When the Cover-up is Worse than the Crime

CPC House Leader Candice BergenImage credit: CBC News

By: Laura Steiner

Earlier this month the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) attempted to force the Liberals to allow National Security Advisor Daniel Jean to testify before a Commons Committee.  They wanted him to speak on a briefing given on how Jaspal Atwal, was invited to a reception with the Prime Minister in Mumbai.  Atwal was convicted in the attempted murder of a visiting cabinet minister from India, and faced charges in a brutal attack on Ujal Dosanjh.  The Liberals hold a majority on the committee, and did not vote in favour.

In response the Conservatives used procedural rules Thursday to force a clause-by-clause vote on the 2018-19 budget estimates.  Finance issues are a matter of confidence, putting the pressure on the Liberals to keep their numbers up.  One lost vote meant a federal election.  The estimated 40 hour marathon was called after approximately 20 hours by CPC House Leader Candice Bergen.   They didn’t achieve anything, but calling attention to the idea that the government might be a little less than truthful on this one.

The briefing in question was supposed to be background.  Translated, that means the journalists know who’s speaking, trust their information, but won’t officially identify them for whatever reason.  Coverage on this ran the spectrum from barely a line or two dedicated to the briefing, to open cynicism in some analytical pieces.  In short the majority of press didn’t believe the Prime Minister’s office. There are competing reports on whether Andrew Scheer was actually offered one and refused, or asked for one and was told the lawyers were checking to see if it was possible.  There are also other suggestions that Scheer found out through the media he was offered a briefing.

Regardless of what happened with Scheer, the CPC raises serious questions.  If there are legitimate questions on confidentiality, and national security why brief journalists first? Why not brief the opposition leaders, or the parliamentary committee on specifics?   There are ways to negotiate these things to keep whatever info you need to confidential. How did Atwal’s past behavior slip through the cracks? Shooting someone is a serious crime by any country’s standards.  That alone suggests this guy might be someone you wouldn’t want at a reception with a Prime Minister.

The Liberals have been arguing about the time lost in constituency offices, or debating legislation.  There is a saying that sometimes the cover-up is worse than the crime.  If it’s a true national security issue let Daniel Jean testify.  If it’s nothing more than a mistake made by Trudeau’s office then apologize, and move on.  Canadians deserve to know either way.