Monday, June 16, 2008

Bernier could be forced to testify by Public Safety Committee

The Public Safety Committee is, quite appropriately, considering forcing Bernier to testify. And Harper as well. It's ludicrous to be attempting to get to the bottom of security breaches without the principal transgressor being present: "Public Safety Committee considering Commons order on Bernier."
Opposition MPs on the House Public Safety Committee are launching into a broad study into the Bernier affair that could last to the end of June and are now considering the use of a rare House order to force testimony from Maxime Bernier and possibly Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Bloc Québécois MP Serge Ménard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Que.), who moved the original committee motion to study the Bernier affair, told The Hill Times last week that parties are now consulting with experts to determine whether they can use House of Commons powers to force Parliamentarians, such as Mr. Bernier (Beauce, Que.), to appear before the committee.

"He's the main witness. He's at the centre of the whole thing," Mr. Ménard, his party's public safety critic, said. "Certainly I'd like to establish how much he knew, and if somebody, probably through his chief of staff, had meetings with the RCMP about [Julie] Couillard. That's what interests me, because I think he should have been advised by the RCMP."
Further information in the report suggests the Committee will be plowing on past the end of House session until they feel their investigation is complete. Good for them. Why should questions of national security be dropped simply due to a summer recess? It's nonsense. There's also the expanding nature of these inquiries:
How long the committee investigation lasts may depend on whether the it branches out into a study of connections between Ms. Couillard, real estate firm Kevlar Group, and a $30-million Public Works contract. Ms. Couillard has been listed as a real estate agent associated with Kevlar, and The Globe and Mail reported last week that Philippe Morin, a co-chair of Kevlar, introduced Ms. Couillard to Mr. Bernier in April 2007.
And let's not forget the Treasury Board intervention Bernier is reported to have made regarding the quantity of land available for the Quebec City development Kevlar had an interest in.

If the Committee takes steps to pursue Bernier, the stonewalling will likely develop into very poor political optics for the Conservatives given the mounting questions.