All posts tagged Jean Chretien

The Afghan detainee scandal dies, while petty scandals are given full inquiries

About two weeks ago, with hardly anyone noticing, the federal government announced that it was ending the review of Afghan detainee documents. This essentially brings the scandal to an end.

The review of documents was initiated after whistleblower and diplomat Richard Colvin testified in Parliamentary committee that senior government officials knew that Afghan prisoners of war were being turned over to local authorities – and almost certain torture. That is a violation of the Geneva Convention and leaves the officials open to charges by the International Court in the Hague.

Outrage (manufactured and real) by the opposition forced the government to begin a process of reviewing about 40,000 documents that it claimed were secret. Only the NDP refused to go along with this, claiming the process was a farce designed to avoid accountability.

Well, it appears that the NDP were right. After a review of only 4,000 documents, the government is now claiming that it is vindicated. Since it now has a majority, the threats of contempt of Parliament that forced action earlier now are gone.

This is a real blow to accountability. There is no doubt in my mind that Colvin was telling the truth and that senior officials were not – indeed, the actions by those individuals and the government were so venomous that they betrayed a guilty mindset determined to cover up the truth.… Read the rest

Access to information abuses show that Governments are still hoarding their secrets

There have been a series of stories about how the federal and provincial governments continue to abuse access to information laws (also known as freedom of information). These laws are supposed to give Canadians access to government records – records made by people whose salary they pay.

Of course, this isn’t happening the way it should. Governments departments, agencies and universities covered continue to find new and creative ways to deny information to requestors. Sometimes illegally, as it turns out. In Ottawa, the Privy Council Office and other departments have taken to the practice of encouraging people to accept accelerated processes which allow them to exclude documents without proper authority. The Information Commissioner has slapped them on the wrist for this, and many are calling for the legislation to be tightened and penalties made more severe.

Also in Ottawa, the government has basically killed a process that was set up to review and release documents relevant to the Afghan detainee controversy. There were about 40,000 documents to be reviewed – only 4,000 were released. Using this time-tested method – Jean Chretien used the same basic approach with the Somalia Inquiry – they now proclaim themselves vindicated.

In Ontario, the Ombudsman, André Marin, lambasted the provincial government for its secrecy.… Read the rest

Good, clean government? Not yet, at any rate.

The Auditor General’s latest report contains the usual range of incompetence and ineptitude. That also includes the G8/G20 summit spending – the information leaked to the press during the election campaign.

With respect to the summits, there’s a clear problem with accountability. Parliament was lied to and the approval of projects for funding was conducted in classic pork-barrel politics style: a bunch of Tony Clement’s hangers-on got together and doled out the goodies. It’s enough to make Jean Chrétien proud. But at least work was actually conducted in this case.

Ministerial accountability also took a blow. John Baird blamed the illegitimate shuffling of money from one pot to another on bureaucrats. New direction to ministers makes it clear that this will be policy from now on. Of course, bureaucrats just point their fingers back to the politicians.

So much for the public interest.

Other stories of interest in the report include the mishandling of major IT projects (I’ve always said government was useless at it) and the RCMP under civilian Commissioner Bill Elliott is failing to keep up with key criminal work. Let’s hope that he never gets a government job with any responsibility again.

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Cabinet ministers’ 2011 guide downplays ministerial accountability
The Hill Times (Ottawa),June 6, 2011
Summary: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has issued new rules for his Cabinet ministers that in one section appear to reduce blame they must take for wrongdoing in their departments, but which also appear to be aimed at avoiding a repetition of the kind of scandals that marked his government over the past two years.… Read the rest