MPs to pursue perjury investigation
of Adscam players
[PoliticsWatch updated 6:40 p.m., February 7, 2007]
|Justice John Gomery held hearings into the
sponsorship scandal. (Photo by Jake Wright).
OTTAWA — A
Commons committee appears headed to launch hearings into the
discrepancies in the testimony of a number former Liberal cabinet
ministers, staffers and public servants who appeared before
the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal.
Conservative and Bloc Quebecois MPs, who combined have enough
votes to control the public accounts committee, want to recall a
number of witnesses who appeared before both Gomery and the public
accounts committee to explain the discrepancies in their
The Commons law clerk said it could mark the first time in the
history of Parliament that a committee investigated possible
Another set of parliamentary hearings into the sponsorship scandal
with numerous faces from the Chretien era is probably the last
thing the Liberals and new leader Stephane Dion want in the
coming months with a possible spring election looming on the
The MPs met Wednesday afternoon to discuss a report from the Library
of Parliament that compared discrepancies in the testimony of a
number of witnesses.
The specific names of those witnesses mentioned in the report were
not discussed at the meeting.
The committee plans to meet later behind closed doors to go over the
report and vote on who to recall before the committee.
"Many, many people expect there to be consequences," Bloc
MP Jean-Yves Laforest told the committee. "The public realizes that some people said one thing here and something else before the Gomery commission."
The committee was briefed on Wednesday by Rob Walsh, the law
clerk for Parliament.
Walsh presented the committee with two options -- investigating the
discrepancies and reporting the instances of perjury to the
solicitor-general of Ontario for further criminal prosecution, which
carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.
Or the committee could file a report and send to the House a
recommendation that MPs find the witnesses in question in contempt
of the House for misleading the committee.
Walsh said proving perjury is a "tricky" business and
advised MPs that keeping their investigation within Parliament may
be punishment enough.
"The idea of a perjury prosecution or holding to contempt in the House is like, if you pardon the expression, is like hanging a dead
person," Walsh told the MPs.
"By that point the damage done to the individual from the scrutiny given to his or her testimony, comments by the committee, a report to the House, the House concurring in the report. What's left to be done?"
Tory MP John Williams, who chaired the public accounts
committee during its Adscam hearings, seemed to agree with Walsh
saying, "The very fact that we have debated their statements here in public may be a serious warning to others who value their reputation that they should be more careful."
Williams later told reporters he would like to see "some if not
all" the witnesses mentioned in the report recalled to explain
"I personally believe that we should be sending a clear message
to anybody who thinks that they can say whatever they want before the
public accounts committee that it will not be tolerated."
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