Industry Minister Christian Paradis was permitted by the Conservative government to answer questions about his own ethical entanglements – a right not granted to many cabinet ministers by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his advisers. Usually it is left to another minister to stand in their defence.
But Mr. Paradis didn’t say anything more than he did last week in a statement issued after Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson found him to be in a conflict of interest for helping former caucus colleague Rahim Jaffer meet with senior bureaucrats on a controversial green-energy project.
Liberal MP Scott Andrews asked during Question Period Monday why Mr. Paradis was permitted to stay in cabinet while Peter Goldring was kicked out of the Conservative caucus after being charged with drunk driving, Helena Guergis had to go as a result of “rumours” and Maxime Bernier lost his cabinet seat for leaving classified documents at his girlfriend's house.
Mr. Paradis replied that he accepted the conclusions of the commissioner.
Ms. Dawson “recognized there was never an attempt to influence the decisions of public servants,” he said. “The company in question never secured a contract, and there was never any prospect or question of any advantage on my part. In the future I will take further precautions when approached by Canadians seeking more information about the projects and programs delivered by their government.”
In fact, Ms. Dawson found that Mr. Paradis had offered preferential treatment to Mr. Jaffer, who was an MP from 1997 to 2008. She expressed particular concern over the fact Mr. Paradis directed bureaucrats at Public Works to hold the planned meeting even after Mr. Jaffer's arrest on drug and impaired driving charges in 2009.
NDP MP Charlie Angus, the opposition ethics critic, also wanted to know why Mr. Paradis had not been fired. But he started off by asking about the robo-call affair and demanding to know when the Conservative government will call an inquiry into allegations of voter suppression in the last election.
Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister who has been the government’s point man on robo-calls, responded by poking fun at a rap song Mr. Angus performed Friday at the NDP leadership convention.
“I would like to thank the member for 8 Mile for the question that he just brought forth,” replied Mr. Del Mastro, a reference to the movie about Detroit rapper Eminem.
“He has been trying to give this party a bad rap with no evidence whatsoever, but on Friday night he gave all Canadians a bad rap,” Mr. Del Mastro continued. “I would just simply say I am not afraid to stand and defend our party, but he is not the Real Slim Shady.”
Mr. Angus was not to be outdone.
“Instead of trying to hip-hop over the issue, why do we not deal with the real gangster rap, which is the growing rap sheet of ethical violations under the Conservative government?” he asked the House.
“Step forward, Industry Minister,” he said. “He broke the rules. Yet the Prime Minister promised he was going to drain the ethical swamp in Ottawa. Instead, the swamp is up around the cabinet table. When are Conservatives going to boot that guy out of caucus and do the right thing for Canadians?”
Mr. Paradis responded by reading the same reply he had given to Mr. Andrews.