Monday, June 02, 2008

Paging Harpie, please appear before the Public Safety Committee

A parliamentary committee hearing on Bernier's mess is now in place. Some of the witnesses sought are reported here:
"While Conservative MPs opposed the creation of the parliamentary inquiry, the combined votes of the three opposition parties at the committee ensured the passage of a Bloc Quebecois motion to begin the investigation. The list of desired witnesses includes Mr. Bernier, Ms. Couillard, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Mr. Harper, among others. Ms. Couillard has already said she would testify."
Harpie, of course, through his spokesperson is declining the invitation:
“[Mr. Harper] has answered questions inside and outside the House of Commons,” said Sandra Buckler, his director of communications. “DFAIT is looking into the matter and the opposition should stop trying to score political points after the minister resigned.”
And she has a twin:
"The opposition should stop trying to score political points after the minister has resigned," said Dimitri Soudas, the prime minister's deputy press secretary.
(I wonder if they check with each other in the morning to see what the other is wearing too...:))

Ensuring the security of Foreign Affairs classified documents is all a matter of political points to the Harper spin team. Well, please excuse the committee members for not having accepted the PMO's stance on such things. The independence and competence of your own investigations has been exposed as glaringly deficient. Kevin Lynch, who ran the NAFTAgate whitewash, has been referred to as "ensuring that Foreign Affairs will look into the matter." Oh, I'm sure he will but that's of little comfort to the opposition.

Harper objecting to his appearance is not a surprise. What will be interesting to watch is how much further the clampdown goes. Will the PMO also seek to hold back Day and Bernier as well? Akin reports:
Harper, Bernier and Day - just like any MP - cannot be compelled to testify before a Commons committee. But Couillard can be subpoenaed, which means she risks a contempt of Parliament charge if she fails to appear to before the committee.
Although Day has appeared recently on such things as tasers, here. Ministers regularly appear before committees. If he doesn't on the Bernier matter, it would be contradictory to such recent appearances.

In terms of the procedural matters...there are only four meetings set aside for this inquiry. More witnesses beyond Couillard need to appear, otherwise the public perception of this hearing could sour. I would think they'll be calling those in the know over document handling, the procedure when documents are lost, who would be notified, the persons in positions of responsibility for those matters, the internal controls over such matters, Bernier's staff, etc. All of whom should probably appear before Couillard. And let's further hope that those doing the questioning learned from the haphazard process at the Ethics Committee on the Mulroney-Schreiber hearings. Designate one questioner per party, preferably someone who's had experience doing so to handle the job. I'd like to see Serge Menard on his own for the Bloc for example, and perhaps Ujjal Dosanjh for the Liberals.

Let the preparation begin...