THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWAâ€“The following is a transcript of a portion of author Tom Zytaruk’s tape of a 2005 interview with Stephen Harper, then leader of the Opposition, for his biography of the late Chuck Cadman:
Zytaruk: “I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?”
Harper: “I don’t know the details. I know that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?”
Read the full transcript of the Cadman biographer’s interview with Stephen Harper here.
Members of Mr. Harperâ€™s caucus yelled â€œShameâ€ at the top of their lungs during QP on Thursday, trying to drown out Stephane Dionâ€™s questions regarding Chuck Cadman. They did not succeed. The prime minister then denied that the former Indie MP had been offered a bribe to rejoin the Conservative Party and defeat the Liberal government, on that fateful day of May 19, 2005.
At the time, Mr. Cadman was dying of cancer. His vote alone would determine whether the Martin government survived, or if the country would be plunged into an election.
Cadmanâ€™s widow, Dona, confirmed in an interview broadcast on CTV on Thursday afternoon what’s in a new book on her husband, and what Chuck had told her: Two operatives of the Conservative Party had offered him various things, including a $1 million life insurance policy. Mrs. Cadman, by the way, is a card-carrying federal Conservative. She is also the Conservative candidate in her riding of Surrey North. Therefore she appears to have no incentive whatsoever to lie.
Thursday night, Cadman’s adult daughter, Jodi, also appeared on national television to back up her mother’s story, and her father’s words to them – that he’d been offered an insurance policy to take care of them both after his death.
The Harper administration replied to question after question in the Commons on Thursday with one simple defence: Mr. Cadman gave an interview the night of the vote to CTV, in which, the Conservatives say, he denied being offered any deal.
â€œEnd of story,â€ says government spokesguy James Moore, himself a BC MP.
Not exactly true. For those who have since heard Mr. Cadmanâ€™s exact, and carefully chosen words, he says he â€œreceived no offers from any other party.â€ He was not asked about a financial incentive to vote with the Conservatives. He was not asked about a bribe or an insurance policy. His clip was shortened by Moore to just “received no offers.”
Furthermore, the author of the new Cadman biography interviewed Stephen Harper in Mr. Cadmanâ€™s driveway, an audio tape of which has also been broadcast. â€œOf the offer to Chuck,â€ he quotes Mr. Harper as saying, â€œit was only to replace financial considerations he might lose due to an election, OK. Thatâ€™s my understanding of what they were talking about.â€
So what did happen?
We know this: On that day, May 19th, Harper strategist and mentor Tom Flanagan called Conservative MP John Reynolds, who would be the national Conservative election chair, to arrange a meeting with Cadman prior to the critical vote. Reynolds then called Gary Lunn, also a BC member, who Harper would later take into his cabinet, to intervene. Lunn did so, and set up the meeting with Cadman for 3 pm.
Flanagan took Doug Finley with him. Finley is now Harperâ€™s Director of Political Operations, and his wife, Diane, was taken into cabinet by Mr. Harper after he became prime minister. Flanagan and Finley met with Cadman, who was in the final stages of skin cancer and very fatigued.
Finley says the two of them made a â€œlast desperate tryâ€ to convince Cadman to rejoin the party and vote against the Liberals. Two years later, in his own book, Flanagan admitted to the rashness of this meeting, saying, â€œItâ€™s an excellent example of how the passion of politics lead to decisions that later make you scratch your head.â€
Thus, we have Mr. Harper admitting he knew in advance that this meeting would take place. He told a journalist that the meeting was about â€œfinancial considerationsâ€ for Mr. Cadman. The widow of Chuck Cadman, herself a Conservative candidate, has told an author and a broadcaster the same thing â€“ her husband confided he was offered a $1 million policy to sign on with Finley and Flanagan. This was confirmed by her daughter. And, finally, Mr. Flanagan himself says the meeting was â€œdesperateâ€ on his partyâ€™s part and an â€œexcellent exampleâ€ of behaviour which is later deemed questionable.
Even if the insurance policy aspect cannot be proven, the prime minister admits his party representatives discussed â€œfinancial considerationsâ€ with a member of Parliament in an attempt to secure his vote. That is unethical and amoral. Soon the RCMP will determine if it might also be illegal.
As I said here last night when news of this shocking allegation became public: This is consistent with what I have seen Mr. Harper do, with what he said of Mr. Cadman within the Conservative caucus, and the way he micromanages even the smallest strategic actions within his political party. It speaks not only to his character and his motives, but to his fundamental moral compass.
Based on what we know, let alone what we fear, it is broken.
Below is a transcript of the CTV interview with Chuck Cadman, the night of the vote in May, 2005. These words were used repeatedly by the Harper government to ‘prove’ nothing had been offered to the MP in exchange for his vote. Come to your own conclusions. — Garth
Duffy: “Craig Oliver reported… that the Conservatives offered you an unopposed nomination if you would vote with them, and also help with campaign financing and so on. Was that offer actually made?”
Cadman: “Well, there was some talk about that. As far as an unopposed nomination, you know, the discussion did come up, the talk did come up, yeah.”
Duffy: “So they were making and offer to you and in the end you refused.”
Cadman: “Yeah, well, you know, that was the only offer on anything I had from anybody, you know, there was no offers on the table up to that point about anything from any, uh, from any party.”