Monday, December 11, 2006

The Elephant In The Room. Zaccardelli's convenient departure.

Via Cathie this column from Rick Salutin suggests that the resignation of RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli has little to do with the Mahar Arar case and a lot more to do with the announcement of a criminal investigation into Liberal finance minister Ralph Goodale in the midst of a federal election campaign.

It's a stretch to think RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli quit over the Arar case. If that was so, he should have done it after his testimony in September when he said he knew about the injustice done to Maher Arar but failed to take serious action to fix it. And if he wouldn't go, the Harper government could have pushed him. We're told at least three cabinet ministers proposed that, but the PM said no.
Now we're supposed to think he resigned because, as he testified this week, he hadn't really known how ugly the case was, he just thought he had. Failing to do the right thing is not grounds to go; mistakenly thinking you failed to act is? It's a peculiar scenario. Here's my effort to make sense of it.
This isn't about the Arar case, which was dealt with in the O'Connor report. It's about the last election, when the RCMP interfered in a way that led to Paul Martin's defeat and Stephen Harper's election. The force has made other gaffes, but listing them leads to undervaluing that election involvement.
In the midst of the campaign, the commissioner faxed an NDP MP, saying the Mounties were investigating then-finance minister Ralph Goodale, one of the big Liberals untinged by scandal. They don't normally do this. Nothing has come of the investigation. They could have waited. They could have kept it quiet.
More than that, just try to get information from the RCMP on criminal investigations in which they are engaged. Yet, it would appear there was an eagerness on the part of Zaccardelli to share information based on nothing more than an inquiry from an NDP MP. Only a fool would believe that such information would not throw the election campaign.

Instead, they even phoned the NDP MP to say, You've got mail, making sure she knew it was on the way. It tipped the election. She went public, the Conservatives shot up 10 points and passed the Liberals for good. It turned the tide and led to a Harper government. I say focus on this, because it could help explain why the PM effectively protected the commish after his damaging September testimony, as if to thank him.
Read the rest of Salutin's article. It raises a question which Dana put forth here just before Zaccardelli resigned.
One also has to be curious about the behaviour of both Conservative and NDP members of both government and committee who make every effort to avoid discussion of the election-time release of information from Zaccardelli and attempt to steer everything back to the Arar issue. Given the variance in Zaccardelli's testimony on two occasions, questions into his behaviour will certainly be asked.
There's more. Margaret Bloodworth, national security adviser to Harper and, William Elliot, associate deputy minister of Public Safety were to testify this week before the Commons Arar committee. They have suddenly become "busy" and will not be available to testify. Maybe it's just me, but when an A.D.M. is called to testify at a Commons committee, one should clear one's calendar.
In any case, there is enough laying out in the open to suggest that Zaccardelli is indeed a stalking horse, knowingly or unknowingly, for Harper. Whatever the case, there needs to be some inquiries into the timing and execution of the release of information which everyone involved knew would alter the outcome of a federal election. There also needs to be some separation from the Arar case.
Using Mahar Arar as camouflage makes his experience all that much more odious. Using the line so often offered at times like this, if Zaccardelli, Harper and whatever number of others have nothing to hide, then they should not fear any form of inquiry.
It's time to start focussing on the elephant in the room.

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