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Helena Guergis doth protest too much: Democracy Watch

"Harper 'tossed me under a bus': Guergis" read a CBC headline, echoing other recent stories carrying MP Helena Guergis's outraged accusations towards Stephen Harper.

But a leading good-government watchdog said today that Harper was right to boot Guergis from cabinet -- but not from caucus.

Harper ousted Guergis last year based on allegations that Guergis and her husband Rahim Jaffer had engaged in criminal acts – allegations that proved unsubstantiated. The RCMP subsequently cleared Guergis and Jaffer.

Now Guergis is running again as an independent and telling reporters Harper engaged in the "worst kind of politics" and a "destructive campaign" against her.

But Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch, released a statement today saying people should not forget that Guergis did violate Parliamentary ethics rules:

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper definitely overreacted and penalized Conservative Cabinet minister Helena Guergis too harshly last year based on rumours and innuendo, Ms. Guergis is not as innocent as she claims and many have portrayed her.

Clear documentary evidence was released late last April that showed Ms. Guergis was allowing her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, to use her Parliament Hill office to conduct business, including seeking contracts for companies from the government.

If federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson did her job properly, she would have long ago ruled on Democracy Watch's complaint filed with her early last May that Ms. Guergis' actions, and the actions of several other Conservative Cabinet staff people who also assisted Mr. Jaffer, violated the rule in the Conflict of Interest Act that prohibits giving preferential treatment to anyone and any organization. See the complaint here.

But whether or not Ethics Commissioner Dawson ever issues a ruling on Democracy Watch's complaint (she has a very, very weak enforcement record and has never found any Conservative guilty of violating any ethics rule), it is clearly wrong for any MP to allow anyone to conduct business in their parliamentary office, or their constituency office (both of which are paid for by taxpayers).

So Prime Minister Harper was correct to dismiss Ms. Guergis from Cabinet, but did so for the wrong reasons. Also, he went too far in kicking her out of the Conservative caucus (unless, of course, the caucus actually made that decision, which the caucus has the right to do).

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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