The NDP’s Joe Comartin raised the matter of the Cadman tape in QP today, focusing his efforts on Pierre Poilievre’s privileged statement of a day ago.
Here’s that exchange.
Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP): Mr. Speaker, last week Canadians were surprised to learn that the lawsuit involving serious allegations of bribery offers to the late M.P., Chuck Cadman, had been suddenly withdrawn with no answer. According to an expert hired by the Conservatives journalist, Tom Zytaruk, was falsely accused of tampering with the audiotape record of his interview with the Prime Minister. Despite this, the government continues to claim Mr. Zytaruk tampered with the tape. Will the government today either provide evidence that Mr. Zytaruk doctored the tape or apologize to him immediately?
Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we need not provide that evidence because it was already provided in court. It is proven that the tape was doctored, but happily the issue is resolved now. There has been a settlement and we can say that we are very pleased with that settlement.
Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—Tecumseh, NDP): It is not over for Mr. Zytaruk. The member just maligned him again, Mr. Speaker. I am going to suggest to the parliamentary secretary that he leave the House after question period and repeat that statement so Mr. Zytaruk can sue him for maligning his reputation. Will he do that or not?
Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I have said before and will say again that the matter is settled.
Mr. Comartin continued in this way after QP. Here’s his altogether entertaining exchange with reporters.
Question: Mr. Comartin, you’re going to be shocked but Pierre Poilievre did not come out of the House to finish the question period, to repeat his comments. What do you think of that?
Joe Comartin: Actually, I’m a bit surprised because given the bombast that we got from him and James Moore yesterday, I thought one of them might have enough courage to come out and repeat it. And the reason I say that is because they know that Mr. Zytaruk is not in a financial position to take them on in a civil suit. But he seemed to back down today. His second answer to my questions today were very, very mild.
But, look, what we’re calling on this government to do is just do some basic decency of giving Mr. Zytaruk the right that he certainly deserves to have his reputation cleared. They’re the one who maligned it by making all sorts of very, very outlandish accusations against him, tainting him. It’s clear from their own evidence that he did not in any way doctor those tapes, that the speech — the information he got from the Prime Minister was not tampered with at all and that’s their evidence, that’s their experts.
Question: Now he said that it was doctored and it was proven in court. Is that your understanding?
Joe Comartin: That’s just false. The part where the Prime Minister is being recorded by Mr. Zytaruk has not been doctored at all. I’ve looked at the scientific evidence, the analysis of it. Their experts are very, very clear. There was some playing over, you know, repeat over on the latter part of the tape but that did not involve the Prime Minister. So all of the material that involves the Prime Minister is pristine pure. It has not been doctored with. It has not been tampered. It has not been edited. It has not been played over.
Question: Mr. Moore practically got — you know when this was all happening Mr. Moore and others practically got up and thumped their chests and said I dare you to — you know if you say anything about it we’ll sue you guys. What’s happened?
Joe Comartin: Well, I think the first thing that happened shortly after James Moore did that press conference is somebody got to him and said these — the technical scientific evidence does not support what you just said in that press conference. I saw the material shortly after that press conference. It was not in there and the outlandish statements he made at that point were totally unjustified by the evidence.
Question: The author’s an easy target for these guys like you say because he doesn’t have the wherewithal financially to take them on.
Joe Comartin: You know you look at the figures what it costs to take a general lawsuit, you know, we’re talking a hundred, two hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Zytaruk has no ability to do that. And quite frankly and I’ve looked at this to see if there’s the resources we could find to get him assistance but unless some lawyers are prepared to do it on a pro bono basis, he’s a victim of this process.
Question: What is Mr. Poilievre doing then?
Joe Comartin: I think what they’re trying to do is to bury this. We have not got at all an answer of what the Prime Minister was talking about in that tape or in the whole process around trying to make some offers to Mr. Cadman to get his vote and they just want to bury this so — and part of that is to try and keep it as low profile as possible. If they came out at this point and apologized to Mr. Zytaruk, obviously you’re going to ask them questions about the rest of the issue.
Question: So you commented on what you thought the evidence shows. Mr. Poilievre said that it was doctored and proven in court. But there was no judgment in this. Is it appropriate for an MP to say something like it was proven in court when there was never a judgment?
Joe Comartin: It is not because I have no idea what he’s talking about. All of the court action that had gone up to this point was preliminary. There was no finding other than when the Conservative expert that had been ordered by the court to give that information over simply confirmed that there had been absolutely no tampering with the tape as it involved the Prime Minister.
Question: Did he deliberately mislead or lie to the House?
Joe Comartin: Well, given some of the rulings we’ve had from the Speaker in the last week or two, I’m not sure what that amounts to anymore, Richard. The Speaker’s not prepared to make determinations like that. So I’d say at this point there’s no way we can test whether in fact he misled the House. If you’re asking me out on the street, yeah, he clearly misled the House. And that’s part of what I was trying to get to him today, do the basically decent thing. You’re maligning his character every time you stand up and say that. Stop doing it and apologize to him. Admit that he did not tamper that — in any with that tape. He is not guilty of anything other than doing his job.
Question: So what recourse is there then?
Joe Comartin: Well, as I said, if he can’t sue the government and people like Poilievre personally because of the — just the cost of it, he doesn’t have a recourse.
Question: So what does it say to Canadians then when you can stand up in the House of Commons and say anything you want?
Joe Comartin: Well, that privilege of course is longstanding because we use it in its proper form to — on times when you’re skirting the line of whether this is libellous, slanderous, etc. Because of the public interest involved in the issue, we’re allowed to do that. But in a situation like this, this is an abuse of that privilege.
Question: Right. And so no one can come down on your head then.
Joe Comartin: If you say anything in that House, absolutely anything in that House, there’s nothing you can do unless you repeat it outside the Chamber.
Question: Thanks, Joe.
Joe Comartin: Okay.