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Helena Guergis and Hillary Clinton wreak havoc in the House

Michael Ignatieff's Liberals today demanded to know why the government is leaving it to Hillary Clinton to defend the rights of aboriginal Canadians and why Helena Guergis hasn't yet been fired from Stephen Harper's cabinet.

This was the Tuesday edition of Question Period.

First, Ms. Guergis: Under fire already for her poor behaviour at the Charlottetown airport, PEI Liberal MP Wayne Easter seized upon the latest addition to the Guergis trouble file.

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The Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin reported today that Ms. Guergis's constituency assistant, Jessica Craven, admitted to writing letters to newspapers that were supportive of her boss. The report said she had signed the letters "Jessica Morgan," which is Ms. Craven's married name.

Not only that, Mr. Easter also brought up an incident that happened nine years ago, when Ms. Guergis's husband, Rahim Jaffer, then an Alberta Canadian Alliance MP, was involved in a similar controversy. His staffer impersonated him on a Vancouver radio show.

"How much more can this government take before they fire this minister?" Mr. Easter demanded.

Ms. Guergis, who is still in cabinet, told the House her staffer called her today to advise her of the situation. "We discussed it. We did discuss that it was inappropriate. She apologized and assured me that it will not happen again," Ms. Guergis said.

And then there was the issue of Mrs. Clinton.

Yesterday, the U.S. Secretary of State sharply criticized the Harper government for failing to invite other Nordic countries and aboriginal groups to the Arctic summit meeting. Her rebuke was picked up by the media here and abroad.

"Why has the Conservative government again embarrassed us on the world stage and left us in the bizarre position of having Hillary Clinton having to defend Canada's aboriginal people?" asked Yukon Liberal MP Larry Bagnell.

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The NDP's Jean Crowder was also critical, saying the Arctic meeting "ended in disaster with Hillary Clinton basically walking out."

Not fazed by the opposition descriptions of the event, junior foreign minister Peter Kent said the meeting - which included Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark and Russia - "was called for those states that share a coastline with the Arctic Ocean."

"The Minister of Foreign Affairs briefed Canada's indigenous people before the meeting and will be talking to them afterwards," he said.

And there was still more about Mrs. Clinton.

In addition to her public admonishment, the Secretary of State made more headlines when she said in a CTV interview that the United States wants Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan past the 2011 deadline.

This prompted Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to call for a debate and vote in the House of Commons over any extension to the mission. He also accused the government of misleading the House when it denied last week that any request from Washington had been made or was coming.

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"It is perfectly obvious the government knew the request had either been made or was coming," Mr. Ignatieff said.

Replied the Prime Minister: "I really do not know what the Leader of the Opposition is talking about.

"The government's position could not be clearer. Whether we get asked about it this week or last week or next week, we passed a motion in this Parliament n 2008 and Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011," Mr. Harper said said.

The meetings wrapped up this afternoon; Mrs. Clinton should be on her way home soon.

(File photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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About the Author
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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