The Oda ado: overblown?

In the spirit of devil’s advocacy, Colby Cosh lays out the defence case

by Colby Cosh

No doubt I’ll be called a Conservative lapdog for saying so, but I find myself balking at the elite consensus that Bev Oda deserves hanging for having deceived the people’s House. In the spirit of devil’s advocacy (or the presumption of innocence), let me lay out the defence case. You can consider, if you like, that it is here to serve as a target. We’ll start from Michael Ignatieff’s version of the indictment: “We have a Prime Minister who lets a minister deceive the House of Commons, falsify a document, and instead of reprimanding or dismissing her, gets up in this House and actually applauds her.” [Cries of "Shame, shame"]

The CBC’s timeline suggests three occasions on which Oda could personally be said to have deceived the House: in her written answer to Glen Pearson’s oral question of Apr. 23, in her answers to questions in the House on Oct. 28, and in the Foreign Affairs committee hearing of Dec. 9. But the Oct. 28 exchange doesn’t really seem relevant; it took place after the controversial “altered” document came to light in a access-to-information request filed by Embassy magazine, and it had already become clear to everybody that Oda overruled an initial recommendation from CIDA staff to fund the ecumenical social-justice organization Kairos. That is the whole context of that discussion: Liberal Francis Valeriote put it to Oda that she refused funding “in absolute contradiction of her own department’s findings” and she didn’t correct or dispute the assertion.

So it’s Apr. 23 and Oct. 28 that constitute the case against her, right? (Whatever we think of Jason Kenney’s December ’09 comments in Israel, we can’t hold Oda responsible for those. We can use those to make the case that the cut to Kairos’s funding was political in nature—which it pretty clearly was, under any possible interpretation of events.) Here is the controversial Apr. 23 exchange:

Pearson: With regard to Kairos, which has lost their funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as of November 30, 2009 due to Kairos no longer fitting CIDA priorities: (a) what are the CIDA priorities that did not fit well with the priorities of Kairos; (b) what sort of criteria does CIDA examine to determine whether or not a non-governmental organization will receive funding; and (c) what specific criteria did Kairos not meet to have their funding cut by CIDA?

Oda: Mr. Speaker, with regard to a) The CIDA decision not to continue funding Kairos was based on the overall assessment of the proposal, not on any single criterion.

With regard to b) 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.

With regard to c) CIDA receives more proposals than it has the resources to fund, so that even some proposals that meet the Agency’s basic criteria must be turned down.

The whole issue here, as far as I can tell, is the phrase “the CIDA decision”. Oda didn’t come right out and say that CIDA staff had no problem with Kairos’s application, but she did suggest that even some applications that might otherwise pass muster with the department are rejected. The Conservatives have offered the defence that a minister’s final word becomes a “CIDA decision” as soon as it is made, whatever advice she might have received from agency staff beforehand—and in a narrow technical sense that is certainly true, isn’t it? That’s how the public service works.

If Oda had offered this slippery answer to a direct question about whether she had disagreed with the advice of senior agency officials, she would certainly be guilty of deceit. But she didn’t. Pearson’s questions were only about the process, as a whole, and its end-product. That might seem like a crabbed, narrowly technical defence of Oda, but then, the charge against her vis-à-vis the Apr. 23 question is pretty narrowly technical. The idea is that a reasonable person unpacking the phrase “CIDA decision” could only find that it meant “a preliminary decision taken by CIDA staff without the involvement of the responsible minister”. I can certainly see myself arguing it the other way—Oda has actually apologized for possibly leaving an incorrect impression—but I cannot feel that it is a clear-cut case of contempt of Parliament.

Nor is it quite clear that the Opposition really feels that way, because it’s not making a breach-of-privilege claim involving any of that. Their appeal to the Speaker is strictly concerned with the evidence she gave to the Foreign Affairs committee on Dec. 9—after it was plain to everybody, as a consequence of Embassy‘s reporting, that the Kairos funding decision was taken against agency advice. This exchange was focused more narrowly on the question of who had added the infamous “NOT” to the ministerial memo (seen here, and pretty much everywhere else over the past week) recording that final decision.

There has been a lot of wild talk about “forgery” because the “NOT” was inserted into the memo after the signatures of CIDA staff were appended to it. It is definitely unwise (nay, foolish) to modify a document after it has been signed without the explicit permission of the other signatories—but in this case we have a “forgery” without even an apparent intended victim. CIDA President Margaret Biggs, who had signed the document, told the committee that there was no issue—that, in effect, the “NOT” was just an annotation and that it is ordinary practice for a minister to mark up a memo in that way, or to ask for it to be done:

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.

We’ve seen commentators and opposition members hastening to the defence of the public service when its members get into squabbles with Conservative ministers. It is odd to see the Opposition criticizing both in a case in which they appear to be in complete accord about the acceptability of something that transpired. Margaret Biggs says there’s no “forgery” case; how can you construct one without either her or the other signatory, Naresh Singh?

Colleague Coyne is sure that some falsehood was uttered before the committee. He’s just not sure what it is. “…there isn’t any doubt,” he writes, “that Oda lied to Parliament about this addition [to the document]: the only question is when. Did she lie in December when she told the Commons foreign affairs committee she had no idea who altered the document, or was she lying on Monday when she told the Commons that in fact it was done at her behest? (Or will she claim that, although she directed it be altered, she did not know, as of December, who did it?)”

I have got to say here, I do not find it remarkable at all that Oda would be unable to say who, specifically, wrote the “NOT” on the paper. I am sure that cabinet ministers give non-specific orders to have X or Y done a hundred times a day. The sequence of events was clear by the time of the Dec. 9 committee hearing, and Oda’s moral responsibility for the anti-Kairos decision had already been established; both she and Biggs positively insisted on that at the hearing. Given any theory—a Harper-ordered 13th-hour reversal of an original decision; a last-minute intervention by space lizards—it is still Oda who has the responsibility.

Coyne is perfectly right to say that it does not matter whether she “altered a document or caused it to be altered”; clearly it was done on her orders. Any yet Coyne can’t imagine for the life of him why the document was altered: “How it could be imagined a handwritten addition to a typescript document would fool anybody?” Maybe the answer is that it can’t be imagined, and that Oda did not intend for anybody to be fooled? Since that is just what we’ve been told by one of the parties whose interests were supposedly compromised, it seems at least possible.




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The Oda ado: overblown?

  1. Colby is the place you go to get the views not expressed anywhere else.

    And often there's a reason they aren't.

    • that's more than a little churlish. Playing devil's advocate and arguing against received understandings is always a valuable service. Why don't you try arguing against his position instead? I preferred Coyne's take and disagree with Cosh's, but I'm glad to have read his view.

      • I suspect even Cosh would agree that his pieces tend to come from a unique perspective, but because of it they usually hit wide of the mark.

        • If people perceive me as fulfilling that function, I'm completely happy with it.

          • It's an exaggeration.

            I can assure that in examples such as this, there are plenty that agree with your perspective (ie it is not so unique), and further, if none of the other Maclean's journalists are expressing this perspective, then there is plenty of demand for your perspective.

            For instance, many deluded people around expressed certainty that the census decision (despite having 50% support from the population at large) would spell the end of the Conservative government. How wrong they were. But I seem to recall nearly unanimous groupthink consent amongst the journalists here.

          • So the criteria for good policy is that the Conservative party is still standing?

          • Are you replying to me? I have no idea how your comment relates to what I said.

          • And here see the downside of such an approach to writing…

        • You'll never catch Mike T. making an original argument, too much danger in that.

          • No doubt about that.

