Monday, February 14, 2011

The Record (or why Bev Oda should lose her job)

Bev Oda. Darling Bev, I'm sure, to the fortunate few. Pride of Durham. And on December 9th, 2010, she was...well, let's avoid the lawyers and just say she was inaccurate in front of a standing committee. But don't take my word for it...

From the 'Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development'

John McKay questioning Bev Oda about the appearance of the word 'not' on a CIDA document that appeared to encourage funding for Kairos.

Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Madam Minister, you've just said that you signed off. You were the one--

Hon. Bev Oda (Minister of International Cooperation): I sign off on all of the documents.

McKay: Yes, and you were the one who wrote the “not”.

Oda: I did not say I was the one who wrote the “not”.

McKay: Who did, then?

Oda: I do not know.

McKay: You don't know?

Oda: I do not know.

Later in the same interview, she says:

Oda: I cannot say who wrote the “not”. However, I will tell you the ultimate decision reflects the decision of the minister and the government.

Ah, December. Now, from February 14th's Globe and Mail:

"International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda rose in the House of Commons Monday to admit that it was on her order that the word 'not' was inserted in a memo drafted by senior public servants recommending she approve new funding for the church-backed aid group Kairos.

Ms. Oda...merely reiterated her original response. 'I did not agree with the recommendation of the department. I have always acknowledged that it was my responsibility. I made the decision,' she said. 'I would never mislead this House.'"

The Post's coverage on the 15th gives a little more context:

Margaret Biggs, CIDA president, and Naresh Singh, the other CIDA official, both signed off on the positive recommendation for KAIROS before it was sent to Oda for approval and subsequently changed.

“The ‘not’ was inserted at my direction,”Oda said in the House of Commons Monday afternoon. “Given the way the document was formatted, allowing only for concurrence, this was the only way to reflect my decision.”

Oda said she was sorry if some were led to conclude that she and the department agreed on the funding decision. She also said the way the case has been handled, “including by myself, has been unfortunate.”

I'm obviously not a lawyer. I'm just trying to figure out what kind of legal advice she got before framing this as a "I never meant to..." situation. And I have three questions:

1. Technically, was she misleading the Committee, not the House proper, so she can get away with saying she'd 'never mislead this House?'

2. Since she said in so many words, "I do not know" in December when asked who wrote 'not' on the document, she has just come out as somebody who did not reveal the truth. Is "I do not know" different in legal terms than 'I didn't do it?' And if so, how can she exploit this?

3. Why does this woman still hold a cabinet position?

I'm indifferent to Kairos. I actually respect the idea that the government can fund who they want to as long as they are upfront about it. They're free to add/pull financing as long as they take the hit. But pulling this kind of stunt without censure or without somebody having the common decency to call it unacceptable or the sheer gall to say 'Yeah, she did it, so what?' is depressing to me. It's tantamount to having a free ride - the idea that you can mislead or outright lie to a committee and call it, somehow, a misunderstanding, while surrounded by people who shrug it off and change the subject. We do what we want, enjoy it or suck it up is somehow more fair than It never happened. At least you see it coming.

If Ignatieff and Layton and even freakin' Duceppe don't call this out as an atrocity, I'm voting for Harper out of sheer spite. Better the devil you know then the devil who can't be bothered to phone it in.

Feb, 2011.

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