19 February 2011

Connies torquing Bev Oda

The Globe and Mail carried an exceptionally well crafty effort by someone to counteract the fairly obvious problems federal cabinet minister Bev Oda created for herself recently.

It is not just spin, however.

It is beyond mere spin.

It is torque.

Pure torque.

It is such a heavy load of torque this piece should be accompanied by the whine of one of those wrenches they use in garages to change tire lugs.

Bev Oda is a former senior executive in the communications industry who, we are to believe, is now a “serious minded minister” who has one tragic flaw – she simply can’t explain what she means.  She cannot communicate effectively. 

Someone was so concerned to get that message that they made it the headline of the piece.

The lede then reframes the entire controversy and ascribes it to “sketchy paperwork”.

But here’s the simple truth:  Bev Oda lied to parliament.

The paperwork was not sketchy.  it’s there and plain and as Oda herself acknowledged she directed someone to insert the word “not” in a document and thereby change its meaning.

The lede of the Globe piece is factually incorrect.

It is, to use a simple word, untrue.

In case you missed it, the lede is based on an entirely false premise.

The rest of the article describes Oda’s desk piled high with papers and cases where decisions were left to the last minute.  The article refers to former staffers who attribute this to her penchant for reading each document thoroughly. Oda is, we are assured “a stickler for details and a pains-taking reader of files.”

Sure she is.

What the article describes is a person who actually appears to be overwhelmed by her responsibilities and who is working well above her ceiling.  Delay of this sort is not an attention to detail;  it is likely an avoidance of making a decision and that comes from only one source:  insecurity.

Ministers who are on top of their files, as the phrase goes and who are, at the same time, sticklers for detail tend to keep their desks cleared with an endless flurry of paper coming and going.

They do not hesitate to make decisions.

They are constantly making decisions.

They are the ones who, after a very long day,  take home a bunch of hundred page tomes and skip the one page briefing notes to dive into the detail.  The books comes back the next morning with hand-written notations on page after page in the middle.

Your humble e-scribbler can say this because he has worked for or with a bunch of them and knows a bunch more by reputation.

Oda served as a senior vice president at CTV but she is, according to the sources in this article, beset by a communications problem.

Again, a nose-puller of Mulroney-ego-esque proportions.

Bev Oda lied to parliament.

She should go.

And if the Prime Minister and his crew had half a clue they’d have punted this fairly obvious inept minister a long time ago.  Surely there’s a sinecure somewhere for her other than sitting in cabinet.

- srbp -


WhigWag said...

Thanks for that. But there's also an alternative, maybe more plausible reason for why she stalled so long before PMO-stamping the files in her in-box, aside from incompetence: maybe she had a little more heart than there's room for in that regime, and couldn't quite bring herself to sign off on those ideological cutting decisions she knew to be wrong (but didn't quite have enough conscience -- or as Baird would have it, "courage") to actually defy or resign over, if necessary (a la Michael Chong).

Fred from BC said...

Bev Oda lied to parliament.

So the Liberals and NDP (and even a few Conservatives) keep saying. Maybe you can do something they can't, though...maybe you can actually post this so-called 'lie'? So far every single person I've asked has been unable to do so (even conservatives)...

WhigWag said...

Several times, Fred:

- On April 23, 2010, when she tabled a signed reply to a question submitted Mar. 8 by Liberal MP Glen Pearson, which states: "The CIDA decision not to continue funding KAIROS was based on the overall assessment of the proposal, not on any single criterion. "Non-government organizations proposals to CIDA are assessed on a variety of criteria, which are described on CIDA's website www.acdi-cida.gc.ca."

[which was a lie because CIDA itself -- but not the PMO &/or Ministry, who later vetoed it -- had actually determined that Kairos DID meet its criteria which is why it RECOMMENDED funding it, on Sept. 25 2009]

- and on Oct. 28, 2010, when Oda tells the House: "Mr. Speaker, our government has been very clear. We have an international aid effectiveness strategy and we are acting on it. We are getting results for people in the developing countries and all projects by CIDA are assessed against our effectiveness standard. After due diligence, it was determined that KAIROS' proposal did not meet government standards."

[because, again, CIDA itself had determined that it DID meet those statements after it reviewed the proposal with all due diligence]

- and on Dec. 9, 2010, when Oda appeared at a Commons committee, and said she didn't add the "Not" or know who did

[Which was a "Lie of Omission," since she MISLED them into thinking she didn't know who ordered that the "Not" be put there, either, and she didn't submit anything later to correct that impression]

-- and possibly again on Feb. 14, 2011, when Oda apologizes to the House for "confusion," and testified that the "Not" was inserted at her direction

[which MIGHT be a lie if it was actually directed by someone in the PMO (note, an unnamed staffer in her Ministry has been quoted as saying she wasn't even in Ottawa when the form was auto-signed & stamped on her behalf]



wilson said...

Ed, one of your own, a Liberal with govt experience, wrote this and posted on Andrew Coynes latest article.

Perhaps it explains the media starting their climb down.


WhigWag said...

don't get too excited, wilson.

just because "mackenzieam" was a civil servant or political staffer for long enough to develop Stockholm Syndrome so she's accustomed to defending whatever evasions & equivocations & deceptions her political bosses routinely perpetrate... doesn't mean the rest of us should.

