Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ethically challenged

It's the Prime Ministerial judgment, stupid:
The Speaker: ORAL QUESTIONS. (Voice of Translator): THE HONOURABLE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION.
MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY: Mr. SPEAKER, THE MINISTER FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION CUT FUNDING TO A REPUTABLE CHURCH ORGANIZATION. THEN DOCTORED A DOCUMENT FROM HER OFFICIALS TO MAKE IT LOOK AS IF SHE AGREED WITH HER JUDGMENT WHEN THEY DID NOT. AND THEN SHE MISLED THE HOUSE. THIS IS CONDUCT UNWORTHY OF A MINISTER. SO, THE QUESTION TO THE PRIME MINISTER IS, WHAT CONSEQUENCE WILL THIS MINISTER FACE FOR MISLEADING THIS HOUSE AND MISLEADING THE CANADIAN PEOPLE?

The Speaker: THE RIGHT HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER. ORDER!
Rt. Hon. STEPHEN HARPER, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: ON THE CONTRARY, Mr. SPEAKER. THE MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION HAS BEEN VERY CLEAR THAT SHE TOOK THIS DECISION. THESE ARE THE -- THESE KINDS OF DECISIONS ARE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MINISTERS, Mr. SPEAKER. WHEN WE SPEND MONEY ON FOREIGN AID, WE EXPECT IT TO BE USED EFFECTIVELY FOR FOREIGN AID AND THAT'S THE DECISION THE MINISTER TOOK.

The Speaker: THE HONOURABLE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION.
MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY: (Voice of Translator): Mr. SPEAKER, I DIDN'T GET AN ANSWER. THE MINISTER CUT OFF A RELIGIOUS CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION THAT DOES GOOD WORK. THEN SHE DOCTORED A DOCUMENT, WHICH DISTORTED HER RELATIONSHIP WITH HER OFFICIALS. THEN SHE MISLED THE HOUSE. HOW CAN SHE CONTINUE TO SIT IN CABINET?

The Speaker: (Voice of Translator): THE RIGHT HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER. ORDER! THE RIGHT HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER.
Rt. Hon. STEPHEN HARPER, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: (Voice of Translator): Mr. SPEAKER, HERE IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, THE MINISTER WAS CLEAR THAT IT WAS HER DECISION AND IT'S HER RESPONSIBILITY, Mr. SPEAKER, TO ENSURE THAT TAXPAYER MONEY IS SPENT EFFICIENTLY FOR HUMANITARIAN AID AND THAT'S WHAT SHE DID IN THIS CASE.

The Speaker: (Voice of Translator): THE HONOURABLE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION.
MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, LEADER OF THE LIBERAL PARTY: Mr. SPEAKER, THIS MINISTER IS TIED UP IN KNOTS. SHE DID NOT LISTEN TO HER OFFICIALS. SHE DID NOT TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. SHE DID NOT TELL THE TRUTH. SHE DID NOT HAVE THE INTEGRITY TO RESIGN. HOW CAN THE PRIME MINISTER NOT DEMAND HER RESIGNATION?

The Speaker: ORDER. ORDER. THE RIGHT HONOURABLE PRIME MINISTER.
Rt. Hon. STEPHEN HARPER, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: Mr. SPEAKER, AS I'VE SAID, THE MINISTER HAS BEEN CLEAR HERE AND IN COMMITTEE REPEATEDLY, THAT WHEN WAS HER DECISION. Mr. SPEAKER, AS IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE. WHEN THE GOVERNMENT SPENDS MONEY, IT GIVES OUT GRANTS AND CONTRIBUTIONS, THOSE ARE DECISIONS THAT MINISTERS HAVE TO MAKE, THAT THEY HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR, Mr. SPEAKER. IT IS NOT THE DECISION OF APPOINTED OFFICIALS. IT IS NOT THE ENTITLEMENT OF OUTSIDE ORGANIZATIONS. IT'S A DECISION OF THE MINISTER TO MAKE SURE THAT TAXPAYERS' DOLLARS ARE USED EFFECTIVELY FOR FOREIGN AID, AND THAT'S WHAT SHE'S DONE.
The government is indeed free to make the ultimate decisions on grant moneys to organizations. The KAIROS funding application was not, however, the simple, clean, wonderful instance of government decision making that the PM has made it out to be here. The Prime Minister is always skilled at changing the subject, getting people to look in another direction. So we should ignore his misdirections.

Harper is turning us away from the ethical elephant in the room. The minister has admitted she ordered a document that had been signed by one of her officials to be altered. Governments and its ministers have the final say on such funding decisions, yes. But the execution here was improper and unethical. And yet we see the Prime Minister standing by that act. That matters. And frankly, it is why he will likely never get a majority government. How can you trust a leader who stands by such an act, after all?

Maybe, just maybe, he might listen to his media allies since he seems to be in finger to the wind governing mode:
For now, Mr. Harper is sticking by Ms. Oda: He has responded to the controversy by airily declaring “It is the minister’s responsibility to ensure that humanitarian aid objectives are met with the efficient use of taxpayer’s dollars.” But she has another responsibility, too: to act ethically and tell the truth. Her failure in this regard means she is no longer fit for Cabinet.
Integrity matters because when the chips are down we must count on a leader to do the right thing, at the expense of - and cost to - him or her self. Oh the tangled webs he weaves.