Jaffer, business partner, face grilling by parliamentary committee

Rahim Jaffers speaks to his  supporters at a southside country and western bar after his re-election  seen in this file photo.OTTAWA — Former MP Rahim Jaffer is set to testify Wednesday in front of a parliamentary committee, the first time he will face questions since explosive allegations surfaced that he and his wife, former minister of state Helena Guergis, were photographed in the presence of cocaine users and prostitutes.

Separately, Guergis appears to have won one small victory with a decision, released late Monday, that Parliament’s ethics commissioner does not have enough information to investigate a complaint filed by the NDP that Guergis broke the federal Conflict of Interest Act when she sent a letter to a municipal politician in her riding on behalf of a company that Jaffer’s firm had been eyeing as a possible investment target.

The House of Commons government operations and estimates committee has called Jaffer and his business partner, Patrick Glemaud, to discuss a narrow set of issues surrounding the circumstances of meetings Jaffer and Glemaud had with government MPs that may have involved either or both seeking information about government funding involving their firm, Green Power Generation Inc. The opposition Liberals allege Jaffer or Glemaud may have violated federal laws on lobbying activities, an accusation Glemaud has denied.

Jaffer, who represented an Edmonton riding from 1997 until his defeat in the 2008 federal election, is not a registered lobbyist.

And, despite a last-minute attempt by the NDP to delay Jaffer’s testimony, the commons committee will proceed this week with its examination of his post-political business practices.

“I think Canadians deserve answers . . . about what exactly is involved here,” said Liberal MP Mark Holland. “Was there abuse of trust? Was there an abuse potentially of public office? What exactly was going on with all of this, rather nefarious activities that seem to be going on? I think Canadians deserve those answers.”

Though MPs on that committee say they want to stick closely to the lobbying issue, Jaffer is sure to face questions on a broader range of issues, from reporters at least, on a whole host of events that have occurred since he last spoke in public, outside a courthouse in Orangeville, Ont., on March 9 when he pleaded guilty to careless driving and saw charges of possession of cocaine and drunk driving dropped by provincial prosecutors.

That decision by the provincial prosecutor raised several questions on its own but then, two weeks ago, new, more serious allegations surfaced involving Jaffer and Guergis that have since been referred to the RCMP.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, on April 9, fired Guergis from cabinet, suspended her from caucus, and called in the police and the ethics commissioner to investigate allegations — allegations upon which the government still refuses to comment — that Harper said only involved Guergis.

Canwest News Service has reported that Harper acted on allegations brought to him by private investigator Derrick Snowdy, who said that he was told by a Toronto businessman, Nazim Gillani, that Gillani had cellphone photographs of Jaffer and Guergis “partying” with “hookers” and cocaine.

Snowdy met with RCMP investigators in Milton, Ont., Monday morning on the Guergis allegations.

And while the RCMP looks at the Guergis allegations referred to them by Harper, the lobbying commissioner is looking at a complaint about Jaffer that was filed by the Liberals.

Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson has had two separate files placed before her in the last 10 days involving Guergis.

She said the investigation involving Harper’s allegations about Guergis have been put “on hold” and, on Monday, she said that she will not pursue the NDP’s allegations, saying that the NDP complaint about violations of the Conflict of Interest Act “does not meet the requirements” for an investigation set out in the legislation she is empowered to enforce.

But Dawson also enforces a conflict-of-interest code of conduct for MPs and did not rule out an investigation under that code of conduct. She has asked Guergis to respond to the NDP complaint within 30 days, a request she typically makes of any MP accused of violating the code of conduct.

Guergis has denied she violated conflict-of-interest rules and has also said that the allegations that apparently prompted Harper to demote her — allegations of consorting with prostitutes and drug users — are groundless.

The already convoluted plot took yet another twist Monday when the federal NDP had a change of heart from last week and decided Monday to try to delay Jaffer’s testimony.

Last week, NDP, Liberal and Bloc Quebecois MPs on the government operations and estimates committee voted in favour of a Liberal motion to call Jaffer, Glemaud, Guergis and others to testify about Jaffer’s attempts to meet with MPs about his business. Conservative MPs on that committee abstained from voting. Liberals say that, in meeting with MPs about potential government funding for some of his projects, Jaffer violated federal lobbying law.

The lone NDP MP on that committee, Pat Martin, voted in favour of that Liberal motion last week but, on Monday, reversed his decision and tried to get the committee to put off Jaffer’s testimony.

“The issue of influence peddling is so serious that all the other salacious stuff pales in comparison,” Martin said. “I really don’t care about all those other issues — the busty hookers — we don’t want this to turn into a circus in that regard. Influence peddling is right up there with treason in terms of high crimes and misdemeanours and if the RCMP has an investigation under way regarding influence peddling by these people, I don’t want anything at our committee . . . to jeopardize any investigation the RCMP has under way. And that doesn’t preclude us from calling these witnesses back after the facts if we are still interested in doing so.”

Martin’s attempt Monday to delay Jaffer’s and Glemaud’s appears set to fail because it violates procedural rules used in the House of Commons.  Meanwhile, the committee confirmed Monday that Gillani and his associate, former CFL player Mike Mihelic, will testify about their business relationship to Jaffer and Gillani next week. Gillani is facing his own legal troubles on a separate matter. He is in court in Newmarket, Ont., Wednesday to face fraud charges.   The Commons committee had also decided that it wanted Guergis to testify but no date has yet been set for her testimony.

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