First, there's a whole lot of details in this blogger's account about what occurred in the Minister's office on the day of the decision which goes 'way beyond any published account. So is that just speculation or is she fronting for some PMO talking points as a favour to someone (perhaps in exchange for a grant for her current employer)?

Second, the House clearly WAS misled through the statements I listed above & the lies of omission, which is what's at issue here, and Ms. Oda knew it, which is why she felt compelled to "clear up any confusion" earlier this week on Feb. 14, and it's also clear from the testimony to the Committee* and the analysis of insiders like Keith Beardsley that she was coached by the PMO to BE misleading and evasive,**

and those are the essential ingredients -- saying something that you know to be misleading -- that make up Contempt of Parliament

(*audio of it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ0AngUuvRU

mackenzieam said...


It's so hard to believe these days that someone with experience and knowledge of how the system works would actually be rational in the public sphere? I simply know how MOs work, and how MOs work with the public service. It's not secret, and I think it's important to educate in order to promote understanding so that we may move beyond partisan talking points and actually solve the real problems we have. This "Oda-gate" (for the love of god...really?) is a distraction from real issues.

Don't try to sully my character or reputation, please - that's what the Prime Minister seems to enjoy engaging in as we know, and is a far better argument against the sitting government than this nuanced, barely-understandable-to-John-Q "issue" is.


Edward Hollett said...

One of your own, Wilson?

One of my own what?




Music lovers?

Perhaps you might see a good surgeon about your apparently bad case of cranial-rectal interposition.

WhigWag said...

p.s., Wilson, does this sound like "the media [are] starting their climb down," when even the Sun / QMI editorial today is:

"the Harper government is nonetheless wrong in riding out the Oda scandal, and thinking it will simply go away because the House of Commons is not sitting next week.

She lied to Parliament, end of story, and she therefore no longer enjoys the public's trust to be International Co-operation Minister -- no matter what the Speaker eventually decides.

The fact that Oda doesn't realize her own liability only makes matters worse.

So we'll say it again. She has to go."


and other papers are still publishing detailed stories about how this may even be a criminal offense, since:

"Two people signed it, then she changed it to 'not.' You can't change other people's recommendations. If you alter a document once people have recommended (funding) to express the opposite of what they intended, that's falsifying a document." (Ned Franks, a Queen's University political studies professor emeritus)


WhigWag said...

mackenzieam : perhaps you'd be good enough to explain how you became privy to the details of what happened on the day of the signing, and why there even had to BE a signed document that couldn't wait until she got back, to be properly revised and signed the (considering that they never even sent KAIROS that doc; they just called them the next day, to say no)...

details that weren't made public until this very evening (8 PM QC time), when the Gazette got ahold of a PMO talking points memo sent to the CPC caucus TODAY.

"Memo only altered to signal direct decision from Oda: Tories"
By Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News February 19, 2011 8:08 PM


And yet you seemed quite sure of these matters not only earlier today but earlier this week on another blog.

Hence my lingering confusion over whether this was speculation on your part, or whether you're now part of the extended Tory family

wilson said...

Ed, I assumed you are a Liberal.

WhigWag, those 'tory talking points' came from CIDA president Margaret Biggs, last year, in committee:

Dec 9, 2010
Ms. Margaret Biggs:
"Yes, I think as the minister said, the agency did recommend the project to the minister. She has indicated that. But it was her decision, after due consideration, to not accept the department's advice.

This is quite normal, and I certainly was aware of her decision. The inclusion of the word “not” is just a simple reflection of what her decision was, and she has been clear. So that's quite normal.

I think we have changed the format for these memos so the minister has a much clearer place to put where she doesn't want to accept the advice, which is her prerogative...."

WhigWag said...

Yes, wilson, Ms. Biggs, the Pres. of CIDA did say that little PMO-written & rehearsed piece (as both mackenzieam & Beardsley agree it would be), alright -- on cue, right after the Minister interjected and tried to stop her having to say anything at all, to the simple q. of whether the "Not" was there before she signed it.

But that little dog & pony show hardly settles the issue, nor does it explain how mackenzieam knows how or why that memo just _had_ to get not-ed & signed & filed away in a rush that day: as opposed to just phoning them with the bad news, as they did, and then typing up a NEW form WITH a 'The Minister Rejects' box, instead of the existing mish-mash, which reads like CIDA (the agency) was recommending to the Minister (OF, but not identical to the agency) that the NGO should not be funded. Because CIDA most definitely did NOT do that, doctored appearances notwithstanding, even though it took a full year, slews of news & newsletter articles, several QPs, an FOI request, an appearance under oath at a committee, and a Speaker's Ruling to wring that out of them.



Edward Hollett said...

And Wilson, why is that assumption on your part relevant to the simple question of whether or not Oda lied or, as this article actually suggests, is simply incompetent.

From my perspective, neither has anything to do with the fact she is a Connie.

I gather you now are suggesting that the two qualities are connected. An interesting defence but from my perspective, this isn't a partisan question.

Wm. Murphy said...

The number of anon commenters posting URL's is staggering Ed....

It's good to see that your strict conditions are relaxing a bit...it's just so hard keeping up with your rules