March 23, 2004) OTTAWA
- The opposition is accusing the government of conducting a "cover up" after Liberals on the Commons public accounts committee investigating Adscam defeated a motion requesting a wide array of documents belonging to former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano.
Gagliano appeared before the committee last week and said he was unaware of any criminal activity in the department of public works while he was minister between 1997 and 2002.
The defeated motion requested the tabling of "briefings, all documents pertaining to those briefings including briefing books, notes, memos and agenda items, daytimers, etc" from Gagliano.
The Liberal MPs, however, did support another motion that would call for the tabling of the daily agendas of Gagliano, former public works deputy minister Ranald Quail and the former executive director of the sponsorship program, Chuck Guite.
But the Conservative MPs do not think this goes far enough.
"Liberal witnesses are not telling the truth, Liberal members are
soft balling questions, they are running out the clock and now they are blocking motions requiring information to be released," said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper in the House.
"I'm very proud of the Liberal members on this committee," said Prime Minister Paul Martin in response. "They want to get to the bottom of it and we're going to get to the bottom of it."
Martin would not make a commitment to an opposition request to ask the Liberals on the committee to reverse their decision.
Conservative MP Peter MacKay, who tabled the motion, went further and accused the prime minister of instructing the committee members
to kill the motion.
"This Liberal cover up continues," said MacKay in the House. "Is this the way to openness and transparency or is this a way to continue a
cover up before an election?"
Martin denied the allegation, saying he "gave no such instructions to any members of the committee." He also blasted committee chair John Williams,
accusing him of stalling the committee's work.
Allegations of PMO involvement in the committee is not new. On the day before the committee held its first hearings, the Globe and Mail reported that six of the nine Liberals on the committee attended a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office chaired by Ruth Thorkelson, the Prime Minister's deputy chief of staff for parliamentary affairs.
After question period, the Conservative MPs said they hoped that Gagliano's records will reveal his level of contact with Guite and whether it contradicts his testimony that he only met with him regarding the sponsorship program two to three times per year.
"It seems to me that there was a much closer connection with Mr. Gagliano and the two to three times a year or the three to four times a year is simply not credible," said Conservative MP Vic Toews. "We believe that that information will in fact disclose the truth of Mr. Gagliano's statement and they don't want to deliver it."
Liberal MP Marlene Jennings, who is the vice chair of the committee, said the Liberals did not want to request more than Gagliano's day planner because the committee has a responsibility not to be seen as being on a "fishing expedition."
She said Gagliano's and Guite's daily agendas and other witness testimony may be sufficient enough to determine the veracity of Gagliano's testimony regarding his level of contact with Guite.
"Let us begin with the agendas," said Jennings. "See what the agendas produce."
Jennings also accused the Conservatives of playing politics with the committee hearings.
"The Conservatives, in some instances, appear to be interested at getting at the facts, then in other instances I think their baser instincts of trying to score political points and trying to put their spin on the facts takes over and wins."
MacKay later explained why he thinks the committee must go further than requesting the daily agendas.
"It's an attempt to say, 'We'll give you what we want and we'll exclude the rest because the rest might reveal something we don't want you to see.'"
MacKay accused the Liberals on the committee of conducting "selective disclosure."
Meanwhile the committee passed another motion requesting the tabling of all minutes and documents and records relating to any cabinet committee, including adhoc cabinet committees, where sponsorship, communications programs and activities were discussed between Jan. 1 1994 and Feb. 10, 2004.
And in other committee news, Olympic gold medallist Myriam Bedard will appear before the committee tomorrow afternoon.
"We are moving fast," said Williams. "We have a whole line up of witnesses coming forward. We have heads of Crown corporations, we have ministers, we have bureaucrats, we have ad agencies executives, we have academics to explain to us how responsible government should work and hasn't worked."
Check out these related
transcript of Gagliano's testimony: Day 2 (part 1)
transcript of Gagliano's testimony: Day 2 (part 2)
transcript of Gagliano's testimony Day 1 (part 1)
transcript of Gagliano's testimony Day 1 (part 2)
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