Wireless connection questioned
Friday, November 30, 2007
OTTAWA - The role of Brian Mulroney's chief spokesman in the federal auction of wireless spectrum was brought into question Thursday after Liberal MP Scott Brison said the government may have violated "the spirit" of an order issued by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
But Industry Minister Jim Prentice denied anything improper had occurred in the lead up to the auction decision announced Wednesday, saying Brison's veiled accusations were "beneath contempt."
The Liberal industry critic said Luc Lavoie, who often publicly represents Mulroney and is chief spokesperson for Quebecor Inc., a telecommunications firm with interest in the spectrum auction, should not have been permitted to contact the government after Nov. 9, when Harper banned his ministers and MPs from communicating with Mulroney.
Prentice told The Canadian Press that the issue did not arise because he met Lavoie only once, on Sept. 27, long before the latest cloud over Mulroney's dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber forced Harper to issue the order to his government members.
"I afforded each of the CEOs of the incumbents and the CEOs of the companies that had expressed an interest in the spectrum auction. I afforded each of them 50 minutes to meet with me," Prentice said.
"In that context . . . I met with Mr. Lavoie and (Quebecor CEO Pierre Karl) Peladeau for approximately 50 minutes to an hour on Sept. 27. I have not since that time talked to Mr. Lavoie or Mr. Peladeau."
Prentice would not say whether he believes it appropriate for Lavoie, Quebecor's executive vice-president of corporate affairs, to meet with government members while the inquiry looking into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair has yet to commence.
Brison noted that the government's decision to set aside a portion of the spectrum to new players will benefit Quebecor, a media giant on which Mulroney serves as board member.
Brison said the set-aside will cost taxpayers between $250 million and $1 billion that Ottawa otherwise might have collected had the auction been open to all.
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