Former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer has denied ever taking illegal substances or conducting unregistered lobbying of the federal government for access to a green infrastructure fund.
During an appearance at a parliamentary committee he later dismissed as a "circus," Jaffer and his business partner faced a grilling from MPs for more than two hours Wednesday afternoon over allegations the ex-MP conducted unregistered lobbying and improperly used his wife Helena Guergis's parliamentary office.
The couple have also been the subject of speculation, rumours and unsubstantiated reports involving cocaine use and offshore business accounts.
In his opening remarks before the government operations committee, Jaffer said he has "never partaken in any illegal substance," but apologized for his "poor judgment" on the night he was pulled over last September and charged with drunk driving and cocaine possession.
"I was careless, I had a few drinks and I should have never tried to operate a motor vehicle," he told MPs.
Jaffer choked up as he apologized to his wife, whom he described as "a good minister" who has suffered politically as a result of his actions. He also apologized to his former colleagues and his family.
Earlier in April, Jaffer's wife, MP for the central Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey, resigned from cabinet and was kicked out of the Conservative cabinet and the party caucus after Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred what he called "serious and credible allegations" to the RCMP.
The former MP for the Alberta riding of Edmonton-Strathcona said he found it "unusual" that the committee wanted to speak to him and his partner, Patrick Glémaud, because their firm, Green Power Generation, does not conduct any lobbying activities or attempt to secure any public funding.
However, he said it became clear from the "vicious attack" from the media and opposition parties that the reason he was "being hauled in front of the committee" was due to "second-hand allegations, rumour and innuendo."
"All of this based on political agendas that have been playing fast and furious with people's reputations, destroying their lives without any basis in fact, and not allowing them to defend themselves appropriately," Jaffer told the committee.
Guergis, who maintains she has done nothing wrong, is scheduled to testify about whether she tried to promote an environmental technology in which her husband allegedly had a business interest. However, she has asked for a delay until she learns whether the RCMP are investigating her conduct.
Glémaud, in his opening remarks, insisted that neither he nor any directors, or the company, have received any compensation from the government, or any money from any party to conduct lobbying activities.
'No synergy' with Gillani's firm
Liberal MP Siobhan Coady then questioned Jaffer about his meetings with various members of government, including Brian Jean, the parliamentary secretary to Infrastructure Minister John Baird, who has acknowledged meeting with Jaffer three times since Jaffer's defeat in the 2008 federal election.
Jaffer assured Coady that all his interactions with former colleagues were social, although he acknowledged "seeking information" on green financing from Jean, who then referred him to a staffer.
Coady also asked Jaffer about an email sent by Toronto businessman Nazim Gillani to associates the day after Jaffer dined with him in September, in which Gillani boasted Jaffer "opened the doors" to the Prime Minister's Office. Gillani, who is facing an unrelated fraud charge, has said he was "over-enthusiastic" in the email.
Jaffer claimed he never saw the email and therefore didn't refute its contents, even though he was copied on the message. He added he and his partner Glémaud realized "very quickly" after meeting with Gillani that there was "no synergy" between the two firms.
Jaffer's arrest in September came hours after his dinner with Gillani. The former MP pleaded guilty last month to a lesser charge of careless driving stemming from his arrest and paid a $500 fine as part of a plea agreement that saw the more serious drug possession and drunk driving charges dropped.
Jaffer 'making us all look bad': NDP's Martin
In a heated exchange, New Democrat MP Pat Martin asked Jaffer whether Gillani gave him cocaine as part of payment for services to be rendered. The question prompted an outburst from Jaffer's business partner and a warning from committee chair Yasmin Ratansi.
"It's a little rich for you to be lecturing us today on raising the bar of ethical standards when it's you, Rahim, that we're here to talk about with ethical standards, never mind your personal life," Martin said at one point during his time. "You're making us all look bad."
"You can allege from any reports that you wish and slander me if you wish," Jaffer replied sternly. "The damage is already done to me and I don't think that it will make any difference, but in the end what we're trying to get to is how fast and furious people play here with people's reputations when's there's no evidence to the contrary that we've done anything wrong."
Martin also asked Jaffer to table all email correspondence from the BlackBerry provisioned to him from his wife's office. Jaffer testified that he only used the wireless device to keep track of his wife's schedule, and the only time he spent in her office was to do "spousely things" like sign Christmas cards or sit in on scheduling meetings.
Witnesses grilled over website, clients
Jaffer received no kind treatment from his former Conservative colleagues on the committee.
MP Tom Lukiwski said Jaffer owed the committee an explanation for why the Green Power Generation website states he helps companies "secure support from the Canadian government" — something Jaffer quickly denied, only to have hard copies of the website text presented in front of him by Liberal members of the committee.
"This type of behaviour sullies all of our names," Tory MP Chris Warkentin added after Jaffer's denial.
Glémaud said the text in question was in the biography section of the Green Power Generation website, not the page describing the company's services. He also denied such a service constitutes lobbying.
The NDP's Martin seized upon the line of questioning, asking what a prospective client or company is expected to believe when they see such a promotion on a website.
"It says to me, 'For a price, I can sell you a service, which is to provide access,'" Martin charged.
"I find it ironic that the one member who said he didn't want it to turn into a circus has now turned it into one," Jaffer hit back. "If you have proof of that, Mr. Martin, bring it forward and I'll address it, but there is absolutely no truth in what you're saying."
At one point, Glémaud was threatened with being held in contempt for failing to disclose the names of the companies for which he submitted "executive summaries" to Jean. When pressed, Glémaud said he could not recall their names and was ordered to provide them to the committee within 24 hours.
When asked by Lukiwski toward the end of his appearance whether he had tarnished the appearance of propriety of public office, Jaffer appeared hurt by the accusation and denied he or his partner has done anything wrong.
"The only thing I can say to you is that I personally feel that wasn’t our intention," he replied.
After their testimony, the witnesses said they looked forward to the lobbying commissioner's review of their case.
"We hope and we believe that our names will get cleared from any wrongdoing," Jaffer said.