Sponsorship players deny misleading
[PoliticsWatch updated 7:20 p.m. June 6, 2007]
OTTAWA —Two key figures from the sponsorship scandal spent two hours Wednesday denying allegations from MPs that they misled Parliament when they
testified about the sponsorship program in 2004.
Chuck Guite, the man who ran the sponsorship program in its heyday, and
Jean Pelletier, former prime minister Jean Chretien's long-time chief of staff, both appeared before the public accounts committee to discuss discrepancies in testimony given to the committee
and subsequent testimony at the Gomery inquiry.
It is believed to be the first time in the history of Parliament that a committee has investigated possible perjury.
While both men were grilled intensely for an hour each, Pelletier had a much more difficult time explaining
some of the discrepancies in his testimony than Guite did.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre spent 10 minutes demanding Pelletier
explain why he told the committee in 2004 that he had met ad man Claude Boulay
of Groupe Everest only "once at a reception," but later told Gomery of another meeting with Boulay to discuss a $5,000 donation to the Liberal party.
"It shows a contradiction to your testimony before this committee," Poilievre said.
"Mr. Pelletier, I will ask you the question directly: Did you lie in your testimony before the committee the last time you appeared before it or are you lying now?"
"I didn't remember" the contribution issue, Pelletier said.
"It was only when I prepared my testimony for Gomery that the $5,000 contribution issue came back and that's when I remembered," he said. "At my age, sir, and given the fact that the events happened 12 years
ago memory fails."
Guite, meanwhile, spent most of his time before the committee trying to explain a
semantic argument about his definition of political involvement in the selection of ad agencies.
He was only at a loss for words when NDP MP David Christopherson
asked him to explain why he told the committee he had never received gifts from people at the ad agencies involved in the sponsorship scandal, but later changed his story at Gomery.
"You were asked point blank an easy question: Did you receive gifts? You said, 'No.' You were asked (at Gomery), you gave a different answer. Please explain."
"I have no explanation," Guite responded.
But the two players failed to satisfy some of the MPs on the committee.
"They skated around the issues, they skirted around the issues, they
obfuscated, they did many things," said Tory MP John Williams. He said the committee will decide its next step at its next meeting.
Chistopherson said he did not get a sense that all of the discrepancies
from the testimony had been explained and the committee will have to determine whether more action should be taken by the committee or the House.
The committee was told earlier this year by the law clerk of Parliament that the
it had two options if it concluded it had been misled by
witnesses -- report allegations of perjury to the solicitor-general of Ontario for further criminal
prosecution or send a report to the House with a recommendation that witnesses be ruled in contempt for misleading Parliament.
If the matter were sent to solicitor-general those charged and
convicted could face a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.
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