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PM says AG can review CSL errors

(PoliticsWatch posted February 3, 2004) OTTAWA - In his first day in the House as prime minister, Paul Martin was dogged during question period with questions from the Conservative Party about the exact amount of business his family company did with the federal government over the past decade. 

Martin said the $161 million figure released last week by House Leader Jacques Saada was "as complete as the government is able to come up with," and even opened up the possibility of the Auditor General investigating the matter. 

"I would be quite prepared to ask the Auditor General to ask why in fact there was a delay between the original question and the provision of those numbers," said the PM. 

In 2002, Conservative MP James Rajotte filed an Order Paper request on the exact details of Martin's family's business dealings with the government. He was later given an answer suggesting the figure was $137,000. But after finding other contracts on a government website totalling $15 million to a CSL subsidiary, Rajotte resubmitted his question in October and last week the $161 million figure was revealed.

Speaking with reporters later, Conservative Leader Grant Hill said he was not interested in the Auditor General getting involved in the matter. 

"No interest in that whatever. That would be a great way for him to push this under the carpet," he said. 

In the House, Hill grilled the PM and repeatedly asked him if the $161 million figure was the exact amount his holdings received in government grant, contracts and loans. 

"I want to know is that figure correct? Is that the full figure?"

Martin would only say that he did not compile the answer.

Later in question period, Rajotte revealed that the total given by the House Leader's Office was in fact not accurate and pointed to non-repayable contribution to Canarctic Shipping Company, a CSL subsidiary. 

The summary table given to the Opposition shows Canarctic received a $1.167 million non-repayable contribution, but another itemized document they were given shows the amount was actually $20,000 greater than on the summary. 

"How many more errors are in this document and when will Canadians finally know the truth about how much government money was given to the prime minister's companies?" Rajotte asked.

Government House Leader Jacques Saada was unaware of the discrepancy and said that he had "scrupulously, meticulously and thoroughly" gone through the numbers. 

"If my colleague has anything else to add to that, I would be pleased to receive his documents," he said in the House.

Speaking with reporters later, Saada disputed a cover up and said Canarctic was included in the Order Paper answer and that the $20,000 discrepancy was most likely an error.

"Canarctic was mentioned. I couldn't have possibly checked every single typo error which could occur," he said. 

"I think it's vicious to attack on the possibility of a typo error," Saada added. 

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