Thursday, March 6, 2008

L’Affaire Cadman: A Theory of How it Went Down

After a week of careful reading, I have a pretty good theory as to the exact origins of the Chuck Cadman “bribe.” It’s going to take a few steps, so read carefully. Imagine this, if you’d like, as being kind of like the ending of one of those Jerry Bruckheimer crime dramas that the public adores for some bizarre reason – flashing to differently-lit moments from the past.

Let’s begin with an agreed summary of the facts.

1) Before he died, Chuck Cadman told his wife, his daughter, and his son-in-law that he was offered a $1 Million life insurance policy as a “bribe” for him voting to bring down the Liberal Government of Paul Martin.

2) On May 19th, 2005 two individuals, Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan, met with Cadman to discuss obtaining his vote for the no-confidence motion against the Liberal Government.

3) The Prime Minister has stated (and Liberals have seized upon him for stating) that an offer was made to Cadman to, “replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election.”

These are universally agreed-upon facts. Stripped of context – or twisted by those with a partisan agenda – they can be slanted to sound absolutely damning (well, depending upon your view of the world). However, once we inject two other very relevant facts into the conversation, a very different picture begins to emerge.

First – no insurance company was going to write a life insurance policy for Chuck Cadman on 19 May. The premiums for a $1 Million policy for a man with terminal cancer would be in excess of $1 Million, due upon signature of the documents.

Yet, all of the reports of what Cadman said have been very specific. He claimed that he was offered a life insurance policy as a “bribe.” He – and every other statement made – has been very particular on that point. This makes no sense at all. The whole idea of a bribe is that it should be untraceable. Yet, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with insurance ought to know, a life insurance policy – especially one with odd conditions – is the exact opposite of that. It must be thoroughly documented. In triplicate. Backed up on tape drives. With multiple signatures. Bribing someone with an insurance policy would be the white collar equivalent of the criminal trying to run away from the police in the night wearing those sneakers with blinking red lights.

The second fact – about which the media and the government have been oddly silent – is this: there was a large and pre-existing insurance policy which was in play at the time.

As a Member of Parliament, Cadman would have been entitled to a death benefit equal to two years salary – for an MP an amount which would be in the range of over $300,000. Indeed, since Cadman eventually did die in office, it stands to reason that his family did receive that money. It was remarked upon at the time as a reason why Cadman, knowing he didn’t have long to live, might have voted to preserve a government he had so long opposed – to keep that death benefit for his family.

Ralph Goodale has suggested that perhaps the offer to Cadman was to cover the difference between what he’d get in death benefits as an MP or as a private citizen. I think that, at the very least, he’s closer to the truth than most others have been. But I have a slightly different theory.

Commentators have dismissed as “absurd” the notion that what the Tories offered Cadman was help in running a campaign for re-election. I think that’s probably a mistake – since I believe that it was exactly what Cadman was offered and what he considered to be a “bribe.”

Remember, even in 2005, there were rumours circulating to the effect that Cadman would vote with the Liberals in order to preserve his Parliamentary life insurance. It’s not unthinkable – it’s likely, even, that those rumours would have gotten back to Cadman. It’s also likely – if I heard about them in Coquitlam, British Columbia – that they were all over Ottawa.

Hearing this, Cadman is approached a receives an offer: if he votes to bring down the government, the Tories will ensure that his is easily re-elected to Parliament so that, when the inevitable arrives, he will be able to collect his Parliamentary Death Benefits in full.

Think about it for a second. This is the one way in which everything that everyone has been saying can be taken as basically true. The Tories offer Cadman, as they’ve claimed, election assistance in order to “replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election.” Cadman, on the other hand, is deeply offended by the notion that he would vote to retain a corrupt government in power in order to collect on his Parliamentary life insurance and goes around telling his family that he was offered a life insurance policy as a “bribe.” However, he makes no public statement to this effect for the simple reason that to do so would inject into the public sphere the idea that his vote in favour of the Liberals was a vote to retain his own life insurance benefits.

It all makes sense. The original offer. Cadman’s rejection of it. The later statements made by multiple individuals. Then, once the story falls into the hands of other people, it’s transformed into a weapon to be used against the government.

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