For those of you who didn’t catch it on tv or radio, here’s the desperate plea of our enbattled Prime Minister, who can feel the rope around his neck:
Text of Prime Minister Paul Martin's address
OTTAWA — Text of Prime Minister Paul Martin's nationally televised address Thursday night:
I want to talk to you directly tonight -- about the problems in the sponsorship program; about how I've responded to them as your prime minister, and about the timing of the next general election.
Let me speak plainly: What happened with the sponsorship file occurred on the watch of a Liberal government. Those who were in power are to be held responsible and that includes me.
I was the Minister of Finance. Knowing what I've learned this past year, I am sorry that we weren't more vigilant -- that I wasn't more vigilant. Public money was misdirected and misused. That's unacceptable. And that is why I apologized to the Canadian people a year ago.
But taking responsibility is about more than words. I want to tell you what I've done as prime minister to deal with the sponsorship scandal -- to make sure it does not happen again, to make sure that those who violated the public trust will be identified and will pay the consequences.
On December 12, 2003, I cancelled the sponsorship program. It was my very first act on my very first day in office.
When the Auditor General's report was publicly tabled, I acted immediately by ordering a fully independent commission of inquiry, under Mr. Justice John Gomery. Its mandate is to get to the bottom of what happened and to do it in full view of Canadians. It will report before the end of the year.
And I think you'll agree -- Judge Gomery is leaving no stone unturned.
In addition, I fired Alfonso Gagliano, the minister responsible for the sponsorship program, from his appointment as Ambassador to Denmark.
I put in strict new controls on spending within every single government department.
My government brought forward whistleblower legislation to ensure that when public servants and others come forward with evidence of wrongdoing, they are protected, not punished.
To recover taxpayers' money -- money that went to those who did not earn it-- I ordered my government to sue 19 people and companies for more than $40 million.
I committed to acting on the recommendations of Judge Gomery when he brings forth his final report. And I myself testified before his commission, answering any and all questions.
Finally, I ordered that the Liberal party bring in auditors to conduct a forensic examination of its books and call in the RCMP to investigate what took place during that period.
Let me emphasize that point: If so much as a dollar is found to have made its way into the Liberal party from ill-gotten gains, it will be repaid to the people of Canada. I want no part of that money.
As prime minister, I will never hesitate to describe what happened on the sponsorship file for what is was -- an unjustifiable mess. It's up to me to clean it up. That's my job. I am cleaning it up. And I am willing to be judged on my record of action.
In recent weeks, fallout from the sponsorship inquiry has led to speculation about an election, which in turn is consuming virtually all political discussion, at least here on Parliament Hill. Initiatives to improve health care, strengthen our economy and ensure for Canada a role of pride and influence in the world are being obscured by partisan jousting.
In short, the Parliament you sent to Ottawa less than a year ago is preoccupied with election talk and with political strategy -- not with the job you sent us here to do.
As people focus their attention on the commission's hearings, let's remember that the inquiry is being held in front of a judge for good reason.
There is conflicting testimony; only the judge is in a position to determine the truth. Only he can cut through the partisan politics. Only he can tell us what happened and who was responsible.
We've all heard that the opposition may defeat the government and take the country to the polls for the second time in a year.
I am prepared to face Canadians and have them judge my response to this serious test of leadership. I will be politically accountable. But I believe that before there is an election, you are entitled to answers -- to the answers that Judge Gomery is working toward. I believe that Canadians deserve a full and frank accounting of all the facts. Fairness and due process require nothing less.
For that reason, I commit to you tonight that I will call a general election within 30 days of the publication of the commission's final report and recommendations. Let Judge Gomery do his work. Let the facts come out. And then the people of Canada will have their say.
If the opposition forces an election before then, that is their choice. But I believe we can do better. I believe we can-- and we should-- use the coming months to pursue the public's business. To act on the issues that matter most to you and make a difference in your life.
If we are to have an election, one that will be at least in part about the work of Judge Gomery, surely that election should occur only when we have the work of Judge Gomery.
In closing, let me say this: there are people who think I was wrong to call this inquiry, wrong to expose my government to the political cost of the scrutiny that has ensued. They warn we will pay a price in the next election. And perhaps we will.
But I trust your judgment. And I will not dishonour this office by trying to conceal or diminish such offensive wrongdoing. I have too much respect for this place.
When I was young, I practically lived here in the Parliament Buildings. My father was a cabinet minister in four Liberal governments. He taught me that those who serve in public office have a duty to protect the integrity of government.
