UNIT 04: TWO DISTINCTIVELY CANADIAN SCANDALS OBJECTIVES:
After completing this unit, you should be able to:
• assess the main elements of the Sponsorship Scandal
• appreciate how officials in the Prime Minister’s Office were able to bypass the
normal controls to direct sponsorship money into the hands of friends and
• in the Toronto computer leasing scandal, understand how the failure of
accountability and oversight enabled corrupt and amoral individuals to turn a
seemingly straightforward computer deal into a multi-million-dollar
This Unit presents two quite different Canadian scandals: the Sponsorship Scandal and
the Toronto Computer Leasing Scandal.
Let’s begin with Sponsorship.
Every now and again, a scandal changes history. The Watergate scandal in Washington
was one; it forced President Richard Nixon to resign in disgrace. In Canada, the Pacific
Scandal of 1873 brought down the Conservative government headed by Canada’s first
prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and led to the election of the country’s first
Liberal government. More recently, the Sponsorship Scandal destroyed the Liberal
government of Paul Martin and led directly to the election of Stephen Harper’s minority
Conservative government on Jan. 23, 2006.
The sponsorship affair – a tale of misspent millions, abuse of trust, patronage, kickbacks,
fraud, political cynicism and sleazy partisanship – is the biggest and gravest scandal of
recent years in Canada. It all began in 2000 with a Globe and Mail reporter’s request for
documents under the Access to Information Act (which we will be studying later).
Eventually some documents were produced and the ensuing newspaper stories prompted
Auditor General Sheila Fraser to investigate the operation of the Sponsorship Program –
a program designed primarily to increase the recognition level of the federal government
in Quebec in the wake of the 1995 Quebec referendum.
Her initial report, in 2002, caused the government to make a number of changes in the
administration of the program. Her final report, in February 2004, caused a political crisis
for the Liberal government, led to an investigation by the Commons Public Accounts
Committee, the laying of criminal charges against some of the players, and the
appointment of a judicial inquiry headed by Mr. Justice John Gomery of the Quebec
Superior Court. The Sponsorship Scandal became the central issue of the federal general
election in June 2004 in which the Liberals narrowly retained power with a minority government. (The Liberals were defea