May 6, 2004) OTTAWA
- With more than 80 witnesses yet to be heard from, a Liberal MP from the Commons Public Accounts committee investigating Adscam today put forward a motion to set up a process for the committee to spend next week creating an interim report.
The opposition sees this as a move for the committee to stop hearing from witnesses and to table a report that will allow the prime minister to suggest that sufficient light has been shone on the sponsorship scandal and to call a federal election.
"This smacks of the Somalia inquiry," said Conservative MP Peter MacKay
during question period, "with important evidence missing, work not done."
MacKay suggested that the MP who tabled the motion, Liberal Shawn Murphy, was following orders from the Prime Ministers Office.
But the prime minister denied the allegation, saying, "I have not ordered anything at all. The Public Accounts committee is the master of its own destiny."
Martin questioned the opposition for not favouring releasing an interim report after the committee has sat for nearly three months.
"What's the opposition afraid of, Mr. Speaker?" the PM asked.
The latest move at the Public Accounts committee comes on the same day that the public inquiry headed by Justice John Gomery provided the media with a technical briefing on how the hearings will be conducted.
The inquiry is not expected to complete its work until December, 2005.
Speaking to reporters after the question period, NDP Leader Jack Layton called the long delay in
getting the Gomery inquiry up and running "a nasty slap to the face of Canadians."
"I guess we'll get his report when we're getting ready for the next election after a minority government."
Layton also criticized the Liberal-controlled committee writing a report on a scandal involving their own party.
"Canadians have already figured out who misused the money - it was Liberals from top to bottom. And now Liberals are going to write a report about it. Canadians are going to somehow think this is satisfactory going into an election? I don't think so."
The witnesses on the list compiled by the auditing firm KPMG that the committee has yet to hear from reads like a who's who of the advertising and political world.
These include key figures from the advertising agencies
highlighted by Auditor General Sheila Fraser, such as Jean Breault from Groupaction, Jean Lafleur from Lafleur Communications, and the only person charged
in relation to the scandal to date, Paul Coffin of Coffin Communications.
On the public servant side of things, Pierre Tremblay, who served as the political aide to former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano and replaced Chuck Guite as executive director of the sponsorship program in 1999 has also not appeared.
Politically, three current or former aides to the current prime minister
on the list have not appeared before the committee - the PM's communications director Mario Lague, Karl Littler and Terrie O'Leary. Outside of government Elly Alboim, a partner at the consulting and lobbying firm close to the prime minister, Earnscliffe, is also on the list. For former prime minister Jean Chretien, the list includes Warren Kinsella and Jean Carle.
At the cabinet level two Public Works ministers have yet to testify - Don Boudria, who replaced Gagliano briefly in 2002 and Ralph Goodale,
who succeeded Boudria in 2002 as well. Three former Treasury Board Presidents are also on the witness list but have not testified - Art Eggleton, Lucienne Robillard and Marcel Masse.
The list also includes the names of Martin and Chretien.
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