Clement reveals staffer's contact with Jaffer
4th cabinet minister to admit office dealt with former MP in lobbying scandal
And then there were four.
The office of Industry Minister Tony Clement acknowledged Tuesday that it had communicated with Rahim Jaffer, the former Conservative MP accused of using his government contacts to lobby federal departments on behalf of his own and others' business interests.
The House of Commons government operations committee is looking into allegations that Jaffer used his government connections — including his wife, Helena Guergis, who was until recently the minister for the status of women — to try to get contracts for himself and other Toronto businessmen.
Jaffer was not registered as a lobbyist but is accused of presenting himself as one to his business associates and of claiming to have government influence in the year after he lost his seat in October 2008.
Clement is the fourth Conservative minister to admit his staff had communicated with Jaffer and one of his business partners.
Environment Minister Jim Prentice, Transport Minister John Baird and Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, have all turned over documents to the committee looking into the Jaffer allegations.
Clement announced Tuesday that a member of his staff exchanged emails with Jaffer.
"No contracts were asked for, no government business," the minister said.
The email messages have been submitted to the House committee and to the federal lobbying commissioner, Clement said.
"We're supplying that information, in an overabundance of caution perhaps, but I think it's important to get all these things out there."
The acknowledgment, while not a complete about-turn, suggests Clement's office was being less than forthright when queried about the matter a day earlier.
On Monday, Clement spokesperson Erik Waddell told CBC News: "Our office have never met with Mr. Jaffer or any of his associates. We have never dealt with any contract submissions from him or from companies he claims to represent."
When asked whether Jaffer emailed Clement's office about any business matter, Waddell replied: "No, he has not."
Waddell did not respond to a request for clarification on Tuesday.
Clement said he didn't believe the email exchange constituted lobbying.
Jaffer denies lobbying
Jaffer, who runs a company called Green Power Generation with business partner Patrick Glemaud, insists the two never lobbied the government and only ever approached officials with requests for information.
The opposition and news media have been asking for details on the Conservative government's contact over the last year with Jaffer, but the information has emerged in fits and starts.
"Everything is like pulling teeth," said Liberal MP Siobhan Coady, a member of the Commons government operations committee looking into the Jaffer allegations.
"You have to keep asking, insisting, coercing and browbeating to try and get any information. So much for transparency."
Last week, Baird released files related to the former MP's dealings with his office after Jaffer and Glemaud divulged that they had sent descriptions of business proposals for renewable-energy projects to Baird's department.
Prentice revealed last Friday that a member of his regional staff in Calgary met with Jaffer in April 2009 at Guergis's office in Ottawa. Prentice was criticized for revealing the details of the meeting only after Jaffer appeared in front of the House committee even though he had learned of it several days before that.
On Wednesday, Toronto businessman Nazim Gillani will appear before the House committee with documents in hand to buttress his side of the story. The entrepreneur will show MPs a copy of his contract with Jaffer and Glemaud's firm — a contract that he took to mean they would be lobbying on his behalf, his spokesman said.
With files from The Canadian Press