2 min

A new era of ministerial accountability

The government is expected to release a statement in the House today that will declare they will no longer allow their staff to be subpoenaed before committees – that only ministers will answer for the actions of their staff. This after the Prime Minister’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday that he was almost certainly not going to be appearing before the Commons Ethics Committee as part of their investigation into the particular… lapses in this government’s access to information compliance. So ministers being accountable for their staff is great – we live in a system that is all about ministerial accountability, right?

Erm, except that this is the Harper government. They may be content to say that ministers will show up at committee in lieu of their staffers, but these ministers have a habit of not turning up to committees when invited. (But it’s not like some of them have anything better to do, in this government of one). Add to that, there are some ministers that are very good at giving their talking points and completely stonewalling committee questions – and you know that’s what Harper is counting on. A whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. So does this mean that Harper will show up at the Ethics Committee instead of Soudas, given that he’s the minister in charge? That’s what it sounds like – but I’m sure he’s so busy that he won’t be able to make any of the dates the committee sets. But hey – this is the government of accountability and transparency, don’t you know?

Elsewhere, it has come to light that CIDA advised the government against their current stance on safe abortions for women in the developing world, but the government decided to ignore that advice. Kind of like they decided to ignore the civil service’s expert advice on things like justice issues, or harm reduction, or climate change, or anything like that. Because there’s nothing like putting ideology ahead of sound science or evidence – once again.

Marc Emery has pleaded guilty in an American court, and he’s off to spend five years in an American prison, because Canada has decided to cede sovereignty to Americans on our justice system.

Six federal cabinet ministers were out unrolling simultaneous announcements about aviation security. Because you know, it takes six ministers across the country to simultaneously hold government sideshows, which is the definition of fiscal prudence and austerity.

And some media has finally clued in to the fact that MPs’ attendance isn’t tracked – unlike the Senate. Will this be the same kind of faux uproar and casual cynicism as this tempest in a teapot over MP expenses and the Auditor General (where the media is largely missing the point of the concept of a performance audit on the 85 percent of expenses that aren’t made by MPs)?
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