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Sponsorship Scandals Timeline of Events

Oct. 30, 1995 : The Quebec referendum ends with the No side winning by a narrow margin. Shortly after, the federal government begins a pro-federalism advertising campaign to boost its profile in the province. Group action Marketing Inc. is one of the advertising agencies chosen for the contracts.

May 1, 1999 : The federal government issues a $615,000 contract to Group action to report on whether the government is getting its money's worth from its sponsorship of hunting, fishing and other recreational events. Those sponsorship deals were handled entirely by Groupaction. The company later produces a 20-page report listing projects that are looking for government money.


 Aug. 26, 2000 : Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano comes under fire for awarding contracts to advertising companies, including Groupaction, which subcontracted their printing business to Lithographie Dickson, a company that hired Gagliano's son, Vincenzo, as its director of marketing and business development in 1999.

May 23, 2001 : Federal Ethics Counsellor Howard Wilson releases a report clearing Gagliano of any conflict of interest in awarding contracts to the advertising companies that subcontracted their printing business to his son's company.

Jan. 15, 2002 : After a major cabinet shuffle, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appoints Gagliano ambassador to Denmark . Opposition leaders call it a patronage appointment for a longtime Chrétien loyalist.

March 12, 2002 : Neither newly-appointed Public Works Minister Don Boudria nor Groupaction can find a report worth $550,000 that should have been delivered in February 1999. Boudria says the study may never turn up. The report was to have suggested ways for the government to improve its visibility at cultural and sporting events.


March 19, 2002 : The missing report is found, but it's nearly identical to another report delivered to the government in October 1999 at a cost of $575,000. Both reports evaluated the impact of government sponsorships of recreation, hunting and fishing events. Both documents contain the same spelling errors, while the later report contains recommendations for events that had already taken place. Boudria places the blame on Gagliano, his predecessor in the post.

March 20, 2002 : Boudria calls for an audit of the two reports by Groupaction. He says the auditor general will have the option of asking for a refund or bringing in the RCMP to investigate. A committee looking into Gagliano's qualifications as a new ambassador doesn't allow any questions about his 25 years in politics.

May 8, 2002 : Auditor General Sheila Fraser releases a report saying federal bureaucrats broke "just about every rule in the book" in their dealings with the marketing firm Groupaction. The RCMP will look into $1.6 million in federal contracts awarded to the Montreal advertising firm.

May 20-24, 2002 : Public Works Minister Don Boudria is roasted for spending a ski weekend with his family at the luxury country home of Quebec advertising executive Claude Boulay of Groupe Everest.

May 21, 2002 : The public hears that Groupe Polygone, a Quebec company, received almost $40 million in government sponsorship contracts in the past five years.

May 26, 2002 : Art Eggleton loses his job as defense minister in a surprise cabinet shuffle due to allegations of conflict of interest. John McCallum, the junior finance minister, becomes minister of national defense. Boudria says there might be a perception that he crossed a line and is pleased to be back as government House leader. Ralph Goodale becomes Canada 's third public works minister in roughly four months.

May 27, 2002 : Opposition leaders renew their calls for an independent ethics counsellor.

May 29, 2002 : Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale says that RCMP officers are looking at more files from his department and that new files had been referred to the police.

Sept. 17, 2002 : RCMP raids the offices of Groupaction in Montreal ; removes files and documents.

Oct. 23, 2002 : Prime Minister Chrétien unveils a new ethics package that includes a new code of conduct for MPs and requires lobbyists to disclose more information.

April 28, 2003 : Public Works Minister Ralph Goodale announces Ottawa 's new federal advertising policies. They include:

  • A stipulation that 80 per cent of advertising work be done in Canada by Canadians, replacing a previous rule requiring that all work be Canadian.
  • An increase in the number of suppliers eligible to bid on government contracts.
  • The introduction of independent fairness monitors to help with the bid process.
  • A switch from paying on a per-commission basis to hourly rates, a policy that will be reviewed within 24 months.
  • The issuance of an annual report on federal advertising activity.

Sept. 15, 2003 : Parliament resumes, weeks before Liberals will elect new leader at November convention. Opposition repeats calls for judicial inquiry into sponsorship program, demands recall of Ambassador Gagliano from Denmark . Public Works Minister Goodale says the government has "toughened rules and procedures" and stopped doing business with the firms in question.

Nov. 13, 2003 : Two days before federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser is to release her report on the federal sponsorship program, Chrétien prorogues Parliament; his October 2002 ethics bill dies on the order paper.

Dec. 12, 2003 : Paul Martin sworn in as prime minister; appoints Stephen Owen new minister of public works. Goodale becomes finance minister.

Dec. 13, 2003 : On his first day as prime minister, Paul Martin cancels advertising sponsorship program. Martin also announces Communications Canada, the arm of the Public Works Department responsible for the troubled program, will wind down by March 2004.

Jan. 26, 2004 : A Globe and Mail report says officials from the auditor general's office traveled to Denmark to interview Gagliano. It's an unusual move for the auditor general, who rarely interviews politicians in investigations.


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