      • You can be sure that Milliken is trying to find a way to find Oda innocent. Charging contempt by a cabinet minister is serious business and there are enough questions technically and verbally to find it not clear. You can be sure the Conservatives asking for a week to put forward their defense of the minister will be putting forward some of the case that Colby has put forward here. In any event Colby is right. There probably will be an election before the censure vote is taken and then we will be into the campaign. If Ignatieff is going to argue that Harper is anti democratic he is fooling himself. Inserting a not is not as poweful an argument as the coaliton or might I say Just Visiting…in it for himself. Ignatieff and his crew continue in their naivetee. They have hammered the anit democratic meme for five years and Canadians ain't buying it.

        • Let me, once again, correct one of your frequent presumptions to speak on behalf of "[all] Canadians":

          "They have hammered the anit (sic) democratic meme for five years and, IMO, many Canadians ain't buying it."

          No charge.

          • brooster2, you once accused me of being self-righteous and yet here you are using a typing error to mock a fellow blogger just because his political views differ from your own. That really is NOT well done.

          • The typing error was secondary to my observation that hollinm continues to make declarations on behalf of "Canadians" when he has no evidence that most, let alone all, Canadians would agree with him. Please look at my suggested revision to his comment.

            I realize that I, like many commenters, am prone to keyboarding errors and, if I miss them myself, I welcome corrections. Indeed, you're right, if I get corrected, I deserve it.

        • "They have hammered the anit democratic meme for five years and Canadians ain't buying it."

          I don't know a single non-partisan Canadian who would find charges of being "anti-democratic" during a democratic election campaign to be even remotely serious.

          • I know it's an advanced concept, but you are aware that words can have varied usages, right? For example, when I say I am sick and tired of this kind of logical fallacy, I'm not literally yawning and puking, both words have a related, but separate meaning in that context. Similarly, while no one would dispute that the basic institutions of democracy in Canada are not only established, but strong, there is a different sense in which the word democratic can be used. That is to say, as a sort of ideal regarding open and transparent debate and decision making such that the public is meaningfully involved in government on an ongoing basis. It is the same ideal that institutions such as elections strive for, but to conflate the two, ignoring the ideal at the expense of the institutions, is a shockingly naive view of politics.

          • I won't disagree with the point you're making. But I guess my broader point was that you can't jam that argument into a 15 second sound bite that's fit for a campaign. Also, the "anti-democracy" argument will fly in the face of the unelected coalition argument, which has already been cemented in the minds of many Canadians.

          • I take your point, but I think that the "anti-democracy" argument probably could be campaign adapted if it were done well (which I doubt would actually happen). Something along the lines of "it doesn't pass the smell test" with a bunch of examples listed off. I think if they pushed it along the transparency side of things that it would make it a) more credible, b) less susceptible to the kind of argument you made in your original post, and c) less related to the coalition argument.

    • Instead of acting like a deceptive Liberal party agitator who personally attacks political opponents, why don't you rebut even one thing that Colby Cosh wrote? Or are his arguments that airtight? Must be.

      • no.

  2. You lost me at "I find myself balking at the elite consensus that Bev Oda deserves hanging for having deceived the people's House." Right wingers have hijacked the word "elite" just as left wingers have hijacked the phrase "too clever by half" – the rest of this piece is just white noise.

    • Why is it white noises? Put your case forward…for or against. We are dying to hear your explanation.

      • It's white noise because I disengaged after reader the word "elite" within the very first sentence of the opinion piece. Buzzwords like "elite" used by right wingers or phrases like "too clever by half", a frequent favorite of left wingers, act as a filter for me to shut out the rest of the article or opinion piece because their use is indicative of partisan windbaggery, which, I believe there might be ointment for – not sure on that, though.

        • Having decided not to read something, what would compell you to write about it?

          • That's a question that needs to be asked more often. It's amazing that many people feel free to criticize stuff they haven't even read.

          • I read it. It's 100% partisan windbaggery. The author and anyone who buys it is drinking the kool aid. Seriously, it's a source of wonderment to me that partisans truly believe their own BS. Fascinating, absolutely fascinating phenomenon.

          • Can you show us where Colby is wrong? Or was your comment just 100% partisan windbaggery?

          • Oh God, I'm attracting trolls. To answer your question dear sourstud: "I find myself balking at the elite consensus that Bev Oda deserves hanging for having deceived the people's House."

          • If anything it's an admission on Cosh's part that he's simply being contrarian, not partisan. You know what is partisan? Attacking someone for stating a viewpoint, simply because it doesn't agree with your own.

          • I found myself balking at Cosh's complaint that there is no "presumption of innocence" for Bev Oda. In fact, she admitted her guilt. It's a matter of public record now. Why does Cosh feel it necessary to offer a defense, when even Oda admits that she lied?

            Another reason to balk: Oda hardly "deserves hanging." Again, this is more anti-leftist spin. Oda has been justifiably accused of contempt of Parliament, and now the Speaker has to decide if the complaint is valid.

            Full descriptions of parliamentary privilege and the concept of contempt are available here, on The Speaker, House of Commons Canada website:
            http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/ho

            It might be useful if people read these before commenting.

            One last item from Cosh's piece that struck me as ill-considered: "We have a 'forgery' without even an apparent intended victim."

            I submit that the forgery robbed 5.4 million of the world's poor from a chance at education. This apparently for partisan reasons: punishment meted out against a faith-based group our government believes is too cozy with the Palestinians. Not true, of course; but these days, especially, lies are halfway 'round the world before the truth has its boots on.

  3. So, responses that equate to "Colby's views are so asinine that there's a reason they aren't expressed anywhere else" and "I stopped reading when I encountered a word that I feel is loaded." Anyone able to explain why he's wrong?

    • altering documents to purport they are the opposite of what they say IS a big deal.

      Try it at your own work when getting a report on how to allocate $7 million.

      Geez.

      • It's not at all clear that she did that. I was initially onside with those who thought that what she'd done was outrageous. My (mistaken) understanding was that this form was somehow produced to the committee as evidence that the CIDA bureaucracy supported her decision. If that was the case, it would have been outrageous.

        As Colby points out though, the form came up through an FOI request – it wasn't presented by Oda to anyone as evidence of anything. It was, in effect, an internal memo presented to her for a rubber stamp and then produced in response to an FOI request. She decided not to accept the recommendation. The memo had no method for her to indicate her disagreement with the proposal. She came up with one by writing "NOT" on the thing.

        As Colby concedes, this is probably foolish. That doesn't make it a forgery though.

        • I think your position requires a bit of wiggle room around the words "clear" and "did that".

        • Except others invovled in the affair have stated it wasNOT normal pracrise to write NOT on a proposal and Oda stated she didn't put it there heself. The fact it took a FOi request to obtain the doc does not exactly speak in her favour either. Perhaps you should have stuck to your original understanding?

      • The minister has a right to overturn the decision of her department. Otherwise why have cabinet ministers at all. Let the bureaucrats make the decisions. Not.

        • Why are you arguing against a position that nobody is taking?

      • Um, except that the staff who's decisions were "altered" have themselves said that it is NOT a big deal, is done routinely.

        And how about this: Try accusing your boss of forgery the next time he disagrees with a report you give him, and indicates his decision on the paper.

        • oh, wait, it turns out staff AREN'T sayin that.

          the right is pretty pathetic on this one.

          • Margaret Biggs says there's no “forgery” case; how can you construct one without either her or the other signatory, Naresh Singh?

          • see the new article just posted on the blog.

          • "Cronenberg casts ‘Twilight' hearthrob as Wall Street vampire"? I fail to see the relevance.

          • ping?

        • Actually, they didn't say that at all. And this is really funny, because here I'm going to argue basically the Oda defence, and you are going to poo-pooh it because any reasonable person hearing what she said would conclude . . .

