Beryl Wajsman and the LPC

Written by  //  March 1, 2009  //  Beryl Wajsman, News about Wednesday Nighters  //  No comments


Photo by Alan Hustak

Affaire Wajsman: Paradis persiste et signe
«Le Parti libéral n’a définitivement rien appris du scandale des commandites vivement dénoncées par la commission Gomery. Il accueille à bras ouverts dans son équipe de proches conseillers un des acteurs-clés du scandale des commandites», affirme le ministre Paradis dans ce communiqué.
28 February
Beryl Wajsman’s return to the Liberal fold has caused a stir in Ottawa
By Martin Patriquin
(Maclean’s) Last week’s Maclean’s story detailing strategist and organizer Beryl Wajsman’s return to the Liberal Party of Canada has erupted in Ottawa. Wajsman, whose name appeared on a list of ten prominent Liberals “banned” from the party following the sponsorship scandal in 2005, has since returned to the Liberal fold, primarily as an organizer for Michael Ignatieff advisor Alfred Apps.
Conservative Public Works Minister Christian Paradis brought up Wajsman’s return in the House of Commons yesterday, and followed up with a press release saying the Liberal Party “has clearly not learned its lesson from the Sponsorship Scandal.”
Paradis alleges that Wajsman was heavily involved in the scandal in 2005, even though Wajsman was never accused of any impropriety or crime. Yesterday, through his lawyer, he fired back at Paradis. “You made remarks alleging [Wajsman’s] involvement in the sponsorship scandal. This constitutes defamatory libel. We demand that you immediately apologize and retract these statements,” wrote Montreal lawyer Julius Grey. “There is no evidence that Beryl is anything but honest,” Grey told Maclean’s. “There is only so much a citizen can take of having mud thrown at him.”
Reached for comment, Wajsman said he is pursuing Paradis and the Conservative Party in order to right his reputation, something he says he didn’t do in 2005. “Maybe I should have gone after them back then,” he says, referring to former Prime Minister Paul Martin and Liberal Quebec lieutenant Jean Lapierre, who were responsible for banning him. (The ban never actually occurred, as it was illegal under the Liberal Party’s constitution at the time.) “But now, I’m going to finish this. It’s enough. I’m a leader, not fodder for people’s careers,” he says, of Christian Paradis.
… Alfred Apps, who is also running for the President of the Liberal Party of Canada, says he isn’t surprised that Ignatieff couldn’t remember Wajsman immediatly. “There are dozens of people who have contributed to Michael’s policy development and speeches, and Beryl has been one of them. Has he been a speechwriter for Michael? No. Has he written speeches for Michael? No.”
Apps says Wajsman has played a consultative role behind certain Liberal policies–for which Apps makes no apologies. “I think there’s an effort here on the part of the Tories to slam people with guilt by association. Beryl is one of the militants that is helping with the party, and his help is welcomed.” The presumptive next Liberal President–he is currently running unopposed–suggests the so-called “banned list” on which Wajsman appeared was less about meted out justice than it was a vestige of the old, bitter feud between Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien. “That list was created before the Gomery Commission had made any of its findings,” Apps said.
Beryl Wajsman envoie une mise en demeure au Parti conservateur et à Christian Paradis
Hugo De Grandpré, La Presse
(Ottawa) L’une des 10 personnes bannies du Parti libéral du Canada lors du scandale des commandites en 2005 a envoyé une lettre de mise en demeure au Parti conservateur et au lieutenant québécois de Stephen Harper, Christian Paradis. Beryl Wajsman, ancien organisateur du PLC et aujourd’hui éditeur de l’hebdomadaire montréalais The Suburban, a exhorté M. Paradis à s’excuser pour des propos tenus dans un communiqué de presse, mercredi. Il lui demande de se rétracter et l’invite à discuter de paiements de dommages et intérêts.
Dans cette déclaration, le ministre Paradis a invité le chef libéral, Michael Ignatieff, à «s’opposer au retour de Wajsman». «Le Parti libéral n’a définitivement rien appris du scandale des commandites vivement dénoncées par la commission Gomery, a-t-il affirmé. Il accueille à bras ouverts dans son équipe de proches conseillers un des acteurs-clés du scandale des commandites.» C’est un article du magazine Macleans qui a mis le feu aux poudres. On y rapportait que des membres de l’entourage de M. Ignatieff avaient recommencé à consulter Beryl Wajsman pour des questions de politiques publiques et de rédaction de discours.
