlee shamefully resigned from office in 1934 after he was accused of seducing Vivian MacMillan, a family friend and a secretary for his attorney-general in 1930, when she was still 18 years old. MacMillan claimed that the former premier, who is married, told her that “she must have sex with him for his own sake and that of his invalid wife”. This affair was said to have continued for three more years, and then conceded after physical and emotional pressure. Nevertheless, she and her father were awarded $10,000 and $5,000 each for damages, after they sued Brownlee for seduction.
6 Fast Ferry Scandal or “FastCat Fiasco”
The Fast Ferry Scandal was a 90’s political affair, which refers to the construction of three fast ferries in the province of British Columbia. The said ferries were intended by the provincial government to be used for faster inter-province transit, skills and training of the local residents, and to generate taxes from the shipbuilding industry there. However, the ferries simply turned to be hugely over-budgeted and were actually slower than the existing ones. Cost of the program bloated to almost $460 million, not to mention a three-year lag in delivery schedule, partly due to the builders’ little experience with aluminium, and also due to blunders during the local government’s bidding process.
Still from British Columbia, former premier Michael Franklin Harcourt (simply known as ‘Mike’) was forced to resign from his position as the result of “Bingogate”, a scandal where NDP member David Stupich used money raised by a charity bingo to provide the party’s funds. Part of the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society (NCHS), Stupich ran kickback schemes in which donations to charities via the Nanaimo Commonwealth Bingo Association (NCBA) were used for NCHS who in turn raises funds on behalf of the NDP. He, pleading guilty, was sentenced to two years at his daughter’s home, while Harcourt, who was not uninvolved personally, also resigned as a result.
4 Pacific Scandal
The Pacific Scandal involved allegations of accepted bribes by members of the Conservative government in the attempts of private entities to influence the bidding for a national rail contract. Since British Columbia agreed into joining the Canadian Confederation in an 1871 agreement, the government planned to build the transnational Canadian Pacific Railway to link the Pacific-facing province to the eastern provinces. Incidentally, evidence was uncovered where Sir Hugh Allan and his associates had been granted the contract in exchange for political donations that sum up to $360,000. This led to the resignation of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. McDonald, and power was transferred to the Liberals headed by Alexander MacKenzie.
3 Duplessis Orphans
The Duplessis Orphans, named after Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis, were victims of a scheme in which several thousand orphaned children were falsely certified as mentally ill by the government of Quebec and confined to psychiatric institutions. The scandal, which ran from the 1940's to the 1960's, was conceived by Duplessis and the local Catholic church to obtain federal funding for the children, who were only “orphaned” by forced separation from their unwed mothers. Posing as health facilities, these orphanages and insane asylums traumatized children through sexual abuse by the priests, harsh treatment by the administrators, and in some cases, subjected to drug testing and in other medical experiments. In the 1990's, the survivors criticized the Quebec government for not aptly justifying the incident, only offering measly amounts up to $10,000.
2 Sponsorship scandal
The sponsorship scandal, also known as “AdScam”, “Sponsorship” or Sponsorgate, was a scandal that came out of the Canadian federal government’s ‘sponsorship program’ in the province of Quebec and involving the Liberal Party of Canada, which was in power from 1993 to 2006. Conceived to raise awareness of the government’s contributions to Quebec and to counter the Parti Québécois’ actions, imminent corruption was discovered, misdirecting public funds to Liberal organizers or fundraisers, or even as donations back to the Liberal Party. It was mostly done by awarding sponsorship to ad firms for no work in return. Though it has been going on for years, a public inquiry done in 2004 became the deciding factor on the results of the 2006 federal election, where the Conservatives finally rose to power after twelve years of Liberal rule.
1 Airbus affair
The Airbus affair refers to allegations of secret commissions given to members of the government during Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s term, in exchange for Air Canada’s (a former Crown corporation) purchase of a large number of Airbus jets. Airbus’ chairman at the time of the bidding was Franz Josef Strauss, a high profile German politician. Airbus won the contract in 1988, with an order for 24 Airbus A320s as well as the sale of some of Air Canada’s existing Boeing 747 fleet. Seven years later, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) accused Mulroney of accepting bribes from Airbus’ Karlheinz Schreiber for the contract, which was further proved by the latter’s raising of money for Mulroney’s successful bid in 1983 to win the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. The years that followed saw a lengthy legal battle, which is still partially unresolved.
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