          Ms. Biggs said, "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."

          The "this" in "this is quite normal" and even the "that" in "that is quite normal" does not refer to inserting a handwritten NOT in a typewritten recommendation before signing it, but rather the decision to override the bureaucratic recommendation, and the clarity of the Minister's position not to fund this particular NGO.

      • It happens all the time in the private and public sector. Some of us call it editing, direction, decision making. If you held a job in management you would be familiar with the concept of taking a pen to the work of your subordinate. (Insertions, strikeouts are NORMAL)

        In Summary:
        1. CIDA bureaucrats have “country program objectives”. These do not necessarily jive with the government's objectives for foreign aid. Check.
        2. CIDA bureaucrats recommended KAIROS to the Minister through a signed document that left no room for the Minister to disagree. The latter has been a problem for a few years and the bureaucrats should've stopped pre-supposing agreement and left space for the Minister to disagree a long time ago. The bureaucrats finally get the message and change the way they send decision documents to the Minister. Check.
        3. The Minister disagreed after 2 months of weighing her options as is her prerogative. Check.
        4. The Minister, while away from her office and needing to make a decision, directed her staff to indicate such disagreement and auto-pen it, thus ending funding for KAIROS. Check.
        5. LIKELY: KAIROS freaks out and goes to their MPs to ask WTF. Check.
        6. Liberal members who are in opposition start asking questions that are meant to meet their own political objectives in a greater narrative of transparency and accountability. Check.
        PROBLEM: There is no issue with transparency and accountability in this particular instance.
        7. Minister Oda answers questions in QP and before a committee based on the “government” being cabinet in her person, and “CIDA decisions” are only real when she signs off and is very precise as a seasoned politician should be. Check.
        http://stuffoccurs.wordpress.com/

    • "I did not have sex with that woman."

    • Reading an article is no prerequisite to disagreeing with it, as you well know.

      Bev Oda's problem is not that she or one of her staffers scrawled "not" on a piece of paper which was then filed away seemingly forever and could not possibly have done any harm to anybody. It's that the Conservatives have won themselves such a reputation for dishonesty and subterfuge that people jump at shadows. Even sensible people like Mr. Coyne.

      And, uh, the Maclean's comment section is by no means restricted to sensible people.

      • And, uh, the Maclean's comment section is by no means restricted to sensible people.

        Understatement of the year.

      • But it goes both ways, the same way that the Conservatives have a reputation so does the Liberals of crying wolf and overblowing it, and perhaps they are right (but so far is has backfired 98% of the time) they need to be smart and instead they create this huge soap opera, which by the way people tunes off. My bet is, that they spoke too soon, they found her guilty too soon, they were hanging Oda without defense and that is the problem with them over and over again. and it is going to backfire on them, and then is going to be one more for the list of complains, that they religiously repeat like a mantra every single time, and then, they wonder why they are NOT connecting with most canadians. Honestly, they need to take a breath and think before they talk.

        • So Andrew Coyne is now a Liberal? Somebody should inform him immediately.

        • this is just more of the "hahaha! nobody cares how vile we are!" bit.

        • Well said, I agree. Canadians are tired of this dumb act from the opposition. Next week the scandal will be about the Conservative males leaving the toilet seat up.

        • Claudia, three days ago, you wrote:

          She should resign, it is the right thing to do!

          Despite the ongoing wolf crying, do you still feel she should resign?

          • *crickets*

          • Oh I still believe that danby, I am NOT ok with this mess at all, just out of pure principle I would resign I would think that the people that voted for me deserve better than that, I do agree with Andrew Coyne 100% it's something iffy here. But you know what maybe is not, maybe is an honest mistake, but the fact that the Conservatives don't deal with it, makes you think the worst, I am not ok with it, I hope there is an inquiry, I feel betrayed!

            NOw, Andrew asked the leader of the opposition what was he going to do, at the end of his previous post. what did he do? Asked for 10,000 signatures on twitter and facebook. Really! honestly, is that the best they could do, that is so bad, I mean do they even get it! John Ibbitson had a good article:
            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/otta

          • Also, this what those two (Iggy and Harper) remind me of,
            [youtube e_mPrhwpZ-8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_mPrhwpZ-8 youtube]

            Brain is self centered and scheming and Pinky is good natured but feebleminded. In each episode, Brain devises a new plan to take over the world which ultimately ends in failure, usually to Pinky's idiocy or the impossibility of Brain's plan.

          • Thanks for the link.
            To my mind, at best, the Liberals would need to stitch the different occurrences together and somehow paint a picture of the twin bogeymen of "secrecy" and "parliamentary abuse"; a tough sell indeed. I watched Rex Murphy on Thursday (I think) and he opined that Bev Oda had to go, and interestingly stated that the Conservatives had already lost the "thinking" people on this issue. I don't think Mr Harper cares, and that is something I find troubling.
            One thing Stephen Harper has over Michael Ignatieff in spades is political savvy. MI is learning on the job and has not played his cards as wisely as he should; when everything is a scandal, nothing really is. As Ibbitson says, it is doubtful a Speaker's ruling would be delivered before an election, so what does it matter to the Conservatives?

          • I think Harper strategy is actually to be secretive, because it makes the opposition look foolish, I think he was so succesful as an opposition leader that he knows how to cripple them (mind you, I think he has overdone it) he is such a hard man to figure out, I dont think anybody has any idea what is going on in his head or why.

            I agree Harper is more savvy but the problem with Ignatieff is that he wont change any minds any more, he is stuck and for better or for worse the economy is rolling and that keeps people happy, I think they not comfortable with change and specially Ignatieff.

      • People jump at shadows, but it's nothing to do with the Conservatives. It's the fact that the opposition is arrogant and thirsting for power. They started doing it ever long before the Conservatives were elected.

        • Stephen Harper did the same thing while in opposition, but was much more effective at it. He was also helped along by 4 terms of Liberal bloat. Was he being arrogant and thirsting for power too?
          What Bev Oda did may not be the game changer that the Liberals hope for, but it is not acceptable conduct for a Minister. Opposition Stephen Harper would have been all over this; loudly questioning Liberal ethics.
          To gain the support of voters he pledged transparency and accountability. And this is neither.

          • Actually it was the Reports from the Auditor General that gave many of us former Liberal voters a reason to jump ship.
            Can you list the same reports of mismanagement as waste in the last five years?

            (Including military deals screwed up by the previous gov't does not carry much weight)

        • I fully agree the LPC would be trying to make Bev Oda out as the bad guy even if the Conservatives were perfect saints. I'm more referring to the chattering classes (like Andrew Coyne!) depriving the Conservatives of the benefit of the doubt because well, this is the sort of thing they do, isn't it?

          • Some of the "x files" kind of conspiracy theories around here are so silly, but I think Andrew is quite right, I do like Colby's defense because I want to believe nothing wrong happen, but she did lie, and maybe it was just because of a sloppy job,who knows, that's why I think the Conservatives need to be more open, but the Liberals are plain idiots, this Liberal cabinet, has no idea what to do!

  4. 'Overblown' depends on the value given to ethics.

    The idea of politicians having no/few ethics has bred so much cynicism that when there is a strong case supporting this idea and cynicism, the government can completely ignore such breaches and ride out the 'elitist' storm.

    The situation exposes the Conservative Party's own ethical guide as a farce, putting the party's respect for their articulated ethics on par with the respect shown for the House of Commons.

  5. I think the problem here Colby is that you are mising the forest for the trees. That she mislead the House/Committee is without dispute, she has been caught red-handed doing so.

