Canada's auditor general has rebuked the Conservatives for recycling an unrelated quote by her about a previous Liberal government's security spending in a parliamentary report on the costs of the G8/G20 summits in Ontario last summer, CBC News has learned.
The Conservatives' report, presented as a dissenting opinion to the Commons the morning Parliament was dissolved last month, quotes Sheila Fraser giving high marks to the Harper government for prudent spending on the summits.
The report quoted the auditor general as saying: "We found that the processes and controls around that were very good, and that the monies were spent as they were intended to be spent."
But in a scathing letter addressed to members of a Commons committee on Friday, which was received by the clerk and members on Monday, Fraser said the quote had nothing to do with the summits.
Instead, she said, the Conservatives inserted a 2010 comment she made during a CBC News interview on security spending by a previous Liberal government after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"The comments attributed to me in the [Conservative] report are completely unrelated to G8/G20 spending," Fraser writes in her letter.
"I would appreciate it if the report could be modified as it is clearly erroneous."
Stockwell Day, a member of the Harper cabinet who is not running for re-election, said Fraser was quoted in error and the Conservatives "unequivocally apologize." "As soon as I was aware of this letter I asked for the analysis from our officials, our people," Day told host Evan Solomon on the CBC's Power & Politics.
"In fact, I believe and we believe she was erroneously quoted on that. There was a wrong attribution given to her analysis, and we just unequivocally apologize for that."
Day said that the parties' House leaders are being contacted to see how "the proper quote" can be entered into the parliamentary record.
"This quote was wrongly attributed … and she is right to be upset," he said.
'It’s beneath contempt': NDP's Martin
But New Democrat MP Pat Martin took exception to Day’s characterization of the issue as a "misquote."
"This was complete misrepresentation and a fraudulent use of a quote about an event that happened years before, cut and pasted into this context," Martin said.
Martin told the CBC's Solomon that Fraser pointed out in the letter that she wasn’t even a witness before that committee.
"She made no official comment about (it), because she was in the middle of her investigation about the G8/G20," Martin said.
"The auditor general is the most trusted individual on Parliament Hill. For (the Conservatives) to misrepresent and to falsify her comments is unethical. It’s dishonest. It’s beneath contempt."
Fraser’s letter is addressed to the chairman of the now defunct Commons operations and estimates committee, Liberal MP John McKay, and copied to several other members, including Martin.
When the government was defeated last month, the committee had just finished studying the more than $1.2 billion the Harper government spent on the three-day summits held in Toronto and in Muskoka cottage country to the north of the city.
But the Conservatives on the committee issued their own two-page report.
In it, they claimed: "All witnesses brought forward testimony demonstrating strong endorsement of the government’s unprecedented transparency to summit costs."
The misquote from Fraser was intended to back that claim.
The incident comes as the Conservatives are trying to douse a separate political flare-up over Fraser’s draft audit of summit spending.
The Canadian Press reports that a draft copy of that audit slams the Conservatives for spending close to $50 million on dubious summit projects completely unrelated to the international events, and misleading Parliament in the process.
The draft report also suggests the process may have been illegal, according to The Canadian Press.
Conservative candidate John Baird, speaking as the former transport minister in charge of infrastructure funding, claimed he has read a later draft of Fraser’s audit that makes no reference to the Harper government misleading Parliament.
The fall of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority government last month forced Fraser to shelve plans to present her final audit to Parliament April 5.