Regular readers of this blog will know that I maintain a sort of quixotic respect for our late lamented friend, the principle of ministerial responsibility. You’ll find it in the obituaries section of the Canada Gazette. It’s the principle which, until really very recently, obligated any senior politician in government to accept responsibility for the actions of their staffers. Under the principle of ministerial responsibility, ignorance of the action is not an excuse. As a member of the Cabinet, you get all of the credit — and in exchange, you also get all of the blame.
Until the recent right-wing ascension, anyways. This week saw right-wing parties dip to new lows across Canada, and both instances are worth charting because of their sheer Orwellian absurdity.
First, there’s the BC Social Credit government. I speculated this weekend that B.C. premier Christy Clark wouldn’t even make it as far as the May election because of the recent leaking of a Jason Kenney-ish scheme hatched by the Premier’s Office to use government resources to build voter ID databases of “ethnic” voters and offer various cheap “quick win” tokens to “ethnic” communities, like apologies for various historical injustices. Over the weekend, some backbenchers went on record — anonymously, of course — suggesting that she resign.
Clark has survived the weekend, so the BC Liberal plane has resumed its historic dive straight into the Coastal Mountains. In order to prove to everyone that she was taking this matter seriously, Clark has…
This would be extraordinary under any circumstances — Clark demanding that Yap step aside because of a plan within Clark’s own office. It’s doubly extraordinary because Yap is a comparatively recent appointee to the multiculturalism post. He wasn’t even in Cabinet when the memo detailing the Premier’s Office’s new “ethnic votes” scheme leaked. Apparently ministerial responsibility just means that some minister — any minister, it doesn’t matter which one — be held responsible when something happens. It’s government by Russian roulette.
But that pales next to the genius move taken by the federal Conservatives this week. They’ve got a little legal trouble of their own: Harper’s appointees to high-level posts keep turning out to be, well, con men. Con cons, if you will. The most recent one is Arthur Porter, who is now wanted on various charges, has fled the country — and, until a year and a half ago, chair of the committee that reviews top secret files at CSIS. While holding that position, he continued to donate to the Conservatives, in flagrant violation of federal rules.
So, spin the ministerial responsibility bottle again, no? Who will it point to when it stops? Harper? Toews? Fantino? Peter Penashue?
Nope: as it turns out, the people responsible for hiring a potential criminal as an intelligence oversight official are…
While Harper was minimizing worries about Porter’s top secret security clearance and privy councillor status, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews attacked the opposition parties for not challenging the government on the appointment.
Wow. I don’t think I’ve heard that one before. “The Opposition is responsible for our actions!” Everyone’s been wondering how long it would take the Conservatives to give up saying “the Liberal did it too.” Well, they’ve done it: now the new story is “the Liberal are responsible even when we do it.”
The fact that the Harper government isn’t concerned about the potential compromise of CSIS goes without saying. In 2011, the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs was caught in flagrante with a Chinese intelligent agent. That didn’t seem to bother Harper, either.Tweet