Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe spent much of Tuesday attacking the Conservatives for being "embroiled in scandals," from the Chuck Cadman bribery accusations to charges they violated electoral law by overspending in the 2006 election campaign.
On the hustings in central Quebec, where the Bloc is aiming to defend several of its seats against Tory poaching in the Oct. 14 federal election and win back several others, Duceppe said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper "lied" to Canadians when he promised to tighten ethics in government.
"Harper lied when he said he wanted to clean up politics in Ottawa," Duceppe said in French.
Duceppe pointed to several incidents: the ongoing investigation by Elections Canada into allegations the Conservatives exceeded by $1.3 million the legal limits on campaign spending in the last federal election, in 2006; the so-called Bernier-Couillard affair, in which Quebec MP Maxime Bernier resigned as foreign affairs minister in May after it was revealed he had left confidential government documents at the house of his then girlfriend, Julie Couillard; and accusations that the Tories attempted to bribe the late Independent MP Chuck Cadman in May 2005 to vote down the Liberal minority government.
"One can only conclude that the Conservative party leader hasn't at all kept his promise," Duceppe said. "The truth is, the Conservatives are embroiled in scandals."
The Bloc leader raised a new ethics complaint, as well, charging that Harper's past choice of advisers represented a hypocritical conflict of interest.
Harper used Ottawa lobbyist Michael Coates, CEO of public relations firm Hill & Knowlton Canada, as his chief adviser in preparation for the leaders debates during the 2006 campaign, Duceppe pointed out.
Coates is registered as a lobbyist on behalf of several major corporations: the Bank of Nova Scotia; Bell Canada; SNC Lavalin Nuclear Inc., a subsidiary of the Quebec-based engineering firm SNC Lavalin; and the drug-maker Merck Frosst Canada. His declaration in the federal lobbyist registry says he communicates with the Prime Minister's Office on behalf of the latter three companies.
Duceppe said it was hypocrisy for Harper, who promised to tame the influence of lobbyists in Ottawa, to keep one so close to the fold, especially someone who was directly lobbying the PMO.
Coates's office did not reply to a call late Tuesday afternoon inquiring whether he would be advising Harper in next month's leaders debates.