The official record of a parliamentary committee was altered to remove assurances by Treasury Board President Tony Clement that he would turn over contentious documents related to nearly $50-million spent in his riding on G8 legacy projects.
But Mr. Clement says he had no hand in the changes and is demanding to know how they occurred.
NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Alexandre Boulerice held a news conference on Wednesday morning to provide new material that explains how money was awarded to 32 projects in Mr. Clement’s Muskoka riding, including gazebos, sidewalks and sports facilities.
Applications for a share of the G8 fund were submitted on hand-made forms created by local mayors. When Mr. Clement was asked by Mr. Angus at the public accounts committee on Nov. 2 if he would provide those forms to committee members, the minister replied: “Sure.”
That response is recorded on videotape and also in the initial transcript of the proceedings. But it was removed from the official Hansard when it was later released. Hansard can be altered only by the MP who is speaking, or their staff.
In watching the recording of the committee meeting, it is somewhat unclear whether Mr. Clement was saying “sure” in response to the question he had just been asked, or if he was saying “sure” to indicate he understood the question.
But the New Democrats took the position the minister had indeed acceded to their request and then someone changed the record. “Who then went behind, after the fact, and had those words removed?” asked Mr. Angus.
Mr. Clement said he too wants to get to the bottom of the matter. After the daily Question Period in the House of Commons Wednesday, he asked Speaker Andrew Scheer to look into how and why alterations came to be made.
“The opposition have alleged that I have made those changes, Mr. Speaker,” the Treasury Board President said. “I have not, nor has anyone in my employ. These baseless and outrageous allegations form a serious breach on my privilege which is impeding my work as a member of this House and as a minister of the Crown.”’
The new accusations against Mr. Clement came the day after the RCMP announced it would not be investigating allegations of misappropriated funds in relation to the to the G8 money spent in Muskoka.
New Democrats also produced documents Wednesday they obtained under freedom-of-information laws that suggest Mr. Clement was not truthful in his testimony before the committee.
The minister told committee members that a 33rd project – an expansion of a sports facility in Gravenhust – was removed from the list on the direction of the municipality.
But an e-mail from a representative of the town of Gravenhurst to the minister’s constituency office says Mr. Clement felt the expansion would be more appropriately funded through the Building Canada Fund. “On the advice of Mr. Minister Clement,” it said, “please remove this project from the G8 Project List.”
Mr. Clement also told the committee the municipalities sent the projects to his constituency office, where they were passed on to Infrastructure Canada without review or analysis.
But letters of rejection sent by Mr. Clement’s ministerial office say “the Minister’s staff and department officials have reviewed all proposals received” and “competing priorities restrict our ability to fund all of these local G8 initiatives.”