Tell-all book set to embarrass Conservatives

Thu Oct 2, 2008 4:28pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, already on the defensive amid charges of plagiarism, faced the prospect of fresh embarrassment on Wednesday over a new book that paints an unflattering portrait of his former foreign minister Maxime Bernier.

In the book, an ex-girlfriend of Bernier says he was careless with secret documents, expressed no concerns over the possible secession of French-speaking Quebec and was opposed to sending Canadian troops to Afghanistan.

What is particularly awkward for Harper is that Bernier had been a star candidate from Quebec, where the Conservatives are hoping to make big gains in the Oct 14 election.

The book is being released in Quebec next Monday amid a big publicity campaign that is likely to draw voter attention.

Bernier was forced to resign in May after admitting he had left secret briefing documents in the apartment of girlfriend, Julie Couillard, who had once had ties to organized crime. The pair have since split up.

Bernier was supposed to have returned the documents to the foreign ministry but Couillard writes that he simply asked her to throw them away.

"I'd rather you waited until garbage collection day to do so. They are secret documents, after all," she quotes him as saying. Couillard later returned the documents to the foreign ministry in an act that prompted Bernier to resign.

Extracts from the book were published by the French-language La Presse newspaper on Wednesday.   Continued...

<p>The cover of Julie Couillard's new book "My Story" is seen here in this undated handout picture released October 3, 2008. REUTERS/McClelland &amp; Stewart/Handout</p>