Thursday, April 07, 2005

 

Canada, United States, Blogs, politics, and law all collide in Minneapolis

Reprinted without permission from the New York Times

A Blog Written From Minneapolis Rattles Canada's Liberal Party
By CLIFFORD KRAUSS

Published: April 7, 2005

TORONTO, April 6 - An American blogger has suddenly emerged as a force in Canadian politics.

Edward Morrissey, a 42-year-old Minneapolis area call-center manager who runs a Web log, or blog, called Captain's Quarters as a hobby, last Saturday began posting allegations of corruption that reached the highest levels of the Canadian Liberal Party. The postings violate a publication ban instituted a few days earlier by a federal judge, Justice John Gomery, who is leading an investigation into accusations of money laundering and kickbacks in a government program from the 1990's that was aimed at undermining Quebec separatists.

The scandal, which involves government payments of up to $85 million to a handful of Montreal advertising firms for little or no work, has dominated national politics for a year and led to the Liberals losing their majority in the House of Commons last June.

But Justice Gomery moved to limit dissemination of information from the otherwise public hearing in Montreal so as not to influence potential jurors for coming trials in which a government bureaucrat and two advertising executives face criminal charges.

According to Mr. Morrissey's blog, recent testimony for the first time links people who have been close to Prime Minister Paul Martin to the scandal.

Mr. Martin has long insisted that he knew nothing of the workings of the program, which was intended to promote the federal government's presence at cultural and sporting events, even though he was finance minister at the time. The prime minister then was Jean Chr├ętien, who left office in December 2003.

Journalists and anyone else can attend the so-called Gomery commission hearings, and Mr. Morrissey said one of them, whom he would not identify, had approached him and had been passing him information for his blog. Mr. Morrissey has cautioned that he is basing his reporting on that one source, who he has said he believes to be reliable, and that he has not corroborated the information. Canadian journalists who have attended the hearings, or have spoken to those who have, say Mr. Morrissey's postings of the allegations, which have been made by a single witness, are generally accurate, though not complete.

Liberal Party leaders have questioned the veracity of the witness, Jean Brault, an advertising executive, who they note faces criminal charges and whose testimony is covered by the ban.

Mr. Gomery, meanwhile, is considering lifting the ban, now that so many people know so much about the proceedings.

While the Canadian news media have not reported explicitly what Mr. Morrissey is posting, their newspaper articles and television features about his work have led Canadians to visit Captain's Quarters (www.captainsquartersblog.com) to read the latest scandalous details. Mr. Morrissey said his blog had been flooded since Canadian CTV television first reported on its existence and contents Sunday night, and that he was now getting 400,000 hits a day.

"This is a historic moment for blogs," Mr. Morrissey said in a telephone interview. "The point of having free speech and a free press is to have people informed. These information bans are self-defeating for free societies. The politicians know, the media knows, but the Canadian voters are left in the dark and that's a backwards way of doing things."

Mr. Morrissey characterized himself as a libertarian conservative who had written extensively on his blog about Federal Election Commission regulations, free speech and foreign affairs.

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