Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Ballad of Bev and Steve...NOT.

Source: CTV News: Harper Stands By Oda as Uproar Grows

A long, long time ago in a Parliament not far away a decision was made that saw funding to a religiously backed foreign aid group cut. At the time, no one could really understand why the funding was cut to the group, given the federal funding it had enjoyed in the past. There was the odd number of speculations, but for the most part, no one had any real solid answers.

The Minister in charge of the decision blamed the bureaucracy; the bureaucracy blamed the government; and a different Minister blamed the group's views on the Israel/Palestine situation for the reason why the funding was cut.

And now, we're not much closer to the truth than we were before, although we're slowly making head way.

A piece of paper has been floating around Ottawa for awhile now, and that piece of paper is the recommendation letter that Ottawa provide funding to the tune of around $7 million dollars to the KAIROS organization.

The letter was signed by two Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) bureaucrats, and the Minister, Bev Oda. At first glance, the paper seems to show that the three individuals who signed it were recommending that those funds be released to KAIROS.

But somewhere in between, after the two CIDA people had signed it (according to their testimony at a parliamentary committee on the issue) someone had slid a 'NOT' into the document.

Before this same committee Minister Oda claimed that she did not know who had inserted the not into the document, and that KARIOS had lost funding due to their organization no longer falling in step with the government's view of foreign aids projects.

Now, Oda has backtracked and admitted that the not was inserted into the document at her discretion.

This is significant for a number of reasons.

For started, before the document leaked in December, the main talking point over the loss of funding was that it was a departmental decision, namely involving CIDA. What this document, and Oda's admission, show is that this was not the case.

Furthermore, this altering of a document is rather disturbing.

The fact that a document was signed by two people, then altered, is either a sign of contempt for Canada's civil service or simply a political gesture to pass the blame along should any real questions be asked about the issue.

Clearly, it was certainly the latter (though it is not working as planned) although I wouldn't cross the former out of playing a role either.

Now, some people have been wondering why this is a big deal. Some people, as I've seen on comment boards, are standing behind Oda and saying that her actions saved tax payers money in the long run and that now she's in the center of a some kind of witch hunt against her because of it.

I'd like to explain why this position is wrong.

All of us have seen a sitcom with a trouble-maker child who needs to get one of their parents to sign a school document that the kid doesn't want their parents to read. As such, they go through incredible lengths to get their parents' signature on to the paper, while keeping the content as secret as possible.

I'm sure Bart Simpson has pulled this stunt a few times.

Now, the episodes usually end with the kid being caught and learning an important lesson about why telling the truth is important.

That's what has happened here, although the lesson seems to have not been imparted to Oda or the other Harper Conservatives.

Effectively, the officials at CIDA were misled and signed a document under false pretenses. And yet despite this VERY apparent case of fraud, or forgery, or whatever you choose to call it; Harper and his caucus are defending Oda in a way that has never been extended to other cabinet ministers.

Let's recap:

Lisa Raitt: Now infamous for her comments on cancer and actions involving the Chalk River plant, the Conservatives defended her for a time but eventually Raitt was shuffled to a lower profile cabinet position.

Helena Guergis: When things go wrong, they really go wrong; as we saw with Minister Guergis who had a week of embarrassing gaffes (starting with the Charlottetown airport, to editors letters written by her staff) to the still unknown details of a RCMP investigation into her...She 'resigned' from cabinet, then was dropped from caucus and dropped as a candidate.

Maxime Bernier: Simple story really; man meets woman, man falls in love with woman, man leaves confidential government and NATO related files at woman's apartment...It's an age old story really. Again, Bernier 'resigned' from cabinet after this scandal.

So, from those three alone, the Harper Conservatives are already building quite the track record for Cabinet resignations in the face of embarrassing situations coming to light. Makes you wonder what else some of these cabinet ministers are up to...Especially given the high number of staffers who have been fired or 'resigned' when some odd cases began popping up in Ottawa (from the release of budget information to lobbyists to staffers denying or editing Access to Information requests.)

To steal a phrase, and modify it, from Shakespeare: Something is rotten in the city of Ottawa.

Oda's admission of forging a document is just further proof that Canadians need to be paying more attention to what is happening in Ottawa. Either the Harper Government believes they can do anything they want and get away with it because Canadians aren't watching them closely...or the Harper Government simply doesn't care and will do anything to push through their own ideological beliefs onto Canada.

In the coming weeks, Oda is going to face intense scrutiny, which is rightly deserved. But at the same time, Harper is going to come under the spotlight as well. After all, we all know the degree of control that the Harper Government has over not just Ministers but backbench Members of Parliament.

We all know that not so much as a press release can be issued by any Conservative without some form of approval coming down from the Prime Minister's Office. And the longer questions are asked about Oda, and Harper's other disgraced Cabinet Ministers, the more likely it is going to dig closer to show a link between the PMO and all of these events, in one way or another.

Effectively, we as Canadians need to pay more attention to what is going on in Ottawa and just what our government has been doing in our name. And if they are indeed treating us with the contempt that they clearly have for our civil service, then we need to wake up and throw the blighters out.

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