Inquiry into Andrew Harvey controversy appears unlikely
Brian Gallant called for a public inquiry into the handling of charges against Liberal Andrew Harvey
The provincial government appears to be closing the door to an inquiry into the Andrew Harvey case — despite Brian Gallant’s call for one just three days before September’s election.
Attorney General Serge Rousselle brushed off Opposition calls for such an inquiry during Question Period on Thursday, suggesting that calling one would violate the independence of the Public Prosecutions Office.
“Independently from what? Independently from the political arm of government.”
He said prosecutorial independence was vital to everyone being treated equally before the law “and I intend to uphold that principle.”
Harvey was charged with fraud in the weeks leading up to the campaign, only to see the charges dropped 10 days before the election. He ended up winning the Carleton-Victoria riding for the Liberals.
Rousselle was responding Thursday to Progressive Conservative MLA Ross Wetmore, who quoted the calls for an inquiry that Gallant made during the campaign, before he was premier.
“I completely agree,” Rousselle said.
That contradicts Gallant’s comments of Sept. 19, when he said the Liberals would support an independent inquiry.
Rousselle’s decision likely means the public will never find out the truth behind the twisting tale of the Harvey case.
Charges became public during campaign
The Liberal candidate, along with his father and brother, were charged with fraud and forgery in Woodstock court on July 29. The charges alleged they had cut Crown wood and passed it off as coming from private land.
The charges were reported by the media on Sept. 3, after several reporters were tipped off about them. The tip to CBC News came from an anonymous e-mail account.
Gallant, in the midst of the election campaign, suspended Harvey as a Liberal candidate the same day.
Then, on Sept. 12, the charges against the Harveys were suddenly dropped.
Gallant reinstated Harvey as part of the Liberal slate and -- while he was careful to not explicitly allege political interference in the case by the Progressive Conservative government then in power — told reporters “one of the main things we need to have answered” is “the timing of everything that has transpired.”
The controversy prompted Luc Labonte, the assistant deputy minister in the attorney general’s office who oversees prosecutions, to issue a rare public statement on Sept. 15.
Labonte didn’t discuss the laying of the charges, but said “a secondary review” had found that they “didn’t meet the threshold required to prosecute.”
He said there would be a review of the process that led to the charges, but despite that commitment, Gallant continued to call for an independent inquiry.
On Sept. 19, just three days before the election, Gallant said he hoped “that we would have an inquiry done now, that the premier would call one. … We certainly would support an independent inquiry into this matter.”
He pointed to comments by the retired natural resources officer who laid the charges, Allen Goodine.
Goodine told CBC News that he had received a “strange” phone call from a senior departmental official looking for details of the charges just four days before journalists were tipped off.
Gallant even suggested on Sept. 19 that he’d support the inquiry becoming public.
While he said he didn’t want to put any constraints on whoever might handle such an inquiry, “I certainly would look at making it public if we form government and if we can finally have someone independently look at this.”