MPs try to probe practices of fired Tory aide

Opposition MPs were prevented from questioning Conservative MP Kelly Block about the practices of her former aide, fired for leaking a prebudget report to lobbyists.

Opposition MPs were prevented from questioning Conservative MP Kelly Block about the business practices of her former aide, who was fired for leaking a confidential prebudget report to lobbyists.

The Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar MP appeared Thursday before the Commons procedure and House affairs committee looking into the leak by Block's former executive assistant, Russell Ullyatt.

Opposition MPs wanted to know about companies Ullyatt owned and whether he had been operating a private political mailing business out of her office with her knowledge.

New Democrat MP Thomas Mulcair said he once saw a large skid, loaded with boxes, and a large office machine, sitting in the hall outside Block's office and wanted to know if that was part of Ullyatt's business.

"There has been sometimes a very large Pitney-Bowes machine in the hallway," Mulcair said, before he was cut off.

Tory committee chairman Joe Preston disallowed questioning on that subject, arguing that aspect of the case is being investigated by the board of internal economy, the all-party committee that oversee the operations of the House of Commons.

But Block did tell the committee that she fired her aide as soon as she found out he had leaked the report. 

She said her legislative assistant informed her about the leak on Nov. 18 as she was heading to the airport.

Ullyatt had sent an email to another staffers that inadvertently included an email trail showing he'd passed the secret report on to a lobbyist, Block said.

"At that moment I knew that a breach of confidentiality had occurred and that Mr. Ullyatt had to be fired," she said.

"I want to be clear. Nobody could be more disappointed than I that this has occurred," Block told the committee, which is investigating the breach of parliamentary privilege that resulted from the leak.

"I have always and will continue to have the utmost respect for the confidential nature of the business conducted in our committees and I think my actions in dealing with this have demonstrated as much."

With files from The Canadian Press