Opposition MPs attempted to link the Prime Minister's Office to controversy over an altered foreign aid document, as they wrapped up a week of attacks against the government.
MPs took up most of question period Friday to focus on the decision to alter a document signed by International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda that denied funding for Canadian foreign aid agency Kairos.
The word "not" was added to a signed agreement that would have provided $7 million to the organization.
Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of forcing Oda to make the change.
"His [Harper's] DNA is all over this crime scene," Cuzner said.
"The big hand of PMO comes down and it’s got a pen in it, and that pen writes across this application ‘not’.… Does he put up with this minister because it was he who put her up to it in the first place?"
NDP MP Libby Davies asked whether accountability is meaningless to the government.
"We've become accustomed to the Conservatives' methods. Promises of openness, followed by secrecy," she said.
Government House leader John Baird took most of the questions directed to Oda, who wasn’t in the Commons. He continued to argue Oda’s decision was the right one, sidestepping the question of whether she should step down.
"This minister made the right decision to support the most vulnerable people in the world," Baird said.
"The minister is not one to go along to get along.… Just because an non-governmental organization gets a grant from the government, doesn't mean they have an entitlement to receive it in perpetuity."
Liberal MP John McKay lodged a formal complaint with House Speaker Peter Milliken Thursday, arguing Oda breached parliamentary privilege by misleading the House over who recommended denying funds to Kairos.
Baird’s parliamentary secretary responded Friday, arguing the facts don’t support the allegation that Oda broke the rules.
Tom Lukiwski said the document with the "not" inserted was meant only to communicate the minister’s decision. He said it wasn’t intended to be made public.
In the hands of the Speaker
The opposition tabled a foreign affairs committee report in the House of Commons Thursday that opened the door to possible sanctions against Oda over her responses to the committee last year. Milliken isn't expected to rule on the matter until next week at the earliest.
Conservative MPs filed a supplementary report, saying they don't agree Oda is in breach of privilege or that she intended to mislead the committee.
"The minister does understand that she could have more clearly communicated the purpose and intent of why and how her office implemented her direction, and she has apologized to the House of Commons for how this issue has been handled. In that statement, she clearly said that it was never her intention to mislead either the House of Commons or the committee," the Conservative response read.
If Milliken were to decide Oda's actions constituted a breach, the matter would then go back to a committee to decide whether a vote should be held in the House on the breach question.
If Oda became the first sitting minister to be held in contempt of Parliament, that would put pressure on Harper to remove her from the cabinet.