attack chair of Public Accounts
March 30, 2004) OTTAWA
- The Liberal attack on the opposition members of the committee investigating Adscam continued today as two Liberal
MPs on the committee accused the Conservative chair, John
Williams, of "abusing" his position and participating in "obstructionism" on a number of fronts.
Liberal MPs Shawn Murphy and Robert Thibault held a news conference this morning to attack Williams for a number of actions he has taken in recent weeks and to suggest that he was turning the committee into a "partisan circus."
"We're becoming overly concerned about the behaviour of the Public Accounts committee, and especially its chair, John Williams," said Murphy.
"He's undermining confidence in the committee's work by seeking every partisan advantage. The role of the chair is to act as the impartial chair of the committee.
"In this case, his goal, as far as we can see, is simply to delay."
Murphy cited comments Williams made to the media that he said suggested he planned to drag each witness out to maximize media coverage. He also blasted Williams for commenting to the media about the hearsay evidence of Myriam Bedard, and criticized an interview Williams gave earlier this week in which he said that he wanted to see people
responsible for the scandal put in jail.
Most notably, however, is Williams' opposition to the public release of the transcript of sponsorship program executive director Chuck Guite's in camera testimony to the Public Accounts committee from 2002. Yesterday, Guite's lawyer, Michael Edelson, met with the committee to clarify an appearance for April 22, and
granted permission to make Guite's confidential transcript public.
Murphy raised the possibility that other factors may be behind Williams' position on the transcript.
"Mr. Williams knows that the privacy has been waived and that he's free to release the testimony," said Murphy.
"What possible reason could he have for concealing this testimony?"
But yesterday in committee, Conservative MP Vic Toews suggested that the Liberals had ulterior motives themselves for wanting the transcript released.
Toews predicted that the Liberals would use the transcript in lieu of Guite's live testimony for an interim report.
"They will then try to morph this report, which is just a summary of the evidence, which we all agreed, would just be a summary of the evidence, and no recommendations, but then they'll try to include Mr. Guité's conclusions in that," predicted Toews.
"Then, Mr. Chair, what they will do is they will call an election ... call me a prophet. I have seen these kinds of scams before."
Toews said he feared that the Liberals wanted to get the transcript first
without the intention of calling the witness in person.
"There seems to be a fear here, Mr. Chair, of actually calling the witness."
Murphy agreed that any interim report would be "much better" if they had Guite's viva voce testimony included, rather than a transcript from two years ago.
"It's going to be difficult," he said. But he left the door open for a report using just the transcript by saying "it's possible."
"But I don't want to get into a discussion or debate as to what the report will look like until we see where we are when we write the report," he added.
Thibault agreed that all members of the committee believe that it is "very critical" that Guite appear before the committee.
Prime Minister Paul Martin has promised that he would not call an election until sufficient light is shone on what happened in the sponsorship program.
"I can assure you that neither Mr. Murphy nor myself will not call an election," said Thibault when questioned about whether the Liberals would use the report to launch into an election campaign.
Murphy also made clear that he was not relaying messages from the Prime Minister's Office and has been outspoken about Williams' behaviour for a number of weeks now.
For his part, Williams in the past has admitted that he is partisan, and justifies his stance by noting that the Liberal MPs of almost every other committee behave in a partisan manner as well.
Tomorrow the Liberal MPs will vote to put Guite's testimony on the public
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