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No evidence MPs were misled on F-35s, Speaker rules

05/07/2012 05:24 EDT | Updated 07/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae has failed to convince Speaker Andrew Scheer that MPs' privileges were breached by the government over the F-35 cost controversy and the auditor general's report.

Rae had accused the Conservatives of deliberately trying to confuse MPs with their response to Auditor General Michael Ferguson's spring report and of deliberately misleading Parliament over the cost projections for buying 65 of the fighter jets to replace the CF-18 fleet.

Rae said Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, associate defence minister Julian Fantino, and Public Works and Government Services Minister Rona Ambrose were responsible for impeding MPs from doing their work.

Scheer said in his ruling Monday that he was being asked to determine if statements made in the House of Commons were truthful, but responded that the task is beyond his role as Speaker.

He said that Ferguson's report concluded that some costs were not fully provided to ministers and MPs, but noted that House leader Peter Van Loan said in question period that the government expects that it can rely on the advice that is given to it by the bureaucracy and that the government agrees with Ferguson's findings.

"In my view, no clear evidence has been presented beyond this, and thus the chair has no choice but to conclude that it cannot find that ministers knew or believed that what they were telling the House was not true or that it was intended to be misleading," Scheer said. "In other words, the criteria of demonstrating that ministers knew their statements to the House were incorrect, and that they intended to mislead the House, has not been met."

Scheer said he has no evidence that MPs were misled but pointed out that Ferguson's report is being studied at the public accounts committee and MPs are free to raise questions of privilege once that report is done, depending on its findings.

Liberal MP Marc Garneau said Scheer washed his hands by concluding he couldn't prove the ministers deliberately lied.

"And by that same logic, you'll never, ever be able to prove, with few exceptions, that a minister who gets up and says anything was doing it deliberately," he said.

"It kind of helps everybody on that side of the House wash their hands and walk away from it."

Ferguson was due to appear at the House public accounts committee Tuesday morning to talk about his report, but had to cancel after an unspecified "unexpected medical procedure" over the weekend left him recovering at home.

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