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