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Former Canadian PM testifies before sponsorship inquiry

[JURIST] Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien [CBC News profile] testified Tuesday before a judicial commission of inquiry [Gomery Commission website] as part of an ongoing government investigation into a national unity program that resulted in $100 million in contracts being awarded to advertising firms with close ties to Chrétien's Liberal Party, with little return. No Canadian prime minister has testified before such an inquiry since Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, appeared before a commission in the midst of an 1873 railway scandal. Chrétien said Tuesday he "regrets" any mistakes that resulted from the program, which was launched to increase unity in the wake of an unsettling 1995 referendum on separation for Quebec. He defended the program, though, calling it necessary to forestall another referendum. On Thursday Chretien will be followed to the stand by current Prime Minister Paul Martin [official website], who launched the inquiry in February 2004. Martin was finance minister when the program was launched. CBC News has in-depth coverage of the Gomery inquiry. CTV News has more.

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