PM ignored Guergis-Jaffer problem: opposition

Opposition parties are accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of turning a blind eye to allegations that former cabinet minister Helena Guergis's husband used her parliamentary offices for lobbying purposes.

Opposition parties are accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of ignoring allegations that former cabinet minister Helena Guergis's husband used her parliamentary offices for lobbying purposes.

Helena Guergis, shown during question period in the House of Commons in Ottawa in March, says allegations against her are baseless. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Liberal MPs also used Tuesday's question period in the House of Commons to demand the federal government provide more information on its relationship with an Ottawa-based company that lists former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer's friend and business partner as one of its principal employees.  

The questions came after former Guergis staff members came forward about Jaffer's use of her parliamentary offices and car.

Late last week, the prime minister accepted Guergis's resignation from cabinet and kicked her out of the Conservative caucus after he learned of "serious" allegations about her conduct. Harper referred the matter to the RCMP and the ethics commissioner, but would not disclose further details about the charges.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Tuesday the perquisites Jaffer allegedly enjoyed as husband to a former junior cabinet minister "may well violate the law of the land." He again called on Harper to disclose what allegations prompted Guergis's resignation and removal from the Tory caucus.

"Can the government explain how this pair was allowed to get away with this for so long?" Ignatieff said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton added: "Here we have this so-called tough-on-crime prime minister, and he won't even tell Canadians why he called the cops on one of his ministers."

With the prime minister still in Washington attending the nuclear security summit, Transport Minister John Baird was left to answer questions in the House. He defended the prime minister's handling of the matter, saying Harper referred the allegations to the "appropriate authority" once he learned of them.

"Taxpayers work hard for their money, and every tax dollar should be used wisely and well on public and government business," Baird said, speaking in an unusually subdued manner.

Liberal MP Marcel Proulx then called on several ministers to disclose what discussions they had with Jaffer at two events in 2009 and whether they were disclosed to the lobbying commissioner.

"Mr. Jaffer seems to have better access to the federal cabinet than the prime minister," Proulx quipped.

Baird responded that the government has "strong legislation" with respect to the registration of lobbyists, and he encouraged Proulx to forward any specific allegations to the lobbying commissioner.

Ethics watchdog won't probe

Guergis was once again not in the Commons for question period, but learned Tuesday she would not face an investigation from the federal ethics commissioner.

Mary Dawson said in a statement that she was not in a position to investigate Guergis, while also noting that if the RCMP were to investigate, she would be required to suspend any probe that she had opened. Dawson added she would "continue to monitor the situation." 

The Liberals also set their sights Tuesday on BMCI Consulting Inc. — an auditing, investigations and management consulting firm that the Opposition says won more than $3 million worth of federal government contracts since the Conservatives took office in 2006.

Liberal MP Mark Holland noted that Patrick Glémaud, Jaffer's friend and business partner at Green Power Generation, is listed as one of BMCI's employees on the company's website. Glémaud also ran as a Conservative candidate in the Ontario riding of Ottawa-Vanier, but lost to Liberal incumbent Mauril Bélanger.

BMCI, Holland told the House, seems to have had an "enormous amount of success getting government contracts, and so we want to know what kind of access they had, and was Mr. Jaffer using his influence in an appropriate way."

Liberal MP Anita Neville told MPs the government has hired the firm to, among other things, help resolve controversial issues, including when former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier left sensitive documents at his former girlfriend's house.

Baird replied he knew nothing about the company.

On Monday, the Liberals sent a letter to Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd asking her to investigate "possible violations" of the Lobbying Act by Jaffer and Green Power Generation representatives.

Glémaud told CBC News on Tuesday he's just getting caught in the political crossfire.

"I think what's going on here is the Liberal party going on a smear campaign, hiding behind parliamentary privilege to attack me personally," he said.

In a statement earlier Tuesday, Glémaud insisted that nobody at his company performed any lobbying work. He said he, Jaffer and GPG "will co-operate fully with the commissioner of lobbying if an investigation is initiated."

Jaffer used office, car: former staffers

Earlier Tuesday, one of Guergis's former staffers told CBC News that Jaffer sometimes used Guergis's Parliament Hill offices for work, saying a specific room was known as "Rahim's office."

The former employee said it was unclear what Jaffer did there but that he often spoke about his business, Green Power Generation.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office said it was the first they had heard of Jaffer using Guergis's office, and that if true, it would be unacceptable. When contacted by CBC News, Guergis's office said she is not making any comment at the moment, but will issue a statement later this week. 

The Globe and Mail reported Tuesday that a former chauffeur for Guergis drove Jaffer regularly in Ottawa for a period of time after he lost an Edmonton seat in the 2008 election.

Jaffer is not registered as a lobbyist, but a report in the Toronto Star last week alleged the ex-Alberta Tory MP boasted about his influence with Harper's inner circle to a Toronto businessman and claimed he could secure government funds for environmental projects.

On his now-defunct website, Jaffer described himself as accomplished in securing government support for alternative energy technologies.

It remains unclear whether Jaffer's activities have anything to do with why the prime minister kicked Guergis out of caucus last week.