Canada – Corruption Scandals rock Federal and BC Liberals

Paul Martin and Gordon Campbell aren’t sleeping well these days. With elections on the horizon, both the Federal and BC Liberal Parties are down in the polls. Scandals have rocked all levels of government. From large sums of tax-money being given away to corporations, to drug money in BC, it seems that everyone has their fingers in dirty money. But who is to blame for all this? Is it possible that all of these scandals are just isolated incidents caused by individually corrupted people in high places? No; the corruption is systemic.

The raid by the RCMP on offices at the BC Legislature came as quite a shock to many. Police are being tight-lipped about the organized crime investigation surrounding key members of the BC Liberal party and the Federal Liberal Party, but rumors are running wild. A 20 month long joint investigation between the Victoria City Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police culminated in raids all over Victoria. Police have searched two offices at the legislature, the office of Mark Marissen (husband of Deputy Premier Christy Clark), the offices of

Pilothouse Public Affairs (a lobbying firm used by the BC Liberal government during the privatization of BC Rail) and several other homes and offices. The raids were all part of a massive organized crime investigation involving the shipment of BC marijuana to the United States.

But this should come as no surprise; marijuana is one of BC’s largest industries. Upwards of 6 billion dollars worth of pot finds its way across the border each year. This is more money than the mining, oil and logging industries put together! And after all, during a time when the markets are volatile at best, a grow operation makes quite an attractive investment.

For a small investment of only fifteen thousand dollars, someone can put ten thousand dollars down on a mortgage for a house, spend five thousand on lights and seeds and then hire some laid-off worker to take care of things for free rent and a sack of cash at harvest time. The network of crime rings setup throughout the province can easily move large amounts of drugs anywhere it wants with relatively small hassle from the police. And all this would-be-drug-lord has to do is sit back while the money roles in (and buys him a free house to boot!). Its no wonder the marijuana business is booming. And of course, all this money finds its political expression.

The black economy plays a very real political role. Just as any big industry has a major political lobby, so does marijuana. No sector of society is left untouched. The news is constantly telling us of yet another police officer corrupted by the very people they were supposed to be fighting against. And now it is clear that some of the top members of the provincial and federal Liberal parties also have their dealings with illegal drugs.

It is no secret that both the Liberal parties are in the pockets of big business. Newly unelected Prime Minister Paul Martin is facing serious questions from all sides about government contracts while he was finance minister. The Auditor General is sounding the alarm over tens of millions of dollars in contracts that were handed out to all kinds of businesses for doing basically nothing. Details aren’t yet clear, but this looks like a scandal that will stick around for awhile. Paul Martin is claiming ignorance. He says he knew nothing of what was going on, even though he was the one signing the cheques at the time. It is an interesting argument: not-guilty by reason of incompetence.

A short time ago, an election call was expected in early May for an election in late April. It was to be a crowning ceremony for Paul Martin, who pulled off a democratic coup in the Liberal Party last year, placing him in the Prime Minister’s seat. But all of this is in doubt now. Support for the Liberal Party has fallen by 9% down to 39% since the scandal broke and the worst is yet to come. Paul Martin is faced with a tough decision; does he put off the election and hope this will all blow over, or call a snap election to get it over with before this really blows up?

And then of course there was the BC Liberal Minister who was forced to resign from his Children and Family Development portfolio in January. Gordon Hogg is coming under fire over his involvement in some shady accounting. It seems that he forgave a four hundred thousand dollar debt that an "independent contractor" owed to the ministry.

With all of these scandals taking place at all levels of government it becomes clear that these are not just isolated events. They are part of a larger process. Both the BC Liberal Party and the Liberal Party of Canada are funded by big business. They are there for the purpose of carrying out the program of capital. You see, corporations are funny things; they have no morals, no sense of right or wrong; they exist for the sole purpose of making profit. And when these interests make an investment, even in a political party, they expect to see a return. This return comes in the form of contracts and tax cuts and most importantly, attacks against the working class.

The ruling class has a direct interest in seeing our wages cut and our rights stripped away. When the economy is tanking and profits are fewer and farer between, they will fight tooth and nail for every dime they can squeeze out of us. These governments will carry out the wishes of the bosses every time. Whether that means giving away cash or beating down the working class or turning a blind eye to drug rings. The corruption that’s rank in governments all over the world is a symptom of a much larger problem: the private ownership of the means of production, in a word: capitalism.

Mike Palecek