The federal New Democrats have released a transcript of an e-mail exchange in which Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement appears to secure a job for a friend at a municipality in his Muskoka riding.
The significance of the exchange was not explained by the NDP, and Mr. Clement refused to take questions about it Thursday during the daily question period in the House of Commons. But Charlie Angus, the NDP ethics critic, says it demonstrates a type of “ward boss” politics in which one politician wields power over all levels of government.
The release of the e-mail comes after revelations that $50-million from a G8 Legacy Fund, which Parliament was told would be spent on border infrastructure, was primarily devoted to improving the look of community downtowns in Mr. Clement’s riding where the 2010 summit was held.
“Putting it in context, this was one of the largest and most outrageous pork barrel spending sprees in memory. Tony Clement was certainly a huge political player because of the amount of largesse he was throwing around,” Mr. Angus said. “So, what was he doing suggesting jobs in municipalities?”
On Aug. 10, 2008, Mr. Clement sent an e-mail from his account at Health Canada, where he was then the minister, to Vern Freedlander which discussed the G8 and said: “Would you like to be retained by the town?”
After Mr. Freedlander expressed some interest, his e-mail was sent to Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty who replied: “I am emailing Vern now.”
Mr. Clement then replied: “Good stuff!”
Calls to Mr. Clement’s office were returned by the staff of John Baird, the Foreign Affairs Minister. “This issue has been thoroughly aired,” said Chris Day, a spokesman for Mr. Baird.
Mr. Angus said he was hoping to get a response directly from Mr. Clement because it seems “highly unusual that the Minister has, out of the blue, asked someone if they are interested in getting a job and then calls the mayor and the mayor says he’ll get on it.”
The NDP says Mr. Clement used the $50-million legacy fund to shore up his re-election bid in 2008 after he had squeaked to victory two years earlier.
Documents obtained by the party indicate that Mr. Clement met with local mayors and councillors in Muskoka in the middle of the 2008 election campaign to talk about ways to spend the legacy funding. Less than two weeks later, Mr. Clement was reportedly boasting on his website that he had the endorsement of local municipal officials.
The documents also show that Mr. Clement urged the mayors to send requests for money from the legacy fund directly to his constituency office. Keeping government work separate from constituency – or local MP work – is a basic tenet for cabinet ministers.