Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'd like to address your opening remarks right away. I regret that I was unable to appear before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates yesterday. As I explained to the clerk of the committee, I meant no disrespect to the committee or its process.
Helena and I have been trying to have a child for some time, and she had just completed the first trimester of a high-risk pregnancy. It had not helped that she had been under considerable stress as a result of her treatment by the Prime Minister and others. Despite her doctor's order to stop work, Helena insisted on continuing with many of her duties as an elected member of Parliament. Yesterday I was with my wife, as I should have been, when tests were conducted to ascertain the health of our baby. I'm relieved to report that the test results were good and there are no significant concerns about our baby's health. Needless to say, Helena and I were both pleased by this medical news.
I know that there were other demands on my time yesterday, but I truly believed that the right place for me was beside my wife while she was undergoing these tests and when she received the results. I expect that my wife's colleagues in the House and on the government operations committee would have done the same thing.
With that being said, I know that my lawyer did consult with the clerk on a number of dates once we found out that the 16th was not available to us. I would like to thank the committee for their understanding by accommodating me today, with this special meeting.
I'd like to clarify some points arising from my April 21 appearance. Prior to accepting the committee's invitation to answer questions, I was advised by my lawyer to take some time to review e-mails, documents, and Green Power Generation files concerning the issues about which I had been invited. He encouraged me to do so, so that the information I provided would be complete and accurate.
I ignored the advice. I was so upset about the treatment of my wife by the Prime Minister and other opinion leaders that I felt I should fix the situation as soon as possible. I was certain that if I just came and answered questions, I could refute the unfair allegations against my wife.
I know now that I was wrong. I inadvertently ended up providing incomplete information to the committee about a couple of important things, and I really regret that. It has embarrassed me. I apologize to the committee.
Obviously I knew that there would be a paper trail and an e-mail trail of everything I did at GPG. My lawyer told me to take a couple of weeks to find that material and read it over before I came. But I was in a hurry to get to the committee and to help my wife by explaining that we weren't doing anything wrong. Unfortunately, that message got completely scrambled and lost because I didn't have my facts straight about several issues.
For example, I had forgotten what was on my personal website, since I didn't use it for GPG business. I ended up first denying, then admitting, that something was there that was actually there...or not there that was actually there. Had I just prepared a little more carefully for this appearance, I would not have made that or similar mistakes.
I also was unprepared for the aggressive and nasty tone of some of the questioning at the committee. I took no money, government or otherwise. I used no influence. I traded no favours and I breached no trust. I was stunned that I could be accused of all of that without a shred of evidence. I was appalled that it happened here at committee.
I think my answers reflected how confused and shocked I was by the content and tenor of the questioning. While I have made mistakes in my life, I've always taken responsibility for them. I'm appalled and upset that anyone would so casually attack my character.
On my last appearance, I was asked why my wife wrote a letter on behalf of Jim Wright. I acknowledged that she should not have been promoting Jim Wright's business in her personal capacity if GPG was still doing business with him. As you know, Jim Wright is one of my wife's constituents. He contacted her office and asked her for assistance.
At the time, she questioned me about the business relationship with him. I told her that we were not doing any business with him and had no prospect of doing so in the future. I was well aware of the difficulties it would cause my wife if there was any potential conflict of interest. I wouldn't have told her it was appropriate to send a routine letter if I thought there was a chance of it causing a problem for anyone.
I was unaware that Patrick was still trying to initiate something that would involve the use of Jim Wright's company's technology.
This was in September. As most people are aware, I had a personally challenging fall. I wasn't as involved in my business as I should have been for a number of months. My partner, Patrick, carried most of the business activities during this period. When I became more involved with the company business again, nothing was happening with Jim Wright. There was nothing that would have caused me to re-address the issue with my wife. Only in April of this year, when the Toronto Star series was published, did I turn my mind to the fact that my wife had written a letter regarding Jim Wright.
It was my responsibility to keep up to speed with Patrick's activity, in this case an e-mail exchange regarding Jim Wright's company during September. I should have checked more thoroughly before answering Helena's question and before assuring her that there was no impediment to her writing this letter of introduction on Jim Wright's behalf. I regret not doing so, but it was an inadvertent mistake. It was obviously not intended to engage Helena in wrongdoing, since I was keenly aware that my business relationships and her correspondence were presumptively public matters.
