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Christmas decorations remain on display at the east-Ottawa home belonging to former public-sector integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet on Feb. 8, 2010. (Gloria Galloway/The Globe and Mail)
Christmas decorations remain on display at the east-Ottawa home belonging to former public-sector integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet on Feb. 8, 2010. (Gloria Galloway/The Globe and Mail)

Stakeout

Cars in driveway, trash by curb <br/>- but no sign of ex-integrity czar Add to ...

Where is Christiane Ouimet?

A pleasant woman who answered the door at Ms. Ouimet's east-Ottawa home on Wednesday professed to have no idea where the former public-sector integrity commissioner could be found.

The woman, who appeared to be in her early 20s and who identified herself as being Ms. Ouimet's niece, refused to give her own name.

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She drove up to the house in one of two cars that were in the driveway. The other car showed no sign of having been moved since the last snow. There are Christmas wreaths on the front door and on the wall beside the garage - decorations that most homeowners would have removed by now. The blinds in all of the front rooms have been shuttered.

There were also two large garbage cans and a couple of garbage bags waiting for the weekly pick-up - a lot of trash for one young woman.

An Ottawa bailiff has been unable to locate Ms. Ouimet, the long-time civil servant who retired last fall in the weeks before the Auditor-General released a report that had little good to say about how she ran the office.

Federal politicians want to drag her before a Commons committee to explain her actions, or lack thereof. During the three years was commissioner, Ms. Ouimet'S staff investigated just seven of the 228 disclosures of wrongdoing or reprisals it received from public servants.

The bailiff spoke to an unidentified woman at Ms. Ouimet's house last week - a woman who may have been the same one who was home during the noon hour on Wednesday - who indicated that Ms. Ouimet was out of the country.

The bailiff returned to the residence a day later to ascertain the identity of the woman to whom he had spoken and left a business card when the doorbell went unanswered. That business card was gone when he went back a couple of days later.

The woman who was at the home on Wednesday said she didn't know if Ms. Ouimet was in Canada or not.

Some members of the public accounts committee said Tuesday that there was no way of being sure that the woman had told the bailiff the truth when she said Ms. Ouimet was not in country. But the summons is applicable only within Canadian borders.

The committee has decided to ask Rob Walsh, the law clerk of the House of Commons, to explain what it can do to compel Ms. Ouimet to testify. A motion has also been tabled to refer the matter to the House of Commons and asks the House to take whatever measures it deems appropriate.

If that happens, Ms. Ouimet could ultimately be found in contempt of Parliament and could, in theory, be sent to jail. But imprisonment is an option that is rarely used in these types of cases.

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