E-mails between Treasury Board President Tony Clement and municipal officials demonstrate the Conservative minister’s willingness to circumvent standard approval processes to ensure that G8 money spent on local projects in Muskoka was not subject to checks and balances, the Official Opposition says.
In one 2010 e-mail exchange released by the NDP at a news conference Monday, Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty complains that an assistant deputy minister at Infrastructure Canada said she would hold off paying any more bills until the department had launched a review of the G8 spending.
“This is totally unacceptable, I’m sure you agree,” Mr. Doughty wrote to Mr. Clement.
Mr. Clement replied: “I agree, I’m working on it.”
Charlie Angus, the NDP ethics critic, said his party will be forwarding the large dossier of information it obtained from Huntsville using Ontario’s freedom-of-information legislation to the police to assist in any investigation that may be ongoing with regard to G8 spending.
Mr. Angus also said he will ask the Commons ethics committee to investigate further – a request that will likely be refused given the Conservative majority of seats on that committee.
In the end, Mr. Angus said, the fact the Conservatives hold a majority in both the Commons and the Senate means it will be up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to decide if he wants to get to the bottom of things.
“His name, the PMO, appears again and again and again in the documents and it appears to us that the Prime Minister must have known very clearly what was going on with this bending of the rules,” Mr. Angus said. “Whenever Clement seems to run into a problem, he lets it be known that he will take the matter directly to the Prime Minister.”
Mr. Clement has refused to answer questions about the G8 spending issue in the House of Commons. It has been left to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and his parliamentary secretary, Deepak Obhrai, to defend the allocation of the $47.5-million that paid for gazebos, washrooms, arenas and other projects in Mr. Clement’s Ontario riding.
The money was approved by Parliament as border infrastructure improvements. The New Democrats say it was instead parcelled out by Mr. Clement through his constituency office using hand-made application forms.
Mr. Clement has argued that the spending was all approved by Mr. Baird, when he was infrastructure minister.
The New Democrats, on the other hand, say the money was used to ensure the re-election of Mr. Clement in 2008. The minister won his seat in 2006 by only a handful of votes.
A number of the e-mails, Mr. Angus said, relate to the growing problem Mr. Clement had in trying to pass off a new Olympic-sized hockey arena and swimming pool complex as a media centre to be used during the day of the G8 meeting.
“The police were raising numerous concerns about the unsuitability of the arena to act as a media centre and this was causing headaches for Tony Clement to justify the $21-million that had been spent on this very, very large community recreation centre,” Mr. Angus said.
Mr. Doughty wrote to Mr. Clement after the Ontario Provincial Police had made it clear that they were unwilling to continue going along with the hockey arena being passed off as a media centre. Mr. Clement responded to the mayor by saying: “The good news: PMO’s fury at the OPP is only increasing. We’ll get through this together.”
When the mayor wrote to say that an OPP officer had told him the arena would not likely be built in Huntsville, Mr. Clement replied: “Bullcrap. That’s the RCMP agenda, not ours. Don’t talk to the media until we talk and get our lines converged.”
Later on, Mr. Angus said, “still dogged by the fact that the media centre, which was never used as a media centre, is in fact a very large hockey area with a swimming pool, Clement attempts to have it renamed the Canadian Forces Heroes Hall.”