During question period today, Harper said he'd looked into this himself and decided there was "absolutely no truth in it". This obviously begs the question: Why would Harper take it upon himself to investigate such a serious charge? In politics appearances are everything and if Harper had any political sense, he would have turned this matter over to the appropriate officials right off the bat. Instead, he chose to cover it up and now the Conservatives are accusing Cadman's widow, a member and candidate of their party, of lying. The denials were flying fast and furious during Thursday's questions and, as one opposition MP said in response to Peter Van Loan's flailing, "Me thinks you dost protest too much".
Via the Globe & Mail:
In a statement released Thursday, Tory campaign director Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political science professor who is a close friend and former campaign chief of Mr. Harper, confirmed that they met with Mr. Cadman on May 19, 2005 to discuss his possible re-admission to the Conservative caucus – a fact “widely known in political circles” and on the public record, they said.
The statement does not address the insurance policy allegation, but suggests televised remarks by Mr. Cadman made later that day puts the matter to rest.
“We offered ways that we – as campaign officials – could help Mr. Cadman in the Conservative nomination process, and if successful, wage a competitive campaign in a general election,” the statement said.
“Later that evening, Mr. Cadman confirmed our offer of campaign assistance to a national television audience and further confirmed that this offer was ‘the only offer on anything.' As the record shows, Mr. Cadman declined our offer to re-join the Conservative Caucus.”
Mr. Harper is quoted in the book, Like a Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, as confirming that a visit took place, and that officials were “legitimately” representing the Conservative Party. But he said any offer to Mr. Cadman was only to defray losses he might incur in an election. A copy of the manuscript, including an introduction by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, has been obtained by The Globe and Mail.
Here is Dona Cadman's version of the events:
According to the book, two Conservative officials arrived at Mr. Cadman's Ottawa office two days before the vote on the Liberal budget. It was apparent at that time that the House of Commons was evenly split on the money bill and the nod of the then-Independent MP would decide whether Mr. Martin's Liberal government would survive. “The Tories actually walked in with a list of offers written down on a piece of paper. Included in their proposal was a $1-million life insurance policy – no small carrot for a man with advanced cancer,” the book states.
Dona Cadman, who is now running for the Conservatives in the Vancouver-area riding of Surrey North, was not in the office at the time. But she says her husband was furious when he returned to their apartment. “Chuck was really insulted,” she said in a telephone interview with The Globe yesterday. “He was quite mad about it, thinking they could bribe him with that.”
Mr. Cadman died less than two months after the vote.
Ms. Cadman, who has read and approved the manuscript for the book, said she has “no idea” where the money for the life insurance was supposed to come from. “They had the form there. Chuck just had to sign.”
This is extremely serious business and won't be going away anytime soon, as much as the Conservatives would like it to and as much as they believe that simply shouting it down in the house of commons will make it disappear.
Stephane Dion announced today that the Liberals have "sent a letter to the police [RCMP]" to launch a proper investigation. NDP MP Pat Martin has asked for an ethics committee inquiry.
I'll bet the Conservatives are now wishing they'd managed to force a new election a few months ago considering just how damaging this could end up being to their party. It's a no-win situation for them since, in order to refute these allegations, they'll have to keep insisting that Dona Cadman, one of their own, is a liar. Such accusations against the widow of a much-respected MP will not do them any favours. Add that to the fact that Harper seems to think his dismissal of the allegations were enough to bury this story and you have a situation where he has set himself up to appear ethically-challenged (again). This is yet another example of abuse of power by this Conservative government.
Stock up on popcorn. This one is going to be nasty.
Steve at Far and Wide asks a good question: Why Do The Conservatives Allow Liars To Run For Office?