Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The aides pay for the policy

"Top adviser leaves Bev Oda's office." This one:
A Conservative political adviser caught up in the fracas between the Harper government and aid groups has left his job at CIDA minister Bev Oda’s office.
Keith Fountain, who served as policy director for Ms. Oda, the Minister of International Co-operation, no longer works for her, a spokesman said today.
Last week, an official with a mainstream non-governmental group fingered Mr. Fountain as a example of what they are worried about.
The official, who did not want to be identified out of concern it might jeopardize their group’s funding, told The Globe and Mail last week that the senior Conservative aide had warned them against such activities.
According to the NGO official, Mr. Fountain gave them a verbal warning that the organization’s policy positions were under scrutiny: “Be careful about your advocacy.”
So Mr. Fountain has suddenly left in the wake of the disclosure of this reported direction to aid groups. The spin from Oda's office is that the departure had nothing at all to do with the Globe report on political interference in aid groups. It's just a happy coincidence. And if you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you in Alaska.

The Harper ministerial aides are the scapegoats. It's a fair bet that this Oda aide has been pitched overboard to attempt to localize the wound, to minimize the Harper government's politicization of aid and overseas development efforts and where possible, portray it as the result of such freelanced acts by aides. There's a gathering storm on this file, from KAIROS to Rights & Democracy, this is part of the damage control.

The same dynamic was presented to us last week. Former Minister of Public Works Christian Paradis' aide was caught out having stifled a legitimate access to information request. The aide was subsequently portrayed by his Minister as having acted without ministerial knowledge, it was just a disappointing, isolated staffer action. This is the pattern. When trouble brews, watch out aides.

We know where the policies are set, it's not these aides who are running the show. The buck is passed way down the line in the Harper government.