Although it is not clear to me why this committee is concerned with this issue, I want to respond to questions that have been raised concerning the use of a government BlackBerry after the 2008 election. As members of the committee know, every MP is issued four wireless devices for distribution at their discretion. Based on my experiences, many MPs distribute a wireless device to their spouse. Helena decided that I could keep my old MP's BlackBerry, transfer it to her account, enable it from her system, and assign it as one of her four on her operating budget. The reason she did this was to enable me to keep track of her schedule and communicate regularly with her staff. As a cabinet minister, she was very busy and her schedule was constantly in flux. By having a BlackBerry affiliated with her office system, I had her schedule accessible and automatically updated. There are dozens of MP and cabinet minister spouses who have had government-issued wireless devices for similar purposes.
Further, in the 14 months I have had this device from Helena's allocation, I've sent thousands and thousands of e-mails from my business account and personal account at home, but I acknowledge that there may have been a few occasions on which I sent e-mails others sent to me or I replied on this government-issued wireless. This would have been inadvertent.
In my last appearance before the committee I was asked about Helena's office for my personal business purposes. It is not true that I used her office for my personal business purposes. I did use her office briefly after the election, as I was moving my files and other material out of my Parliament Hill office. There was a very short window after the election, and I was unable to clean out my office before I needed to vacate it. In any case, after the cleanout was complete, which was about a month later, I used her office as a point to meet up with people a few times. I met a few people at her office so we could go for lunch; after we met there, we left. We conducted no business in the office.
I met Mr. Wenger once in relation to a personal matter, which he wanted to discuss with me. I believe that every other person I may have met in my wife's office would have been registered on the visitor's log through security, and this log is available should anyone wish to consult it. I had my own office for conducting business at that time and had no need to use my wife's office, and I did not use it for that purpose.
Madam Chair, that's really all I have to clarify at this point. I'd like to go straight to the questions so we can fully maximize on the opportunity.
I'm going to move on. As you know, we have only eight minutes.
Your company signed a contract with Nazim Gillani. We know that. We've seen that. It stated that you had “valuable connections to and with...the government of Canada and various departments [and] ministries...for ...purposes of providing participatory and non-participatory government funding.”
The same contract stated that you would be compensated with a finder's or advisory fee, and if you recall, Mr. Glémaud, in his testimony, said that if the government had expressed any interest in any of these proposals, you would have gone back to your clients and discussed next steps. That was what he said during testimony.
We now know there was a signed contract with Mr. Gillani that talked about a finder's or advisory fee. How did you anticipate being compensated by your clients? We know about the finder's fee. So if the government had said this proposal looked good and you started negotiations, how would that have gone? Could you describe what you had anticipated as your business model?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Jaffer, the difficulty with our situation today is that you came before and gave testimony, and what has been consistent in the testimony we've heard subsequent is that almost everybody has had at least one thing to contradict the testimony you've provided.
In every case, or in many cases, there's been individual testimony that's either overtly saying something different from you or else saying it's not quite the way you clarified it or that you stated things before our committee. The difficulty is that when we find out on the little things that there are inconsistencies in the testimony, it's tough to believe any of the testimony. I guess that's the difficulty for committee members.
I don't want to get really frustrated at the moment because I think there are some things we need to go through. We need to go through the testimony you provided and the testimony that we heard from subsequent people. I don't know if there's any clarification that you can bring to this committee before we move forward and finish the hearings.
We understand there's no money that came from the government and went to you or to other members. We have no evidence of that. That's the first point. I think it's clear.
But there are questions with regard to the testimony you provided our committee. You have a responsibility to give us the truth, the whole truth, and I believe nothing but the truth. The testimony you've provided up until this point I believe has broken the trust with your former colleagues and has broken the trust with your former constituents. I believe you've also generally broken trust with Canadians as a result of the testimony you've provided.
There have been issues of business cards where you have unequivocally said.... You castigated Mr. Martin for asking the question; you dismissed it as being simply a story that was written in The Toronto Star. Then we had provided to this committee the actual business card--your member of Parliament business card--with nothing scribbled out or nothing altered on the business card. So that was one demonstration.
We heard from Mr. Gillani. In fact, while you said that after a couple of meetings you felt the business relationship wouldn't go any further and that it had ended, we heard from him that there was a contract in place and that the relationship, as far as he understood, was continuing. As a matter of fact, he described for us plans you had with him to travel to China for business.
