Writing in the NYT, David Frum argues one reason the sponsorship scandal happened is because the Liberal Party's historical role as a brokerage party is coming to an end.
Many Americans see Canada as a kind of utopian alternative to the United States: a North American democracy with socialized medicine, same-sex marriage, empty prisons, strict gun laws and no troops in Iraq.
What they don't see is how precarious political support for this alternative utopia has become among Canadian voters in recent years. From World War II until the 1980's, Liberal power rested on two political facts: its dominance in French-speaking Quebec and its popularity in the immigrant communities of urban Ontario.
Over the past two decades, however, the Liberals' Quebec-plus-the-cities strategy has worked less and less well. …
He then characterizes the sponsorship program having failed in its purpose of promoting federalism in Quebec but succeeding at becoming a giant slush fund that enriched some Liberal insiders and generated kickbacks for the Liberal party itself.
Some Liberals defend the scheme as a noble plan gone wrong, an attempt to beat back separatism that was unfortunately corrupted by a few bad apples. But when so many apples go bad, you have to suspect that the barrel is rotten.
Unlike their supposed analogues, the Democrats in the United States or Great Britain's Labor Party, Canada's Liberals are not a party built around certain policies and principles. They are instead what political scientists call a brokerage party, similar to the old Italian Christian Democrats or India's Congress Party: a political entity without fixed principles or policies that exploits the power of the central state to bribe or bully incompatible constituencies to join together to share the spoils of government.
As countries modernize, they tend to leave brokerage parties behind. Very belatedly, that moment of maturity may now be arriving in Canada. Americans may lose their illusions about my native country; Canadians will gain true multiparty democracy and accountability in government. It's an exchange that is long past due.