Bureaucrats bristled at Tory pressure on Jaffer
Published Friday, April 30, 2010 6:56AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:32AM EDT
OTTAWA - Senior federal bureaucrats bristled at being pressured by Conservative political staff to meet with Rahim Jaffer and quickly review one of his business proposals, newly released documents show.
The exchanges of emails by civil servants at Public Works and Government Services Canada were among nearly 70 pages of documents tabled with a Commons committee and the lobbying commissioner this week.
MPs are scrutinizing alleged illegal lobbying by Jaffer, a former Tory MP, and his business partner, Patrick Glemaud.
The documents reveal Jaffer cheerfully approached personal contacts in six different ministerial offices, and his queries were dealt with swiftly and sometimes as a "priority." Jaffer often used a parliamentary email address assigned to his wife, then-cabinet minister Helena Guergis.
New Democrat MP Pat Martin said the Conservatives violated the spirit of their own Federal Accountability Act by not checking whether Jaffer was a registered lobbyist before meeting with him.
"If they let it go for a year and a half meeting regularly and frequently with somebody who is obviously lobbying, then it's a lie by omission to the Canadian people and they've broken faith with the Canadian people," he said.
"The first question you should ask anyone who walks into your office is are you a registered lobbyist. If they're not, the meeting is over. That's what the lobbyist commissioner advises members of Parliament."
Infrastructure Minister John Baird deflected questions about whether what happened was appropriate, saying only that Jaffer never received any money from Ottawa.
"It is this government that has been transparent," Baird told the House of Commons. "The fact that we are debating the documents in question is because the government made it public."
Jaffer and Glemaud have denied any improper lobbying, saying they were simply seeking information on government programs -- an activity that does not require registration as a lobbyist.
Staff at then-Public Works Minister Christian Paradis' office went to great lengths to get the pair information.
Paradis' director of parliamentary affairs, Sebastien Togneri, pushed bureaucrats at the highest levels of the department to arrange a meeting with Glemaud and review a project that would put solar panels on the rooftops of government buildings.
"See message from former member of Parliament, Rahim Jaffer... I leave it to both of you to set up a meeting for him," Togneri wrote.
The deputy minister's chief of staff bluntly told Paradis' office that any meeting "won't be with the DM," and sent the request to other bureaucrats.
Later, a strategic adviser to the deputy minister suggested somebody should draft a policy or directive for dealing with third-party inquiries like Jaffer's.
"The DM is concerned about this type of request and by the fact it can contravene and disrupt our daily operational or program requirements, task and work," wrote the adviser.
When meetings with Jaffer and Glemaud were delayed last fall, Togneri in Paradis' office sent a pointed message: "The sector has had this for weeks. What's the hold-up?"
A month later, five bureaucrats were summoned to the meeting with Glemaud, and one staff member from Paradis' office.
Jaffer's request was passed around to engineers, senior advisers, and other technical minds within Public Works, who ultimately said the project was not a good fit and would have to go through a competitive process to begin with.
Current Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose forwarded the documents to the federal lobbying commissioner this week, saying the meeting with Glemaud "was arranged by the department."
Togneri continues to work for Paradis. He is currently the subject of an investigation by the federal information commissioner for interference in an access-to-information request by The Canadian Press.Togneri moved to hamper the release of documents after they had been approved and redacted by bureaucrats. Paradis stripped him of his duties related to access requests following the incident.
Members of the Commons government operations committee have been discussing who to call next as a witness. The opposition would like to recall Jaffer, to go over some discrepancies between his testimony last week and content of newly released documents.
For example, Jaffer told the committee that he only used one of his wife's parliamentary BlackBerrys to keep track of her schedule. His emails to various government staffers suggest otherwise.