Jaffer's alleged boast about access 'absurd': PMO
Company ex-Tory works for threatens to sue Toronto newspaper over report
The Prime Minister's Office has dismissed a disgraced former MP's alleged boasts to his business contacts about access to Stephen Harper's inner circle as "false" and "absurd."
The Toronto Star published an article Thursday alleging Rahim Jaffer, husband of junior cabinet minister Helena Guergis, dined and drank with several prospective clients and prostitutes Sept. 10 — the night of his arrest on charges of drunk driving and cocaine possession.
The Star's report claims Jaffer, 38, said he and his business partners would have "no problem" obtaining government funds for projects.
Later that night, an Ontario Provincial Police constable pulled over Jaffer after clocking him driving at 93 km/h in a 50 km/h speed zone in Palgrave, a village northwest of Toronto. The community is in Dufferin-Caledon, next to the southern Ontario riding of Simcoe-Grey represented by Jaffer's wife.
The Star quoted an email from one of the prospective clients, Nazim Gillani, to his associates the day after the alleged evening meeting as saying Jaffer "has opened up the prime minister’s office to us."
Gillani is the CEO of International Strategic Investments, a company that boasts — on its corporate website — of success in obtaining grants and loans from various government bodies.
Andrew MacDougall, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said in a statement Thursday the "accusation the Prime Minister's Office has opened doors for Mr. Jaffer or his associates is false."
"It is also absurd," MacDougall added.
Jaffer, who represented the Alberta riding of Edmonton-Strathcona — first as a Reform Party MP and later as a Conservative — from 1997 until his defeat in the 2008 federal election, has not yet commented on the Star's story or the statement from the Prime Minister's Office.
Story a 'complete mischaracterization' of meeting: CEO
His business associate, Patrick Glémaud, told Radio-Canada he spoke with Jaffer a few times Thursday and said the former MP is shocked by the Star's allegations. Glémaud, CEO of Green Power Generation Corp, insisted his company has never been in the lobbying business.
In a release following the interview, Glémaud said the company "intends to seek legal action" against the Star.
"Mr. Jaffer is a valued partner of GPG," the release said. "The allegations in the Toronto Star are inaccurate and a complete mischaracterization of the contact between Mr. Jaffer, a principal of GPG, and ... Nazim Gillani, of International Strategic Investments."
Last month, Jaffer pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving stemming from his Sept. 10 arrest and was ordered to pay a $500 fine, but the more serious charges against him were dropped.
The plea agreement sparked a firestorm of criticism from opposition parties and accusations the former MP received special treatment.
'Serious' allegations need probing: Ignatieff
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff called the latest allegations "serious" and said they raise larger questions about the integrity of a government that campaigned and came to power on a pledge of integrity and accountability.
"Who was Mr. Jaffer talking to in the Conservative government?" Ignatieff told reporters Thursday in Mirabel, Que. "What promises did he make for access? We need the whole story."
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe called on the government to make clear whether Jaffer did any lobbying for his company or received any contracts from Ottawa, saying such work could constitute a conflict of interest for his wife in cabinet.
"Was there any lobbying work done by Mr. Jaffer or not, if yes, was he registered or not?" Duceppe said Thursday. "We should not accuse, but check, certainly check."
Guergis, whose own future in cabinet has been subject of much speculation on the Hill, has faced repeated calls for her resignation after she apologized for throwing a tantrum in Charlottetown airport in February. This week, the Liberals asked the federal ethics commissioner to probe the financing of her purchase of an Ottawa home.
Her office declined comment on Thursday's allegations, saying they involved "personal matters" of a "private citizen."
Jaffer's biography on his website states he provides Green Power Generation Corp with "business expertise in industry financing" to help "secure support from the Canadian government and to obtain contracts abroad" and also plays a "crucial role in business development and marketing through his countless relationships developed from his former career as a parliamentarian."
Jaffer's website featured the Conservative Party's logo next to his name until the party ordered Jaffer to remove it.
"He is not authorized to use our logo and we have asked that he remove it immediately," Fred DeLorey, the Conservative Party's director of communications, told CBC News.