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Chuck Cadman votes during the confidence vote on the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, May 19, 2005. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

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The Chuck Cadman bribe controversy

Last Updated March 6, 2008

Chuck Cadman, an Independent MP from suburban Vancouver, was fighting cancer and had less than two months to live when he cast a crucial vote in May 2005.

A minority Liberal government was hanging by its fingernails. The Conservatives wanted Cadman's support in a vote that might have toppled it. He turned them down.

Even so, the Conservatives face accusations nearly three years later of trying to buy his vote. The story is set out in detail in a new book by Vancouver writer Tom Zytaruk, Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, which quotes Cadman's wife to back up the allegation.

Tory representatives are alleged to have offered Cadman a $1-million life insurance policy. There is confusion about whether Tory Leader Stephen Harper knew about the offer at the time.

The Liberals, now in Opposition, say an offer such as this would amount to attempted bribery. The Conservatives, now in power, say it never happened.

"There was, in fact, no life insurance policy proposal that was made," Tory MP James Moore told the Commons. "There were no discussions about a million-dollar bribe." A former colleague of Cadman from a neighbouring riding, Moore, however, was not one of the two Tory representatives who went to see him directly in May 2005.

The accusation is a serious one. The Criminal Code provides penalties of up to 14 years in prison for anyone corruptly offering money or other valuable consideration to an MP in connection with his or her official duties. The Liberals have asked the RCMP to investigate and the NDP has suggested the matter be referred to a special federal prosecutor.

But whatever Cadman was or was not offered, it is clear the ponytailed B.C. maverick resisted Tory blandishments.

Although his roots were in Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative politics (he ran as an Independent after losing a Tory nomination fight), he voted with the Liberals, paving the way for Paul Martin to remain prime minister for another 8� months. His constituents didn't want an election at the time, he said.

When asked about Tory bids for his support, he said there was talk of arranging an unopposed Conservative nomination for him. He did not complain � then or later � of a bribery attempt.

Oct. 18, 1992

After years as an electronics technician for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Cadman is propelled into activisim and politics by personal tragedy. His 16-year-old son, Jesse, is stabbed to death on a Surrey street in a random attack by a group of teenagers.

Cadman and his wife, Dona, create a group called Crime, Responsibility and Youth (CRY) in 1993. They support the idea of dealing with first-time, non-violent young offenders outside the formal court system, but they want stronger penalties for teenagers who commit repeat or violent crimes.

Cadman runs for office under the Reform banner and became an MP in 1997. He is re-elected in 2000 as a Canadian Alliance member and becomes the party's youth justice critic.

By 2003, he is battling malignant melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.

March 28, 2004

Cadman fails to win the Conservative nomination in his Surrey North riding after the Alliance merges with the Progressive Conservatives. The nominee is a former news anchor, Jasbir Singh Cheema, who signs up 1,500 new members in the six weeks before the riding association vote.

Incumbent loses nomination in Surrey North

June 28, 2004

Running as an Independent, Cadman beats all comers to keep his seat while the Tory candidate places fourth. Nationally, the Liberals retain power - just barely � in a fragile minority.

Martin wins minority government

April 21, 2005

So begins a time of deal-making and drama for Paul Martin � prime minister since Jean Chrétien stepped down in December 2003 � and Harper, leader of the new Conservative Party since March 2004.

On both sides, the thought of a single MP falling ill or defecting is cause for panic.

Martin, who relies on NDP support to stay afloat, is weighed down by Chrétien-era baggage, especially the Quebec sponsorship scandal. In a rare address to the nation, he pleads for time to let the facts come out, promising an election within 30 days of the final report by the Gomery commission investigating the sponsorship mess.

Martin pledges election after final Gomery report

April 26, 2005

To keep New Democratic support and stave off defeat, Martin makes a multibillion-dollar deal with the NDP to increase social spending while delaying tax cuts for large corporations.

PM shells out $4.6B for NDP's support

May 17, 2005

Martin is buoyed by the defection of Tory leadership runner-up Belinda Stronach, who crosses the floor to become a Liberal cabinet minister days before the crucial vote.

Conservative Stronach joins Liberals

May 19, 2005

Having failed to win power for his united right the first time, Harper is eager for another chance soon. Chuck Cadman doesn't give it to him.

On May 19, Martin's government faces possible defeat on a budget amendment he must pass to honour his deal with the NDP.

With Stronach in the fold, a Liberal-NDP coalition on the amendment commands 150 votes leading up to the big day, not quite enough to repel a combined Conservative-Bloc Québécois attack.

Independent MP Carolyn Parrish, a former Liberal, supports the amendment, giving the government 151 votes.

Chuck Cadman, undergoing chemotherapy but still able to take his place in the House, joins her.

The House divides evenly, 152-152. The Speaker, Peter Milliken, who is a Liberal MP, breaks the tie, voting on the government side. A snap election is averted.

Cadman says he made up his mind to support the government only half an hour before the vote.

When asked about Conservative overtures, he says there was "some talk" of getting him a Tory nomination. "That was the only offer on anything that I had from anybody," he says in a CTV interview.

Government survives 2 confidence votes

July 9, 2005

After battling cancer for two years, Chuck Cadman dies at 57 at home in Surrey. "Chuck was a good and decent man who fought a long illness with cheerful dignity," Opposition Leader Harper says in a statement.

Martin, the prime minister, praises Cadman as a "passionate advocate" for victims' rights.

