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Question Period

Baird deflects another Jaffer barrage <br/>and bats away criticism on bikers Add to ...

Question Period read like a bad Mickey Spillane novel today with allegations flying over the appointment of a judge with ties to a biker gang and accusations of privileged access and big money projects being fast-tracked for a Conservative buddy.

New emails and documents reveal that former Edmonton MP Rahim Jaffer contacted seven different government departments regarding his private company, Green Power Generation; this is more than what the Conservatives had previously led Canadians to believe.

The papers were released last night by the government. Mr. Jaffer was not registered as a lobbyist.

"How many other ministers or parliamentary secretaries were lobbied without us knowing," Liberal justice critic Dominic LeBlanc demanded.

"When is the Prime Minister going to take responsibility for his ministers running roughshod over the Federal Accountability Act, the very centrepiece legislation of the government's agenda?" NDP MP Pat Martin asked.

"After weeks of the government's stonewalling and denying the privileged access bestowed upon Mr. Jaffer, late last night more details were released showing the former minister of public work's staff placed one of Mr. Jaffer's projects on the fast track," Newfoundland Liberal Siobhan Coady said. "When the file apparently stalled a month later, the minister's office staff even asked public servants to accelerate their review of the project. Why did it take so long to make this information public? What are the Conservatives trying to hide?

And through it all, Transport Minister John Baird - the government's designated hitter - sounded like a broken record, choosing from among three sets of talking points to deflect the allegations and accusations swirling around Mr. Jaffer and who he contacted in government.

Here are Mr. Baird's answers to allegations his former caucus-mate was given special treatment:

1. The transparency defence. "We would not be having this debate about documents if it were not for the government which made all these documents public," Mr. Baird said. "It was the government which put all these documents before a parliamentary committee. That is transparency."

"This government brought in tough new laws on lobbying."

2. The bad lobbyist defence. "Mr. Jaffer got no grants, got no money as result of any of his meetings," Mr. Baird said.

3. The you-did-it-too defence. "Compare this to the previous Liberal government where millions of dollars went missing and the Liberal Party found itself in a position where they had to return some of the kickbacks that they've received to taxpayers," Mr. Baird said.

The Jaffer affair, however, was not the only issue on the minds of the opposition. There is a controversy brewing over the federal government's appointment of Mr. Justice Jacques Leger to the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2006. He is a former president of the Progressive Conservative Party.

According to reports, Judge Leger had advised the Hells Angels on a case involving the gang's trademarks before his appointment. His relationship with the biker gang came to light after Quebec's Chief Justice pulled him off a bail hearing of four bikers charged with murder.

"La Presse revealed yesterday that a former lawyer for the Hells Angels, Jacques Léger, was named judge by the law-and-order Conservatives right after they were elected in 2006. … Could the Justice Minister explain what qualifications led the Conservatives to name Jacques Léger a judge?" NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair demanded.

Mr. Baird explained judges are appointed by an advisory panel that reviews all candidates thoroughly. "Let me assure the member opposite that we look for high-calibre, competent individuals who can administrate the public business and for our courts," he said.

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