NDP wants investigation of alleged political interference

OTTAWA — The New Democrats are once again urging the Harper government to summon the police to look into accusations of political interference in the office of the minister of public works.

OTTAWA — The New Democrats are once again urging the Harper government to summon the police to look into accusations of political interference in the office of the minister of public works.

And this time, they’re also planning to ask a House of Commons committee to summon the minister herself, Diane Finley, to testify.

Canada’s information commissioner has already reported evidence of “systemic interference” with access to information requests by three Conservative staff members who worked for Christian Paradis, the minister at the time.

Finley, who took over the portfolio last summer from predecessor Rona Ambrose, has suggested it would be a waste of resources to involve the police.

“I ask that you appear before a parliamentary committee to discuss the matter,” New Democrat MP Charlie Angus said in a letter to Finley released over the weekend.

The standing committee on access to information, privacy, and ethics was scheduled to meet Tuesday, but the motion from Angus was not expected to be debated until Thursday.

Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault’s report followed an investigation into cases that date back to 2009 in Paradis’ office.

She concluded that one staff member, Sebastien Togneri, interfered in a previous investigation sparked by an access to information request filed by The Canadian Press.

Togneri resigned in 2010 after the news agency reported he had been involved in other cases of meddling. The names of colleagues Marc Toupin and Jillian Andrews also appeared in emails tabled with a parliamentary committee.

Ambrose, who inherited the Public Works portfolio from Paradis, referred the Togneri matter to the Mounties, but no charges were ever laid.

Now, however, Finley’s office says the minister cannot direct the RCMP on whether to investigate a case.

A spokeswoman for the minister added that the Mounties have already decided to drop the Togneri file, suggesting that that was sufficient to determine that the Toupin and Andrews files need not be pursued by the police.

“The information commissioner presented seven recommendations to (Public Works and Government Services Canada) to improve the access to information process and all have been implemented by officials,” Finley’s director of communications Alyson Queen said in an email.

“The RCMP found no evidence that the matter should be pursued further and the minister agrees with the RCMP.”

But Angus said Finley’s refusal to refer the new cases to the Mounties amounts to obstruction of an officer of Parliament.

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