Opposition MPs are demanding federal Public Works Minister Don Boudria resign over his stay at a Quebec chalet owned by a major client of his department.
Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper, Progressive Conservative Leader Joe Clark and New Democratic Party Leader Alexa McDonough all took shots at the embattled minister Thursday.
McDonough recalled the days when the Liberals were in opposition, and Boudria was a member of the "rat pack," a group of MPs who harassed the Conservatives about allegedly corrupt dealings.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, and "it's time for the rat packer to pack it in and resign," she said.
Boudria repeated that he had done nothing wrong. And Prime Minister Jean Chrtien came to his aid. "I've never seen such harassment," he said.
Luxury chalet, mystery cheque
The issue has dominated question period this week, as Boudria's efforts to explain the March weekend stay at a luxury chalet owned by Claude Boulay have cut no ice with the opposition.
Boulay's firm, Groupe Everest, does millions of dollars of business with Boudria's department, and contributes money to the Liberals.
Boudria initially said his son had paid $800 for the stay, but the cheque was not cashed. Then Boudria produced an affidavit from a Montreal priest, who said Boulay's wife had given him the cheque as a donation, but he had been unable to cash it.
The priest then said he returned the cheque, and was sent a new one on Monday that he could cash. "What possible benefit did I or any member of my family gain by spending $800 for a weekend?" he asked.
Act unethical or stupid, Harper says
That produced more opposition witticisms. Harper said it was only questions in the House of Commons that prompted Boudria to pay, and that the priest payment story only came out after several days during which Boudria had insisted he had paid.
"Either he acted extraordinarily unethically or extraordinarily stupidly," and in either case, he should resign, Harper said.
Now the matter has been referred to the ethics counsellor, who reports to Chrtien, but that doesn't satisfy the critics. "There is no independent officer able to enforce the law," Clark said.