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"There was no slush fund"

(PoliticsWatch posted February 24, 2004) OTTAWA - Environment Minister David Anderson today said his constituency office was "doing the right thing" when it directed a prominent B.C. Liberal to access funds from the sponsorship program. 

In an interview with the Toronto Star that appears today, Jamie Kelley, a long-time Liberal Party member, said Anderson's constituency office directed him to sponsorship program money for a music festival he was organizing in 2001. 

"They told me of a secret slush fund where they could access money for constituency programs," Kelley told the Star. "There was no application form, no process other than to write a letter to Mr. Pierre Tremblay at public works."

However, speaking to reporters after today's cabinet meeting, Anderson denied the characterization of the sponsorship program as a slush fund. 

"There was no slush fund involved in this at all," he said. 

"It's entirely appropriate for my office to provide information about a government program - in this case the sponsorship program - for a particular arts group that was having a festival."

Anderson also said that he was sure his office did not use the term slush fund when dealing with Kelley. 

The sponsorship program came under intense criticism in the latest report by Auditor General Sheila Fraser for funnelling commissions and fees to Quebec ad firms that had ties to the Liberal Party. 

Media/I.D.A. Vision, a Montreal advertising agency, contacted Kelley after his request and informed him he would receive $50,000 in two instalments and that he should not worry about paying a commission on the money as that was being taken care off by Public Works.

In other developments, Prime Minister Paul Martin today announced the suspension of the presidents of three crown corporations cited in Fraser's report. 

Via Rail President Marc Lefrancois was suspended without pay until Monday when he will have to explain his agency's role in the scandal. Canada Post President Andre Ouellet, a one-time cabinet minister to former prime minister Jean Chretien, was suspended with pay pending an interim report on management practices and the sponsorship program. 

Michel Vennat, president of the Business Development Bank, is suspended until Monday. However, Vennat's suspension is related to the firing of the bank's former president who questioned a loan to an inn in Chretien's riding. 

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