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Chauffeur claims Guergis frequently let husband use government car

A former chauffeur of Helena Guergis alleges the cashiered cabinet minister routinely let her husband, former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer, use her government car and driver for his own personal use.

The allegation, which raises serious questions about the possible abuse of tax dollars, arrives as new information reveals that Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer were vacationing in the Caribbean when she was forced from cabinet last week.

In an interview, the former driver to Ms. Guergis said he usually brought her to work in the morning, and then took care of the transportation needs of Mr. Jaffer, who lived with Ms. Guergis in Ottawa during the week. The practice occurred for a period after the fall, 2008, election, when Mr. Jaffer lost his Edmonton seat.

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"During the day, if he needed my services, he would call me, or she would call me to tell me to go and pick him up at such and such a place," said Ms. Guergis's former chauffeur, who spoke to The Globe and Mail on condition of anonymity to protect his current position. "He kept me busier; she was usually at the office during the day."

Ms. Guergis's former chauffeur said he frequently took Mr. Jaffer to and from Parliament Hill, restaurants and various other places, without asking Mr. Jaffer exactly what he was doing or why he wasn't driving his own car. The chauffeur said he also ran personal errands for Ms. Guergis.

"It wasn't up to me to decide if it was acceptable. The minister gave her orders, and I wanted to keep my job, so I didn't ask questions," he said.

The Harper government is refusing to explain why it referred unknown allegations about Ms. Guergis to the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner last week.

Sources report that Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after being advised of serious allegations concerning possible misconduct, contacted Ms. Guergis by phone in Punta Cana, the Dominican Republic, where she and Mr. Jaffer had been staying since April 3.

Ms. Guergis went on to resign as minister of state for the status of women.

The relationship between Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer is important, given that the allegations behind her resignation are peripherally linked to Mr. Jaffer, a source said.

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One source said Ms. Guergis did not learn of her husband's drunk driving and cocaine possession charges last year until everyone else did. She found out through a "Google alert" on her BlackBerry sent to her by a friend, which pointed to a story in a local newspaper that said her husband had been arrested five days earlier, the source said.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Guergis refused to comment on the statements of the chauffeur, but said that Ms. Guergis, who is now sitting as an independent MP, is expected to release a statement later this week.

After she resigned, Ms. Guergis defended her work as minister for the status of women, and lashed out at "baseless allegations and unfounded assertions made about my family."

A spokesman for Mr. Harper said last week that it was not necessarily inappropriate for Mr. Jaffer to have access to an e-mail address through Ms. Guergis's office.

"The Board of Internal Economy, which is a committee established by the House of Commons that is chaired by the Speaker of the House of Commons, does not preclude that," Dimitri Soudas said on CTV News.

However, Mr. Soudas said Monday it is unacceptable for a ministerial chauffeur to drive around the spouse of a cabinet member.

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Mr. Jaffer has remained silent in recent days after stories on his business dealings and his legal problems (after his arrest on cocaine and impaired driving charges, he went on to plead guilty to careless driving and pay a $500 fine).

Mr. Jaffer's long-time friend and current business partner, Patrick Glemaud, said last week he was confident Mr. Jaffer did not use his wife's government or parliamentary e-mail account to conduct private business.

"I know 100 per cent for sure that that BlackBerry has never been used for any work-related purposes," said Mr. Glemaud, president of Green Power Generation Corporation.

He said Mr. Jaffer would carry two BlackBerrys - one for work and one for staying in contact with Ms. Guergis.

With a report from Bill Curry

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About the Authors
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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