Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Yes, Chantal, but for one curious action

Chantal Hebert makes an interesting point in describing the words of Harper natural resources minister as typical of "back-channel conversations... assessing events and their relative place in the larger picture of... a government's work."

And, as Dr. Dawg points out there are few among us who, in what we believed to be private circumstances, could not be accused of musing on the competence of colleagues or verbalizing our personal satisfaction at the chance to turn an unfortunate event into a personal opportunity.

We would, of course, not expect those occasions to be indelibly logged into the annals of history on a recording device. Nor, apparently, did Lisa Raitt

Hebert's point is interesting, but I have difficulty with the basic posit of her piece. The, "We all do it", defence is far too lenient in this case. This was not a discussion between editors behind closed doors about a juicy news item; this was a federal cabinet minister discussing what was a building medical crisis. That it got recorded, intentionally or inadvertently, gives us a look at that cabinet minister's true motivation to deal with that crisis - and it wasn't a higher calling to public service. Private or not, the recorded conversation revealed Raitt's true character - that of a self-serving careerist.

Politicians of all persuasions and levels spend millions of dollars attempting to have their public image portrayed in a particular way. They are trying to persuade voters to see only a noble, dedicated and morally superior public servant, despite what may constitute their own true characters. If they are, in fact, self-serving careerists, that nature is buried under layer upon layer of advertising intended to steer attention as far away from that character trait as possible - hopefully to the point where everyone will believe something completely different or, at the very least, accept that the camouflage is working.

To wit, dressing up one of the outwardly nastiest and meanest politicians in Canadian history in a sweater vest, holding kittens in an attempt to portray something other than his true, and previously well-documented, self. Lipstick on a pig. Or, more accurately, false advertising.

Does this matter? Apparently it does. If it were otherwise political parties would not go to the lengths they do to vet candidates and reject those who have so little as an embarrassing moment in their past.

So, despite the "Everyone does it", defence, Raitt deserves both the scrutiny and the outrage for her words because, when she was applying to the voters she was selling something completely different. It doesn't matter who else does it. If you are in a position of having sold yourself one way, even though most might believe that to be little more than Hollywood embellishment, and it can be proved that the product is of a different standard, you deserve to be raked over the coals.

It goes further than that however. From the moment the Raitt recording started to surface somebody in the Harper ranks went into damage control causing light to shine in areas where the spin merchants like to keep it dark.

Supposedly, Jasmine McDonnell offered her resignation over leaving "secret" files laying around in TV studios. (There's a private conversation I would have like to have heard.) Offering and accepting resignations is, in almost all areas of government, the code for "Sacked", normally in a very unceremonious fashion. Yet, here was someone who was supposedly out in the cold suddenly scrambling of to Halifax to suppress the recorded conversation of her former boss.

It means she knew what was on that recorder and it is not an unreasonable leap to believe that Raitt was also very aware of the contents. It also appears that the knowledge of the recorder's contents extended to the Prime Minister's Office.

Yet, Kory Teneycke tells us that the "government was not involved" in attempting to muzzle the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. He has to say that, of course. Any proof of PMO involvement would immediately lead to charges of deliberately attempting to limit freedom of the press and a Charter violation. So, we are to believe that McDonnell was acting on her own, without her former minister's instructions, without a desperate personal order from on high. That, or she was a Conservative party member acting as a "volunteer", something Teneycke has done by pulling himself off the payroll for a day so he could roll-out attack ads.

It's too convenient and, now that Raitt has given us a further example of Harperite conservative character, far too difficult to believe.

Finally, there is this little bit of burning fuse in Ms. Hebert's article. (Emphasis mine)
So confident was she that she would overcome the problems plaguing the Chalk River nuclear reactor and the recurrent isotope shortage that results from them that she saw a silver lining in playing the lead role on the issue. (This was back in January. A successful outcome has yet to be achieved.)
That's right, it was back in January. Which means that the Harper government was fully aware that they had a massive crisis brewing. How much information did anyone actually get about the Chalk River problems back in January?

Next to none. Unless you were going here, you were getting nothing. While the Chalk River reactor problems and an impending shortage of medical isotopes loomed, the Harper Conservatives were misusing SECRET stamps, suppressing information and hiding both expenditures and facts.

That recording is more than "embarrassing" for the Harperites.

And now the inevitable tearful apology: More lipstick on the same pig. I'm speaking for myself alone when I state categorically that I reject Lisa Raitt's apology in its entirety. We already know what you are.

Coincidence? It seems the pundits are out in force trying to defend Lisa Raitt for being so... Harper Conservative. For every pundit, however, there seems to be a citizen quite willing to bite back with a much more compelling argument.

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