Ghiz denounces allegations of P.E.I. corruption
Published Friday, September 16, 2011 8:33AM EDT
Prince Edward Island Premier Robert Ghiz is fending off allegations of corruption and bribery within his government with just two weeks to go before a provincial election.
Several witnesses have come forward with allegations that senior immigration officials in the province accepted bribes in exchange for the province's sponsorship of immigration bids.
Ghiz, a provincial Liberal, told CTV's Canada AM on Friday that the allegations are nothing more than an attempt by the opposition Conservatives to smear his government ahead of the election.
"This is just another means of playing politics. If you weren't playing politics why would you do it two weeks before a general election and why would you make it so public?" Ghiz told CTV's Canada AM.
Ghiz also said the witnesses all have "an axe to grind," against his government.
The allegations have come from several former employees of Island Investment Development Inc. which administered a program that sponsored immigration applicants who invested $200,000 in a local business.
The allegations were first raised several years ago, but the Globe and Mail reported recently that Canada immigration is now referring the documents to the RCMP for further investigation.
Svetlana Tenetko, a former provincial employee working on the immigration file, whose contract was terminated in 2009, said she first became concerned in 2007-2008 when she was forced to approve applications that she had already rejected.
"I saw money exchanged between certain program officers and senior management... I saw money exchanged in white envelopes and I saw money, I saw cash," Tenetko told Canada AM.
She said she spoke to two RCMP officers about her concerns at the time. However, a provincial auditor's report looked into the allegations and found that while some unadvisable things were done, there was no sign of corruption.
Tenetko said she is glad the RCMP will now look into the allegations.
"I think that these doings are so bad that people just cannot hide it anymore," she said.
Ghiz dismissed Tenetko's allegations, saying the auditor general found no wrongdoing and the crusade by Tenetko and others has become personal.
"Obviously as premier of a province if there are any improprieties being done we want them dealt with, but at the same time we have to look at what the sources are," he told Canada AM.
Ghiz said the witnesses have accused him personally of stealing $100 million, the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island of being corrupt, and local media of intentionally hiding key details of the story.
"I almost feel like I'm living in a John Grisham novel to tell you the truth," he said.
The Provincial Nominee Program ran from 2001 to 2008, when it was shut down by the federal government.