acted alone to save Canada: MP
March 31, 2004) OTTAWA
- Chuck Guite, the man at the centre of the sponsorship scandal, was a warrior for Canada at a critical time in history who acted alone in
"bending" government advertising rules to save the country, according to Liberal MP Dennis Mills.
Mills made the surprising comments after today's Liberal caucus meeting and based his opinion on testimony Guite, the former executive director of the sponsorship program, gave in camera to the Public Accounts committee in 2002.
Guite's lawyer, Michael Edelson, has given the committee permission to make that testimony public, and the Liberal MPs on the committee are expected to support a motion this afternoon to release it. Guite is not scheduled to appear before the committee until April 22.
But some opposition MPs are opposed to making that testimony public, suggesting that the Liberals will use this testimony, in lieu of Guite's viva voce testimony before the committee, in an interim report for mid-April, allowing Prime Minister Paul Martin to claim enough light has been shone on the scandal and call an election.
Mills, who is a member of the committee, gave reporters a sneak preview of some of Guite's 2002 testimony this afternoon.
He said that in this testimony Guite "makes no bones about the fact that he was responsible and that he made decisions like there was no one else in town and he's prepared to stand behind every nickel he spent on behalf of Canadian taxpayers."
The Liberal MP also revealed that Guite was asked by a committee member if he ever
received direction or interference from former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano.
"And he said, 'No, not at all,'" according to Mills. "He inferred that Gagliano knew very little about marketing and advertising."
He said Guite testified that he was the one who made all the decisions.
When asked how he would describe Guite based on his testimony, Mills said,
"I would say a warrior for Canada when we nearly lost the country and who makes the claim that he didn't break any rules, but that he bent some rules at a very difficult time."
Mills went further and pulled out a sheet of paper and read a quotation from a letter by Thomas Jefferson to John Colvin in 1810 about when rules are meant to be broken:
"A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high virtues of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation."
Mills said he read the quote earlier in the caucus meeting.
"So Guite makes the point that there were moments when he bent the law, but he didn't break it," said Mills. "I've been in this town 20 years and I've never met a perfect a person."
Tory MP Peter MacKay called Mills' comments "balderdash" and part of the Liberals' "hurry-up offense" strategy to rush into a federal election and bury the scandal.
"Hang it on Guite. Say that he was a warrior in the cause of turning back the separatist Huns and nobody in government had any idea that he was acting on his own in such a fashion."
MacKay compared Mills' characterization of Guite's testimony to former prime minister Jean Chretien's past defence saying that although a few million dollars may have been stolen from the sponsorship program, the end result was the salvation of the country.
"It's a complete denial of democracy. It's a complete aberration from the way that Parliament and government are supposed to function."
He also noted that Mills revealing excerpts from Guite's testimony breaks the confidentiality agreement with Guite.
"Mr. Mills himself is not only bending the rules, but breaking them. But according to him, that's okay."
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