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Liberal staffer accuses Tories of trying to discredit Auditor-General

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser is seeking access to the expenses records of federal political parties.

Blair Gable/Reuters

A strategy memo from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's communications director accuses the Harper government of deliberately leaking information to a friendly news organization to discredit the Auditor-General.

"… it appears they [the Harper government]are using favoured media sources to try to damage the office's [the Auditor-General's office]credibility in advance of what are expected to be highly critical reports," says Mario Lague in the memo, which was written Monday, and e-mailed to The Globe and Mail from an anonymous source.

It was also e-mailed to The Canadian Press and Postmedia.

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Mr. Lague confirmed it was his memo but refused to comment.

His memo, cautioning Grit MPs not to "take the bait" and criticize Auditor-General Sheila Fraser, was provoked by a report by the QMI Agency concerning spending by the Auditor-General's office on "rebirth" sessions or personal development courses.

According to the QMI story, the Auditor General's office paid $345 for the course to help an employee.

"The course aims to 'heal subconscious memories using breathing' techniques," says the QMI report.

QMI is part of the Sun chain, which recently hired former Harper communications director Kory Teneycke.

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser, one of the most respected bureaucrats in Ottawa, is to release several reports soon, which the Lague memo says "will likely cast the government in a bad light."

These reports include of the infrastructure stimulus spending, the $1.3-billion on G8/G20 security "because of Stephen Harper's terrible last-minute decision to hold the G8/G20 meetings in two places [Huntsville and Toronto]" Mr. Lague wrote.

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He also notes that the Auditor-General is to look at the government's "failure to tender what will ultimately be a $16-billion contract for F-35 jet fighters without any public discussion."

"As an independent officer of Parliament, the Auditor-General is one of the few public servants that the Conservatives cannot fire or directly pressure, something they normally do when they don't like the facts brought forward," Mr. Lague wrote. "So it appears they are using favoured media sources to try to damage the office's credibility in advance of what are expected to be highly critical reports."

Mr. Lague then asks MPs not to react to the QMI Agency report to "help give this story any legs by offering any criticism to the media …"

"We should simply say the Auditor-General herself can comment on the usefulness of these staff expenditures and take the necessary steps if any of the costs are deemed inappropriate."

The PMO was asked to comment but has not responded.

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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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