Opinion Editorial

Jaffer, Guergis still acted contrary to what is 'right'

In the interests of fairness, it's time to finally close the book on the Rahim Jaffer/Helena Guergis affair.

It's time to sum up what the political couple were accused of and what the results were of these accusations.

This week Jaffer, a former Conservative MP in Edmonton and caucus chairman, was determined to have conducted unregistered lobbying activities.

He did this on behalf of his company, inside the federal government, in breach of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, according to Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd.

In a report released on Monday, Shepherd criticized the actions of Jaffer and his business partner, Patrick Glemaud, who were involved in a political controversy which also snared Jaffer's wife Guergis, the former Simcoe-Grey MP.

Shepherd said that while Jaffer and Glemaud were unsuccessful in attempts to secure $178 million in federal Green Infrastructure Fund funding, they should have registered as lobbyists.

Registration is required even if a lobbying effort fails, Shepherd said.

Jaffer and Glemaud don't face penalties, fines or jail time as a result of the lobbying commissioner's report.

This matter has been investigated by the RCMP, which determined there were no grounds for criminal charges.

But Jaffer and Glemaud broke federal rules by failing to register as lobbyists before trying to obtain taxpayers' money.

Glemaud blamed the "often ambiguous provisions" of the Lobbying Act in his response to Shepherd's report, speaking to The Canadian Press.

Jaffer was concerned about the lobbying commissioner pursuing an investigation, even though the Mounties decided not to lay any charges.

Last summer, federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson determined that Guergis broke Parliament's conflict of interest code by sending a letter to Simcoe County officials, encouraging them to hear a presentation from a green waste management firm's owner, who had business links to Jaffer.

According to the conflict of interest code, politicians are prohibited from using their position to further their private interests, or those of their family members.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper removed Guergis from Cabinet and kicked her out of the Conservative caucus in the spring of 2010. She was defeated in the May 2, 2011 election, when she ran as an independent candidate.

Guergis responded to Dawson's findings by saying there was no proof she had done anything wrong. She was also investigated by the RCMP and not charged criminally.

Guergis was not fined or otherwise penalized for her offence.

Part of her responsibility as an MP, however, is to know what the conflict of interest guidelines are and adhere to them. Most politicians know enough to steer clear of any potential conflicts of interests.

Guergis saying there's no evidence of her conflict of interest doesn't wash. Dawson didn't come to her conclusion in a court of law, but rather by looking at Guegris' actions in light of the code of conduct and deciding there was misconduct.

Jaffer and Guergis are not criminals. They were both investigated by the RCMP and no charges were laid.

This doesn't mean they did nothing wrong.

Both clearly broke federal rules, the ones which govern our MPs, the ones which regulate lobbying activities in Ottawa. Just because they weren't fined, penalized or jailed doesn't absolve them of wrongdoing.

Jaffer and Guergis have said they did nothing wrong, but the federal lobbying commissioner and federal ethics commissioner say otherwise.

That's the bottom line on the Jaffer/Guergis affair.

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