Opposition leaders say Martin's sneak
peak at Gomery report unfair
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:30 p.m. October 27, 2005]
OTTAWA — All three opposition party leaders cried foul on Thursday and demanded that Prime Minister Paul Martin provide them with his advance copy of Justice John Gomery's report on the sponsorship scandal.
The Gomery inquiry has decided to provide the government a copy of the potentially explosive first report on the sponsorship scandal at 6:00 p.m. on
Monday, a day before it is released.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper led off question period Thursday by asking Martin if he was going to provide a copy of the report to the three opposition leaders.
Martin said he is only following the wishes of Gomery and providing copies to the other leaders would be "meddling in the procedures recommended by the commission."
"It is Justice Gomery who has decided what process he is going to follow and we will follow his recommendations," Martin said.
Harper then accused the PM of "weaseling out of his commitment to make it totally available to everybody at the same time."
Gomery will release his long-awaited report at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning.
Members of the media will be allowed to get an advanced look at it at a special lockdown beginning at 6:00 a.m., but will not be allowed to leave the site or release details until 10:00 a.m.
Each opposition party will be allowed just one person - either an MP or a staff member - in the lockdown.
Privately and publicly opposition MPs and officials are fuming about the Liberals getting an advance copy and the restrictions on the lockdown.
There is talk about the opposition leaders writing a joint letter to Martin demanding they get a copy at the same time as he does.
One official speculated the government could leak selected tidbits to preferred media outlets to get their spin on the story out hours before the report is public.
An official with Prime Minister's Office told the Globe and Mail that the advance copy of Gomery's report will be held in the tightest security.
NDP Leader Jack Layton said the opposition leaders are "standing together" in asking for "equal treatment" on the release of the report.
He rejected the PM's defence that he is only following the wishes of the inquiry.
"If (Martin is) happy to be treated unequally and unfairly and happy to see us treated that way, that's his problem."
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said under the current scenario he will only have 45 minutes to go over
Gomery's findings before he has to make a public statement.
"It's tougher," Duceppe said. "Why don't we have the same conditions?"
"I think the prime minister has the opportunity to show that he wants everyone on the same level when it's time to receive that report and get prepared to answer."
Conservative MP Peter MacKay said it's matter of fairness and questioned the transparency of the process.
"Why would it be held back even a day while the government is given the opportunity to put the best possible face on what could be a scathing report about their own activities?" he asked.
"They don't sentence people in private first and give prisoners an opportunity to somehow come up with their own excuses before they release that to the public."
When asked if he was concerned that the Liberals would use their
extra 12 hours to come up with a way to spin their way out of the controversy, MacKay told reporters, "That would be depended upon how it's spun and how you guys suck it up."
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