Friday, April 22, 2005

Adscam by the Numbers

The political commentary over the past month that culminated in last month's speeches makes it clear that when Canadians go to the polls the parties are all pretty much agreed that they will have to, at least in part, ask themselves some questions about the Sponsorship Scandal. They'll have to judge the depth, breadth, and scope of the malfeasance. In my opinion these are the central four questions of the sponsorship issue:

1. Was public money, allocated under the auspices of the sponsorship fund, misspent? That is did it go places that weren't the ideal(.5), legal, and ethical means of accomplishing the goals set out by the programme?

2. Was public money knowingly misdirected to those who were not doing the work they had been contracted to do (1.5) merely because these people were the known supporters of the governing party, or associates of elected or public service officials?

3. Was the Liberal Party of Canada's apparatus in the province of Quebec knowledgeable (2.25) of or responsible (2.5) for indiscretions? Was money directed to LPC causes either directly or indirectly (by paying Liberal operators to do Liberal business) (2.75). Does the level of corruption indicate that it possibly could have been even more widespread (i.e. programmes other than sponsorship).

4. Did any elected officials, still candidates of the LPC know of these trasgressions? Or did any elected officials benefit from this malfeasance to the extent that they rightfully should have known what was going on?(3.5) Did any current Liberals have a hand in creating or directing this corruption?

We know that this happened in enough cases with enough money for the size of the transgressions to be irrelevent--arguments that this was only XXX million in a XXX billion dollar budget don't wash. The question for Canadians will be two-fold how far up the meter of corruption does this scandal go? And how far up does it have to go for you to move your vote elsewhere?

To use this categorisation numerically let's say that to score a full point the broadest definition of the question must be met. I've indicated places which I think are naturally breaking points for believing part of an accustion. I think that I have set the scale up such that if part of (2) is true then all of (1) must be true and so forth.

0-1 Everyone, including the PM admits this happened, it's a given. In fact people have come to believe it about just about everything the government does (Liberal, Conservative, federal, or provincial).

1-2 I think this is pretty much also commonly accepted.

2-3 Here is where the true crux of the matter falls. This is where the Liberals raise the parallel organisation of ne'er-do-wells argument. If the public universally believes all of this accusation to be true I think all but the most ardent Liberal supporters will vote for other parties.

3-4 Watergate level. This really is tough to imagine. Maybe Chretien had a part in directing or approving this particular corruption but Martin almost definitely didn't. But if it were true guaranteed CPC majority.

So, if we're to quantify the level of corruption on this proposed scale I posit that about 85% of Canadians would agree that it lies somewhere between 2.0 and 3.0. The other 15% have vested interests or emotional encumberances that prevent them from being logically convinced otherwise. In their "heart of hearts" Martin would probably assign a value of 2.0 and Harper a value of 2.75 maybe a 3.0. One believes that really bad things happened but that rogue actors were responsible; the other believes that slightly worse bad things happened but that the Liberal party apparatus was responsible and was the one to benefit.

I hope that I have illustrated my ardent belief that this really is a minute difference as far as votes are concerned. If they examine the facts after the testimony has ended and make up their own minds do Canadians really need Justice Gomery to tell them that he puts the corruption at 2.25, 2.5 or a 2.75? (Obviously he'll used much more opaque language. Also please don't take my setting up a slightly simplistic scoring system as an easy way to ridicule a more complex situation--it's just shorthand for what the numbers represent.) Will people thinking that the level of corruption is a 3.0, hear that Justice Gomery thinks it's only a 2.25 and therefore decide to vote Liberal instead? I really doubt it.

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