Conservatives say Liberals
[PoliticsWatch Updated 2:30 p.m. May 3, 2005]
OTTAWA — What was a wild rumour around Parliament Hill in the past few days came to the surface on Tuesday when Conservative MPs told the media some of their colleagues have been approached by the government with hints of patronage appointments or Senate seats in an effort to reduce their numbers in the House.
"Four people have confided to me that approaches have been made," said Deputy Conservative Leader Peter MacKay. He said all four Conservative MPs have rejected the government's outreach efforts.
The governing Liberals are currently in the midst of a looming confidence showdown with the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservatives, which appears it will likely be decided by just a handful of votes.
Appointing a Conservative to the Senate or some other posting would vacate seats in the House and bolster the government's chances of avoiding a spring election.
MacKay said the four he is aware of includes Manitoba MP Inky Mark
Mark told a special Conservative caucus meeting on Monday night about a call he received Friday afternoon from a cabinet minister where the suggestion was made that he could be made an ambassador.
His caucus confession was leaked to the media on Tuesday morning and spread like wildfire around Ottawa.
That led Treasury Board President Reg Alcock's office to call an impromptu, lunch-hour media scrum in the foyer of the House of Commons.
Surround by reporters Alcock categorically denied the government has made any offer to Mark and even suggested that Mark's story was a fantasy.
"Neither the prime minister nor I has authorized any discussion with Mr. Mark to offer him anything -- period," Alcock said.
"I don't know what fantasies exist in Mr. Mark's mind. I know that he's been desperately unhappy in the Conservative caucus and he has been sending messages that he'd like out."
Making the afternoon even more surreal was that while Alcock called into question Mark's credibility, Mark himself was standing a few feet away from Alcock listening intently.
Within seconds of Alcock leaving the scrum, Mark stepped in front of the cameras and stuck to a story he had told the CBC earlier in the day.
Although he would not reveal the name of the minister who called him, he said he had proof that a call was made to him.
"The fact remains that I do have a telephone record that Mr. Alcock may not understand."
Mark, who offered to swear on "two bibles" that his story is the truth, said the minister who called him on Friday afternoon made suggestions.
"The question was: 'What is it that you really want to accomplish in politics?'" he said as he recalled the conversation. "The suggestion was: 'Well perhaps you'd be interested in being an ambassador.'
"The comment was: 'Seriously consider it. I want to talk to you again. I want you to have the opportunity to do something you really want to do.'"
He also denied Alcock's allegations that he had been "fishing" for a position from the government and was unhappy in the Conservatives.
Although Alcock is denying any approaches have
been made, the PM would not rule out whether such tactics would be
used when he was interviewed by CanWest News last week and
asked if he was considering using the power of patronage.
"If you look at the senate appointments that we've made in the past, I think I was the first prime minister who appointed an NDPer," the PM said. "We appointed Conservatives in the past. So to a certain extent, I've already answered your question."
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