We continue to hear these things.
The last time you were here, Mr. Jaffer, I asked you what seemed to be an insignificant question, but it was something I felt was important to fully understand. According to news stories, you had described on your personal website that you could help secure government support for businesses. You denied that through the majority of that meeting. When I finally was able to get a copy of the website, a cached copy of the website, it was as clear as day that that in fact had happened.
As soon as the news story came out originally, I actually tried to find your website. I couldn't find it. It had been taken down.
Mr. Jaffer, in your letter you read today, which we got a couple of days ago, you said you had inadvertently said this, that you didn't know about this website. You dismissed it as simply being a long lost memory.
I guess my question would be, who took down the website the day after the news story ran?
Having said that, when you called Mr. Paradis last August, as was reported in the Le Quotidien newspaper—it is now June 2010, so that is quite recent in human history—it was to discuss a project to install solar panels on federal government buildings. You did more than socialize. I understand that you are buddies, long-standing friends, and so on. However, you spoke to the minister about something directly connected to Green Power Generation Corporation. At the request of the minister, or at least as a result of a friendly agreement, you contacted him directly.
Do you see why we cannot believe everything you have told us? You say that you had contact with these people only because they were your colleagues when you worked in politics as a member of Parliament. You say that you discussed installing solar panels with Mr. Paradis. You addressed an area that affects the company in question, the one you represent. As for obtaining information, you are an intelligent man. You can find basic information on the government's Internet site. But you overstepped your bounds by asking for information from a minister who decides whether or not to approve projects.
It goes beyond friendship when you talk to a minister instead of simply reading about an issue like any other citizen would. You were dealing with a decision-maker. How can you say that you weren't lobbying a person in a position of authority?
Yes. First of all, I was never paid by GPG, being my own company, to do any lobbying.
Secondly, when it came to the minister, when we approached his assistant about how we go about.... This is a brand new area. There's no information available on how to pay the government to put solar panels on rooftops. We weren't asking for money; we wanted to pay the government to lease rooftop space.
The assistant we approached to point us in the right direction said, “You know what? Regardless, I'll look into it, but Minister Paradis would like to talk to you, just to see how you're doing.” So that's how the whole evolution of that telephone call happened, where I called him, we caught up, and he asked me how I was doing. We talked about families. I knew his family quite well because I was the chair of caucus.
After that point he asked me, “So what are you doing now?” I said, “This is the work we're trying to do at my company, GPG. We're looking to try to...with the federal government there may be opportunities to lease rooftop space, to pay the government so we can lease the space to build power projects. Your assistant said he'd try to get the information for me. I appreciate it. That's what I'm involved in. Thanks for asking.”
That was it.
I appreciate the question, Mr. Lauzon. We did have a discussion, Patrick and I, about this. We were clear on the law that if we were to take any contract that would pay us to talk to any government official, we would then have to, by the law, register.
We didn't know the nature of what our business was going to be. We went through a process that took most of six months or more to find out what type of business we wanted to focus in on, how we were going to develop that business, and therefore we didn't want to take any contract from anyone as a result, because we just couldn't promise anything. We didn't want to promise anything.
Once we had gone and established that process, if we were going to take contracts to lobby on behalf of anybody, we would have registered, we would have gone through the process. That never happened.
I've maintained—and I said this in my remarks the last time—that when I met with the Prime Minister shortly after the election, when he met with me, one of the things that came up is he asked me what I was going to do. I wasn't clear on that at the time, but I did say to him, with my wife's involvement with government, all of my connections, I don't want to be in the lobbying business and I'm going to do my best to avoid it.
And that's one of the reasons we did not take any contracts during this whole process. There were people offering us money and saying, “Why don't your represent us?” But that was something we resisted.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Jaffer, it's me again.
This is so much like déjà vu to me. Earlier on, I was asking about the website. It seems like this is a replay of the last committee meeting. I asked you specifically why you took down the website. You must have known what was on the website. You said, “I took down the website because the Conservative Party asked me to remove the Conservative logo from it.” You said there was one action, to remove that by shutting down the website.
Mr. Jaffer, again, I now have cached copies of your website from April 8. Earlier in the day there's a “C” next to your name—the conservative “C”.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Right.
