a weekly blog for all interested in professional communications issues

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why didn’t Oda tell the truth in the 1st place?

Here’s a news flash that provides questions instead of answers.

Over the weekend, Conservative MPs were issued talking points that say Bev Oda was out of the country when her office received a report from the Canadian International Development Agency recommending approval of $7 million in funding for Kairos, the international aid group.

So the Minister of International Co-operation ordered her office staff to insert the word ``not’’ in front of ``approve’’ in the final line of the report and use her signature stamp. At least this is the government’s latest version of what happened in Oda’s run-in with parliamentary procedure.

Had the minister simply given that explanation to a Commons committee in December, would she now be in danger of becoming the first cabinet minister in Canadian history to be found in contempt of Parliament? Not.

Instead, she has had several stories. First she tried to claim she didn’t know how a document bearing her signature came to be altered. Then she claimed Kairos didn’t fit the aims of CIDA when senior staff of the agency under her charge were recommending approval.

And most laughably, Oda claimed funding was denied after ``due diligence’’ by CIDA.

Oda has already been rebuked by the Commons Speaker over this affair. Telling fibs in the House of Commons is a line that is not supposed to be crossed.

This is because truthful information is the oxygen that feeds parliamentary democracy.

Even if Oda somehow remains a member of cabinet when this nasty affair finally ends, her political career is effectively over. No one is going to take seriously a disgraced minister who reportedly lied to a parliamentary committee and tried to pin her own deeds on civil servants reporting to her.

Why didn’t the minister simply tell the truth in the first place since she was within her rights to reject a recommendation from the civil service?

Both she and the government obviously didn’t expect the document to surface publicly, which it did thanks to an Access to Information request. But they should have since the rules of disclosure are pretty clear.

In fairness, this is not the first government to think it owns the truth. But considering this government got itself elected by promising increased accountability, the whole affair is likely to leave a stench.

Maybe this is a case of some kind of hidden death wish because every time this government is within sight of majority rule, it starts shooting at its own feet.

But more likely, this is a sign that official Ottawa needs a reminder that truth isn’t just an inconvenience to be overcome.

We may get that reminder before this affair is over.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a news flash that provides questions instead of answers. Over the weekend, Conservative MPs were issued talking points that say Bev Oda was out of the.. click here