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Helena Guergis reacts to a question about her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, in Ottawa in September, 2009. (Pawel Dwulit/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Helena Guergis reacts to a question about her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, in Ottawa in September, 2009. (Pawel Dwulit/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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Guergis requests chance to testify; Ignatieff accused of 'running down' Canada Add to ...

Helena Guergis, the embattled former Harper cabinet minister, is asking some of her colleagues to return to work on Parliament Hill next week to give her an opportunity to clear her name.

She has indicated in a letter from her lawyer, Howard Rubel, to the clerk of the all-party Government Operations Committee, that she is ready and willing to testify next week or in "the weeks to follow."

MPs went home for the summer Thursday but committees have sat even if the House is not in session.

"Please contact me as soon as possible to arrange a convenient time for Ms. Guergis' appearance," writes Mr. Rubel. "While I am aware the House will be rising soon for the summer, I understand the Committee can continue to hold hearings, and that this has been suggested by some members."

Ms. Guergis had wanted to appear but has been delayed by health concerns involving her high-risk pregnancy. The 41-year-old MP is just through her first trimester; tests this week showed her baby is healthy, alleviating some of her worries.

She is married to former Edmonton Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, who is being investigated by a Commons committee for questionable lobbying practices regarding a new business venture.

Last April, she was forced to resign her cabinet post and was expelled from the Conservative caucus after a conversation with the Prime Minister.

Ms. Guergis says that she still does not understand the reasons for her treatment; Indeed, neither the Prime Minister nor his surrogates have supplied any information as to why she was treated in this way.

"While she must still take into consideration her health and the health of her child and follow her doctor's orders and restrictions, she is trying to accommodate all of her responsibilities," writes Mr. Rubel. "She remains eager to assist the Committee in its work, and looks forward to clarifying any issues which remain of concern."

Ms. Guergis has not appeared before the committee investigating her husband's business practices. Mr. Jaffer appeared Thursday for the second time; it did not go well.

MPs appeared hostile, interrupted him constantly and launched into long preambles meant to score political points. For his part, Mr. Jaffer did not appear to answer their questions satisfactorily and at one point he became agitated, lashing out at his former party and the Prime Minister for the way in which his wife has been treated.

The MPs are considering holding him in contempt of Parliament; that is to be dealt with in the fall.

Cry babies disguised as bullies

Stephen Harper's Conservatives are taking issue with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's view that cutting off funding to groups that speak out against the government is akin to practices in "Cuba or Bulgaria."

In a recent missive, written colourfully per usual and circulated to party supporters and MPs, Tory strategists accuse Mr. Ignatieff of being the leader of the "Liberal 'Blame Canada Brigade.' "

"He never misses a chance to run Canada down," accuse the Tories. "Ignatieff's Liberal MPs regularly attack the men and women of the Canadian Forces for doing their job in Afghanistan."

They say that Mr. Ignatieff should apologize to Canadians.

An Ignatieff senior official is incredulous.

"Conservatives have a funny way of equating criticism of their incompetence, of their misbehaviour, of their secrecy and of their bullying as criticism of Canada," says the official. "Maybe they should take a hard look in the mirror. They are squashing dissent, using strong arm tactics to silence their critics and then smear people who simply point at facts."

So, the question, according to the Ignatieff official is: "are they cry babies disguised as bullies, or simply so arrogant that they don't make the distinction between their government and the country they are supposed to represent?"

Ah, harmony in the House.



Parting shots: from our two "Tweeting" ministers in 140 characters or less.

The House of Commons rose Thursday for the summer.

Here's what a couple of on-the-floor observers had to say about that:

Heritage Minister James Moore:

"All Conservative/Bloc/NDP MPs (& leaders) here for final budget votes. Only half of Lib MPs here, Ignatieff missing. Seems fitting."

Industry Minister Tony Clement:

"Last votes in the House before the Sitting ends. Still time to get my Yearbook signed before the school bell rings!"

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