Gomery says Earnscliffe outside
[PoliticsWatch Updated 4:20 p.m. February 10, 2005]
OTTAWA —Prime Minister Paul Martin did not have to face questions about contracts awarded from the finance department to the firm with ties to his inner circle at the Gomery inquiry Thursday.
Justice John Gomery said during Martin's appearance that Earnscliffe was outside his mandate.
The Bloc Quebecois had recently demanded the government allow questions at the inquiry about contracts awarded to Earnscliffe from finance when Martin was the minister.
"Did the department of finance ever use Earnscliffe or any of its affiliates for advertising or sponsorships?" Gomery counsel Neil Finkelstein asked Martin.
"No," Martin said.
"Are you aware of whether Earnscliffe or its affiliates does advertising, as opposed to public opinion research or communications strategy?" Finkelstein asked.
"I don't believe they do," the PM responded.
Martin said Earnscliffe was involved in "public opinion research and they would provide strategic advice."
"Which is outside of our mandate," interjected Gomery.
"I was about to say I don't propose to pursue that for that reason," added Finkelstein.
Gomery's terms of reference is to "investigate and report on questions raised, directly or indirectly" from the auditor general's report on the sponsorship program, including "the selection of communications and advertising agencies."
By not allowing questions about Earnscliffe, Gomery is holding an inquiry different than the one MPs on the Public Accounts committee held last year.
In that hearing, the director of the sponsorship program, Chuck Guite, spent most of his appearance detailing pre-sponsorship program
run ins he had with finance department officials over contracts Earnscliffe was bidding on.
However, Gomery did hear from Martin on Thursday about one battle finance officials had with Guite.
Martin testified that his only knowledge about Guite before the sponsorship scandal made headlines occurred shortly after he became finance minister. At the time a dispute arose between finance officials and Guite over a competition to handle the marketing of the Canada Savings Bonds campaign.
Finance officials had taken over control of marketing component for the CSB campaign from the Bank of Canada.
The contract had been held by Groupe Everest, but Martin said his officials wanted to open up the campaign to other bidders and even proposed having the firms propose creative mock ups for the bid.
"They had a major difference of opinion with public works and Guite on the issue," Martin said.
The dispute between officials at finance and public works became so heated that Martin and then public works minister David Dingwall had to get involved.
Dingwall testified earlier at the inquiry that the issue was brought up at a meeting between the two men, but Martin said he could not remember the meeting. However, he did not disagree with Dingwall's version of events.
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