have nothing to hide"
February 17, 2004) OTTAWA
- The Opposition continued to push the government on its knowledge of the $100 million sponsorship scandal, now being dubbed Adscam, in the House of Commons
today as the government put out the message that it had nothing
The Conservative Party directly targeted Prime Minister Paul Martin's knowledge of the funneling of money to Liberal-friendly ad agencies in Quebec for little or no work.
"The prime minister worked for years to take over the Liberal Party," said Conservative MP Monte Solberg. "His operatives took control of almost every riding in the country. They crushed all of their opposition.
"He controlled 90% of the ridings in Quebec. Does he really expect us to believe that he did not know anything about the criminal activity in the Liberal Party?"
Repeated queries from the opposition were met with a set response from Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, who was filling in for Prime Minister Martin, that the Liberals had "nothing to hide."
"We have made it absolutely plain on this side of the House that we have nothing to hide," said McLellan over a dozen times. "No one on this side of the House has anything to hide."
McLellan's repeated answer was later rebuffed by Conservative MP Jason Kenney, who said, "The truth is no one on that side of the House has anywhere to hide because they have been caught red-handed."
The NDP meanwhile took a dig at the Martin government after the release of an Ipsos-Reid poll that showed the Liberals have fallen to 35 per cent in the polls from 48 per cent last month.
"The Prime Minister is starting to look like another Bre-X story of Canadian politics and even today, some Liberal MPs are beginning to jump from the helicopters," said NDP MP Bill Blaikie in refernce to Liberal MP John Bryden, who today announced he was leaving the Liberal Party and "talking" to the Conservatives.
At a press conference before question period, Bryden said he is no longer sure "the party can lead the country," and the sponsorship scandal has brought to surface some of the faults of the party.
He pulled no punches in his press conference and openly criticized the prime minister's leadership.
On the sponsorship scandal, Bryden said the PM has "handled it very badly." He questioned how successful the inquiries the prime minister called into the scandal will be.
He said a growing sense of "cynicism" is now endemic in the party and that "morale is much lower than it was" under the previous regime. He said a "party machine and lobbyists" have replaced volunteers at the grassroots level.
On the democratic deficit, an issue Martin came to power in the party promising to address, Bryden said he never believed one existed and said many of his colleagues who complained to Martin about it were simply just unwilling to speak their mind to the PMO.
"He has not done very well," Bryden said when asked to rate Martin's job performance as PM to date.
Bryden will sit as an independent and may seek the nomination for the Tories in his Hamilton area riding. There are currently five Tories seeking that post.
"If it does nothing else, it will shake up the Liberal Party," said Bryden of his resignation.
Meanwhile, some of his former colleagues expressed outrage at Bryden's decision and his comments about the prime minister and democratic reform.
"I have to completely disagree with all his remarks," said Revenue Minister Stan Keyes as he entered the House of Commons. "It's our gain and it's going to be (the Tories) loss."
Check out these related
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track of the scandal du jour
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