UNIT 12: CORRUPTION ON THE GLOBAL STAGE OBJECTIVES:
After completing this unit, you should be able to:
• assess corruption as a global issue
• appreciate why Canadian corruption, such as the Sponsorship Scandal, seems to pale
into insignificance next to abuses in countries with less developed democratic
• explain the work of Transparency International in monitoring global corruption.
So far in this course we have concentrated on corruption and scandal in the North
American context. We have learned about the Pacific Scandal in Canada and the
Watergate Scandal in the United States, the Sponsorship Scandal in Canada and the
Clinton-Lewinsky affair in the United States. We have studied the codes of conduct for
MPs, ministers and lobbyists, the Access to Information Act, and the measures that have
been enacted over the years to regulate political financing.
Many of the issues we have examined resonate far beyond Canada’s borders. This is
particularly true of issues that involve lying in politics and the role of the press as
watchdog in a democratic society.
A visitor from Mars who happened to log onto POLS 3440 DE could be excused for
thinking that Canada must be the most corrupt, scandal-ridden place in the world, if not
the universe. That’s not so, obviously. Even though Canada has slipped in recent years in
the annual “Corruption Index” published by Transparency International, we remain a
very “clean” country” in comparison to most countries in Africa, Middle East, Eastern
Europe, Asia, Caribbean and Latin America. It’s just that we are not doing quite as well,
or keeping quite as clean, as we used to.
Yet it is important to bear in mind how fortunate we are compared to most of the rest of
the world. We have free elections. Our elections are not decided by bribery or fraud or at
the point of a gun. We are not governed by despots who think nothing of exiling, jailing
or even murdering their opponents. We have a parliamentary system that works, and
works well – a system in which a government that fails to retain support in the Commons
can be thrown out and forced to seek a new mandate, as happened as 2011. Our MPs and
candidates are free to speak their minds and to advance unpopular views, if they wish.
We have laws, codes and rules that, by and large, keep patronage and conflict of interest
under control. Our election financing laws are among the most effective in the world.
Some apologists for corruption embrace a double standard. While depl