Tories face fresh fire in document controversy
Published Thursday, June 4, 2009 4:28PM EDT
The Harper government came under renewed fired in the House of Commons Thursday over its handling of the Lisa Raitt controversy, in which secret government documents were left by the minister's staff at CTV News' Ottawa bureau.
In question period the Liberals came out swinging, peppering the Conservatives with fresh questions.
"Were the lost secret documents the personal property of the minister, with her own handwritten notes? Did she lose them? Did she telephone the deputy minister, and if so, when? What secret information was contained?" demanded Liberal David McGuinty.
But Harper wasn't biting, reiterating that "the minister has taken the appropriate action and I've supported that action. "
Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt also stuck to her talking points, repeating what she said Wednesday.
"This is a serious matter. There are procedures in place. Those procedures were not followed. Corrective action has been taken. I offered my resignation to the prime minister. He did not accept it. A member of my staff offered her resignation, and I accepted it," Raitt said.
Earlier in the day the Prime Minister's Office continued to defend Raitt against opposition demands she resign.
Harper's spokesperson Kory Teneycke said the incident was more a failure by Raitt's staff to follow procedures, rather than the minister herself.
"This is routine that ministers are provided a briefing binder to look at while they are being briefed prior to an interview," Teneycke told CTV's Canada AM.
"Then what would routinely happen is that staff take those materials and you go and do the interview."
The documents were left behind for nearly a week without any inquiry from Raitt's office. Raitt's director of communications, 26-year-old Jasmine MacDonnell, resigned Wednesday over the matter.
The secret documents contained all sorts of details about the country's nuclear agency, AECL, including funding and cost overruns.
They reveal Ottawa has poured far more money into the aging Chalk River nuclear reactor than the public has been told.
The documents also featured Raitt's own handwriting on them. Raitt did not learn they were missing until CTV reported on the documents Tuesday night.
The documents were picked up from CTV by a federal government employee on Wednesday.
Some political observers believe the controversy may have already peaked.
Tom Clark, host of Power Play on CTV News Channel, says it's probable Lisa Raitt is "going to survive as minister.'
"The opposition has taken its foot off the pedal in terms of trying to go after her, " Clark observed, "attention has shifted elsewhere, the Liberals tried to keep it alive but I suspect it won't go on for much longer."