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Your theme today on the Conservatives: secrecy, and secretive

Exhibit 1: Liberals Question Bernier Timeline:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s claim that he was in the dark until Monday about Maxime Bernier’s missing classified documents is under attack following the revelation that the sensitive papers were returned to the government some 24 hours earlier…Government House leader Peter Van Loan surprised many yesterday when he said the Prime Minister learned of the return of the documents on Sunday. “The Prime Minister said that he became aware of it on Sunday afternoon and that is when action was taken,” he said. That immediately drew “oh, oh” from opposition benches. Van Loan quickly backtracked and insisted that Harper was only told of the missing papers Monday, a timeline mocked by the Liberals.

So, secrecy on when the Conservatives actually knew about this – a revelation that Peter Van Loan may have let accidentally slip – from fatigue,  he claimed, but perhaps he really let slip the truth:

Sources said that a lawyer for Julie Couillard, Bernier’s ex-girlfriend, returned the documents to the government in the hours before she taped a television interview Sunday afternoon. She makes an oblique reference in the television interview, saying “as we speak, the lawyer has been duly mandated and the document has been returned.”

I’d like to get that lawyer on record saying that’s exactly the day when he delivered those.

Exhibit 2: The public think in a new (online) Angus-Reid poll that the Cons. are arrogant and secretive:

Half of Canadians believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is not only secretive but arrogant, according to a new Toronto Star/Angus Reid poll. The Conservatives, who have been in government for more than two years, are regarded as secretive by 50 per cent of those surveyed, with 51 per cent stating the government is also arrogant… Almost three in five – 58 per cent – are “dissatisfied” with the way the government has performed in informing the public about its policies and plans.

Exhibit 3: An article by Susan Delacourt in today’s Star describing how “it’s been a bad week for a government that prides itself on secrecy and message control”:

Taken all together, these incidents point to what seems to be a glaring irony surrounding the Harper government and its communications strategy. To wit: this capital is locked down tight when it comes to small, domestic, even trivial minutiae. But on the big important stuff, the kind of information that could affect Canada’s relations with the world, people have seen a side of the Harper communications-management machine this week that appears to be a little loose, if not chaotic.

Its amusingly painful to watch this self-immolation.

Going nuclear

Maybe someone on the Opposition Benches should be seeing what the Harper government will say on the record in Question Period about their efforts to allow Canada to enrich uranium, if they refuse to discuss it publicly.

I mean, do you want to have a country start building a nuclear bomb that was helped by Canadian enriched uranium, and have that on your country’s head?  This lobbying effort needs to be publicly discussed, and I think it’s another question that should be asked daily in the House.

(H/T to Impolitical and Jurist)

Most Canadians remember when Brian Mulroney was PM, Steve

Check out yesterday’s Hansard on the questioning of Harper about why he would kill off the Co-ordination of Access to Information Requests System (CAIRS) and what his answer was:

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, on the eve of World Press Freedom Day, the government took another step to limit transparency and accountability. It quietly killed the CAIRS, which allowed everyone to know what information Canadians had requested about their government through access to information.

Why did the government shut down the registry? What does it have to hide?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):

In fact, Mr. Speaker, this is a government that has actually widened access to information. The database in question was created by the previous Liberal government. It was called the product of a political system in which centralized control was an obsession. That is why the government got rid of it.

Perhaps Steve doesn’t think the media investigates what he claims in QP or does any follow-up, but fortunately, they do:

NDP Leader Jack Layton pointed out that the system was actually implemented in 1989 by Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney “so the criticism seems a little misplaced by Mr. Harper and his team.”

They were also trying to make this story go away by quoting an “expert opinion” in the House claiming CAIRS was flawed – but also unfortunately for Harper and Vic Toews, reporters also do follow-up on that too:

The Conservative government has killed a flawed but workable information registry rather than open itself to real public scrutiny, says an academic who was quoted glowingly Monday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Conservative party line backfired when Alasdair Roberts – “a leading expert on access to information law,” according to Treasury Board President Vic Toews – trashed their talking points moments after the daily question period… neither Harper nor Toews mentioned that Roberts had recommended fixing the problem by making the registry public online – something the federal information commissioner reported in 2004 could be done “at virtually no cost” to government…”They really don’t care what I think about CAIRS or any other aspect of ATI,” Roberts said Monday from New Delhi, India…Roberts, a Canadian who’s about to take a new academic posting at Suffolk University Law School in Boston, suggested the Conservatives have simply gone to a less transparent method of centrally overseeing sensitive access requests.

Ladies and Gentlemen,  you are witness to what Stephane Dion correctly called “the most secretive government in the history of our country.”

H/T to David over at CDLU and Cam at his blog for being some of the few bloggers to highlight this story, and just another example of the lengths Harper and his Cons government will go to hiding potentially embarrassing information from the public – first the suggestion that independent agencies must vet their commmunications throught the Privy Council Office, and now this.

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