Thursday, May 14, 2009

How not to handle an issue: see Kenney, Jason

Brief update (10:10 p.m.) below...

"Kenney's stance on Dhalla could taint probe: critics." CP tracks the involvement of Kenney's ministry in overtly pushing the Dhalla allegations and includes the views of independent observers on why his and his staff's actions have been inappropriate here. Suffice it to say, they have created a perception of bias prior to any independent investigation having occurred.

Some of what Kenney's office has done that is inappropriate:
Kenney initially talked about not wanting to politicize the process. But his spokesman, Alykhan Velshi, then downloaded related documents from a media website and handed them out to reporters in an attempt to discredit Dhalla.

Velshi also encouraged reporters to follow certain lines of questioning.

He took the action despite the fact it would fall to Kenney's department to probe any breach of the federal Live-In Caregiver Program.
And some of the criticism that's consequently flowing:
"I feel very uncomfortable with the handing out of those documents - even though they're in the public domain," said Henry Jacek, a political scientist at McMaster University.

"It does send a signal to the people in the department that the minister has ... a pretty critical stance on this. If somebody wants to go up against the minister then they better be very careful. Or maybe not do it."

Kenney, a career politician with a reputation as a partisan bruiser, could have handled the matter differently, Jacek said.

"He could have practised complete restraint. Certainly I think if I were the minister that's what I would have done.
More criticism:
Political scientist Sharon Sutherland of the University of Victoria's Centre for Global Studies specializes in the inner workings of government.

She said Kenney has "tainted his own rule."

"I imagine that the morale of his department in that division is at zero because people won't know how they can possibly proceed.

"He has made ... a certain line of thinking clear. So the public servants who would be charged with a subsequent inquiry would feel pressure whether or not Minister Kenney is going to ... put pressure on their bosses."

Sutherland said the Dhalla feeding frenzy has reduced a serious policy matter about the exploitation of foreign workers into "a kind of Punch and Judy show."

"It's a misuse of the parliamentary committee," she said of the move to call Dhalla's accusers before the Commons immigration committee, chaired by a Conservative MP.

"I don't know why the Speaker hasn't stepped in. And I don't understand why the prime minister hasn't stepped in to put a lid on his minister.
(emphasis added)
Well, certainly we know the answer to the last point but as for the former, that's a good point. The Speaker attempted to put a lid on the abuses of member statements in the House of Commons yet that appears to have fallen by the wayside of late. There's certainly an appetite among Canadians for an end to these kinds of partisan excesses, if only there would be some recognition of that.

Update (10:10 p.m.): It's becoming quite clear tonight, beyond the above information, that the circus is in full three ring territory. Think it's time to bring these hearings to an end and let the appropriate independent officials handle it.