Canadian PM Martin testifies before sponsorship scandal inquiry

February 11, 2005

Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada, had the opportunity to testify Thursday before the Gomery Commission of Inquiry on the so-called "Sponsorship" scandal. The prime minister provide long and exhaustive, and many times exhausting replies to questions raised by Commission co-counsel, Mr. Finckelstein. The Prime Minister managed to distance himself from a programme about which his predecessor, The Right Honorable Jean Chrétien testified on Tuesday, had as its objective National unity which was a matter under his purview.

During questioning the Prime Minister sought to distance himself from the secret fund used to finance the sponsorship program. The unity reserve, he has said, was "deeply in the bowels" of the finance department's budget infrastructure, and did not receive more than semblant review before being approved.

"The responsibility of the minister of finance is to set the financial context," he testified, "Once the minister of finance does that, which is essentially the presentation of the budget, his responsibility comes to a total end."

The scandal involves hundreds of millions of dollars spent in a program created to respond to the 1995 Quebec referendum. The funds were allocated to promote Canada through cultural and sporting events in Quebec, where separatist sentiment was still strong, but a 2003 report from Sheila Fraser, the Auditor General of Canada, suggested as much as $100 million may have been misspent for little or no work on advertising firms with close ties to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Over the past year the Gomery Enquiry, appointed by PM Martin, has produced little evidence beyond that of the original report, but has provided a forum for the opposition parties to attempt to embarrass the ruling Liberal Party.