'Good and decent' MP Chuck Cadman dies

Feb. 6, 2006

Canada has a new minority government. Harper takes power after defeating Martin. The Liberals choose a new leader, Stéphane Dion, 10 months later.

Harper sworn in as 22nd prime minister

Feb. 27, 2008

A book about Cadman by Zytaruk purports to give new details of what happened behind the scenes in May 2005.

Zytaruk writes that Cadman was visited by Conservative representatives and presented with a list of enticements to rejoin the party. A $1-million life insurance policy was on the list, he writes.

Dona Cadman is quoted as saying: "That was on him, so that if he died I'd get the million dollars. There was a few other things thrown in there too."

The book is to be released March 15. CBC News obtained an advance copy.

Conservatives made million-dollar offer to MP Cadman: book

Feb. 28, 2008

Harper says there is "absolutely no truth" to allegations that Conservatives tried to buy Cadman's vote, although a recording of an interview he gave in 2005 seems to suggest otherwise.

Harper was interviewed by Zytaruk, the Cadman biographer, after the MP's death. CBC News obtains a copy of an audio recording of the interview.

"The insurance policy for a million dollars, do you know anything about that?" Zytaruk asks.

"I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions," Harper replies on the tape. "This is not for publication?"

"This will be for the book, not for the newspaper," answers Zytaruk, who works for a Surrey newspaper.

Harper goes on to say that the offer to Cadman was "only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election."

Tape suggests PM knew of alleged Cadman offer

Feb. 29, 2008

As the controversy continues, Liberals expand on the idea of a life-insurance deal.

"Under the existing parliamentary life insurance plan, if members cease to be MPs, they can keep their insurance but the premiums go up and the benefits go down," Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale says. "Did the Conservatives offer to make up that difference in exchange for Mr. Cadman's vote?"

Meanwhile, Tories express doubts about the Harper interview recording, suggesting it could have been manipulated.

Cadman 'bribe' uproar dogs Conservatives

Cadman's daughter tells CBC News her father discussed the alleged Conservative offer with her.

"He just said, 'I have something to tell you,' and he told me that he was offered a life insurance policy, that my mom and myself would be taken care of," Jodi Cadman says.

"When he told me, actually I have to admit, I burst into tears because [of] the position he was put in," she says.

Cadman's daughter backs up mom's bribe story

March 1, 2008

Jodi Cadman urges her mother, who plans to stand for election, to leave the Conservative party and run as an Independent because of the alleged offer to buy her late father's vote.

She tells CBC News she talked to her mother by telephone and asked, "Why are you running for the Conservative party if you are accusing them of this? If it was such an indecent proposal, how are you in good conscience running for that particular party?"

Daughter urges Dona Cadman to run as Independent

March 3, 2008

Dona Cadman said says she believed Harper when he told her more than two years ago that he didn't know about the insurance policy she alleges the Conservatives offered her husband.

"I recall specifically asking him if he was aware of a million-dollar insurance policy offer that upset Chuck so much," she says in a written statement.

"He looked me straight in the eyes and told me he had no knowledge of an insurance policy offer," she says.

"I knew he was telling me the truth; I could see it in his eyes. He said, yes, he'd had some discussions with two individuals about asking Chuck to rejoin the party, but he'd told them they were wasting their time trying to convince Chuck."

Harper didn't know about offer: Cadman's widow

On the same day that Dona Cadman makes her statement, Harper issues a notice of libel against Liberal Leader Dion and the Liberal Party of Canada over statements on the party's website.

In a letter sent to Dion and other senior Liberals, lawyers for Harper describe two items on the site as "devastatingly defamatory." The items are headed "Harper knew of Conservative Bribery" and "Harper must come clean about allegations of Conservative bribery, Liberals say."

A libel notice is a first step toward suing for libel, but does not necessarily mean a lawsuit will be filed. MPs are safe from legal action for statements made inside the House of Commons, but can be sued for what they say outside.

PM threatens to sue Liberals over Cadman allegations

March 4, 2008

A New Democrat MP says his party will block Liberal efforts to have the Commons ethics committee look into the alleged attempt to buy Cadman's vote.

Pat Martin, a committee vice-chair, says his party holds the swing vote in the committee, and will oppose any such motion. He expresses concern that testimony heard there could not be used for future criminal prosecutions.

"We've decided we don't believe the Cadman affair is a good fit for the ethics committee, so it's kind of moot," he says.

Ethics committee unlikely to probe Cadman affair

March 5, 2008

After skirting the question for a week, Conservatives specifically deny that Cadman was offered an insurance policy.

"There was, in fact, no life insurance policy proposal that was made," Tory MP Moore says. "There were no discussions about a million-dollar bribe."

Meanwhile, Zytaruk's publisher announces a late change in the forthcoming book. A leaked version of the book said the alleged offer was made May 17, 2005, two days before the confidence vote. The Conservatives maintain that party representatives Tom Flanagan and Doug Finley met with Cadman just once, on the day of the vote itself. Howard White, co-owner of B.C.-based Harbour Publishing, says the contested date has been struck from the final version.

Flanagan, a right-leaning political scientist, was a Harper mentor from his University of Calgary days; Finley was the Conservative national campaign manager. According to a party spokesman, the two men offered to arrange a loan to Cadman's riding association to cover campaign expenses if he rejoined the party.

PMO 'categorically' denies any Tories ever offered Cadman life insurance

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