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I got dinked out of posting on a Mark Steyn column earlier this week. Fortunately, the prolific Mr. Steyn has lobbed another one my way, this time ruminating on the endemic corruption of Canada’s one-party state in response to a reader inquiry. His thoughts are well worth the read, as they explore the many, many byways of political corruption in what is by all accounts a relatively law-abiding liberal democracy.

It’s certainly – how shall we put this? – striking that a fellow [Prime Minister Chretien] who’s spent 40 years in the House of Commons with the exception of a brief time-out in the late Eighties is, by Canadian standards, so phenomenally wealthy.

Let’s just pause there for a moment. In the modern Canadian state, it is not necessary for M Chrétien to do anything illegal. As he has said, after years in government, he’s a well-connected guy with a fat Rolodex who knows the wheels that have to be oiled: he can tell his clients “what is necessary for them to do”. That’s something folks will pay for, as out-of-office politicians in many western democracies have discovered. But very few have the opportunities of patronage that exist in Canada: unlike M Chrétien with Senator Fitzpatrick, Mr Bush cannot install a boardroom buddy from his ball-team days in the US Senate.

Third, it’s interesting to see how M Chrétien’s business deals – like the Grand-Mère – circle back to the government, in the form of one agency or another. He was able to tell M Duhaime “what it is necessary for him to do” – ie, put him touch with the BDC – and also able to tell the bank “what it is necessary for them to do” – ie, pony up the dough to M Duhaime. In a one-party state, he is in the fortunate position of being able to tell all parties “what it is necessary for them to do”.

Canada’s “national identity” is supposedly to be found in its “social programs”; Canadians are supposedly willing to pay higher taxes in order for a more equitable society. Quite where the 50% of income the government takes winds up is hard to see: I can’t help noticing that I see far more beggars on the streets of Toronto and Montreal than in Boston, New York, Chicago, or any other American city I’ve been in recently, whether run by Republicans or Democrats. The hospitals in Canada are so overloaded they’re unable to observe even basic hygiene procedures, a basic failing which covers everything from the Ontario health system’s incubation of SARS to Labrador’s gift of Chlamydia to its gynaecological patients. M Chrétien lectured Wall Street that, while Canada had fewer millionaires than America, it also had fewer poor people. But what you can’t help noticing is that the plutocrats we do have are almost all well-connected Liberal Party types or businessmen whose businesses are either subsidized or regulated by the government. That’s why in the one-party state we wind up not just with one party but one bookstore chain, one media chain, etc. Meanwhile, the gap in income between the governing class – in its broadest sense – and the governed grows ever wider. After 40 years as a guy who knows “what’s necessary” for others to do, M Chrétien is merely the most prominent exemplar of the system.

There are words to describe the kind of society that kicks veterans’ widows out on the street while giving the former riding secretary who approves the decision a $160,000 expense tab, that lavishes billions on corporate welfare on Lib-friendly businesses but can’t wash the instruments between pap smears: “Welfare state”? “Just society”? Try “kleptocracy”.

I find myself with very little to add.

19 comments to Corruption

  • Lorenzo

    I also have very little to add to a rather chilling account but… is this not just the logical extension of the absolute power of the professional political class. In all western liberal democracies there are a very small number of parties that hold power on a rotating basis. These parties draw their membership from a relatively small pool of like-minded candidates that have been ideologically cleared before being given access to the trough of government sponsored privilege.

    Personal responsibility is non-existent amongst these people unless you are foolish enough to step into the media spotlight. The harshest penalty handed out to politicians, being forced to resign from an office, is just the equivalent of the red card in football. You are made to leave the playing field with your head hung low, and must sit out one round, two if you where caught with your pants down. At the end of your brief suspension you reappear in public life rested and reinvigorated.

    Given that the political class is an untouchable cabal whose primary interest is to protect each other is say corruption is only the logical conclusion. After all what use power if you can’t profit yourself!

  • Guy Herbert

    From this side of the Atlantic, there’s a good deal to add. After all, the powers of patronage exercised by politicians and the permanent government in Britain are much greater still than in Canada.

    This doesn’t seem to lead to all that much direct financial corruption. (Though certain retired politicians who have never done much in the way of directorship or lectureship are inexplicably wealthy.) But the entire system of public administration is politically corrupt and sunk in jobbery. Coincidentally, the Queen’s Speech contains provisions further to curtail the independence of the few institutions with some base outside the state nexus: the old universities (through controlling their student intake and interefering with their endowment wealth through charity reform), the House of Lords, and the judiciary.

  • Heard a rumour once that Canada and France are ideologically, intextricable entwined – don’t believe a word of it, though.

  • George Peery

    When you think of Canada as “West France”, a lot of things start to make sense.

  • David Crawford

    George, for Americans, maybe “North Louisiana” would be easier to grasp.

  • George Peery

    Actually, I am American. And I have too much affection for the, um, politically idiosyncratic state of Louisiana to compare it to France.