    IF this were an isolated incident in this PMs tenure, perhaps your are right in the sense that this would read as an isolated lapse to the electorate at large. (Still it would not remove the gravity of what she has done and to whom and the bigger questions of course that we still do NOT know why or how this decision was made and to what end)

    HOWEVER, this is not the first example of this type of deception…..not by a long-short. Any number of poltical junkies can name at least a half a dozen incidents off the top of their heads of this government trying to deceive…….the bulk of this kind of 'lapse' is getting pretty heavy at this point and as such the profile this is getting is more than appropriate.

    • Another thing that's bothersome is how pointless it is. To stoop so low when you have the easy alternative of just saying "we won't be following this report and CIDA are probably just Liberal bureaucrats anyway" or even "the funding was allocated but we have now changed our mind" is staggering.

    • "That she mislead the House/Committee is without dispute, she has been caught red-handed doing so."

      Did you even read what Colby wrote? He's clearly disputing it, and on solid ground.

  6. Bev Oda was not in Ottawa when the infamous NOT was put on the document, so it is entirely possible she did not know who put the NOT on the document! I agree with you Colby. The WHITE NOISE created by the Liberals over this has been vile. The left is still stinging from not being in power and will do and say anything including lying to get back to the power. It also has been noted this particular group was set up by Maurice Strong who is now in China hiding from any charges that may be directed at him. The Lieberals do not do anything without his agreement.

    • So you agree he did not have sex with that woman.

    • Why even sign the document then- just send it back unsigned; or why not wait for her to return? What's the rush?

      • Did you not read Lynda's post. She was not in Ottawa at the time. Her signature was not her actual signature. It was one of those rubber stamps (or whatever they call it). She is good but not that good to be in two places at the same time. She overruled her dept. which is her right. Otherwise no point in having cabinet ministers. Simple let the bureaucrats run the asylum.

        • Thing is, if they thought they could make it go away by blaming a civil servant that servant would already have been shot dead in the street.

          • I disagree!

          • I am not surprised!

        • bureaucrats don't control "the arm" that signs documents (generally correspondence) on the Minister's behalf, that would violate the seperation between non-partisan public service and ministerial accountability.

        • Did you not read Dot's post. Oda was not in Ottawa at the time–why, after two months of not needing to be signed, did it need to be signed while she was away? What was the rush? Not to mention why did NOT agreeing with a recommendation need to be signed at all.

    • "Bev Oda was not in Ottawa when the infamous NOT was put on the document, so it is entirely possible she did not know who put the NOT on the document!"

      That's a rather lame defense, which doesn't exempt her from the notion of ministerial responsibility. It suggests she either doesn't know what's happening in her own portfolio (incompetence) or someone elsewhere (the PMO) did the deed in her absence.

    • I was unaware that an actual time frame for when signatures and the now infamous "NOT" were applied to the document had been forensically established.

      Irrespective of that is the issues of too many changes in story. This usually happens because the person who is lying is trying to cover up a previous lie in a desperate effort to cover up.

      Ask any Police Interegator what they look for when asking questions, Consistency is all important. It is much easier to be consistent with the truth than with lies.

  7. I'd suggest someone tries changing the numbers on your paycheck just to see how 'the devils advocate' feels about fraud then.

    • Bev Oda was one of the signatories on the document. She as a signatory had a right to alter the document. She excercised that right. It cannot be fraud. The only mistake she made was in not initialing her change to the document to show that she was in fact the one who made the change. Likewise, the person writing your paycheque can change the amount if they initial the change. It is not fraud.

      • She as a signatory had a right to alter the document. She excercised that right. It cannot be fraud.

        ***

        Wanna bet?

        • I do, I wanna bet!

          • good, I'd like to fleece some obfuscationists!

            How do we go about this. I want to start making money off the CPC!

          • Okay Mike T., you contact your lawyer and ask if a signatory on a document has the right to alter the document. I contend that the only mistake she made was that she did not initial the change she made to show she was responsible for the change and that the other two signatories had not agreed to it. It is not fraud.

          • She didn't, and they didn't, so it is fraud.

          • "ask if a signatory on a document has the right to alter the document"

            If she had the signed permission of the other two signatories, sure. That's like sying if i sign a contract to buy a car with a dealer, he can change the price (alter the document) and I'm now responsible for the new price. Your legal-fu is weak.

          • You wont get any of THIS conservative money, because she will never be charged with fraud.

      • Wrong. Changing the document above signatures is fraudulent. Oda had other options: 1: NOT sign 2. have a new version re-drafted for her signature

        This has come from the PMO which is the ONLY reason she is being vigorously defended by the party's pit-baird. Make no mistake: this will cause an election and it will affect the election. The issue is the willingness of the PM and his cronies to accept this type of duplicitous behaviour – no, not accept, condone – no, not condone, participate in.

        • It won't cause an election and she won't be charged with fraud!

      • Nope the big mistake she made was not getting ALL the signatories to initial it.
        It looks like they agreed with the exact opposite to which they attached their name to, and they didn't.
        They were done wrong on an actionable level. Either of the two other signatories could report her to the RCMP and have strong grounds to do so.

  8. Well, as the Rights and Democracy devil's advocate, I certainly appreciate your effort, and the backlash you will ultimately receive.

    I haven't worked in the public service, but I would find it surprising that a memo recommending funding of $7 million would end up on a minister's desk for approval without the previous signators (or their representatives) first briefing them. It appears from what Rae has mentioned that there was a fair bit of evaluation work by CIDA prior to making the recommendation. Surely the head of CIDA or whomever first met with Oda to find out which way they were leaning on this and a number of funding requests. On a regular basis. Seems reasonable.

    Secondly, WHY , when presented with the document, and pen in hand, would Bev Oda then send the document off to another person to add the "^NOT" and then send it back to her for her approval? This just doesn't make sense.

    If this is your best case, thanks for it, but I'm not swayed.

    • She could have actually approved the funding, changed her mind after the document left her desk, and phoned somebody to order it changed. But it IS true that if she personally wrote the "NOT", she has been lying to Parliament; and on that score I am not an advocate of mercy. If she is guilty I am happy to help build the gibbet.

      • Yeah, I agree with all of that.

      • Or the ^NOT change was initiated by someone after the FOI request was received. Another possibility. She said she supports the ultimate decision to deny funding.

        • if that was the case, then there would have been copies of the document circulating around the Agency that predate the insertion of the "not", some of which might have escaped the shredder…

      • Actually Colby, I think what you are saying is probably true about her signing and then later deciding she didn't want to fund it. She probably doesn't know who wrote the NOT. If she wrote it herself, she likely would have initialed the change, knowing this is the procedure necessary when altering a legal document.

  9. I have got to say here, I do not find it remarkable at all that Oda would be unable to say who, specifically, wrote the “NOT” on the paper. I am sure that cabinet ministers give non-specific orders to have X or Y done a hundred times a day.

    That's the Don Corleone theory of Management, right? Multiple layers of disposable underlings to isolate the boss and maintain deniability. It's not Oda's fault for saying "I don't know anything about it," it's the opposition's fault for failing to ask if she had ordered it done.

    Maybe the answer is that it can't be imagined, and that Oda did not intend for anybody to be fooled?

    That's a "maybe" too far, Colby. If Oda did not intend to fool anyone then her testimony before the committee on December 9th was some kind of perverse surrealism.

    • What I am saying–what I think I have been very careful to say–is that the responsibility is hers, whoever wrote "NOT". So, no, there's no "Don Corleone" question and your point is off target. The question is whether any wrong was done at all in the writing of the "NOT". If it was substantially wrong to do so, she is responsible, period. As minister she is arguably responsible even if she didn't know it was done!

      • "The question is whether any wrong was done at all in the writing of the "NOT".