Mercredi, Michael Ignatieff s’est distancé de l’ancien organisateur montréalais. «Il y a des gens qui croient qu’il écrit des discours pour moi. À ma connaissance je n’ai pas de contact avec M. Wajsman et je ne lis pas ses discours, ça c’est sûr», a-t-il déclaré.
Pourtant, une photo publiée sur le site web d’un organisme fondé par Beryl Wajsman, l’Institut des affaires publiques de Montréal, laisse croire que les deux hommes pourraient entretenir des liens plus étroits que le nouveau chef libéral ne l’a laissé entendre. Prise dans ce qui semble être une salle de réception, on les voit se tenant côte à côte et souriant pour la caméra.
«M. Ignatieff se fait prendre en photo avec des dizaines de personnes chaque semaine. Il ne connaît pas la plupart d’entre elles. Il a dit hier que cet homme ne travaillait pas pour lui et qu’il n’avait rien lu de ce qu’il avait écrit», a déclaré un porte-parole de son bureau hier.
Vendetta politique
M. Wajsman a retenu les services du célèbre avocat montréalais Julius Grey dans cette affaire. C’est le bout de phrase, «acteur-clé du scandale des commandites» qui lui cause un problème dans la déclaration du ministre Paradis. Il s’agit selon lui de diffamation. …
26 February
Ignatieff prend ses distances de Beryl Wajsman
(Ottawa) Michael Ignatieff s’est distancé hier d’un ancien militant libéral tombé en disgrâce durant le scandale des commandites, hier.
25 February
Look who’s back in the party
Wajsman returns to the Liberals after being ‘banned for life’
(Maclean’s) Beryl Wajsman is many things to many people: well-connected gadfly, perpetually angry newspaper columnist, silver-tongued orator with a weakness for Robert Kennedy quotations. To the Liberal Party of Canada, he was persona non grata, one of 10 people “banned for life” by former prime minister Paul Martin for being linked to the sponsorship scandal. It may seem strange, then, that Wajsman is once again in the party, as an organizer charged with bringing a variety of social groups and unions back into the Liberal fold. He has even consulted on policy issues and speechwriting for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
Wajsman’s tenure as a party organizer came to an abrupt end in 2005, following the testimony of the disgraced president of ad firm Groupaction, Jean Brault, at the Gomery commission. Wajsman, Brault alleged, was present at a lunch where he left an envelope stuffed with $5,000 in cash for Liberal fundraiser Joe Morselli.
Wajsman vigorously denied any involvement, and was never charged with wrongdoing. Nevertheless, then-Liberal Quebec lieutenant Jean Lapierre, at Martin’s behest, removed Wajsman, along with nine others, from the party. What this actually means, however, is a matter of debate—particularly since Wajsman wasn’t (and isn’t) a member of the Liberal party. Until December 2006, when it was amended, the party’s constitution didn’t even allow for such bans.
Liberal spokesperson Dan Lauzon said he couldn’t comment on the status of the banned members, including Morselli and former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano. “It was political payback,” Wajsman says now. “I was tagged because I opposed Martin and Lapierre, or because I made fun of the Gomery commission, or because I defended Joe Morselli so much. Take your pick.”
The party’s Quebec wing, which suffered the most fallout from the sponsorship scandal, concurs. The Liberals were badly beaten in Quebec in the last election in part because of the continued infighting between the entrenched Chrétien and Martin camps. “I think I was the only one who wasn’t speaking to the press,” says board member Brigitte Garceau of the many embarrassing leaks during and after Stéphane Dion’s campaign.
All things considered, Ignatieff is off to a good start in the province. He has polled well and is popular among its Liberal MPs, thanks largely to his 2006 motion recognizing Quebec as a nation. Yet his supporters concede the party is still divided. “It’s fragile, and it’s still a work in progress,” said the senior Ignatieff source, of the truce between the Chrétien and Martin camps. Bringing back people like Wajsman serves its purpose.
Wajsman, whose world view teeters from the cynical to the outright misanthropic, is positively effusive about Ignatieff. Calling him “the most independent Liberal leader in the last 20 years,” Wajsman believes Ignatieff “can restore the Liberal party to small ‘L’ liberalism, put an end to tribalism and bring a new national vision for the country.”

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