June 10, 2008

Update on Maxime Bernier affair !!

Return to work, explain yourself, opposition MPs tell Bernier

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — Conservative MP Maxime Bernier should stop licking his wounds and come back to Ottawa to represent his constituents and explain his mishandling of confidential documents, opposition MPs said yesterday.

NDP MP Penny Priddy attacked Mr. Bernier's "irresponsible" decision to stay out of public view since he resigned as foreign affairs minister two weeks ago.

A federal official said Mr. Bernier was in his riding of Beauce yesterday after a "period of rest," but could not provide any information on coming public appearances by the former cabinet minister.

Conservative officials have said that neither Mr. Bernier nor Prime Minister Stephen Harper will testify before the public safety committee of the House, which begins its hearings today into Mr. Bernier's actions regarding the confidential documents he left in the home of former girlfriend Julie Couillard.

"In life, people make serious errors, but you can't cover your head and disappear," said Ms. Priddy, who called on Mr. Bernier to return to the nation's capital.

"He is paid to be here," she said.

Mr. Bernier came under fire last month after it was revealed that Ms. Couillard had relationships in the 1990s with two people with ties to the Hells Angels.

Ms. Couillard then said in a television interview that Mr. Bernier left confidential documents at her home for at least five weeks in April and May, prompting Mr. Bernier's resignation and the parliamentary probe into the affair.

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh said Mr. Bernier can fulfill his responsibilities as an MP as he sees fit, but that Mr. Bernier and Mr. Harper should appear in front of the public safety committee.

Mr. Dosanjh said the House of Commons should even consider issuing a subpoena to force any recalcitrant witness before the committee.

"I know that there is a way to compel them, even [if] it's an arduous and long process," he said.

The first scheduled witnesses at today's hearings are security expert and former spy Michel Juneau-Katsuya and officials from the RCMP.

The two Mounties include Raf Souccar, assistant commissioner for federal and international operations, and Bob Paulson, acting assistant commissioner for national security criminal investigations.

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