2008/03/06

NAFTA-gate,Cadman "bribe" entangle Harper government

Stephen Harper has been busy this week digging himself a deeper and deeper hole. First, the Cadman affair burst his budget bubble. The revelation that Dona Cadman, the widow of late MP Chuck Cadman, had stated, in a book awaiting release, that Chuck Cadman had told her that the Conservatives had offered him a million- dollar insurance policy to vote against the Martin government in May 2005 shocked the foundations of a government which came to office promising integrity and ethicical reform. This was subsequently confirmed by Cadman's daughter and son-in-law. The Opposition lost no time in pouncing, accusing Harper of countenancing a bribery attempt. (Cadman had turned the offer down.) Harper had been interviewed by the book's author and is reported to have acknowleged that two senior Conservatives met with Cadman and offered "financial considerations" in return for his vote.

Harper has vigorously denied the bribery accusations. But then he made a big mistake. His lawyers filed a notice of a Libel suit unless the Liberals apologized in Parliament and removed the alleged defamatory remarks from the party website. This was quickly interpreted as intimidation aimed at hiding the truth.

Then another bombshell exploded in Harper's face. This concerned a leak of a private conversation between an Obama adviser and someone in the Canadian Consulate in Chicago. Obama and Clinton were involved in closely contested primaries in Ohio and Texas. In Ohio the economy and lost jobs were a big issue. Both candidates talked tough about NAFTA and renegotiating NAFTA if necessary to secure better safeguards for American workers. On Feb 8th an Obama adviser met with a Consulate official who later wrote a memo to embassy officials in which he stated that the Obama adviser had implied that Obama was indulging in political posturing and would not tamper with NAFTA. This report made its way to Ottawa.

Shortly thereafter CTV News reported the essence of the Consulate's report. The Canadian embassy denied it but CTV's reporter stated that a Canadian official had again confirmed the story. All hell broke loose both in the US and Canada. Media and the Clinton campaign seized on the leak to call into question Obama's integrity. Clinton claimed that Obama was saying one thing to the voters of Ohio and another to a foreign government. This was reinforced by the leak to the media of the memo in question. This cast doubts upon Obama's credibility. Clinton won Ohio by a comfortable margin, no doubt aided by these developments.

Back in Ottawa, the Opposition again pounced. Harper was forced to admit that this was a significant error and someone had acted improperly and possibly illegally and that he would launch an internal investigation. Today the Globe and Mail reported that the intial leak had come from the PM's Chief of Staff, Ian Brodie, at a pre-budget lockup. Others confirmed this. It is still not clear who later leaked the memo. Harper admitted that what had happened was a serious error that may have damaged the candidacy of Senator Obama. He promised to widen the investigation to include the PMO. Meanwhile the Opposition parties and many pundits were calling on the PM to fire his Chief of Staff. This time the government looks guilty of meddling in the US election campaign and the scandal appears to reach to the heart of the PM's nerve center at PMO.

1 comment:

Tom Gray said...

Harper is now into damage control. The Conservatives have a lot of explaining to do on both issues.Don't be surprised if Brodie is moved.