Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Lifting of the Canadian Adscam Publication Ban Delayed

Justice John Gomery arrives for the start of testimony at sponsorship inquiry on Wednesday in Montreal.

Decision on Gomery publication ban delayed

The Globe and Mail has this story:

The judge presiding over the sponsorship scandal decided Wednesday to delay a decision over whether a publication ban on explosive testimony provided by ad executive Jean Brault at the sponsorship inquiry will be lifted.

Mr. Justice John Gomery decided late in the day Wednesday that he needed more time to consider whether to allow the testimony of Mr. Brault to be reported in the media after Mr. Brault completed his time on the stand.

Judge Gomery is to make a decision Thursday morning.

If he lifts the ban, it may start the ball rolling for opposition parties to pose a non-confidence motion in the Liberals and potentially bring the government down. Opposition parties believe that Mr. Brault's testimony is extremely damaging to the Liberal Party.

The Bloc Québécois has a chance to bring forward a non-confidence motion on their opposition day, next Thursday.

None of the parties are tipping their hat as to whether they want an election, saying they want to wait until Mr. Brault's testimony comes out and gauge the reaction to it.

But on Wednesday, prior to the decision, both Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe and Tory Leader Stephen Harper said they are not going to rush into a decision on a snap election.

Also Wednesday, a Montreal judge postponed the criminal fraud trials of Mr. Brault and former bureaucrat Chuck Guité until June 6, putting into question whether the ban should be lifted on Mr. Brault's testimony.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Lise Côté decided Wednesday to put the two men's criminal trials over until June 6. They were supposed to have begun on May 2, but Mr. Brault and Mr. Guité argued that they did not have enough time to prepare for that date. They had asked that their trials be delayed until September.
Mr. Gomery had placed the ban on Mr. Brault's testimony to ensure that the jury at Mr. Brault's trial not be tainted by information out of the Gomery inquiry.

It difficult to say what move Judge Gomery will make now that Mr. Brault's criminal trial has been delayed only one month.

Mr. Brault has been testifying before Judge Gomery under a ban since last week. Nothing about his testimony was supposed to have been reported, but a U.S. website released some details over the weekend.

And opposition parties know the details because they have representatives at the inquiry.

Now, it will be up to them to decide whether to gamble on holding an election if Mr. Brault's testimony comes out.

On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Stephen Harper urged caution, saying his party will wait to see what opinions are.

"I think we are going to have to listen to some of the further testimony that will come out before we rush to judgment on how best to proceed. It is not my intention and it is not our party's intention to provoke an election simply on our own timetable or because of our own interests."

Also, Wednesday, Judge Gomery ruled that Tories and the Bloc Québécois will not be granted standing at the inquiry. Although the Liberals received permission on Monday to cross-examine witnesses, the judge said he sees no need to grant the Tories or the Bloc standing, since their parties are not being directly affected by the inquiry.
During Question Period Wednesday, the Liberals again urged the parties to wait for Judge Gomery's final report on the sponsorship scandal, due out in December.

"The Bloc Québécois very much would like to have an election based on allegations. It's in their interest to do that because they don't want Justice Gomery to submit his report. They don't want Canadians to have the truth, and they don't want to have the government or the Liberal party to be able to respond in a substantive way to that report," said Publice Works Minister Scott Brison.

He said accused the Tories and the Bloc of wanting to work together to cause an election to be called.

Flap smells an election brewing!

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