        It's only wrong in that it's a poor documentation practice. But the "wrong" in this case isn't the addition of NOT, it's the deliberate obfuscation surrounding the entire episode. Not the crime, the coverup. Oda lied to a parliamentary committee about her role in the matter and she needs to go as a result.

        Arguing now, as the government is doing, that Oda had the right and the responsibility to make the decision is entirely beside the point. She denied the responsibility – and the decision – previously and she mislead parliament in the process.

      • You are not allowed to alter a document if someone else has signed it. If you alter it, you should at least initial it. if other agree to the alteration, they should initial it too. The way this was done, it was purposefully made to look as if this was agreed to by CIDA (because of CIDA rep's signature at the bottom). I think Igarvin's last point is that Bev Oda had the chance to own up to her decision before the committee and she evaded that. She probably did that to avoid being grilled about cutting funding to a deserving organization because of their differing political views. I don't know which one is sadder, the government's contempt for NGOs with different views than them or their contempt for people's representatives in the parliament with different views. I wish she had concentrated on debating why she cut funding to KAIRO (sp?) instead of lying about her (or her government's) decision. I suspect that she avoided that debate because she lacked conviction to defend an unfair judgement coming from the PMO.

    • That's the Don Corleone theory of Management, right? Multiple layers of disposable underlings to isolate the boss and maintain deniability.

      Actually, it's called the "theory of management of large billion-dollar operations", a category that the federal civil service happens to fall in.

  10. The real issue, the ONLY issue is that the Minister lied. You and the Conservative government can twist the message as much as you want. She lied and there should be consequences. Election or not. Unless lying is ok and if so, please sit your kids down and tell them that!

    • Where is the lie? Please, as a Liberal, I'd LOVE to see it and condemn this woman. But having worked as a ministerial aide, everything she said is right in terms of how Minister's Offices interact with Ministries. As a rational person, I cannot see what the problem is in terms of Cosh's defence – questions of WHY she reversed funding aside (which is where the meat of this issue lies).

  11. Even if we accept your argument Colby, isn't this still how the system should work? I mean, the affair does demand scrutiny, and it's getting the scrutiny it deserves, for the sake of transparency. I'd rather err on the side of transparency. Let's face it: the chances of this episode hurting the Conservatives politically are very small. Hell, it will probably even help them. But matters where ministers appear to have misled parliament can't be allowed to slide. It's an issue that's bigger than who's going to win the next election and the political players of the day. So, I have no problem with how the opposition has handled this matter at all, even if the Speaker ultimately finds that no transgression was made. If we're talking about the integrity of the institution, and if we're concerned about accountability and transparency in government, we can't let these matters slide.

    • If the Speaker finds Oda innocent then instead of transparency we have maligned a cabinet minister and at the same time created more cynicism in the country. There is enough and with the MPs trying to throw anything they can at the government trying to stop their momentum in the polls it does not help our political process. The opposition parties have responsibilities as well. Their rhetoric is outrageous.

      • Even if he decides she shouldn't be censured, that is hardly finding her "innocent." It's deciding that though she deserves punishment, he can't be arsed to do so.

      • I don't think it creates any more cynicism in the country. And, if Oda is found innocent, she has been vindicated, as has the government. Sure, she would have gone through a rough patch, but it the affair hadn't have been handled in such a ham-handed fashion from the get-go (and I think we all agree it has been handled ham-handedly at the very least), none of this would have happened. As I said originally, if the opposition is using this for political gain, they're going to be sorely disappointed — people don't care. At the same time, they HAVE to take a stand on this for the sake of the institution. If she did knowingly mislead the house, it can't go unnoted. It just can't.

        Honest to goodness, I'm trying my damnedest not to be partisan here. I just think that transparency, accountability and integrity have to be upheld.

        • Well said, I 100% agree.

    • I agree with everything you state above.

      Where I think this whole fiasco went wrong for the opposition however, is when their more loony MPs started throwing accusations of "forgery" and "doctoring" documents around. Those are criminal acts, and the accusations clearly don't stand up to scrutiny here.

      As to weather she lied to parliament, I agree that should be scrutinized, but I also think that Colby has presented a very plausible defense here.

      • An uninitialled change to a document [ leave alone changing the very intent of the unbeknowst co- signers] is most definitely doctoring, and pretty much forgery.

        • Is that really what this whole "fiasco" is boiling down to now? A lack of initials? A week of parliamentary business was spent "debating" this issue, and it's about initials now? WOW.

    • I am some what confused by the verbage that says Oda did no wrong. Do you teach your kids that lying is an acceptable behavior? Here we have one of the highest official in our democracy (an institution supposedly based on truth, trust and integrity) playing loosely with the ethics (and maybe the morality) of her oath of office.. Trust and integrity are like virginity; damned hard to get back once you lose them.

  12. Oda ado: overblown? Finally the truth.
    Colby Cosh, thank you.

  13. "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."

    Except that Oda originally claimed that the "not" wasn't there when she signed it.

    "Margaret Biggs says there's no “forgery” case; how can you construct one without either her or the other signatory, Naresh Singh?"

    So completely altering the meaning of a document and the intentions of its signatories is fine as long as those signatories don't complain? No matter that those signatories are beholden to the alterer for employment?

    If I give a family member a cheque that they later add a couple of zeros to, and tell the police "hey we do that kind of thing all the time in our family", would you then say that no forgery has been committed?

    • The last portion of your comment is foolish. Do you not think that MPs have lied before? Virtually everyday we hear lies being spouted in the House of Commons. As a cabinet minister she has the right to overrule her bureaucrats whether they have signed off on the document or not. Who inserted the not is inmaterial as long as it reflected the Minister's decision.

      • Conservatives do not understand that lying is wrong.

      • "As a cabinet minister she has the right to overrule her bureaucrats whether they have signed off on the document or not."

        Yeah, you keep saying that is if it's the issue.

        "Who inserted the not is inmaterial as long as it reflected the Minister's decision. "

        The problem is, it's not what the other signatories signed.

        • Yes you are right. Bev Oda's initials should have appeared beside the word NOT to reflect that she made the change and that she was the one who agreed with it.

  14. This would be so much more credible were she to stand in the House and make these arguments herself.

    But that's really the fatal flaw in this possible interpretation: You're making it for her, and she isn't.

  15. Margarat Biggs clarifies that it was NOT a forgery:

    "CIDA President Margaret Biggs, who had signed the document, told the committee that there was no issue—that, in effect, the “NOT” was just an annotation and that it is ordinary practice for a minister to mark up a memo in that way, or to ask for it to be done:

    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.

  16. Surely this is not about "not", or about left vs. right, it's about telling the truth. When a minister lies about her activities to Parliament and the Canadian taxpayers who fund it she should be removed from her job. I expect honesty and transparency from government. Stephen Harper promised Canadians he would do these things and is not delivering on his promises.

    • He is behaving exactly as he told Canadians he would.

      NOT.

  17. With respect, I think the issue is already fading fast.

    • I agree. Its hard for anybody, not the least of which is Canadians, with a cabinet minister inserting the word not in order to overrule her department.

      • DefCon 1 in full effect.

  18. He's wrong because of the statement "The whole issue here, as far as I can tell, is the phrase 'the CIDA decision'." The issue is actually the arbitrary denying of funding without any supporting documentation or reasoning, just a single "No" then masquerading in parliament as if due diligence had been done.

    If you follow the linked CBC timeline you can see references to "due diligence" and "it did not meet the agency's current priorities" but there has so far only been no evidence of that transparency or due diligence. It looks like nepotism and so far nobody in the Oda camp has been able to provide any evidence to counter that allegation.

