Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Cadman affair continues, more information and more questions

The shocking allegations last night that the Conservative Party allegedly tried to bribe an MP dying of cancer with a $1 million insurance policy have reverberated like a shockwave around the media and the political blogsphere today. Well, at least the progressive half.

The issue dominated question period today, some of Stephane Dion's questioning is online here:



Michael Ignatieff also asked a very good question:




Kady has a pretty good recap of the story to date, and the back and forth. The Globe also has an updated piece tonight.

The Conservatives start by saying Tom Flanagan and Doug Finley met with Cadman the day of the infamous confidence vote to offer him "campaign assistance" should he run for them. This seems lacking in credibility to me. Cadman was in very poor health at this point, was he really going to run again?

Another part of the Conservative line has been that there was no offer of anything (except campaign assistance I suppose, their line is 'evolving') but they were just making Chuck aware of the benefits of being a Conservative MP. Here's where I have problems with that line. Chuck had not that long before been an MP in whatever they were calling the party at the time, so wouldn't be be aware of the privleges of caucus membership?

Then there is the surfacing of a CTV interview with Chuck Cadman on the day of the infamous confidence vote. Radwanski has a partial transcript:

Duffy: Chuck, earlier tonight Craig Oliver reported on our network special that the Conservatives were prepared do offer you an unopposed nomination if you would vote with them, and also help with campaign funding and so on. Was that offer actually made?

Cadman: Well there was some talk about that. As far as the unopposed nomination, you know, the discussions did come up. The talk did come up, yeah.


Duffy: So they were making an offer to you, and in the end you refused?


Cadman: Yes. Well, that was the only offer on anything that I had from anybody. So there was no offers on the table up till that point about anything from any party.

That interview was a big part of the Conservative defence in QP today, and it does raise some key questions. The Conservatives say why don't you take Chuck's word for it, there was no bribe or anything, he denied it himself so let's move on already.

Now that I've read at least this partial transcript, it seems like his comments are open to multiple interpatations. Is he saying the unopposed nomination was the only offer made? Maybe. Or was the unopposed nomination possibly party of a package offer, and he's saying that offer, whatever offer they made to him, was the only offer he recieved. I don't know. And he's unfortunently unable to offer clarification.

Garth Turner tonight also makes a relevant point:
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.

End of story,” says government spokesguy James Moore, himself a BC MP.

Not exactly true. For those who have since heard Mr. Cadman’s exact, and carefully chosen words, he says he “received no offers from any other party.” 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.”

Duffy tonight reportedly tried to play down the allegations:
Mike Duffy: “Can I share something with you, which I haven’t shared publicly until now? … And that is in private conversations with me, Chuck Cadman told me, that there was no way he was going to vote against the Martin government, because he was concerned of the potential impact it might have on the insurance settlement for his wife Dona. In other words: if he died while a sitting MP, Chuck told me, ‘that would double or virtually double the payout to his widow’ and he didn’t ‘dare take a risk forcing an election’, even if he was confident of being elected, for fear of some legal hassle involving an insurance payout …”

Steve makes a good point in his comments section:
I'm going to throw this in here, because it could prove to be a key point. Duffy was trying to tone down the story, offering up a conversation he had with Cadman, wherein he said he didn't want to vote against the budget, for fear he would lose his seat in an election and the insurance he had as an MP because of it. Duffy said Cadman was concerned that he would die and his wife would suffer.

What nobody has picked up, Duffy actually connects some dots here. If Cadman was concerned about his insurance as an MP, then it what better way to allay his fears in voting with the Cons, than to offer him assurance on that score. Insurance was on Cadman's mind, according to Duffy, which puts the offer into complete context.

Exactly, Duffy's comments lend credence to Dona Cadman's story, that a life insurance policy was offered. If he votes with the CPC the house falls and he loses his life insurance through the HoC. Harper has been quoted as saying the meeting was to remove any financial disencentive to his voting with the CPC. A private insurance policy to replace his HoC one would have done that. It's the only theory that makes sense. An uncontested nomination or help with lawn signs makes no sense, there's no way he was going to run again.

Back to the old Cadman clip. Let's accept he was saying an uncontested nomination was the only thing on offer. How do we square that with the allegations by his wife, Conservative candidate Dona Cadman? That gets difficult. I can only speculate. Maybe he tells his wife things he doesn't tell the national media. Maybe he didn't want to spend the last few months of his life at the centre of a political circus. Or maybe, for some unknown reason, he lied to his wife. Seems unlikely.

