The Conservative government is defending its handling of allegations against MP Helena Guergis but is still giving few details of why the former cabinet minister is under investigation.


Helena Guergis, shown during question period in the House of Commons in Ottawa earlier this month, says allegations against her are 'baseless and unfounded.' (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff called on the Conservatives to disclose fully what allegations drove Prime Minister Stephen Harper to accept the resignation of Guergis from the Conservative cabinet on Friday and expel her from his caucus after defending her performance for weeks.

"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?" Ignatieff told the Commons Monday.

Speaking for the government during Monday's question period in the House of Commons, Transport Minister John Baird would only say the allegations against Guergis came from a "third party." He would not disclose who the third party was.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said Harper is ultimately responsible for his cabinet and must "come clean" about allegations facing one of its members.

"He has to be accountable, and he has to be transparent," Layton said. "Why was the matter referred to the RCMP?"

But Baird insisted the government acted "quickly and appropriately" when the allegations first arose.

The prime minister, who was in Washington on Monday, announced at the end of last week that he called in both the RCMP and the ethics commissioner to investigate "serious" allegations against Guergis after learning of them late Thursday. But he did not specify what the allegations were.

The House of Commons website now lists Guergis as an Independent MP. During question period Monday, Guergis was not seated in her new place in the Commons — seat 153 , beside Independent MP André Arthur at the very end of the government side of the Chamber.

Husband pleaded guilty to careless driving

Earlier in the day, Liberal MP Marlene Jennings sent a letter to Karen Shepherd, the commissioner of lobbying, asking her to investigate a possible breach of lobbying rules on the part of Green Power Generation Corp., which employs Guergis's husband, ex-Tory MP Rahim Jaffer.

Jaffer represented the Alberta riding of Edmonton-Strathcona from 1997 to 2008 — first as a Reform Party MP and later as a Conservative.

Jennings's letter cites media reports that alleged Jaffer told potential business clients at a dinner meeting on Sept. 10, 2009, that he and his company were experts in obtaining government money.

The Prime Minister's Office has dismissed Jaffer's alleged claims of influence within Harper's inner circle as "false" and "absurd."

While driving home from the September business meeting, Jaffer was arrested on charges of impaired driving and cocaine possession.

He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of careless driving and was ordered to pay a $500 fine, but the more serious charges against him were dropped.

Government sources have only said the allegations against Guergis are "peripheral" to Jaffer. CBC News confirmed that Jaffer was using a parliamentary email through a wireless device supplied to him by Guergis.

Late last week, the ethics commissioner declined an earlier request from the Liberals to probe the financing of Guergis's purchase of her $800,000 Ottawa home.

Margot Booth, spokeswoman for the ethics commissioner's office, told Radio-Canada on Monday that she is not aware of an official RCMP investigation being launched yet into the Guergis allegations.

The ethics commission would have to suspend its own investigation in the event of an RCMP probe, since the Conflict of Interest Act prevents the commission from investigating a matter that is the subject of a criminal investigation, she added.

'This information will come out'

For her part, Guergis called the accusations "baseless and unfounded" and said she has contacted the ethics commissioner and the RCMP to tell them she would "co-operate fully" in any investigation.

In an email to The Canadian Press on Sunday, Guergis said she requested that the allegations are dealt with "as quickly as due process will allow."

Kory Teneycke, a former adviser to the Prime Minister's Office and now a political commentator, said the information will eventually be made public.

"Secrets of this nature don't stay secret indefinitely," he said. "At some point, this information will come out. I'm sure the government would like that to happen sooner rather than later because it allows this issue to be put behind them."

With files from The Canadian Press