  19. Better to do the Right thing the wrong way, than the Wrong thing the right way. Kairos (and many other projects) should not be publicly funded.
    Several cabinet ministers display faulty elementary ethical paper work process knowledge: M Oda in particular. It is still generally easy to excell over the ruination of ethic and principle common in deputy ministers, noted * excptions.
    * In http://maths1951.wordpress.com, I expose the complicity of fifteen thousand (largely Ottawa public servants) 1961-2011 in the theft and waste of $100 billions, $7.2 detailed as recoverable, two Courts, two years). The record of eighty deputy ministers (versus a principled minority of three) in theft of public funds, and the mortal hazard of mathematicians (RIP Tyas, Hobson et al) leaves Ms. Oda almost white as the driven snow.
    I regard CIDA (the one I refused and rjected) as a vehicle for seducing mathematicians for appalling nonsense overseas assignments "Use this computer to count cows" First in Malaysia, then in Jamaica. n.b prior to current CIDA admin aguetta@rogers.com

    • No, it isn't. Because the reason the right way exists is so that we can keep the wrong thing from being hidden from us. If you let one go, the other will surely follow. People adding bits to memorandums approving multiple millions of dollars after the minister has signed on is definitely the wrong way, and consider what would happen if some less scrupulous government had that power.

      "No, Mr. Minister, I signed off on a document that would deliver that money to the people of Blahville, not to my brother-in-law. I assume the staff thought the later addition was by me. How unfortunate"

      • I hope you visited my site. If you did not, you show the prejudice of ignoring the evidence.
        Would you really prefer the wrong decisions?

        • I'd prefer not to support Alcan any more than it already is.

    • "Better to do the Right thing the wrong way, than the Wrong thing the right way."

      Why is it so hard for this CPC government to explain to people… no, not people, the citizens of the very country why and what they are doing?

      Why have the citizens of this country never had an explanation, a justification, even a campaign plank, that this was the activity we would be voting for?

  20. and that it is ordinary practice for a minister to mark up a memo in that way, or to ask for it to be done:

    weak, weak, weak Colby you made the above up…. although it was suggested to you. Ms. Biggs certainly indicates that a Minister overruling the department is normal (everyone agrees) and goes on to say that therefore the notation chosen to signify that was also "normal". She does not say "standard practice", "typical", or "ordinary practice". Why? Also why not produce a half dozen similar documents perhaps redacted that show this is how that office works? Well perhaps Ms. Biggs likes her job. It does seem like a nice job. So perhaps she chose her words very, very carefully.

    from http://embassymag.ca/page/view/kairos-10-27-2010
    The notation does not include any initials to indicate who made the change, or when.

    Several former officials who were asked to look at the document said they had never seen anything like it before.

    "In my experience no 'not to approve' memo is ever written to the vice-president, president or minister," said Nipa Banerjee, who worked in CIDA's partnership branch for seven years. "It is just not considered necessary.

    "In this case, it is even more strange that the 'Not' approval recommendation was hand inserted, without any initials," she added.

    If you are going to try to carefully parse the odd ramblings of Oda, you might be careful with the careful statements of the person under the most duress in all this.

    So it appears on the evidence that in the ONLY case where a document has been doctored forged creatively modified post-signature, also as you note, turns out to be a highly political decision. A decision that Kenney felt he needed in order to make a statement overseas (How else do you speak to the Jewish community in Canada?). hmmm

    • I've been overruled by ministers. Never seen it done like this.

  21. Here's an interesting line from the testimony on Dec 9:

    "Hon. Bev Oda:

    I know that the decision ultimately reflects the decision I would support."

    Parse that closely. She's saying here that she didn't even make the decision. Just that it was made and reflects the decision she would ultimately (have to) "support".

    More interesting. She didn't write the "not".
    Margaret Biggs signed it when there was no "not" present.

    So either someone intercepted the memorandum while it was enroute from Biggs to the Minister, and added the not.. or.. worse.. someone wrote the "not" on after she signed it.

    • "I know that the decision ultimately reflects the decision I would support."
      I've been chewing on that line too, It's a shame it hasnt' been included in very many reports on this story.

      • The more I think about it, the more I think that Bev Oda has gotten a raw deal here. Not from the opposition, but from the party she serves.

        Based on everything I've read, it strikes me that what happened was that Bev got the funding app as approved from CIDA folk, signed it, and sent it off on its way. It then crossed the desk of someone looking at what MPs were doing. Soudas or Kenney, I expect. And they realized it didn't fit in with their strategy, so "not"arized it. Afterward going back to Bev and explaining what had happened, and giving the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she even agrees with the change in strategy.

        The problem is that when this issue came forward, they left her hanging out to dry rather than owning up.

        And the continuuing problem is that if this is the case, I think they could still fix it and do so in such a way that would not only help to restore their reputation as a party, but probably appeal to Canadians in general.

        Mr. Kenney, for instance, could stand up and say, "Ms Oda's character and integrity is unquestionable. Everything she has told the committee is true both in letter and in spirit. She did not know who changed the document, or who ordered the document changed when questioned by the committee. This is because it was not done within her office. It was done at the request of the Prime Minister's Office, and it was explained to Ms. Oda that funding KAIROS does not meet the priorities of this government or the Canadian people, because even though it may be a worthy cause under CIDA's guidelines, the Canadian people have other priorities. Ms. Oda agrees with this, and so, as she said at committee, the decision reflects the one she ultimately supports."

        Of course, even better would be if the party let her stand up and make that explanation herself, and then the Prime Minister simply confirmed it.

        Am I missing something in seeing how this would stop the opposition from being able to credibly make any significant attacks on the issue further?

        • Thank you Thwim. This sums up what I've said in a much more snarky and abbreviated form elsewhere.

          • The woman who now parrots decisions about funding NGO in developing countries has also wasted much of our tax money on limousine rides for herself and other luxuries:

            "…The limo picked Oda up at her home at 8 a.m. about 80 kilometres west of Toronto, drove her downtown, hung around with her all day, drove her to a Conservative Party "boot camp" event in the evening, then drove her home after that and — $1,300 later — dropped her off at 11 p.m. back at her home…"
            http://davidakin.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2008

            "…Oda, who was minister of Canadian heritage at the time, spent almost $17,000 on limos during the period – more than half of which never found its way on to her publicly disclosed expenses.

            The limo receipts also point to a series of undisclosed flights and hotel stays of unknown cost to taxpayers, New Democrat MP Charlie Angus charged in the Commons…"
            http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay

            $17,000! Don't waste any sympathy on her!

          • 17k is peanuts. If you want waste, go look at Flaherty's speech-writers. But seriously, having a limo all day for an MP I don't really consider to be that out of line. Better if it didn't happen, sure, but hardly concerning.

    • So either someone intercepted the memorandum while it was enroute from Biggs to the Minister, and added the not.. or.. worse.. someone wrote the "not" on after she signed it.

      I'll look for a link, but I'm quite certain that the Minister HERSELF has said the the "not" was added AFTER her signature as well. The way Oda now tells the story, there was a point in time where Oda's signature was on the document, and the inserted "not" wasn't.

  22. Let's keep in mind that this is just more noise from the party that has been crying "Wolf!" since early 2006 in a vain attempt to get the mud to stick to the Conservatives. Any mud. Even if they had to invent it.

    As for altering the document – documents are altered all the time before signing. If you don't like the wording, you alter it and sign it. Though usually, the alterations are initialed by the person who made them.

    One comment I would make about the form itself – it could be vastly improved by having two signature spaces for the Minister to sign – one for approval, and one for rejection. Could save some time and effort by scandal seeking opposition leaders.

