Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

From poster couple to problem couple

Even Tories demand Jaffer, Guergis explain

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OTTAWA -- Rahim Jaffer and Helena Guergis have become the poster couple for political entitlement, under attack not just by opposition critics but by prominent members of their own Conservative party.

Jaffer, a former MP and one-time chair of the Conservatives's national caucus, was under intense pressure Wednesday to explain how he dodged impaired driving and cocaine possession charges in a plea bargain that earned him a $500 fine for careless driving. And the appearance of preferential treatment in his case was linked to that of his wife, the junior status of women minister who was allowed to board a plane last month despite throwing a public, obscenity-laced tantrum at Charlottetown airport.

Kory Teneycke, a former communications director to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said both Jaffer and Guergis owe Canadians a big apology and an explanation. "You've got to come clean and you've got to show contrition and in doing that it allows everyone to move on. Half addressing it or skirting it doesn't allow people to turn the page."

Moreover, Teneycke said the couple owes it to the party and the government to clear the air since both incidents have hurt the Tory brand. "The Conservative brand has been very successful... as being a very Main Street brand, the brand of Tim Hortons, the brand of regular people being equal to elites, not a sense of entitlement or special privilege," he said.

Teneycke added: "Like most Conservatives, I have a mix of sadness, disappointment and anger" about the controversy surrounding the couple.

Tim Powers, a Tory lobbyist and commentator, also appealed to Jaffer to explain why the more serious charges were dropped. He said an explanation is needed to dispel the impression of special treatment or political interference.

"Nobody's trying to throw Rahim under a bus... I'm just saying, 'Look, you fought for a number of things for a number of years, you were a Conservative member who stood up for Main Street. Main street just wants to hear from you now and have you explain to them what went wrong...' "

As for Guergis, Powers said he's satisfied with her apology. Guergis issued a written statement apologizing for speaking "emotionally" to airport and airline staff while catching a plane. She conceded her conduct -- allegedly yelling at employees, trying to force her way through a security barrier and grousing about being "stuck in this hell hole" -- was inappropriate.

Teneycke said anyone else who indulged in such "diva behaviour" at airport security likely would have been "Tased" and arrested.

Late Wednesday, the Toronto Star cited sources who said the more serious charges were dropped against Jaffer because a rookie OPP officer failed to follow proper procedures when he strip-searched him. Prosecutors decided the evidence would be open to challenge.

-- The Canadian Press

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 11, 2010 A7

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