From: Vancouver Sun
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper was prompted to dump Helena Guergis from cabinet, kick her out of caucus and call in the police after a unknown “third party” came forward with allegations about her Thursday night.
But Conservatives refused Monday to say what those allegations were or identify the “third party.”
Meanwhile the Liberals, convinced that the business activities of Guergis’ husband, former MP Rahim Jaffer, are tied to her trouble, used their time in question period Monday to document several meetings Jaffer had with senior cabinet ministers.
“(Jaffer) advertised his connections and his ability to influence his former colleagues,” Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay said in the House of Commons. “But there is a thing called the Lobbying Act. It is a law. He broke that law. And he did so, all the while bragging about and peddling the influence he had with his Conservative friends and colleagues.”
Transport Minister John Baird told the Commons that when he saw Jaffer last year, there was no discussion about Jaffer’s business interests.
“Suggest(ions) that the Prime Minister’s Office has opened its doors to Mr. Jaffer or his associates are absolutely without basis and are false,” Baird said.
Neither Jaffer nor Guergis responded Monday to interview requests.
Last week, Guergis called the allegations “baseless” and “unfounded.”
On Monday, Liberal, Bloc Quebecois, and NDP MPs pressed the government repeatedly to tell Canadians more about the allegations.
“The government has got to provide answers now so that we can put this sordid business aside and start to deal with the important issues affecting Canadians,” NDP Leader Jack Layton said.
“A minister was removed, a criminal investigation has begun and these are serious allegations that demand answers,” said Liberal MP Mark Holland.
Harper was not in the Commons for question period Monday because he was attending the nuclear safety summit in Washington. But before he left, he convened a rare Monday morning meeting of his cabinet and is believed to have warned them to say nothing about the affair. PMO officials refused to even confirm the existence of that cabinet meeting.
Pressed repeatedly for more details about the allegations, Baird offered this: “Let me be very clear that the allegations that were brought forward by a third party do not involve any minister, any MP, any senator or, for that matter, any government employee.”
The Liberals have asked the lobbying commissioner to investigate the business dealings of Jaffer and one of his partners, former Conservative candidate Patrick Gelmaud.
“Canadians are rightly outraged that well-connected Conservatives are apparently meeting with questionable businessmen claiming they had the inside track on securing government funding,” Liberal MP Anita Neville told the Commons. “These claims are made more credible by the fact that these Conservatives appear to have had privileged access to federal cabinet.”
Liberals in the House of Commons asked what Jaffer had told Baird at a meeting the two had on Sept. 3; if Jaffer brought up government deals when he met with then natural resources minister Lisa Raitt on the same date; and what Jaffer had discussed with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty at a reception in April 30 last year.
Baird told the House of Commons he did not discuss any business with Jaffer and Raitt, now the minister of labour, said through a spokesperson, that she did not meet Jaffer on Sept. 3 and has “never had a private meeting with this individual or members of his organization.”
Last fall, on the same evening he would be arrested for drunk driving and drug possession, Jaffer did meet with Nazim Gillani, a Toronto businessman. Gillani’s spokesman Brian Kilgore said Jaffer was trying to pitch Gillani to help him secure some government loans or help.
A few weeks later, while Jaffer was dealing with the drunk driving and drug possession charges, Jaffer and Guergis had dinner with Gillani in Toronto. Kilgore said there was a group of people at that dinner and that there was no discussion of government business. Neither Jaffer nor Gillani are registered lobbyists.
Gillani may well have hired Jaffer, said Kilgore, but the relationship later soured.
The drunk driving and drug charges against Jaffer were dropped in place of the reduced charge of careless driving.
Kilgore said Gillani has not spoken to Jaffer since the events of last week.
Gillani faces a fraud charge in a Newmarket, Ont. with regards to a matter that is separate to his dealings with Jaffer and, through his spokesman, said he cannot say much more about his relationship with Jaffer until after that matter is resolved, likely later this month.
Separately, ethics commissioner Mary Dawson said in a statement Monday that she would not proceed with an investigation the Liberals had requested into a mortgage Guergis received for her Ottawa home.