A senior federal bureaucrat has contradicted Tony Clement's insistence that he was not involved in dividing a $50-million fund to spruce up his riding before the 2010 G8 summit.
The Treasury Board president has insisted he simply played a "co-ordinating role," forwarding the wish lists of mayors in his Parry Sound-Muskoka riding to John Baird, who was then infrastructure minister and had the final say on which projects would get funds.
But Mr. Clement's assertion is directly contradicted in memos prepared by a senior civil servant involved in helping the riding in Ontario's cottage country reap the benefits of hosting the G8 summit. The NDP obtained the memos through the Access to Information Act.
Tom Dodds, an official with the northern Ontario economic development agency known as FedNor, said his agency helped Mr. Clement's office prepare letters advising municipalities that most of their 242 proposals would not get funding. As industry minister at the time, Mr. Clement presided over FedNor.
The unsuccessful applicants were told "their projects would not be forwarded to Minister Baird for his consideration," Mr. Dodds wrote in a memo to the deputy minister of Industry last Nov. 2 – the day Mr. Clement appeared before a Commons committee to explain his role in the G8 legacy fund.
"A list of unsuccessful applicants was provided by the minister's office to FedNor officials and letters were prepared in accordance with the direction received from the minister's office," Mr. Dodds wrote.
"Finally, once Minister Clement's office provided the list of recommended projects to Minister Baird's office, FedNor officials transferred the catalogue of projects to Infrastructure Canada officials. All 242 project proposals were sent; this included the 32 projects which were recommended by Minister Clement."
Mr. Dodds wrote in a Jan. 13, 2010, email: "It is my understanding that MINO (Mr. Clement's office) advised Infrastructure Canada which projects should be supported under the G8 Infrastructure and Legacy Fund and their staff prepared contribution agreements for them accordingly."
At the Commons public accounts committee last November, Mr. Clement vehemently denied opposition accusations that he or any of his officials helped select the winning 32 projects, which received almost $45-million.
"It never happened that way," he told the committee. "We were not involved in selecting these projects."
Mr. Clement said the mayors came up with 242 proposals worth an estimated $500-million. When he advised them to whittle the list down, he said they came back with 33 projects, 32 of which Mr. Baird approved. Mr. Clement denied he was the "guiding hand" behind the choices.
In September, Mr. Clement told reporters it would have been illegal for him to choose the projects.
"If I was the decision-maker, if I had set up a parallel process and created a situation where the auditor general did not know – that's their (opposition MPs') accusation – I'd be resigning right now and turning myself in to the local police office," Mr. Clement said.
Mr. Angus on Monday challenged Mr. Clement to do just that. "Well, Tony, what about it?" he said at a news conference.
Via Twitter, the Treasury Board president called the latest revelations "another NDP drive-by slime."
"As usual NDP confusing recommending with choosing," Mr. Clement wrote.
Mr. Clement's spokeswoman, Jenn Gearey, later said that Mr. Angus was merely recycling the well-known fact that Mr. Clement "recommended projects" to Mr. Baird.
Mr. Dodds' recollections also raise questions as to why Auditor General Sheila Fraser was told no federal departments or agencies other than Infrastructure Canada were involved in the decision-making and therefore, no documentation existed.
The legacy fund paid for gazebos, public washrooms, park and streetscape improvements and other beautification projects in Mr. Clement's riding, many of them nowhere near the Huntsville summit site.
The Canadian Press