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The Whole Gomery Thing

In a nutshell, in case you haven’t been following the news, here’s the whole thing on the Liberal scandal and Judge Gomery’s report.

Back in 1995, Quebec was going to hold a referendum on whether they should separate or not. Naturally, the federal Liberal’s didn’t take too kindly to the idea, especially Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister at the time.

So what he did was he set up a sponsorship program, run directly under the authority of the Prime Minister’s office, to basically purchase advertising and convince the people of Quebec that they should remain a part of Canada. As it has turned out, Chrétien set up the program with very little oversight or control over what happened within it.

In Quebec, how it played out was that some unscrupulous people simply couldn’t resist the temptation of a lot of taxpayers’ money. Advertising agencies with connections to those handing out the money got paid a lot of cash for very little work. Some of the agencies actually got the money by turning around and giving a chunk of it straight back to the Liberal Party of Quebec for later election campaigns, or even directly to the political operatives that helped control the budget of the sponsorship program.

Then the Auditor General of Canada came in and took a look at what was going on. That report opened up the whole scandal to further investigation. When Paul Martin was elected, he set up an independent investigation with Justice Gomery as the head. The goal of investigating the whole affair was to see if there was any wrongdoing, and if so, who the likely suspects were.

Gomery’s report came out and essentially held Paul Martin blameless, but put Jean Chrétien on the spot for starting up a secretive program without proper oversights or controls. The report also named a few people such as Alfonso Gagliano, as the people actually taking our money (Canada. Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities, 2005).

With the report, the Liberals added a bunch of people to a court case, suing them in the name of the Canadian government (Canada. Public Works and Government Services, 2005). The Conservatives repeated their call for an election right now, backed by the Bloc Quebecois. The NDP party, on the other hand, attempted to use the situation to force the Liberals into a deal that ensured private health care would not be allowed in Canada. Since there seems to be a common idea that any political party that forces a Christmas election will get punished in the polls, the Liberals called the NDP’s bluff, and things have proceeded on pretty much as usual.

What’s left to happen? The Liberal government could still be brought down if any of the opposition parties call for a motion of non-confidence and all three opposition parties support the motion. The Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois have already announced they won’t be bringing forward such a motion, leaving it to the NDP. Personally, I think this is a dumb move on the part of the Bloc and the Conservatives, as if NDP voters are disaffected by them calling a Christmas election, they still probably wouldn’t turn to the Conservatives, which would likely mean simply a gain for the Liberals.

That second half of the investigation will be detailing measures that can be taken to ensure that such a scandal does not happen again. At that point, all the government needs to do is to point out that they have already made many of the changes and they will be able to use Gomery’s report as a vindication of their current practices.

Of course, if you’re dead set against the Liberals, the question of how impartial Justice Gomery really was will always remain. Justice Gomery may well have exonerated the man who appointed him, but opponents will question whether that is because the independent investigation determined that there was no evidence, or whether the investigation was not as independent as it should have been.

References
Canada. Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities (2005). Who is responsible? Phase I report. Retrieved from http://www.gomery.ca/en/index.asp.
Canada. Public Works and Government Services (2005, November 1). New names added to the claim for the recovery of funds. Retrieved from http://news.gc.ca/cfmx/view/en/index.jsp?articleid=179829

Liberal Goodie Bag includes Distance Learning

On November 14, the Liberal government has once again seen the election approaching, and so quickly offered up a package of increased services to try and convince people that they really are the ones that need to stay in power.

In that goodie bag, the Honourable Minister of Finance, Ralph Goodale, delivered his Economic Update and mini-budget. One of the things he specifically mentioned was a promise of one billion dollars over the next two years “to support cutting-edge innovation in education “? smart classrooms, networked laboratories, interactive libraries and distance learning, just to name a few examples.” (Canada. Department of Finance, 2005)

While I put no faith in promises made under the threat of an election, it is notable in that distance learning can be seen to be finally getting some federal attention. Even if an election occurs, and even if the Liberals get voted out, the fact that it was mentioned in a Finance Minister’s speech means that any government in power will have to give some sort of notice to it. The time may not be terribly far off when the government actually realizes that, unlike traditional post-secondary education, distance learning can be looked upon as a national concern. As such, it should receive the type of budget supports suitable for national organizations.

I can dream, can’t I?

Reference
Canada. Department of Finance (2005, November 14). Presentation by the Honourable Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P. Retrieved from http://www.fin.gc.ca/ec2005/speech/speeche.html.

Provincial Goodie Bag also includes Distance Learning?

Back in Alberta, the Department of Advanced Education held a forum at the beginning of November entitled “A Learning Alberta.”. The forum closed with a call to action, not just on the part of the institutions, but also on the part of the government. (Alberta Advanced Education, 2005). Notable in this forum is that a number of key themes, which emerged in the discussions that followed the speeches. Notable for us at AUSU is the idea of “expanding capacity, not just with additional space but also through expanded use of technology.” If there was ever a place where AU could step in with its hand out, both in terms of funding and expertise devoted to our rather unique problems and situation, this is it.

This is an exciting time to be a part of distance learning. Those of us here today may be on the vanguard of a generation that stops seeing distance education as simply correspondence school, and recognizes it for the excellence it promotes in students and educators alike. When politicians of all stripes seem to wake-up and “get it,” the opportunities this will present to us are sizable indeed.

Reference
Alberta Advanced Education (2005, November 2). Learning Forum closes with commitment to action: Hancock pledges to move forward on three fronts. Retrieved from http://www.advancededucation.gov.ab.ca/news/2005/November/nr-LearningForumCloses.asp.

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