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Political Science
POLS 3440
Geoff Stevens

UNIT 03: CORRUPTION IN CANADA: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE OBJECTIVES: After completing this unit, you should be able to: • identify the key scandals in Canadian history • analyze their relevance to the political system • appreciate why Canadian integrity is not automatically taken for granted in other parts of the world. LECTURE Canadians have long congratulated themselves on the cleanliness and honesty of their political system. Elections were not rigged nor politicians bought and sold. Powerful corporations did not dictate government policies, and well-connected individuals did not move to the front of the line for government favours. Contributions to political campaigns did not give the donors preferred access to the corridors of power. Or so we told ourselves – and most of what we told ourselves was true. This is not to say that Canada was immune to periodic eruptions of corruption, because it wasn’t. Scandals did occur, sometimes with far-reaching effect. For example, the country’s first major political scandal – the Pacific Scandal of 1873 – caused the fall of the Conservative government of Sir John A. Macdonald. (133 years later, in 2006, another scandal – the Sponsorship Scandal –would contribute directly to the defeat of the Liberal government of Paul Martin.) Another reminder is the "Airbus Affair" in which the lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber gave envelopes of cash to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Their relationship and business dealings were the subject of a judicial inquiry headed by Justice Jeffrey Oliphant. His report was released on May 31, 2010. Summaries of the Oliphant Commission report are on the web: • Executive Summary • Commissioner’s statement on release of the report The 1925 Customs Scandal caused the defeat in Parliament of Mackenzie King’s Liberal government and led to the King-Byng constitutional crisis (and to an election that King won). The Beauharnois Scandal of 1931, involving the building and financing of a huge hydro- electric project on the St. Lawrence River (and the secret payment of $700,000 to the Liberal party), nearly destroyed King’s political career. And, just to demonstrate that not all Canadian affairs are sexless, the Diefenbaker-era Gerda Munsinger Scandal, involving the relationship of an East German party girl (and possible spy) with one or more Conservative cabinet ministers, could, if revealed at the time, have brought down the Tory government of the day. Much has been written about these scandals. The websites listed below will provide the basics. 1.For the CBC’s list of
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