Mr. Chris Warkentin: Later in the day, the “C” is removed. So the logo came down; the website remained.
This speaks to the fact that you're not willing yet to tell us the truth. If we can't believe you on the small stuff, how can we believe you on the big stuff?
Just on this point, I have apologized to Canadians for not being properly prepared the first time. I've apologized to this committee.
Mr. Chris Warkentin: Well....
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: I've also said, and it's an issue of semantics—you can laugh if you wish and make light of it—I think Canadians, given the drastic stress we were under during all the scrutiny that came about, would understand that I would have made some mistakes.
I was instructed, as I said, to take that website down. Initially the “C” came down, but it's an issue of semantics--
Mr. Chris Warkentin: But that's not what you said.
Mr. Rahim Jaffer: --that same day; the website came down. If you want to make an issue of whether or not it was a few hours later or the end of the day, I can assure you the website came down. It was no longer there, and I just thought it would be less of a headache. Initially, I think the web host said he got a call as well to take the “C” off. He did so, but when I followed up with him and said “Please take the website down”, he did so.
I apologize if I made a mistake of a couple hours, but it did come down that day.
I don't know why you would make such a big point of it.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Mr. Jaffer, here is some food for thought. You probably had some friends before coming here, but you probably have fewer today given what you have said about the Conservative Party.
Documents show that you were in contact with various departments. We have heard that Mr. Christian Paradis, former Minister of Public Works and Government Services, admitted earlier this week that Mr. Jaffer had called him in August to discuss a project to install solar panels on government buildings. That is fine, he is a friend, and so on, but he is also a minister. , the current Minister of Public Works and Government Services, wrote that following a request from Rahim Jaffer in August 2009, a meeting had been organized by the department to discuss a proposal. The meeting was finally held with Mr. Glémaud in October.
And then there was , and , two of Rahim Jaffer's former colleagues. An article in La Presse states: “These documents show that there was contact on several occasions with members of ministers' offices or departmental officials or federal organizations which had to that point been spared in this controversy, including the Office of the Minister of Public Works, the Minister of State for Seniors, and the Western Economic Diversification Agency of Canada.”
So the issue is one of direct contact with former colleagues. I am not sure that you could get that today, because of what you have said.
As for , he had to admit to the House of Commons that his employees had met Rahim Jaffer a year ago. , admitted the same thing after the Minister of the Environment. Earlier this week, John Baird had to concede that his department had considered three projects put forth by Rahim Jaffer's company.
Mr. Jaffer acknowledged approaching , on three projects. As for , he confirmed that the former Conservative member of Parliament had also sent an e-mail to a member of his staff. And then there was .
This information comes from press clippings or TV.
Reports say that and , respectively Jim Prentice and John Baird, as well as the , Gary Goodyear, also submitted documents to the committee and to the Commissioner of Lobbying. The documents deal with correspondence from Mr. Jaffer and his business partner, Mr. Glémaud.
All of these situations paint a picture of people who were lobbying others they knew well. Based on our understanding of this approach, one can say that the Conservative Party opened its doors to a former colleague, to one of its own, by greatly facilitating access as regards potential projects with Green Power Corporation.
The Chair: Mr. Nadeau, conclude your remarks please.
Mr. Richard Nadeau: That is all, thank you.
What I wanted to say was with the period of time that was determined after I had my incident in the news last September, I had withdrawn from a lot of the activity of my business--almost all of it, for a period of about a month and a half to two months.
From that period, it was my understanding that we were not pursuing...even though a contract was signed, which I was not directly involved with, with Mr. Gillani, business relations with him were coming to a close. That was verified to me in November with the document you will see when it's translated. There was a contract that was trying to be put forward for compensation with Mr. Gillani. He refused to sign it. We realized that the business relationship was done at that point, as I had maintained.
My timing was off on this, obviously because of what had happened to me. But that did not mean we cut off all communications with Mr. Gillani. There was no business done afterward. There were a lot of overtures from Mr. Gillani, and they came very short of materializing, including this trip to China that he said he was involved with. He didn't deliver on anything that he was supposed to, and I made my own arrangements to go with Dr. Chen.
There were many things that were talked about by Mr. Gillani, but our business relationship ceased. I think I originally left the committee with the impression it was in September. I was mistaken. It was a little later. It was in November.