My pledge to you tonight is that I will live up to that ideal. I went into public life because I believe in the good that government can do. And I will do my all as prime minister to make sure that your government is worthy of your respect.
The final judgment on whether I have done that will be yours.
Thank you. And good night.
Here’s what Harper had to say also:
Text of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's comments after Prime Minister Paul Martin's nationally televised address Thursday night:
My fellow Canadians.
We have all just witnessed a sad spectacle -- a prime minister so burdened with corruption in his own party that he is unable to do his job and lead the country, a party leader playing for time, begging for another chance.
This is not how a prime minister should act.
A prime minister should not be addressing the population on this partisan issue, but rather on the concerns and challenges with which we are confronted: the health-care system, international trade, agriculture, the fiscal imbalance, safer communities, stronger families and a cleaner environment.
In the last election, Canadians elected a minority Parliament.
Over the past year, we Conservatives have worked productively with the other parties, particularly the other opposition parties, to make this Parliament effective.
Even last night, after months of resistance on the part of the government, we adopted a motion to ensure full compensation to all victims of hepatitis C through tainted blood.
If this Parliament is not working today, it is because the government has not made it work, because the government has no vision for the nation, because Mr. Martin is consumed by the image of corruption, crippled by dithering instead of deciding.
But we have now a more serious problem.
Mr. Martin received his mandate by holding an election before any of the facts of the sponsorship scandal were known.
Last May, it was Mr. Martin's decision to shut down the public accounts committee in its attempt to get to the truth.
It was Mr. Martin's decision to call an election last year before a single witness had been heard by Justice Gomery.
And it was Mr. Martin's decision to turn a blind eye to it all when he was minister of finance.
Do Canadians really believe that the No. 2 man in a government now under a cloud of corruption, is the person to clean up that mess today?
Do Canadians really believe that the Gomery inquiry would be operating if the Liberals had won a majority?
And do you really believe that the Liberals will ultimately prosecute themselves and hold their own to account?
I don't believe that. I don't think you believe that.
All of this creates a great deal of difficulty for us as the official Opposition.
The two other parties, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party, have already voted to defeat this government several weeks ago.
The Conservative Party has tried to work with the government on issues where we can support its initiatives.
But how can we continue -- politically, ethically, or morally -- to prop up a government that is under criminal investigation and accusation of criminal conspiracy?
That's the real hard question that our caucus will address as they travel across the country the next week.
Let's be under no illusion.
However, the partisan politics of the next election play out, the Liberal Party of Canada has done tremendous damage to this country's institutions, particularly in Quebec.
Never forget that the sponsorship scandal is not a Quebec scandal.
It is a Liberal scandal that took place in Quebec, a Liberal scandal that took place in Quebec in the name of Canada and in the name of national unity.
The Liberal Party has turned federal politics in Quebec into a choice between separation and corruption.
And one thing is now clear -- the Liberal Party can no longer speak for federalism in Quebec.
It is tarnished beyond redemption, because Quebecers know it is beyond redemption.
Federalism must be rebuilt in Quebec by democratic options, founded on principles.
We are going to offer a democratic Conservative option.
We want Quebecers to choose Canada.
And, given an honest choice, Quebecers will always choose Canada.
But we must realize that what Quebecers will not do is choose corruption.
They will not choose the Liberal Party.
The challenge for people outside Quebec is to show that we are equally prepared to demand accountability; to hold Mr. Martin and his party responsible and to build a united Canada where Liberal corruption has no place whatsoever.
Fellow Canadians, we all have difficult decisions to make.
Our party will make those decisions in our own way and in our own time, as we've done all along and we will do with your guidance.
Fellow Canadians, Mr. Martin's speech tonight was not about saving this country. It was about saving the Liberal Party.
That's a question for the voters to decide, but let me assure you
there's no need to save this country. There's only a need to move it
The Conservative Party wants to give this country direction. We want, and we believe you want, to end corruption and restore honest financial management; to have a health-care system that Canadians can count on
when they need it; to better use the talents and credentials of new Canadians; to fix the fiscal imbalance plaguing our provinces and municipalities; to act on a made-in-Canada plan for cleaner air, water and land; to help our hard-pressed agricultural community and resource sectors; to give tax relief for Canadian families; and safety and security for our streets and our communities.
I look forward to sharing all of this with you, and more, in the near future.
Thank you and good night.
If any of you want the video versions, let me know. I have them.