    • "in a vain attempt to get the mud to stick to the Conservatives."

      In this case, the Conservatives ordered the trucks to deliver the mud, installed the mud pit on Parliament Hill, then dove in themselves. You claim they were pushed?

    • it would appear not having that kind of clarity in documents suits the government of the day just fine, thank you very much.

    • if you believe they're crying wolf, then are you predicting that the wolf will eventually show up and devour the flock once no one is paying attention anymore?

    • "documents are altered all the time before signing"

      Um, the document was altered after it was signed.

      • Before or after – It still indicates the Minister's intention.

        Last I checked, it is the Minister who is elected by the people who is responsible for the final decision, not the public service whose job it is to carry out the wishes of the Minister and the government.

        • You people keep saying that as if anyone is saying otherwise. Of course the Minister is entitled to make the final decision. What the minister is not entitled to is altering a signed document to completely turn the signatories intended recommendation upside down.

          • And then lie about it.

    • What the hell is wrong with the blank line to show where a signature is NOT? That clearly indicates a recommendation to which consent has not been granted.

      • Jenn_: I agree with you about having a blank line for a signature that would indicate that the Minister has not granted consent to whatever the memo states – however, CIDA did not prepare the document with such a line. The ONLY option was for the Minister, or her staff at her direction to add the 'not' to the document before she signed it.____If anyone has ever dealt with a real estate contract, you will know that they get all sorts of things added and removed by scrawlling them in in pen, then signing and sending back to the other party. Happens all the time.

        • No, I'm sorry Sushihunter, but you didn't look at the many links around here showing the document in question. The document clearly stated (before pen and ink) "RECOMMENDATION – That you sign below to indicate you approve a contribution of $7,098,758 over four years for the above program" Then there were lines for the signatures of Naresh Singh, Margaret Biggs, and Beverley Oda–all neatly labelled for the requisite signatory. All she had to do was nothing. Here, please look this time instead of listening to some talking points.
          http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/amen

          If you don't want to sell your house for the amount offered, you don't sign the deal. Or you can make initialled changes and send it back for the purchasers to sign off. But you don't say no by signing.

  23. This might explain the two months between the CIDA signatures and Oda's plus the NOT. New information from the Auditor-General.

    "The Auditor-General, in a fall 2009 report, found CIDA's work was deeply hampered because it lacked focus, as priorities kept shifting. Ms. Oda agreed, and established three broad themes for aid – but when she scrambled out a list of 20 countries where aid would be focused, several African countries that were cut off said they'd never discussed it with her.

    The Auditor-General found aid was chaotic in some countries because CIDA lacked up-to-date country strategies; when The Globe and Mail asked for them in January, CIDA said it would take a year to provide them."
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/in-w

    • Thanks for clarifying the non-issue. Good try.

      But Oda lied. You can't change the channel.

  24. Say, didn't this whole thing blow up under Nigel Wright's watch? Specifically, the recent statement in the HofC by Oda? (True he inherited the mess).

    This doesn't bode well.

  25. I think the fuss over the letter itself is mostly a distraction, because the big picture is a wholesale refusal by ministers of this government to take responsibility for decisions they make.

    Oda pretended that CIDA officials determined Kairos was ineligible instead of being accountable for her (and probably PMO's) decision.

    Same problem over at Industry where Tony Clement pretended that the Chief Statistician had recommended the voluntary survey when it was his (and probably PMSH) decision.

    The minister in both cases was hiding behind staff in order to avoid responsibility. Is there a reason we have cabinet ministers other than to be reponsible fro decision making?

    If the bureaucrats are actually making the decisions, then what is the limo and extra pay for? And if the minsters are making the decisions, and lying about it, then what good is their word/signature?

    • These points you've raised are, to me, the essential core of this issue.

      So don't hold your breath waiting for anyone to seriously address them.

      • Agreed! Toby's nailed it totally.

        • It was not that long ago, that a Minister would have automatically resigned.
          Back in the day, when the title Honorable Minister actually meant something.
          If we do not hold these MP's and Ministers to account, then we will deserve the type of government that will ensue.

  26. It is a forgery. The CIDA head is minimizing the matter, probably to protect her job. Writing "not" within somebody else's text without further annotation or attribution is altering a signed document. We don't expect the justice minister to write "not" in a guilty verdict. All Oda had to do was write "I disagree" and initial it. And it's not a minor issue. It's a very telling example of how this government operates.

    • She doesn't "disagree," she overrules. CIDA's position is ultimately what the minister says it is in a parliamentary system; the not terribly sinister truth is that this is how this government, and every other government we've had, operates.

      • And that is what she should have said instead of claiming CIDA rejected Kairos. But if she herself didn't make the decision, that she was overuled from the PMO, and the real reasons were not something they wanted known, it is understandable. why she hid behind the CIDA 'criteria'.

  27. How many times have we heard this issue isn't going anywhere any time soon. Right. They wanted the head of Maxime Bernier, they got it. They wanted the head of Helena Guergis, they got it. They wanted the head of Lisa Raitt, she got demoted. They wanted the resignation of Christian Paradis, they did not get it. Now they want Oda's head on a platter. They are not going to get it. What happens? All the polls show the Conservatives increasing in support. What they are going to get is an election.

    • Bang on – the Paradis issue was down-right embarassing.

      • but nowhere near as vile as Oda.

    • All of which merely underscores Harper's stubborn determination to defend incompetence, hubris, mendacity and duplicity, in spite of his having campaigned on the promise to end all this stuff. So add hypocrisy to the list.

      You're proud of their shenanigans?

      • Actually, can you guys explain why Harper dumped Guergis? The real reason?

  28. thanks for the post. Seriously, it's about time the press held some of the opposition leaders responsible for some of the erroneous comments they have been making. I don't understand how the press corps doesn't see through their twisted statements and ask some decent questions of them and make them give a direct answer instead of buying into their innuendo and twisted truths.

    • Feel free to start your own newspaper.

    • We lost Canada's only impartial journalist when Mike Duffy joined the senate.

  29. The reason that this lingers on is that it is simply inconceivable that any official business could be done in this way. I mean, the very basic understanding of what a signature means on a document requires that ALL changes are initialed. What possible value can this document have without such a total change being initialed?

    If the janitor had seen the document and decided to add another NOT to the NOT, would Bev Oda have considered that normal?

    Of course, memos are marked up, but such changes are meaningless unless validated by another signature.

    Colby – would you sign a contract to buy a house, and when the final copy showed up – after you had paid over the money – with a handwritten amendment that the sale did not include the roof, walls, floors and doors, simply accept it?

    • Dean Del Maestro , Don Martin claimed this was SOP – that on his last realestate deal he signed and then went on to add and subtract things. This is how these guys operate – either make things up as they go along or outright lie. They get away with it all the time. But apparently it's elitist to call them on it.

    • For god's sake don't introduce another not – "NOT to the NOT"

      lol

    • Agreed it was sloppy to insert the "NOT" without signing and dating it and signing it at the bottom.

      She should have had the requested the changes made to the internal memo prior to signing.

  30. Okay. At the committee meeting, she said she didn't know who wrote the not but that she agreed with "the decision." Then on Monday, she said it was *her* decision.

    Maybe it's nit-picking, but those aren't the same things. She may very well have no idea who inserted the "not" (it's not even relevant who did it) but shouldn't she be clearer on whether she *decided* to do it or simply *agreed* with the decision (coming from who knows where) to do it?

    This isn't about who inserted the "not" or whether it was proper procedure. A minister either made the decision or simply agreed with the decision. Right now, she's told Parliament both have happened and that's not consistent.

