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Father-to-be Jaffer to face committee or contempt charge if he fails to appear

OTTAWA - Rahim Jaffer and Helena Guergis are expecting a baby — a fact that might arouse sympathy for the former minister, but won't likely soften up the MPs who are ready to grill the father-to-be on Thursday.

OTTAWA - Rahim Jaffer and Helena Guergis are expecting a baby — a fact that might arouse sympathy for the former minister, but won't likely soften up the MPs who are ready to grill the father-to-be on Thursday.

Jaffer revealed the couple's good news in a statement Thursday to explain why he had ignored a summons to appear before a Commons committee.

The former Edmonton MP said he and his wife had been trying to have a child for some time and called Guergis' condition a "high risk" pregnancy. Guergis, a former junior minister for the status of women, would have been in the early stages of a pregnancy when she was ousted from the Conservative caucus in early April.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had heard as-yet unproven allegations she helped Jaffer peddle influence in a potentially fraudulent business plan with an associate who is facing fraud charges in Ontario.

"It did not help that she has been under considerable stress as a result of her treatment by the prime minister and others," Jaffer said the statement.

"Today I was with my wife, as I should have been, when tests were conducted to ascertain the health of our baby. I am relieved to report that the test results were good and there are no significant concerns right now about the baby's health."

Just before Jaffer issued his statement, the government operations committee had reacted angrily to his absence and suggested he could face a contempt-of-Parliament charge if he didn't comply with the summons.

They have been waiting to ask him about discrepancies in his testimony at a first appearance on April 21 that have emerged since then.

"This has gone beyond disrespect to belligerence," said NDP MP Nathan Cullen. "The excuses of Mr. Jaffer have been exhausted. There is nowhere else for him to hide."

Jaffer wound up helping to bring about a rare show of unity among the parties this parliamentary session — they all voted to call Jaffer at a special meeting Thursday morning. Jaffer's lawyer Frank Addario said he would attend.

"I very much wish to appear before the Committee and answer all reasonable questions properly within the scope of the Committee's mandate," Jaffer said in his statement. "I do not wish to extend this process, which has been tortuous for me and my family, any longer than necessary."

Jaffer also provided the committee with a letter outlining some of the areas he flubbed during the first go around. He said he ignored his lawyer's advice at the time to review background materials.

"I was so upset about the treatment of my wife by the prime minister and other opinion leaders that I felt that I should fix the situation as soon as possible," Jaffer wrote, saying he made a mistake by failing to properly prepare for his April 21 appearance.

Jaffer goes on to describe "inadvertent" mistakes he made with regard to his testimony and actions. For example, he had told the committee he did not use an email address assigned to Guergis' parliamentary office for business. Later, emails emerged to indicate he had. Jaffer now acknowledges that "there may have been a few occasions on which I sent emails."

But Jaffer does not address the business relationship that led to main allegations that have dogged him and his wife.

Jaffer's association with controversial Toronto businessman Nazim Gillani, who faces fraud charges in Ontario, was what compelled Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative party to divorce themselves from Guergis.

Jaffer had told the committee that he had a brief relationship with Gillani last August and September, but that he quickly realized that their two businesses didn't mesh.

Those statements have been since refuted by documents and testimony that indicate they were still communicating right up until early April 2010.

"What we see in this letter is another compilation of inconsistencies, not only with the testimony we've seen in this committee from other people, but from his own testimony," said Conservative MP Chris Warkentin.

The Conservative Party's top lawyer told the committee last week that it heard information pointing to allegations Jaffer was playing on his political connections to drum up business, and that Guergis was helping him to maintain this "aura."

Jaffer and Guergis have vigorously denied the allegations against them.

 
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