Conservatives accuse government of
sponsorship cover up
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:20 p.m. February 2, 2005]
OTTAWA — In the House Wednesday, the Conservatives accused the Liberals of
covering up documents tabled at the Gomery inquiry this week that revealed a sponsorship program cheque somehow came into the hands of the Liberal Party.
The Toronto Star
reported Wednesday on new documents from Public Works that were unveiled at the inquiry.
The Star said the documents reveal Public Works officials became alarmed upon making the discovery. Then deputy minister Ran Quail indicated in handwritten notes that then public works minister Alfonso Gagliano planned to ask the party to return the cheque.
The amount of the cheque that ended up with the party is not known.
The documents also said a 2000 internal audit at Public Works raised concerns with top level bureaucrats about contracting rules being breached and donations made to the Liberal Party by the ad firms receiving millions in sponsorship commissions.
"This is an alarming new piece of evidence that shows sponsorship money went directly to the Liberal Party of Canada," Conservative MP Peter MacKay said in question period.
"Yet with an election looming these documents were withheld from the Public Accounts committee doing its work and the Canadian public last spring. Why were these documents withheld from Parliament and the Canadian public and whose responsible for this latest cover up in the sponsorship scandal?"
Public Works Minister Scott Brison, as he has since Gomery began his hearings in September, refused to comment on day-to-day testimony coming out of the inquiry.
Meanwhile at the Gomery inquiry, commission lawyer Bernard Roy questioned Gagliano about the relationship between the Quebec wing of the federal Liberal Party and the ad firms involved in the program.
In his second day of testimony, Gagliano recalled a December 1997 meeting with Liberal insider Jacques Corriveau, owner of Pluri Design. Corriveau's firm handled the printing and posters for the federal Liberal campaign in Quebec for the 1997 federal election.
Gagliano, who was also the political minister for Quebec, testified that nearly six months after the election, Corriveau was meeting with him and Jean Pelletier, chief of staff for former prime minister Jean Chretien, to discuss the Liberals' overdue election bill.
"The party had not yet paid his bill and he met with Mr. Pelletier to put on pressure," Gagliano testified. "This represented considerable sums of money."
Gagliano selected Corriveau's firm for the '97 campaign. Corriveau worked for the Liberals in Quebec for the 1993 campaign and the party was pleased with his performance.
Gagliano said he selected ad firms that worked for the Liberals in 1997 and 2000 in Quebec.
He created a consortium of ad firms for the '97 campaign that included Groupaction and Groupe Everest - two of the firms mentioned
at length in the Auditor General's report into the sponsorship program.
Gagliano testified he approached other ad firms but the party was turned down because
the firms did not do work on political campaigns.
He was put into contact with Groupaction by a Liberal Party organizer who also worked as a lobbyist for Groupaction.
"I knew that he was an employee working for Groupaction," Gagliano testified. "I was appraised of this when he told me to contact
(owner) Jean Brault for the 1997 campaign."
Gagliano testified that he did not know that the same Groupaction lobbyist had already obtained sponsorship contracts for Groupaction before the 1997 campaign. At the time he was selecting ad firms for the party, Gagliano was minister of Labour.
Gagliano also faced a second day of questions about his relations with the executive director of the sponsorship program, Chuck Guite.
Roy asked questions about whether his direct contact with Guite had caused friction with his deputy,
Quail, because it was not normal in terms of the bureuacratic chain
"I did not invent this process," Guite said of the relationship with Guite, adding that "never did Mr. Quail indicate to me that he was frustrated and uncomfortable" with the relationship.
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