  • Ghaleon

    K, here again the american thing they are better and superior to everyone…

    -Big thing, that story of Chlamydia in Labrador… that sure represent our health system globally… Guess what, infant mortality in Canada is much smaller then yours… (even Portugual is better than you, it’s really a shame!… and Cuba not that far behind…)

    -our hospital are full because we have a higher demand for their services sincec everyone can use them… youre aren’t but many can’t afford them so they just stay at home sick and die… lets also add the point that our system cost much less per capita and benefit to everyone! (Im not sure here, it’s something like about 30% of american without health insurance?… did you knew that sickness was the first cause of bankrupcy in the USA?!?)

    -we got more beggars in Montreal, you got more killers in your cities (Montreal is one of the safest metropole in north america, if not the safest one)

    and the refutation to the ”we got less poor” argument is weak… Who cares who are rich are, they represent a very very little minority… it’s more important to have less poor!

    That being said, Canada sucks and it was the provinces I wanted to defend above, since it’s the provinces, and not the federal govt, who takes care of the health system and of the welfare… If Canada can afford to pay is employee too much it’s because it just don’t know what do to with is money… the stupidity with Canada is that it raise more money than the province, much more than it need to run itself and after the provinces need to try to convince him to give them the money they need to run their hospitals, their schools, etc…If instead of letting Canada make surplus we would spend that money on our hospital they would be in better conditions but Ottawa just won’t give back all the money… to call Canada a confederation is really stupid, it is a very centralized federation

    It’s very outrageous that people from Quebec should pay for the reception of the Queen who represent the empire who conquered us and treated us very badly but not as badly as the acadians tought, it is simply disgusting what they did to them… That bitche isn’t my queen, she can stay in England!

  • George Peery

    My goodness, Ghaleon! What are you so terribly upset about?

  • ed

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The soldiers who conquered Canada during the French and Indian War were almost entirely Colonials. After the Revolution we should’ve just taken it along with everything else.

    Oh well.

    If you Canadian guys want to join the USA we’ll take some of you as states. But not Quebec!


  • Chris Goodman

    You may have said it before Ed but perhaps you ought to think before saying it again. Canada has the government is has because of things called elections. There may have been some in the “Revolution” who wanted to “take Canada” but I suggest to you that a majority of Canadians would have resisted such an outcome. You may not like that fact, you may wish that Canada had been invaded and integrated into the United States of America, indeed you may profoundly despise the fact that most Canadians wanted to remain part of the British Empire, but as you are not Canadian your opinion is irrelevant.

  • Ghaleon

    Ed, like if we in Quebec would want to join the USA, trading Canada for even worse…
    We all know how the USA would treat anyone trying to secede…
    (in Canada it’s not important, even if they tried the army suck so much… and the vast majority of the military in Quebec voted for the YES…)

    I should also add that your remark disgust me…
    ”After the Revolution we should’ve just taken it along with everything else.” That is a conquerer mentality, the opinion of people there don’t seem to bother you… let’s just invade them all, that it please them or not!

    George Peery, I’m upset again the attack that was made again Canada (Quebec) health system and again Montreal… and I just can’t stand american vanity, like if live in the USA was sooo better than here… and I hated it when it was written that we shouldnt be so chocked because we wasted only 100 000$ for the visit of the Queen, the ”head of our state”… shes just an invader to me and don’t worth a single penny!

  • I see everything I heard about the Quebecois appears to be true…

  • Back on corruption, ALL democracies are corrupt. Because voters want to benefit from the same trough from which corrupt politicians want benefits: other people’s money, collected by force.

    Replace grants with tax loans; subsidies with gov’t owned convertible bonds. Term limits on gov’t service. Replace “public” with gov’t, whenever it’s more accurate; like gov’t schools, gov’t policy, etc.

  • Dan McWiggins


    Don’t waste so much time on Canada. Canada is a free-riding bunch of liberals who aren’t to be taken seriously. They, quite realistically, spend next to nothing for defense because they know they sit right next to the world’s only superpower. They use the savings from that unearned benefit to subsidize a monumentally inefficient socialist government. Free enterprise is not particularly approved of in Canada unless it is done by those who are politically connected.

    Canada’s just fat, dumb and happy because they have a fat fowl of a country to dine on and somebody else taking care of protecting them from the bad guys in the real world. Lots of Canadians know this. Many of them are in the U.S. Few of them are in either Quebec or the Liberal Party. Hell, I’m envious. I wish America had some big, strong country that liked us taking care of all our external problems (and footing the bill itself).

    On the other hand, Canadians have a medical system with no doctors (they’ve all gone to the U.S.) and nobody overseas gives a damn what the Canadian government says about how Canadian citizens are treated in their country. If a Canadian runs afoul of the authorities in some corrupt third world nation, they’re in deep trouble because they won’t be getting any help from home.

    I like Canada. I’ve been there a lot and have numerous Canadian friends. Their country, however, really isn’t to be taken seriously. They forfeited that right when they handed their defense over to the Americans. For the U.S., Canada is like having a dope-smoking little brother. He’s not a bad guy but he doesn’t pull his weight, you can’t count on him and you know sooner or later you’re going to have to get him out of yet another scrape that he’s blundered into. It’s rather sad, actually.

