In 2005 Stephen Harper knew Conservative party officials were making a financial offer of $1 million to independent MP Chuck Cadman in exchange for his vote to topple the minority Liberal government in May 2005, a new book charges. Harper believed it was a waste of time to try bribing Cadman.
Harper was Opposition leader when two party operatives offered Cadman, who had terminal cancer, a million-dollar life insurance policy, according to the book.
In an audio tape released to the Star by the publisher of Like A Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, it is clear that Harper knew of the offer when he was interviewed by author Tom Zytaruk in September 2005.
When Zytaruk asked Harper whether he knew of the offer, Harper said: "I don't know the details. I knew that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?"
Zytaruk told Harper that the interview was "not for the newspaper. This is for the book."
Harper said: "I can tell you that I had told the individuals – I mean, they wanted to do it – but I told them they were wasting their time.
"I said Chuck had made up his mind he was going to vote with the Liberals. I knew why, and I respected the decision, but they were convinced there was financial issues ... but I said that's not going to change the decision," Harper said.
"I said `Don't press him, I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity, and ... if that's what you say, make the case,' but I said `Don't press it.'
"We had all kinds of our guys were calling him and trying to persuade him, but I just had concluded that that's where he stood and respected that," Harper said.
Asked about the insurance policy, Harper said, "it was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election, okay? That's my understanding of what they were talking about."
Harper, now prime minister, denied yesterday that there was any financial offer made to Cadman. The RCMP confirmed last night they are examining the Liberals' claim the incident violates the Criminal Code.
The allegations caused an uproar in the House of Commons, with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion saying "not only was trying to bribe Chuck Cadman an insult to his integrity and his honour, not only was it morally and ethically wrong, but it was against the law. Again, I ask the Prime Minister: What was he thinking?"
In an interview with CTV News yesterday, Dona Cadman stood by her story, outlined in the book, that the Tory officials had met with her husband to woo his vote.
"Two gentlemen had visited him, offered him a million-dollar life insurance policy and a few other things," said Cadman, who is the Conservative candidate in the Surrey North riding once held by her husband.
Asked whether she considered it a bribe, she responded, "Yes, in a way."
In a statement yesterday, senior Conservative officials Tom Flanagan and Doug Finley confirmed that they met with Cadman on May 19, 2005, two days after the meeting described in the book, and just hours before the non-confidence vote in the Commons, to discuss his possible return to the Conservative caucus.
"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 two officials said in a joint statement yesterday.
"As the record shows, Mr. Cadman declined our offer to rejoin the Conservative caucus and voted to prevent a general election," the statement said.
It is clear from Harper's comments – and in a book written last year by Flanagan – that Conservative officials and the Tory leader had several meetings with Cadman, not just one on May 19, 2005.
The Liberals asked the RCMP to launch a criminal probe. "Any allegations of financial inducements being offered to an elected public official in an attempt to influence that individual must be treated with the utmost seriousness," Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc (Beauséjour) wrote to RCMP Commissioner William Elliott.
As well, New Democrat MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) is asking the Commons' ethics committee to launch an investigation into the allegations outlined in the book.
"Trying to bribe somebody to change their vote is one of the most serious offences in the Criminal Code of Canada. It's a subversion of the Constitution, it undermines democracy," Martin said.
Harper rebutted the allegations yesterday, saying nothing was offered to Cadman before the vote on May 19, 2005.
"This is completely false, completely irresponsible," the Prime Minister said in question period.
Deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff asked: "Is the widow lying?"
The response from several members of the government, including Harper, was to repeat that Cadman said on CTV on May 19, 2005, that he had "received no other offers."
But a transcript of that interview suggests Cadman was talking about offers from other parties to join them.
Cadman, a former Reform and then Canadian Alliance MP, was dying of skin cancer when a crucial budget vote came up on May 19, 2005. Then-Liberal prime minister Paul Martin needed Cadman's vote to stay in power, while Harper's Conservatives needed the independent MP's support to force an election.
Two days before the vote, Zytaruk writes, Cadman was visited by two Conservative representatives and presented with a list of enticements to rejoin the party before the vote.
"They wanted him to vote against the government," Zytaruk quotes Cadman's wife Dona.
A million-dollar life insurance policy was on the list, Zytaruk writes.
"That was on him, so that if he died I'd get the million dollars," Dona Cadman said.
"There was a few other things thrown in there too, but it was the million-dollar policy that just pissed him right off."
The book says that the MP responded to the proposed deal by "bouncing them out of his office."
"He came home and was mad. He just said that he was insulted and that he was ashamed to have been a part of the Conservative party," Cadman's wife recalled in the book.
Cadman sided with the minority Liberals in the crucial vote, ensuring Canadians would not head to the polls for a summer election. He died just a few months later.
Dona Cadman said she had no regrets about telling the story, though she conceded it was a "little" awkward for her now that she was running for the Conservatives.
The statement issued by Flanagan and Finley makes no mention of any earlier meeting with Cadman.
But in his own book, Harper's Team, Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power, Flanagan hints that the May 19 meeting wasn't the first time they had tried to persuade Cadman to come back to the Conservative benches.
- A Fair Share For Canadian Farmers!
- Brian Mulroney Vs Stephen Harper? Mulroney Nostalgia
- Can Canada's industrial base survive Asian Competition?
- Canada eZine
- Canada's Fallen Soldiers in Afghanistan
- Canadian Business & Politics
- Canadian Tax Reform
- Canadian Unity Vs. Quebec Separatism
- Election 2007 in Canada - Liberals Vs Conservatives
- Environment hurt by Quebec Separatism?
- Environment trips up Tories
- Garth Turner Goes Green?
- Harper Flip Flops on Same Sex Marriages
- Harper shakes hands with Terrorist Warlord
- I AM CANADIAN
- Liquor store rakes in Canadian Tire Money
- NAFTA II - Expanding the North American Free Trade Agreement
- Neo-Conservative Budget in Canada: 2006
- Ontario Goes Nuclear
- Par in sight for Canadian Dollar
- Politics of Canada Webring
- Quebec's Political Woes
- Stephen Harper Vs Kyoto and the Environment
- The Canada & USA Webring
- The Canada Webring
- The Canadian Culture Webring
- The Canadian Politics Webring
- The Canadiana Webring
- The Conservative Party of Canada
- The Reform Party is Gone
- Tim's a Hit in Afghanistan
- Tory Green and the Oil Industry
- True North, Strong & Free
- Will Canada go Penny-less?