The only other possibility would seem to be that Dona Cadman is lying. That's the only conclusion left to us if we're to believe the Conservative story here. Stephen Harper is saying Chuck Cadman's widow is making it all up, it would seem. What possible motivation would she have for making up a story that the party she wants to represent in the House of Commons tried to bribe her dying husband? It boggles the mind.

And if this is really what the Conservtives would have us believe, why is she still a candidate for their party? Are they going to withdraw her nomination? Will she then run as an independant and beat them? Wouldn't that be ironic.

Dona Cadman, for her part, is sticking to her story. She talked to CTV today, Steve has a transcript.

It also appears there were two meetings two days apart, one in Ottawa and one in Surrey. The Conservatives only discuss the one in Ottawa with Flanagan and Finley, we don't know who represented the party at the meeting in Surrey, and the Conservatives haven't acknwledged it. It appears they're treading a very careful line there. Why?

It seems the deeper I get into this, the more questions I have and the more confused I get. Speaking of questions, Radwanski has some:
*As a Conservative candidate (er, for now), what possible motive could there be for Dona Cadman to make any of this up?

*That being said, if a straight-shooter like Cadman was furious about being approached with a bribe, why wouldn't he come forward himself with the story?

*How does it make any sense, as per the PMO's account, that there was any serious discussion of covering Cadman's campaign costs for the election that would have ensued from his helping to bring down the government? Suffering from advanced cancer, it was an effort for him even to get to Ottawa for the vote. Was he really considering running again?

*What kind of insurance company is prepared to give a million-dollar policy to a man who's dying of cancer?

*If you're a Liberal Leader who apparently had to be talked out of forcing an election over an inoffensive budget, what will you be thinking if this story has any legs?

All good questions. I'd also like to know who represented the party at that meeting in Surrey, what exactly was put on the table, and what exactly was discussed. And if Dona Cadman's allegations are true, why is she still running for them? If there really is nothing to this, I have to say the Conservatives aren't doing a very good job of ending this.

I really think it's going to take a thurough investigation with supoena power to get to the bottom of this mess. It appears the ethics committee is going to get into it, and given the seriousnesses of possible attempted inducement of an MP's vote, the RCMP should also look closely into this.

For now, it's very hard to make sense of.

For still more reading, see Mound of Sound, Accidental Deliberations, Dave, Scott Ross, Garth Turner, KNB, Jason, All Politics is Local, Dan, Justin, Mark.

UPDATE: There's an audio recording where Harper seems to confirm an offer some sort of offer was made to Cadman, and the Star has some historical perspective on Conservatives, candidates and monatery offers.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

12 comments:

MississaugaJoan said...

MY take on all this (and not what all Liberals want to hear; is similar to yours).

MPs have standard benefits including life, health and dental and airline flight insurance coverage paid entirely by the government. If an MP loses an election, they lose these benefits.

Even if you are seriously ill, the government pays an MP’s life insurance.

Cadman had to vote with the Liberals, because if he did not, there would have been an election. Simple as that. An election could have ment that if he did not get re-elected, he would have lost his government-paid life insurance.

I believe the Conservatives probably offered to provide life insurance to Cadman if he did not win the election his vote would have precipitated if he voted against the Liberals.

I believe Cadman felt more secure with the status quo, and an election was averted, and the government continued to pay for his life insurance.

I believe that’s why Cadman never mentioned the offer while he was alive. It would have drawn attention to a possible reason why he backed the Liberals rather than the Conservatives.

Unfortunately, this bribe, or offer to purchase someone their pension if they lost an election, is no better than questions that could be asked about a former Conservative (who came second at it’s leadership convention only one year earlier) who became a Liberal Minister just prior to that infamous vote.

MississaugaJoan said...

And at the end of the day, the author of Cadman's biography will be the biggest winner.

biff said...

The Liberals are flailing about, not willing to take a stand on policy,

and now out of desperation, they're smearing a dead man, calling him a liar.

I realize you die hard liberals desperately want this to be some magical turning point, but it really comes across as shameful.

Go check out the commenters at the CBC website. They're in general agreement.

Smearing a dead man will be the last straw.

ch said...

First, as a sitting MP Cadman's life insurance was 2 years salary (about $290,000) which would be reduced to 1 year salary if there were an election and he either lost or didn't run. So how does the potential loss of $150,000 justify an alleged offer of a million dollars?

Second, the Liberals are taking Cadman at his word. He said 2/3 of his polled constituents wanted him to support the budget and that is what motivated him. It is only Conservatives implying that Cadman was lying. They are also twisting his words in 2005 where he said no other party made him any offers to mean that the Conservatives didn't offer him a million in life insurance.

