Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Make the case but I said 'Don't press it'"

Question Period today was pretty intense, to make an incredible understatement about the emotions running through the place. Stephane Dion was outraged at the Cadman allegations, understandably. This is serious stuff and it potentially ensnares the Prime Minister. Note what Paul Szabo suggested today:
If the elements of the book are true, the Conservatives' actions may amount to a criminal offence. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it's illegal to bribe an MP.

As well, Szabo said that if a sitting MP is found to be directly or indirectly involved in trying to influence another MP's activities, they could lose their seat and be prohibited from running in a future election for five years.
I think we all know who the sitting MP in question is.

On Harper's statements made to the author of the new book, it's early, but I have yet to hear anyone ask the PM whether his quotes in the book, as related in the Globe report are true. And I note that the Globe report last night indicated that the author has tapes of Harper's statements. If that is the case, those tapes need to be obtained by the RCMP. Especially because Harper seems to be now pretending that the first he heard of the matter was from Dona Cadman and the author of the book. Yet Harper's statements to the author indicate his depth of knowledge of the effort to influence Cadman, in advance of any questions being asked of him by Dona Cadman or this author. Again, the Globe report:
After Mr. Cadman's death, Mr. Zytaruk heard that Mr. Harper, who was then leader of the opposition, was paying a personal visit to the Cadman residence. Mr. Zytaruk interviewed Mr. Harper in the driveway.

“Of the offer to Chuck,” he quotes Mr. Harper as saying, “it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election, OK. That's my understanding of what they were talking about.

“I don't know the details,” he said. “I can tell you that I had told the individuals - I mean, they wanted to do it - but I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind he was going to vote with the Liberals. I knew why, and I respected the decision, but they were just, they were convinced there was, there was financial issues and, there may or may not.

“They were legitimately representing the party,” Mr. Harper confirmed. “I said ‘Don't press him, I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity, and you know, just, you know, if that's what you say make the case,' but I said ‘Don't press it.'” (emphasis added)
Apparently Mssrs. Flanagan and Finley have fessed up today that they were the emissaries on behalf of the Conservative party, taking the allegations to the highest echelons of the Conservative party.
In a statement issued Thursday, Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan said they met with Cadman on the day of the vote to talk about his possible move to the Conservative fold.

"We offered ways that we — as campaign officials — could help Mr. Cadman in the Conservative nomination process, and if successful, wage a competitive campaign in a general election," the statement says.

Cadman, they said, confirmed later that evening that their "offer of campaign assistance" was the only offer presented.
There's some uncertainty now about the timing of this meeting. Flanagan and Finley say they met with Cadman on the day of the vote. The book reports this:

In his book, Vancouver journalist Tom Zytaruk writes that Chuck Cadman was visited by two Conservative party representatives in his office two days before the crucial vote and presented with a list of enticements to side with that party.

The two representatives are not named in the book.

The Conservatives seem to be using this uncertainty to undercut the book. Expect much more of that. When the meeting took place is less important than the content of the meeting, however. But it doesn't help that there is a conflict about the dates. That needs to be clarified.

But what's galling about the Flanagan/Finley statement and the Conservative line of defence in the House today is of course the opportunistic use of the words of the deceased Chuck Cadman himself to exonerate their position.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday there is "absolutely no truth" in allegations his party tried to bribe an Independent MP in a crucial vote three years ago.

Harper was on the hotseat during question period, as Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion decried the alleged offer to the late Chuck Cadman as "immoral and illegal."

"Now we learn that the Conservative party tried to bribe him and the prime minister was aware of it, but Mr. Cadman could not be bought," Dion said. "What was the prime minister thinking?"

Harper responded by saying Cadman himself said on the night of the May 19, 2005, vote that he had only discussed nomination meetings with Conservative officials. The vote would determine whether the Liberal government of the day stayed in power.

"There is absolutely no truth in it," the prime minister said of the allegations. "I wish everyone would accept his word."
They repeated that ad nauseam in the House today. Using a dead man as a shield. Perhaps Mr. Cadman, in his state of health, didn't want to associate himself publicly with the offer at the time. I'm sure he had his priorities. Yet the Conservatives still have a problem in that his widow is quite clear on the offer of the $1 million life insurance policy. And the use of Cadman's words still does nothing to answer why Harper had such exhaustive information to relay to the author of the book when questioned. Harper's contradicting himself.

A letter's been sent to the RCMP now requesting a police investigation as there properly should be. What a mess this thing is.