OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper was acting on a complaint from a third party when he demoted his embattled women’s minister, banned her from caucus and referred her case to the Mounties, the House of Commons heard Monday.
That was the only progress the Opposition made in demanding answers about why Harper asked the RCMP and the ethics commissioner to investigate former cabinet minister Helena Guergis.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the government is hiding behind the investigations.
“There are ‘serious allegations’ surrounding the conduct of this minister but we still don’t know what they are,” said Ignatieff.
“How long will the government hide behind the ethics commissioner and the Mounties? This sordid tale has been going on for six weeks.”
But with Harper attending a summit in Washington, the Conservative government wasn’t giving any hints about what is involved.
Transport Minister John Baird told the Commons only that the allegations were made by a “third party.”
He said Harper acted quickly and appropriately when he learned about the allegations against his former status-of-women minister.
“The RCMP and the ethics commissioner will come to their own conclusions, as is proper, on this issue,” Baird said.
“The allegations that have been brought forward by a third party do not involve any minister, any MP, any senator – for that matter, any government employee.”
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson confirmed Monday that she is reviewing a letter from the prime minister regarding Guergis’s conduct.
Dawson also said she will not investigate a Liberal complaint about a large mortgage obtained by Guergis on a tony home in a posh Ottawa neighbourhood.
“On the basis of the information the commissioner has before her, she is not proceeding to a preliminary review or an inquiry,” said a statement. “The code does not permit her to comment further.”
The heat has been on Guergis and her husband, former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer, since at least February That’s when Jaffer pleaded guilty to a reckless-driving charge and was fined $500 after more serious charges of cocaine possession and drunken driving were dropped.
Just a week later, Guergis had a much-publicized meltdown in a P.E.I. airport, complaining of being stuck in a “hellhole” and throwing her boots when she arrived late for a flight and was delayed by airport security.
Then a Toronto newspaper published a report last week that alleged Jaffer had bragged to business associates that he could open doors for them in the halls of power. It came to light that Jaffer had been using one of his wife’s parliamentary BlackBerrys and its attached email address after he had been defeated as an MP in 2008.
Guergis has said she will co-operate fully with any investigation. She told The Canadian Press the allegations against her are both unfair and untrue.
Said Ignatieff: “For six long weeks this prime minister has stood up and said she is doing a great job and then, hey presto, from Thursday night till Friday morning, he calls in the RCMP. Why?”