  • Wild Pegasus

    In all western liberal democracies there are a very small number of parties that hold power on a rotating basis.

    That’s Steyn’s point, though. Nothing’s rotating in Canada. The Liberals have been the government since 1993, and they’re a year away from calling new elections and winning again with new leader Paul Martin. The Alliance has been wholly discredited and is now a laughingstock. The Progressive Conservatives are still hated across the entire country. The Bloc Quebecois is deteriorating. The NDP is basically useless.

    The Alliance and the PC have been discussing a political union, but the Alliance is more of a Western regional party (think Republicans from the South) and the PC is more of a perfunctory social democratic opposition (think Republicans from New England). I can’t see them getting along very well at all. The union will last through several unsuccessful election cycles, then the enmity will boil over and the party will collapse.

    I think what’s finally going to happen is Canadian secession, but it won’t be Quebec leaving: it’ll be Alberta.

    – Josh

  • Cobden Bright

    Good article, however I don’t think Canada is unique in this aspect. The same corruption problems occur in every country in the world, even Switzerland. I’m sure Ghaleon could point out many aspects of corruption in the US, probably to do with defence procurement contracts, casinos, and baseball stadiums.

    Politicians are a criminal class who steal money from the rest of society so they can get wealth and power for themselves. That’s all there is to it.

  • Gerry Duffett

    Jan 11 2004

    To Whom It Might Concern.

    Here is a copy of a letter I sent to the Toronto Sun newspaper about an article that was published.This incident that happened to me is an odd health and safety issue.
    Here is a situation where a union might have made a difference. I will be sending more letters to various groups in the up coming year.

    Hi Mr Margolis.

    I found your article about Edwin P. Wilson all too frightening and hits me personally way too close to home. I was working at Harper Detroit Diesel in Toronto and one of my co workers or somebody in my customer base or the competion started poisoning my food over a period of months.
    I almost died.
    I had worked in the diesel generator industry for twenty two years as a field service technician at a variety of dealers and distributors based mostly out of the Toronto area. In this position I worked in and around all types of generator set applications such as apartment buildings, schools, retail stores, hospitals, marine units, motor homes, data centers, airports, telephone switching centers, or just about anywhere you would find a generator set.This position also took me into a lot of high security buildings or buildings that you don’t need to know exist. Some of the customers I have dealt with include Metropolitan Toronto Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the R.C.M.P., Bell Canada, Transport Canada, Navigation Canada, Public Works Canada, Department of National Defence, the Ontario Realty Corporation, Nexacor Realty, AT&T, Cantel, C.I.D.A., External Affairs, and many, many more. I did quite a bit of work on high security micro wave and fibre optics communication links all around North America. This is where this poisoning comes from. One person I worked 15 yrs with on these systems, who I had not seen in 4 yrs, called me at home one night in the middle of this series of poisonings, who I didn’t even know had my home phone number and asked “aren’t you dead yet”. I wound up on the West Coast of Canada standing in a parking lot with what were suppose to be Chinese Nationals being photographed by the R.C.M.P. as part of a smear campaign.The worst part of all of this is Gerry Duffett almost died, thats me. The next worst part of all of this, is this is my tax dollars paying these freaks. I wonder how many times a day this goes on. I still don’t know who poisoned me. I was off work for almost one year. I can now 5 yrs later barely hold a full time job. The harassment in my work place is unbelievable as far as off colour and snide comments about my mental health. There is much more to the story. My pager # is 416-612-5689.

    Thank you.

    Gerry Duffett.
    14-4218 Lawrence Ave E Box 218
    Scarborough Ontario
    Canada M1E4X9
    Just in the last couple of years a new fibre optics system was installed in Ontario to link all the power generation stations to one central control center code named Ledcor.
    Don’t tell anybody you know that, somebody might try to kill you.

  • Bill Payor

    As a Canadian– meaning, roughly speaking, a human being born inside the geography claimed by the Canadian state and conscripted into “citizenship”, with all that entails– with extensive experience of the United States, I find the critical commentary on corruption in Canada– from Americans– ironic to the point of hilarity.

    For anyone with practical experience of how the U.S. politico-economic system (or rather, systems) work…the depth of the corruption in U.S. government is ASTOUNDING.

    It is no understatement to assert that the U.S. government, and here I mean: municipal, county, state, Federal…legislative, executive, judicial, bureaucratic…is basically for sale.

    The only real difference I’ve observed is the degree of sophistication involved in the bribery and the coin used.

    I’m certainly not asserting that the Canadian (or Quebec provincial) government is a paragon of virtue either.

    But the extent of the corruption I’ve observed first hand in various levels of the U.S. governmental apparatus surprised me. I thought I was cynical before I moved there…but I wasn’t.

  • Bill Payor

    Actually, I thought I’d add one more point…What’s perhaps more problematic is not the corruption, per se, in either country, but rather the apathy with which this corruption is accepted.

    Not by those who are actively involved as participants…but rather by those who are negatively affected by it: the vast majority of the population who pay, day-to-day, the costs that corruption externalizes.

    Rhetorically speaking: is there ONE government official, elected or otherwise, in the United States whose activities could withstand a rigorous and public background check?