Reports of a loan from Farm Credit Canada for a disgraced former Liberal cabinet minister to buy a Quebec vineyard have the Conservative government calling for “personal integrity” as a consideration when Crown agencies review loan applications.
Montreal newspaper La Presse reported on Saturday that Alfonso Gagliano, Jean Chretien’s former minister of public works and government services, has bought Les Blancs Coteaux, a vineyard in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, in partnership with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, using a $550,000 loan from FCC.
The newspaper quoted Gagliano as saying the vineyard, sold for almost $734,000, would be renamed “Vignoble Gagliano” and advising media to “forget (Gagliano) the politician. He no longer exists.”
Though he has never faced any related criminal charges, Gagliano came under harsh criticism in the 2005 Gomery report for his role as the Liberal caucus’ head of the Chretien government’s sponsorship program in the late 1990s.
That program, designed to promote federalism in Quebec, fell apart in scandal amid claims of millions of dollars being siphoned by advertising agencies with close Liberal ties.
Gagliano, a Quebec Liberal MP since 1984, left politics in 2002 when the Chretien government named him ambassador to Denmark. The Martin government fired him from that post in 2004 amid outcry over what by then had become known as “AdScam.”
A separate La Presse article Tuesday quotes Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as saying the Harper government finds FCC’s loan to Gagliano “totally unacceptable.”
The paper quoted Soudas as saying plans are underway to revise guidelines for Crown corporations to loan money. Crowns that offer business loans would be required to take into account “the integrity of a person” when the loan application is being examined.
“The Conservative government believes that money should go to help farmers, not former Liberal cabinet ministers,” Soudas was quoted as saying in an article by the Canadian Press news agency.