OTTAWA - A Winnipeg Conservative MP who was among the targets of Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt caught on tape is keeping her opinions of the incident to herself.
Joy Smith, the MP from Kildonan-St. Paul, said Tuesday she would not comment about the tape.
The tape of Raitt, having a conversation with her director of communications, Jasmine MacDonnell, was made accidentally while the two were in a car on a trip to British Columbia in January.
The tape recorder was later forgotten by MacDonnell in a media office on Parliament Hill. She said she would come back for it, but it was never retrieved. Last week when MacDonnell resigned after leaving secret government documents at another media office in Ottawa, Steve Maher, a reporter from the Halifax Chronicle Herald, listened to it.
Raitt makes disparaging remarks about both Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Smith.
Raitt said Smith had made a bad move by introducing a private member's bill to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for human trafficking of children.
"Speaking of career-limiting moves, I’m in shock that that MP, Joy Smith, brought forward private member’s legislation on human trafficking," Raitt says on the tape.
Smith had just introduced the bill that week.
"She’s on Canada AM. And the reason being is that there’s no way any of us should be introducing anything around justice issues or finance issues right now. You just can’t touch those two things."
It was widely known among Conservatives that bills dealing with justice or finance issues were to be introduced by cabinet only, as justice and the economy are the pillars of this government.
At least one Conservative however suggested Raitt's comments about Smith reflected what a lot of people in the caucus thought then.
However the legislation has done quite well, has received a lot of attention and got the backing from the NDP and the Liberals. It passed a parliamentary committee Monday and if there is not an election in the interim, it has a good chance to pass through the house and the Senate this fall, and become law before the Olympics in Vancouver next winter.
Many fear the Olympics will draw human traffickers in large numbers.
The bill also has served, albeit in a very small way to boost Conservative esteem in Quebec, where the party is faltering badly.
Quebec, particularly the Montreal area, is considered one of the hot beds of human trafficking in Canada and a lot of non-governmental organizations and the police are dismayed the Bloc Quebecois are voting against Smith's bill.
Recent polls have the Conservatives with very little support in Quebec, severely affecting the party's chance to ever form a majority government.
Smith has a personal stake in another part of the Raitt tape controversy as well.
Raitt, in discussing the problems at the Chalk River nuclear reactor and the resulting the shortage of isotopes for cancer tests, appeared excited at the prospect the issue would help her career and said the issue was "sexy" because it involved "radioactive leaks" and "cancer".
Smith's husband is battling cancer.
The comments about the Chalk River are likely to be the biggest problem for Raitt, who so far has kept her job in spite of the controversy.
One Conservative said most people in the party seem upset by the comments.
"You don't do this to further one's career," said the source.