Bernier, other Tories won’t testify at inquiry
OTTAWA — Maxime Bernier, the Quebec MP who resigned his job as foreign affairs minister last week after admitting he left classified government documents at an ex-girlfriend’s house, will not testify at a House of Commons committee probing the affair.
“Neither Maxime Bernier nor any government MPs will engage in this political circus,” a senior government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday.
Meanwhile, there were new revelations about the ex-girlfriend, Julie Couillard. A Montreal newspaper reported that, in addition to marrying one man and dating others with ties to the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, she also dated a man connected to the Mafia in Montreal.
Opposition MPs say that although Couillard has never been accused of or convicted of a crime, she had close associations in the past to those who have could have represented a security risk while she was dating Bernier.
“She was well-known to law enforcement,” said Liberal MP Denis Coderre, “and this prime minister is telling us that law enforcement and CSIS were asleep at the switch. How is it possible that they never informed him of any of this and the potential security risk?”
Yesterday, the House of Commons standing committee on public safety and national security, the majority of whose members are opposition MPs, agreed to investigate what, if any, security implications there were to Bernier’s liaison with Couillard. The committee’s witness list, for hearings that begin June 10, was to include Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, Bernier and Couillard.
Bernier did not respond to messages from Canwest News Service and has not been seen in Ottawa since his resignation.
No MP can be legally compelled to testify in front of a Commons committee. On Monday, a spokeman for Harper said he would not testify and yesterday, the senior government source said neither Bernier nor Day would testify.
The committee does have the power to compel Couillard to testify. Attempts to reach her yesterday were not immediately successful.
Couillard’s first love, Gilles Giguère, was killed in a gangland execution in 2006, three months before the couple was to marry. Giguere was the right-hand man of loan-shark Robert Savard, a close friend of Hells Angels boss Maurice Boucher.
She later married and divorced Stephane Sirois, a member of the Rockers, a Hells Angels puppet gang. He would became a Crown witness against his former associates. A third partner of Couillard’s, Robert Pepin, hanged himself last May after becoming heavily indebted to loan sharks linked to the underworld.
Montreal newspaper La Presse reported yesterday that in the 1990s, when Couillard was in her 20s, she dated Tony Volpato, a friend of the late Frank Cotroni, head of the Calabrian clan in Montreal. In 1997, Volpato was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a conspiracy to import cocaine.
Harper has rejected opposition demands for an RCMP investigation or any other inquiry beyond a departmental review initiated by Bernier as he left office.