All posts tagged political accountability

New Veterans Affairs minister: same old crisis of insensitivity

Sean Bruyea

Veterans aren’t happy and recently-appointed Veterans Affair Minister Julian Fantino is only fanning the fire with the usual parroting of bureaucratic misinformation. How do veterans and other Canadians hold a minister and his bureaucracy accountable for spreading half-truths and misleading claims?

The first step to accountability is to uncover the truth.

The situation in the veteran community is so dire that Fantino wrote an op-ed for the National Post and also sent it out on the internet addressed to “Dear Veteran.” His open letter claims there is a “tangle of misinformation regarding how Canada treats” its veterans. His first assertion is that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.”

The truth is Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) provides programs to a mere 17 per cent of Canada’s serving and retired military members. It would be impossible for Fantino to know whether the remaining 83 per cent of veterans are indeed having their needs met since no effort is made by his department to track the “needs” of this population.

The primary focus of the minister’s op-ed is the legislation for Canadian Forces members and veterans known as the “New Veterans Charter.” He rightly points out that Parliament was unanimous in endorsing “wholesale change to veterans’ support and services” for post-World War II Canadian Forces veterans.… Read the rest

Recent Julian Fantino misstep shows some of what’s wrong in Ottawa

The latest mini-scandal in Ottawa involves some overtly partisan letters by Julian Fantino (or, more accurately, his staff writers) which were posted on a publicly funded CIDA website. This is against Treasury Board rules and so resulted in a complaint. The letters were taken down, but opposition critics are arguing that it was no innocent mistake.

This little incident is illustrative. The original letters were prepared for publication in newspapers, and were probably written by government employees – something that is allowed to a point. The dividing line between what is partisan and what is simply the government’s position has become increasingly fuzzy in recent decades.

Once it would have been out of bounds for a minister to ask bureaucrats to write a letter attacking opposition MPs, or to collect data on military helicopter usage by opposition critics, or to ask them to stop a potentially embarrassing access to information request from being processed. But attitudes have slowly changed, and now such requests are routine. What the press reports is just the tip of the iceberg.

Combined with this is the tendency for bureaucrats to simply do what they’re told – even lie – when ordered to do so.… Read the rest

A sad lack of accountability on F-35s and transportation safety

In case you’re not Canadian or haven’t seen any news at all this week, the Auditor General released a report in which he blasts the Department of National Defence and Transport Canada. The Canada Revenue Agency also received criticism, but not quite as blistering.

Andrew Coyne has some spot-on comments about the government’s obviously conscious attempt to deceive Parliament and Canadians about the costs of the F-35, so I won’t repeat what he’s said – just go to the link below. Remember that he’s a right-leaning journalist, too, so if he’s damning, well, it’s got to be bad. (I have great respect for his work and commentary, by the way.)

I would simply add that while I believe that the Tories are complicit in this cover-up (and let’s be honest – how different would the Chrétien Liberals have been?) it’s the role of bureaucrats that I have greatest concern about. These people are supposed to be sober, neutral and honest. If anyone is going to take the big risks, it’s supposed to be the politicians.

But clearly they’re not. Clearly, that role of the bureaucracy has been undermined. And I don’t think that it’s just the fault of the Conservatives (and the Liberals before them).… Read the rest