There’s been a great hullabaloo recently about the fact that the Conservatives have scheduled Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand’s testimony for a period when most journalists in Ottawa, we are repeatedly told by the news media, will be in lock-up receiving a special confidential briefing on the budget.
This self-serving pandering cuts two ways, of course. It’s not as if the RCMP are going to lock up every journalist in Ottawa and force-feed the budget summary to them. Unlike Sixth Estate, some major news organizations have two or even three full-time journalists. From time to time they can call on these vast resources to cover two separate events at the same time, and this is one situation where they would be well advised to do so.
More to the point, people who think the testimony has been pushed into a quiet and easily overlooked setting are kind of missing the point. If Mayrand really did have something explosive to say to the committee that would implicate the Conservatives, they would simply not bring him into the Committee in the first place. If he had something explosive to say about an Opposition party, they would schedule the hearing at a more convenient time and place. Ergo, the reason this is being “covered up” is much more mundane: they don’t want any awkward questions raised about why Elections Canada apparently has nothing to show for their eight-month-long investigation of Pierre Poutine, or of Poutine’s accomplices in 100 other ridings.
Nor is the question of in camera hearings an issue. Although the Conservatives have now shut down public access to the majority of important Parliamentary proceedings, I can pretty much guarantee you that this one will be wide-open. Consider:
- If Mayrand reveals incriminating evidence in an in camera hearing, the Opposition MPs will simply leak it the moment they’re out the door. Yes, it’s illegal, and yes, it could earn them a contempt of Parliament ruling. One or more them will happily accept that rebuke if it means an opportunity to severely embarass the government.
- If Mayrand doesn’t reveal incriminating evidence in an in camera hearing, the Opposition MPs will announce the moment they’re out the door that they wish they could share Mayrand’s important testimony with the public, but unfortunately the Conservatives have outlawed them from doing so. One or more of them will make this statement, and the Conservatives can’t rebut them without leaking privileged material themselves.
For the Conservatives, an in camera hearing can’t be spun to their advantage, and an incriminating hearing can easily be prevented. So what will happen is a non-incriminating public hearing. In short, a whitewash. The appropriate provisions for watching this hearing will be a blanket and a pillow, not a bag of popcorn.Tweet