March 25, 2004) OTTAWA
- More bombshells in Adscam today as a public servant contradicted testimony by former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano during her appearance before the Commons public accounts committee.
Hugette Tremblay, who was an assistant to sponsorship program executive director Chuck Guite, told the committee that Gagliano met weekly with her boss.
Last week, Gagliano testified he only met with Guite three or
four times a year.
"I was surprised to hear Mr. Gagliano say that," Tremblay told the committee. "But what his reasoning was behind that, I don't know."
Tremblay also linked the involvement in the sponsorship program to two prominent members of former prime minister Jean Chretien's office - Jean Pelletier and Jean Carle.
According to Tremblay, a female from Pelletier's office would often call Guite and Carle would visit the office "on average once every couple of months."
In no uncertain terms, Tremblay said there was political direction involved in the sponsorship program and
a direct relationship between Gagliano's office and the program. She agreed with one MP's suggestion that this involvement represented an "abuse of power."
Carle was not the only regular visitor to Guite's office. According to Tremblay, ad executives from Groupaction, Groupe Everest,
Gosselin and Lafleur - all named in Auditor General Sheila Fraser's report -
would visit Guite once or twice a month.
And she also fingered the former president of Via Rail, Marc Lefrancois, as being a "frequent caller to Mr. Guite," but could not recollect if any other Crown heads or executives were in regular contact with the office.
She also told the committee that when problems were found with contracting with the ad agencies, she was told to ignore them by her boss in 1999, Pierre Tremblay, who was previously an aide in Gagliano's office.
"His response to me was, 'Hugette, we have to do it, so just do it.'"
Tremblay also told of poor record keeping in the program, which
she said was done deliberately. The paper trail was "not extensive," according to Tremblay, as verbal orders were the norm.
In the House of Commons later, Conservative MP Peter MacKay said Tremblay's testimony
had blown Gagliano's testimony out of the water. He used it as an opportunity to demand that Liberals on the committee support his motion to have all phone records and briefing books from Gagliano tabled
at the committee.
Earlier this week, the Liberals supported a motion to release Gagliano and Guite's daily agendas.
NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis said Tremblay's testimony means Gagliano must now be questioned about whether he misled Parliament last week.
"The plot thickens, the circle widens and it's our job to find those linkages and expose the whole political control of the sponsorship fiasco," she said.
Tremblay also told the committee that she remains friends with Guite, who retired from the department in 1999. She informed
the committee that she discussed her testimony before the committee with him recently,
and he advised her, "Hugette, you have to tell the truth. And if you stick to the truth, there won't be any problems."
Former public works minister Diane Marleau also appeared briefly before the committee and testified that upon coming into her job in January of 1996, Guite, who did not have deputy minister status, showed up in her office and declared that he reported directly to her.
"I said, 'Not in this office, you don't,'" Marleau told the committee. "Frankly, I was shocked."
Marleau, who had previously been quoted as saying that she cleaned shop
upon arriving at public works, was unable to answer committee questions about a 1996 audit in the department that found contracting problems.
She said that it was "really hard" for her to distinguish between what she knows now and what she read in newspapers, saying "I think I remember that audit going on" at the time.
"We can see you've forgotten a lot of things," Bloc MP Monique Guay said to Marleau glibly.
Check out these related
transcript of Hugette Tremblay's testimony
transcript of Diane Marleau's testimony
Accounts Sponsorship Hearings
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