Biff, why won't you take Cadman at his word? Even Harper is on tape in 2005 saying he didn't think Cadman would be swayed by financial concerns.

A BCer in Toronto said...

joan,

Unfortunately, this bribe, or offer to purchase someone their pension if they lost an election, is no better than questions that could be asked about a former Conservative (who came second at it’s leadership convention only one year earlier) who became a Liberal Minister just prior to that infamous vote.

If you mean morally, we could debate that. If you mean legally, there is a HUGE difference. As in one is legal, and the other not so much.

Biff, get serious. It's not the Liberals that are briging this up, it's the author of the book and CONSERVATIVE candidate Dona Cadman. Why are you smearing a widow Biff? Are you saying she's a liar?

Scott Tribe said...

Per Steve V: Chuck Cadman's daughter backs up her mom's story and says her Dad told her about the insurance policy offer as well.

Gayle said...

"if a straight-shooter like Cadman was furious about being approached with a bribe, why wouldn't he come forward himself with the story?"

How have the conservatives treated anyone who makes them look bad? Linda Keen???

Why would he want to spend the last few months of his life defending himself from a conservative smear campaign?

And Joan, your theory still discloses a criminal offence on the part of the conservatives, so I am not sure what point you are trying to make here.

Crossing the floor to become a liberal, for whatever reason, is not illegal. Buying a vote in parliament is.

RuralSandi said...

H/T - the Scott Ross:

Confirmation by Cadman's daughter:

"He just said, 'I have something to tell you,' and he told me that he was offered a life insurance policy, that my mom and myself would be taken care of," Jodi Cadman said.

"When he told me, actually I have to admit, I burst into tears because the position he was put in," she said.

"To turn down the thought that my mom and me would maybe be taken care of financially at a time when there was no gain for himself broke my heart that he was put in that position."
CBC goes on to state that as Chuck Cadman related this offer to his family, Jodi suggests that her father felt he couldn't go public with the possible bribe:
Cadman's daughter, Jodi Cadman, told CBC News that her father, a B.C. member of Parliament who was battling cancer at the time, discussed the offer with her and her mother because he couldn't talk about it publicly.


So - are Cadman's wife and daughter both liars - why would anyone believe Finlay and Flannigan - like their going to admit to bribery.

MississaugaJoan said...

I am confused, for what other reason other than to get Belinda's vote did she become overnight an important senior Minister while other life-long Liberal MPs were overlooked.

I am a Liberal. Knew what was going on back then. And refuse to let people try to change what happened at the time. Let's face it, Martin was desperate to avoid an election. He offered Stronach a Minister-ship for her to become an instant Liberal and vote with the Liberals.

If the Conservatives offered Cadman a $1M life insurance policy to join the Conservatives, I see no difference. Being a Conservative, he would have voted for the Conservatives and forced an election.

Having someone come over to your party, by offering a Minister-ship or a $1M life insurance policy, is wrong. The Conservatives will argue until they are blue in the face that they did not try to buy Cadman's vote, like many Liberals, including many posting here, will claim that Martin did not end up buying Stronach's vote.

Liberals better be careful that this incident does not backfire in their face.

And by the way, you can insure anything at a price. See

http://www.slate.com/id/2142783/

Mariah Carey supposedly insured her legs for $1B.

Gayle said...

Joan - it is a simple difference. One act was illegal, one was not.

Stronach was induced to join the liberal party with a cabinet post. Immoral? Possibly. But it is NOT illegal.

The cons allegedly tried to buy Cadman's vote in parliament. This contradicts section 119, which criminalizes offering financial consideration to anyone in order to get that person to do, or not do, something in his OFFICIAL CAPACITY.

A vote in parliament by an MP is done in his official capacity. The decision to cross the floor and join another party is not.

MississaugaJoan said...

gayle,

The Conservatives claim that they were trying to get Cadman to rejoin them, not to buy his vote. If that is the case, and you feel that the Stronach jump was o.k., then there was nothing illegal about the offer.

Nevertheless, the optics for the Conservatives are very bad. And if this story has any further legs, expect them to go from the defensive to the offensive.

In the end, the same way many people (including Liberals) were cynical of the overnight Liberal, overnight Senior Minister, many people will be cynical of the Conservatives as a result of these revelations.

Gayle said...

Joan - as I hear it the official line from the cons is that they offered to allow Cadman to run unopposed and to support his capaign financially if he voted against the liberals - which in itself is a criminal offence so I am surprised they are admitting that.