Poor Sandy Collins.
The Minister (of the Moment) of Public Engagement and a gaggle of senior public servants went to meet the access to information review committee on Tuesday. Supposed to be half a day chatting about this whole letting people have access to government information thing . Turned into a marathon grilling.
You can watch the whole thing at the parcnl.ca website, once they get it posted.
Anyone with half a clue might have figured that the committee would have a few questions about why the government introduced all the changes in Bill 29. Rather than offer anyone who could actually speak about why things happened, they sent Collins and his gang. None of them offered any explanation of anything. Collins was on the defensive the whole time – as media reported – and review committee chair wound up nailing the government for hiding information improperly.
The best Collins could offer up was insight like the one CBC used:
"If the system as it were today was working correctly, we wouldn't be having this discussion, so obviously there's some concerns there," said Collins.
When he wasn’t offering that sort of brilliant observation into the obvious, Collins and the deputy ministers were ducking questions with excuses like the fact they weren’t in their jobs at the time an event happened or someone made a decision. Well, at least that’s what the deputy attorney general tried on when pressed on the issue of solicitor-client privilege.
Now maybe the strategy was send over Collins to take one in the head for the team. What actually happened is that Collins looked like a boob. The deputy attorney general was left to basically offer general observations about possible problems with letting the privacy commissioner have access to documents that were covered by solicitor-client privilege. Collins should have handled the question since it involved policy and a discussion of potential policy. it wasn’t a question for a deputy minister and, as it was, the experienced lawyer handled it like…well… an experienced lawyer.
The problem was Collins: he was quite clearly out of his depth. He was unprepared. He was completely unfamiliar with the subject matter and thoroughly incapable of carrying on an intelligent, informed discussion about government policy.
Collins was so far out of his depth, it became painful to watch. In the wider sense, anyone watching the testimony can now appreciate the depth of the problems inside the current Conservative Party. This inarticulate, unprepared guy named Collins is now a key cabinet minister. He got his job not based on skill and knowledge - Collins made that point over and over on Tuesday - but on his ability to follow orders and to act like a complete arsehole on Twitter.
If sending the stunningly inept Sandy Collins out to defend government on such a sensitive subject as secrecy and government abuse of power was someone’s idea of a good idea, you know why the Conservatives are in the political hurt locker.