The pitcher of political scandal on the federal scene has been rather full lately thanks to the ongoing senate expense controversy and the almost daily developments on that front ("minister without a portfolio," really Mike Duffy?) so one could understand how other scandals might end up under the rug, but here we go anyway.
You'll recall earlier this year a story that accused International Development Minister Julian Fantino in having a pair of partisan op-eds posted on the website for the Canadian International Development Agency. Fantino claimed to know nothing about two letters with the headings, “Liberals make promises, Conservatives get results”, which originally appeared in the National Post, and “Dear NDP: CIDA does not need your economic advice,” but there have since been developments that say that he did know all along.
A series of e-mails obtained by the Toronto Star via the Access to Information Act show discussion between Fantino's office and CIDA about the formatting, posting, and eventual removal of the posts from the CIDA website.One e-mail on January 3 labelled "Ministerial editorials" saw Jo-Ann Purcell, a CIDA employee in Fantino's office ask, "Can you let me know what format/section of CIDA's website these will be posted on? If possible, can you send a mock-up before posting all of them?" Then, when the editorials were posted online on January 12, Purcell sent an e-mail that said that "all" material had been posted.
Three days later, when the media started to question the new content on the CIDA website, Purcell sent out another e-mail to CIDA staffers, who were understandably confused, to remove the offending letters from the website. "The two letters ... were posted on the CIDA website by mistake," read the e-mail statement made at the time. "These letters were removed immediately when the error was discovered. The intention was to post non-partisan letters for the information of Canadians."
Except now we know that the posts weren't so much a mistake as intentional. On the face of it, this may seem rather minor, but it's part of a rather disturbing trend in the current federal government where partisan politics and ideology aren't just for winning elections,but for governing day-to-day. The civil service, once thoroughly non-partisan, is becoming increasingly so. Whether its a website posting material critical of the opposition parties, or forcing scientists to get written permission to talk about even the most minor of scientific questions with the media, if you appreciate an independent civil service in the country, then you may need to look beyond the immediate gluttony of government cheese by certain members of the upper house.