Huntsville mayor confirms hiring Clement acquaintance
Amid claims by the NDP that Treasury Board President Tony Clement helped line up a G8 Summit-related job for a friend, the mayor of Huntsville, Ont., has confirmed that the town hired consultant Vern Freedlander.
Mayor Claude Doughty said Thursday that Freedlander had been hired for six months in early 2009 by the town — which hosted the summit in June 2010 and is in Clement's Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont., riding.
However, Doughty defended the hiring process, saying he had solicited names from "several individuals," interviews were carried out and Freedlander was "the successful candidate."
"The invoices were paid by the Town of Huntsville and were not part of the amounts which were billed to the infrastructure or G8 programs of the federal government," Doughty said in a release.
Clement had already been facing criticism over G8 Summit spending because his riding got $50 million in infrastructure funding ahead of the 2010 Summit — money Parliament had approved for spending on border infrastructure.
Before the mayor's statement, the NDP had released a string of emails showing Clement had put Freedlander in touch with Doughty to pitch his company’s services for setting up what Freedlander called an information network at the G8 site.
In the first email, Clement says he spoke to the mayor about Freedlander’s experience, and asks whether he wants to be retained by the town.
Freedlander replied that he wanted to know more about the size of the job.
"I appreciate you mentioning me to the Mayor of Huntsville. I am definitely interested but would like to get a sense of the scope of the responsibilities, time commitments, and expectations," Freedlander wrote.
An hour and a half later, Clement forwarded the emails to Doughty, noting "for your follow-up…".
Doughty replies that he’s emailing Freedlander, to which Clement says, "Good stuff."
NDP, Liberals condemn 'pork barrel' politics
NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said the exchange was an example of "pork barrel, backroom politics," calling Freedlander a friend of Clement's.
"I think Mr. Clement has to come clean," he said.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae says the opposition isn’t going to let up on the costs of the G8 Summit.
"It's jobs for his friends, it's jobs for his neighbours, it's make-work projects for his constituency," said Rae, calling it pork-barrel politics of the worst kind.
Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister, defended Clement, who answered another question on a different issue but didn't rise to answer Angus.
"The minister said that this infrastructure money and all the money was spent wisely and under budget for the people of that riding," he said.
A CBC News request for comment from Clement's Treasury Board office brought a response instead from Foreign Affairs.
"This issue has been thoroughly aired. The [Auditor General] had all government information," a Foreign Affairs spokesperson said in an email. "This is the same kind of muckraking that Canadians rejected in the last election."