Saturday, May 10, 2008

A highly impressionable Minister

If this Canadian Press report, reproduced here in The Chronicle Herald on Friday morning, doesn't signal the end of Maxime Bernier's political future, I don't know what will.

For those who were of the view on Thursday when this story was breaking that it was much ado about nothing and that this was a matter of Bernier's private life, the reports quoting security experts saying the contrary should have put an end to that bit of spin. But if that wasn't enough for you, you really need to read the CP report which refers to her as "striding into meetings," presumably of the Foreign Affairs kind.

It sets out, in significant detail, just what Ms. Couillard's influence on Mr. Bernier was. Seems Ms. Couillard fancied herself as the Hillary to Maxime's Bill (imperfect analogy, but go with it). And the folks in Foreign Affairs, it appears, or some other political rivals of Bernier, decided to dish on the Maxime and Julie show that was going on before the Conservative "it's none of our business" line could take root. When the Minister's girlfriend is inappropriately trying to run the show, that's something people should know about. Here's some of it:
Sources characterized the four or five framed portraits of the former model perched atop Bernier’s office furniture as an innocent reflection of his deep affection for her.

They became annoyed at other aspects of the relationship. They say she started trying to influence his speeches and urged him to contradict government policy and speak publicly at every available opportunity.

One source cited Bernier’s visit to the UN General Assembly, claiming Couillard encouraged him to cast the Afghanistan conflict as a peace mission in the face of the government’s repeated insistence that it is a combat mission.


"She got involved in everything. She wanted to control things all the time."

In the morning, if Couillard heard anything she didn’t like about Bernier on Montreal talk radio, they say she would call her boyfriend in Ottawa and tell him to phone into the show.

One Tory described how Couillard would urge Bernier to increase his public profile when she saw another Quebec cabinet minister getting too much TV airtime for her liking.
Oh, there's more:
Couillard reportedly enjoyed accompanying her beau to political events. The minister’s staff would sometimes politely tell him that there were formal occasions where it might not be appropriate to show up as a couple.

"She wanted the spotlight," said one person who knows Bernier well. "She had opinions about how communications should be handled and she expressed them. She wanted to be around."

Bernier’s staff felt she influenced his temperament — sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Sources say there were times when the minister would do an about-face on a draft of a speech.

"She would get him all riled up. He would leave at night in a great mood," said one official. "Then he’d come back in the morning in a pissy mood and we knew — he’s been with Julie. "(emphasis added)
This stuff sounds like it's coming mostly from his own staff. Signifying just how damaged this Minister is. The appeal by Bernier in the House on Thursday for people to respect his private life and the rousing applause from Conservatives in his support appear to have meant exactly nothing to the people who have to deal with him every day. To the people who knew that the "private life" shtick was just that. Better to truth tell and not let the Conservatives get away with spinning and saving this flawed Minister. Exposure time. Good for them.

It's not a pretty picture being painted here. This appears to be a malleable guy without conviction, not the right candidate for one of our nation's most important political and diplomatic positions. And of course, there's one person who bears responsibility for that decision...it's just stunning that Harper would put Bernier in such a sensitive portfolio.