Former Groupaction head Jean Brault at the Gomery Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program in Montreal, March 30, 2005. REUTERS/Shaun Best, file
MONTREAL - The latest allegations of graft and wrongdoing in Quebec politics bear striking similarities to the Adscam scandal that rocked Ottawa seven years ago.
Both fiascos involve disgraced government contractors who coolly testified about cash kickbacks and illicit party financing under publication bans at public inquiries.
Ad executive Jean Brault's 2005 revelations at the Gomery inquiry helped torpedo prime minister Paul Martin's short-lived Liberal government.
But voters tossed Jean Charest out of office a few weeks before ex-paving contractor Lino Zambito could bring him down.
That won't lessen the blunt-force impact of Zambito's allegations that he flagrantly violated election laws to pump six-figure amounts of dirty cash into Liberal campaign coffers in 2008.
Some of his tactics involved using his own employees as proxies to illegally funnel money to the Grits.
It's the same modus operandi described by Brault, who told the Gomery commission his Groupaction staff donated money to federal Liberals under their own names before he reimbursed them through payroll.
QMI Agency political analyst Jean Lapierre said insiders who spill the beans in front of TV cameras serve to satisfy cynical voters who are fed up with corruption.
"The public likes to have a (person) who admits and tells it all," Lapierre said. "They're saying what people want to hear ... if you push the buttons against politicians and their entourage, I guess it satisfies people's basic instincts."
But Lapierre also warns that the political damage from inquiries lasts for years and can cut across party lines.
"That's the problem with the commission of inquiry - there no presumption of innocence, there's only a presumption of guilt," he said. "It will paint everyone with the same brush."
Allegations of influence peddling and manipulation of contracts predate Adscam by decades.
Public inquiries in 1973, 1975 and 1977 featured the same sordid revelations but didn't stop the rot, Lapierre notes.
"People are waiting to see those people being arrested ... and in the end they're very frustrated because nothing happened except a report."