By Ben Perrin
If you thought that secret agents, government cover ups, and top-secret
files were all relics of James Bond’s Cold War missions, think again. This
time, however, it’s New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Dick Proctor
who has taken the title of "super-sleuth" against the latest Liberal
cover-up. The main issue under discussion involves the Liberal government’s
role in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police crackdown on students at the University
of British Columbia during last November’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
Conference in Vancouver.
An inquiry was opened to investigate allegations of police-state tactics,
excessive force and the role of the federal government against students
protesting such controversial leaders as Indonesia’s ex-President Suharto
outside the APEC conference. Chretien’s top tap-dancer on this topic thus
far has been the Solicitor General of Canada, MP Andy Scott. Until this
week, we thought he had become a well-trained hush-hush cabinet minister.
However, it now appears as though Scott has been caught red-handed by his
parliamentary colleague Dick Proctor. Resulting are allegations that Scott
has prejudiced the outcome of the APEC inquiry, compromised his portfolio,
and thus must resign.
The two MPs were on a flight to New Brunswick with Proctor seated across
the aisle from Scott. It is Proctor’s claim that he overheard a conversation
between Solicitor General Scott and an unknown person, in which Scott made
several serious comments which Proctor recorded as they were spoken.
Scott evidently stated that he had to "cover for the Prime Minister"
and that at the end of the APEC inquiry it would be found that four or five
police officers would be seen to have exceeded their authority. Proctor
ambushed a very surprised Scott with these allegations in Question Period,
sparking a throng of Opposition MPs to call for Scott’s resignation.
What’s worse perhaps, are Scott’s pathetic attempts to deny any knowledge
of the event, with minute-by-minute changes in his story to the media after
Question Period. He claimed that he did not "recall" the conversation
and could "not imagine" that he would have said it at any rate.
Scott could not even remember if it had been a man or woman with whom he
was speaking. A day later, he suddenly remembered that it was a prominent
Liberal, donor and old friend of his to whom he was speaking. Neither Scott
nor his Mr. X have called the so-called Linda Tripp impersonator, Dick Proctor,
a liar in as few words. Instead, they have opted for the Bill Clinton approach:
confuse and filibuster with legalese as your ally. All signs indicate that
this ill-fated approach of passive denial is failing.
It is still possible that the Prime Minister could be summoned to reveal
his role in the APEC crackdown. You will recall Chretien’s response to hearing
of excessive pepper-spray use against students: "For me, I put pepper
on my plate." This is perhaps one of the most serious allegations to
be leveled at the Liberals in a long time.
The question of whether or not an airplane is a public place is quite clear:
it is as public a place as a movie theater. The next question turns to whether
or not what Dick Proctor is reporting is actually true. Scott’s reaction
and subsequent selective loss of memory, coupled with the detailed, signed
and dated notes of Proctor lead a rational thinking person to reasonably
believe that the Solicitor General of Canada discussed the APEC Inquiry
in a public place where potentially compromising conclusions were drawn.
The Solicitor General of Canada has no business commenting on a public inquiry
under his auspices when its findings have not yet been made. In so doing,
he would prejudice the outcome of the conclusions.
What is the new Liberal line to confront these serious allegations? The
Chair of the Justice Committee floated a test balloon on CTV’s Politics
by essentially asking: "What difference does it make even if he did
say those things?"
The fact is that it makes a very big difference. If Scott made the alleged
comments, it would demonstrate bias in a federal inquiry, reveal that the
Solicitor General lied to the House of Commons, and that the Prime Minister’s
Office has no interest whatsoever in allowing the APEC inquiry to independently
conduct its investigation and draw its conclusions.
Scott has already proved incapable of dealing with leaks from the RCMP and
the PMO of documents relating to the very public APEC inquiry.
If MP Dick Proctor is a liar, then I want to hear the Solicitor General
of Canada make this assertion. Until such time, Scott had better make sure
he has not compromised his position or prejudiced the inquiry. If, however,
he will not deny making such public conclusions in bungling this independent
Commission, he must be forced to tender his resignation to restore trust
in his Office.
This case of the Chretien government’s involvement in the APEC crackdown
and subsequent inquiry is like an onion-the more layers you peel off, the
more it smells. What was the role of the Prime Minister in arresting students
on such dubious grounds? Did Chretien demand swift and brutal action against
legally protesting UBC students to clear the way for foreign dictator Suharto?
These are questions that go the core of our supposedly free and democratic
country. If they cannot be investigated without prejudice in a fair and
transparent manner, we are in serious trouble. Mistakes have been made,
but that does not mean that Prime Minister Chretien needs to attempt a cover-up.
To him, I demand that the buck must stop here.