Jaffer to testify in Guergis affair, despite NDP's cold feet
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, April 19, 2010 10:10PM EDT
OTTAWA - Rahim Jaffer is to speak publicly for the first time this week about the allegations of improper lobbying that hang like a cloud over him and his young consulting business.
The NDP had tried unsuccessfully Monday to thwart their appearance at a Commons committee, their appetite for the scandal suddenly waning.
Jaffer's business partner at Green Power Generation, a company that promotes sustainable technologies and renewable energy projects, said they were anxious to address the allegations of unregistered lobbying with the Conservative government.
"We want to get this thing over with," Patrick Glemaud told The Canadian Press of the appearance at the government operations committee Wednesday.
"Our concern is that we want to be treated fairly, and our concern is we want to be sure that there's a notion of natural justice, especially since the Liberal party already made a request of the commissioner of lobbying to do an investigation, and this committee is talking about the same topic."
But in a brief email sent late Monday to The Canadian Press, Jaffer's lawyer Howard Rubel said "nothing to happen" on Wednesday. He did not provide further details.
NDP's Pat Martin had questioned the usefulness of the "circus" that would take place before the RCMP, ethics and lobbying commissioners could conduct their own investigations.
"I realize there is a bigger downside than there is a plus side to it, because as interesting as it may be for us to hear what Mr. Jaffer has to say at this point in time, it could compromise a serious investigation into very serious criminal charges," Martin said.
But ultimately his bid to stop the appearance did not make it to a vote at the committee late Monday, as the Liberals filibustered. He was to try again Wednesday, but some committee members predicted Jaffer and Glemaud would testify nevertheless.
The NDP's position was unusual given that the party has actively participated in other committees that touched on bigger brouhahas, including the sponsorship scandal and the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.
The sudden change in tack might have been more of a response to signs of public uneasiness with a story that has sucked attention away from other pressing public matters.
The NDP broke from the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois during question period Monday and focused their queries on veterans.
The Conservatives were not complaining. They have barely commented on allegations raised in the Commons that Jaffer and his wife, former cabinet minister Helena Guergis, might have broken lobbying and ethics rules in activities connected to Jaffer's business.
"Canadians have entrusted us with the responsibility to get a certain number of things done in this committee, and I think we'll get back to that track," said Conservative committee member Chris Warkentin.
Unspecified allegations that compelled Prime Minister Stephen Harper to remove Guergis from the Conservative caucus have turned out to be less concrete than originally billed.
The private investigator who went to the Tories with concerns the couple was photographed in a compromising situation involving escorts and cocaine has said he never actually saw any photographs. And the man who was supposed to have snapped the pictures said he never did anything of the sort.
Jaffer is also alleged by the opposition to have lobbied the government without proper registration on behalf of Green Power Generation, something his business partner has vehemently denied.
In a separate matter, Guergis wrote a letter to a municipal official and relative in her riding to promote an environmental company whose owner Jaffer had been talking to about potential business.
Guergis has said there was nothing wrong with supporting a constituent and his company, and that Jaffer had no financial interest in the firm.
Glemaud also said Jaffer and Guergis' spirits were high, and that things seemed to be turning around.
The company is considering a lawsuit against Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and the party for raising allegations of improper lobbying in and outside of the Commons.
"More and more it's quite likely that we may end up taking legal action directly against Mr. Ignatieff himself for more of this stupidity and his intellectual laziness for attacking us now," said Glemaud.
The Liberals did not let up on the issue in the Commons.
"The prime minister did not call in his minister and ask her about her involvement in Mr. Jaffer's tangled affairs," Ignatieff said, referring to Jaffer's arrest last year after he was caught speeding.
"He defended her in public for seven months after she made mistake after mistake after mistake. How can the government possibly justify the Prime Minister's error of judgment in this matter?"