Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stephen Harper is Now in a Position to Scoff at us Mere Mortals

Yes the dictator is having a very good day. In fact he is having a lot of good days and plans to have many more.

He has played the media like a fiddle and the Canadian people are his muse.

After my euphoria on the weekend, I'm feeling a little down today. I guess when I realized how cleverly he had positioned himself, I've come to the conclusion that it may very well be too late. Who knows?

As a few columnists are suggesting that Harper may have shot himself in foot, he knows and many others know, that's not what's happened.

He is in his comfort zone. He operates better when backed in a corner, and since the Canadian people no longer have any checks and balances, he will turn February 's heart month into a 'not for the faint of heart month'.

But John Ivison tries, although reading some of the horrible comments at the end, I just don't know what happened to some Canadians. They can certainly no longer accuse us of being nice. Divisive politics shows it's victims.

John Ivison: Once again, Tories sabotage their own image
January 25, 2010

When it comes to the Afghan detainee file, the Harper government is rapidly resembling the Judean People's Front crack suicide squad from Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Yesterday, the lawyer for Richard Colvin said that the government has denied the diplomat legal funding as a "reprisal" for his damaging testimony at the parliamentary committee into the Afghan detainees issue. In reality, the government hasn't denied future funding, it just hasn't approved repeated requests in the past two months. This may simply be due to the glacial pace of bureaucratic activity but who, given this government's track record for pettiness, would discount political involvement?

Some Conservatives may get a perverse sense of pleasure by denying funding to someone they see as a political opponent but for many Canadians, it will reinforce the government's reputation for vindictiveness.

Mr. Colvin is due to appear before the Military Police Complaints Commission when it resumes its hearings into the Afghan detainee issue in the spring but he has yet to get any response to letters sent to the Department of Foreign Affairs at the end of November, seeking additional funding.

As a public servant who was requested to appear as a witness before the parliamentary committee and the MPCC, Mr. Colvin is entitled to $50,000 of legal indemnification from his own department. Quite correctly, he turned down the offer of legal representation from the Department of Justice, which would have been in an obvious conflict of interest.

He has not breached the $50,000 limit, yet he has not received any response to his request that Leonard Edwards, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, exercise his discretion and approve an increased legal budget. Mr. Colvin's lawyer, Owen Rees, said that the government's inaction is impacting on his ability to act as a witness in the future.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs said that Mr. Colvin has received $21,000 in legal support and that another invoice is being reviewed, with a decision expected in the near future. "The Department of Foreign Affairs continues to cooperate with Mr. Colvin," she said. This is more response than the diplomat has had from his own employer in two months. Mr. Rees said that, coupled with the government's public attacks on Mr. Colvin, he is left with the "reasonable belief" that the effective denial of further legal funding is a "reprisal" for his testimony.

Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae is right (for once) when he says that Mr. Colvin has been put in an impossible position. He is not a whistleblower -- he was subpoenaed to appear before the committee.

He testified that the government turned a blind eye to his warnings that Canadian Forces were handing Afghan prisoners into torture. Rather than simply admitting that the detainee transfer system was imperfect but has since been improved, a number of Conservative MPs who should have known better, savaged Mr. Colvin's credibility.

Now, insult has been piled on injury by the prospect he will have to pay future legal fees from his own pocket. You don't have to buy the line Mr. Colvin was selling on detainees -- that the Canadian military may have been complicit in war crimes -- to arrive at the conclusion this is grossly unfair.

Treasury Board guidelines are clear that providing legal assistance and indemnification to Crown servants is "essential to the protection of the Crown's interests, the fair treatment of its servants and the effective management of an organization." Mr. Colvin's initial application for funding to employ private legal counsel was approved, so he clearly does not contravene the eligibility criteria.
Public servants qualify for funding, unless they have "acted contrary to the interests of the Crown".

But Mr. Colvin has not broken any laws, misused public funds or been guilty of gross mismanagement. His treatment suggests there is some confusion in the Langevin Block, where the Prime Minister's Office is located. There, the interests of the Crown and the Conservative Party are deemed synonymous. It's a sense of entitlement that has had a disastrous impact on the government's support.

Like the Judean People's Front suicide squad leader who claims: "That showed ‘em", as the sword goes into his own gut, the Conservatives have done it to themselves. Again.

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