Canada

Sponsorship whistleblower to run for Tories

The Conservatives have enlisted the former civil servant who first objected to flawed contracting practices that grew into the sponsorship scandal to run in the coming federal election.

The Conservatives have enlisted the former civil servant who first objected to the procurement practices that grew into the sponsorship scandal to run in the coming federal election.

Allan Cutler, a retired Public Works employee, was being introduced to the Conservative caucus Wednesday morning. He is expected to run in Ottawa South against Liberal incumbent David McGuinty, the brother of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Cutler's candidacy should help Conservative Leader Stephen Harper keep Liberal governance shortcomings in front of voters during the campaign.

Their work will start next week if the government loses a confidence vote on Monday, as is widely expected. The three opposition parties have all promised to bring down the government unless Prime Minister Paul Martin agrees to call an election for February.

Justice John Gomery, whose Nov. 1 report criticized former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien for not properly managing the sponsorship program, said Cutler first became worried about the government's contracting practices in 1995.

"Even at that early date, Allan Cutler ... suggested that there was bid-rigging and political interference, providing reason enough to call for an audit," Gomery wrote.

A year later, Cutler's job was declared to be surplus by Chuck Guité the bureaucrat who ran the sponsorship program.

"It may be presumed that he did not want someone like Mr. Cutler to obstruct or delay his method of handling sponsorship files," Gomery wrote.

Cutler was eventually reinstated. Guité now faces fraud charges in connection with the sponsorship program.

Cutler's concerns led Public Works and Government Services Canada to hire the accounting firm Ernst & Young in July 1996 to audit contracting and tendering practices in Guité's branch. A draft report of the audit warned of risks in the program.

The Liberals recently proposed and Parliament passed the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, but Cutler has said the legislation is flawed and ineffective.

Cutler now works with Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform, a group lobbying for protection for whistleblowers.

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