Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who has refused to answer questions about $50-million in G8 spending in his Muskoka riding, says he will appear before a Commons committee to set the record straight.
“We have arranged for myself and others including [Foreign Affairs Minister John]Baird, who had his responsibilities in the program, [Infrastructure] Minister [Denis]LeBel and others to appear before the public accounts committee in the weeks ahead, where parliamentarians will have a full right to ask any additional questions they may have ,” Mr. Clement told reporters Wednesday after the Conservative Party’s weekly caucus meeting.
“It will be happening relatively quickly and I look forward to that opportunity,” he added.
New Democrat MP Charlie Angus released a series of e-mails this week between Mr. Clement and the mayor of Huntsville in which the minister agreed it is unacceptable that bureaucrats would delay paying for G8 projects until the spending had been reviewed.
The money, which paid for gazebos, sidewalks and sports facilities in Muskoka, was approved by Parliament as part of a border infrastructure fund allocated in advance of the G8 summit, which was held in the riding in the summer of 2010.
New Democrats say the money helped shore up Mr. Clement's bid for re-election in 2008. And they say the Auditor-General was not given all of the facts when she looked into the spending for a report released last spring.
But Mr. Clement, who told reporters he knew they would have questions before walking away without taking any, maintains he has done nothing wrong.
“There's actually nothing new in these allegations. There's no new material, there's no new evidence,” he said. “The Auditor-General was aware of and has reviewed a number of these issues.”
Mr. Clement has repeatedly refused to answer questions about the matter in the House of Commons, leaving it to Mr. Baird and his parliamentary secretary, Deepak Obhrai, to run the defence.
“Will he hide behind John Baird? Will he be sitting behind him or will he be answering questions,” Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae asked when told of the Treasury Board President’s intention to appear at a committee. “If he can answer questions in the public accounts committee,” Mr. Rae said, “why can’t he answer questions in the House of Commons?”
The Liberal chief said Mr. Clement’s silence to date on the G8 spending issue, the Conservative move to cut off debate on an omnibus crime bill that will cost billions of dollars, and the government’s refusal to take into account the concerns of the opposition when setting committee agendas, is a demonstration of arrogance.
“We are at the first year of a majority government,” Mr. Rae said. “Their whole attitude is one of triumphalism. Every answer they give says ‘we’ve got the mandate to do whatever the heck we want and we’re going to do it.’”