  31. It's also not going away within wider, outside-of-Ottawa circles.

  32. If you signed, say, a contract for work, which laid out the conditions, salary, etc, and you signed it….and then, after signing it, your employer instructed that a NOT be inserted, which entirely changed the whole purpose of your signing the contract…would you consider that within the rights of your employer? Would your reaction be "overblown" if you got angry about this?

    The fact that our PM has not acknowledged that this changing of signed government documents is horribly, horribly wrong worries me DEEPLY. Instead, the Conservatives argue that it was within her rights to do so. In what kind of world do we live, that it is now the right of government to get us to sign things, and then change the document so that it looks like we agreed to exactly the opposite? Am I the only one sickened by this???

    • Agreed, and it not just the lack of moral scruple, it is just the plain stupidity of such an act that gets me.

    • It's chilling that at least half a dozen poeple in Canada are willing to try to (badly) explain this away.

      guys, even if you're a die-hard CPC, this is one of those issues you have to try to move on from, not fabricate insane excuses.

  33. One of the problems I have with this whole situation is the assumption the opposition parties make that ministers of the crown (who are elected to form part of the government) should not be allowed to disapprove the recommendations and decisions of unelected officials. In fact, from my experience in government, unelected officials go out of their way to make it difficult for elected officials to refuse their recommendations – and I think this is a case of that situation. Why on the recommendation form is there not a simple box for the minister to either approve or no approve the recommendation.

    • They have, but it seems lost in the noise, lol!!

      "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."

      • An I don't understand why the oppositions parties are getting so excited because the Harper Conservatives are a pack of cowardly liars. I mean, like, chill, man!

    • Because not approving the memo is simple.

      DON'T SIGN IT

      And nobody's arguing she didn't have the right to decide not to fund KAIROS here. What they're arguing is whether she mislead the house about what happened.

    • Nice bait and switch there but it's a fail– no one, no. one. is saying that Ministers don't have the right to approve or not approve of the recommendations they get from staff. What they don't have the right to do is misrepresent the signatures of others and then lie about it.

  34. The Harper government's warped approach to "democracy" is serious stuff, but just as serious is its warped approach to foreign aid. Ask anybody remotely connected to NGOs and private companies trying to do good work overseas and you will discover that CIDA – after years of gradual deterioration – had hit a pitiful nadir under the imperious and clueless Oda.

    • How could a group set up a project not ever knowing if the funding could be pulled at the drop of a hat with no warning or explanation? This is the same uncertainty coming from Industry.

  35. “How it could be imagined a handwritten addition to a typescript document would fool anybody?” Maybe the answer is that it can't be imagined, and that Oda did not intend for anybody to be fooled? Since that is just what we've been told by one of the parties whose interests were supposedly compromised, it seems at least possible.

    I have said the same previously. Occam's razor says to make the fewest assumptions, which means in a case like this, make the fewest assumptions. Don't assume she intended to fool people, if the document strongly suggests that she did not intend to fool anyone. Do not attempt to assume that the "NOT" has some insidious meaning, all it means is that at some point someone put a "NOT" there to indicate the final decision. It just happened to be rather stupid to put it on a document already signed.

    Coyne has fallen for one of the opposition's endless attempts to portray the conservatives as evil fire-breathing baby-killing monsters, and to put each and every event in that context:

    See a car parked in that handicapped spot? The only reasonable conclusions is that Conservative put it there (a Conservative politician other than Stephen Fletcher of course), with malice and intent to inflict difficulty upon the handicapped people of Canada, and in fact it's only reasonable to assume that Harper himself was the culprit! After all, the car is blue! And we know Harper has a hidden agenda to target minorities!)

    • Yeah, but who changed it? And when?

      If we accept what Oda says, either someone changed it before it got to the minister, in which case someone needs to be thrown in jail because they misrepresented the views of the people who signed it.

      Or worse.. someone changed it AFTER she signed it. Think really hard on what that means.. it means someone came in and overturned her decision.. and then forced her to take responsibility for it.

      That said, I do find it amusing that you're not calling for Cosh to show balance as you do Wherry. But then it's only imbalance when it's not your side, right?

      • Perhaps Ms. Oda signed the document and later changed her mind and called her office staff to get them to insert the NOT (as Colby pointed out in an earlier entry). She may not know which staff member did it. She would not have gotten an opportunity to initial the change. It is not outside of realm of possibility.

        • Except there we're back in the realm of "I did not have sex with that woman".

          That's such a narrow parsing of the question that it eliminates the intent, and anybody with any sort of scruples is quite cognizant of that, and that is what we're dealing with right now. That's kind of the worst place for Oda to be. That's where she's intentionally misleading the house by avoiding what is obviously the intent of the question, for absolutely no good reason.

          As Coyne said, "if you authorized it, you did it."

  36. In a few months time, probably after an election, people will look back at the hysterics from many in the media and comment pages and see that Cosh was one of the few who properly guaged the importance, in the eyes of the people, of dissecting the actions of a Minister who refused the on-going funding of one entitled group.

    • People may also look back at the majority double digit poll lead that disappeared, once again, over something that was easily avoidable.

      • People may also look back and see that when the Conservatives get a double digit lead in the polls the media and the Liberal/Separatist party co-ordinate and run a speciously, contrived smear campaign, usually against a woman cabinet Minister. Which would only be avoidable if the coalition and the media had an ounce of respect for the public and a modicum of dignity as individuals.

  37. The current government is making changes is the "aid industry". They are "untying" it so that money goes to the NGOs that get the most with our tax dollars.

    "Canadian NGOs have built a comfortable relationship with CIDA over the years. The cycle goes like this: Canadian NGOs demand CIDA spend more money to help the world's poor; CIDA, wanting to be seen to be helping, pushes the money out the door as fast as it can; the NGOs spend the money as fast as they can, stopping only to demand, once again, that CIDA needs to do more to help the poor (by spending more money).

    Rinse and repeat. "
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/lead

  38. "Elite consensus"? Maybe if commentators stopped using loaded, ideologically-polarizing terms like this–"leftists" is another one–they'd sound less like Conservative lapdogs.

  39. Colby,

    You are truly rebellious. The daring it must take to break with elite consensus and side with the government. Breath-taking in your audacity.

  40. You lost me at 'elite consensus', Mr.Cosh.

  41. Bev Oda lied about the document, Colby. She lied. Why doesn't that sink in with you – and why does misleading parliament not warrant dismissal?

    I'm tickled that you're hiding behind weasel words like "elite consensus." It's almost endearing, you deep thinking polemecist, you.

    But she lied and misled parliament, in full view of what is now incontrovertible evidence of having done so.

    What is there to play devil's advocate for?

    • Can you demonstrate, in any way, how Colby's arguments here are wrong?

      • Re-read the first line in my statement above. If you still don't get it, have someone, perhaps a loved one, read it aloud to you.

        • And Cosh provided evidence that she didn't lie. You're not countering the points he's made, you're just trying to yell louder.

  42. As a purchaser or seller of a house when there is a change in the document do not all participants have to initial such changes and the changes are usually made by hand. Why is this proceedure not used in dealings with the federal govt. Surely they have a lawer or two that would like to make a few (choke) dollars informing ministers of this practice.

    • Not according to Dean Del Maestro – see comment further up.

  43. No doubt I'll be called a Liberal shill for saying so, but "elite consensus"? Really, Colby?

    Really?

    Am I supposed to accept that Joe down at the garage who tries to charge me with a $1200 job when I just went in to have the belts replaced somehow has the real, down-to-earth, peoples' wisdom on the issue?

    You're a writer for a national newsmagazine. Enjoy your martini, and forgive me for joining the hoi polloi in not proceeding to sentence two and beyond. If there was even a hint that you were winking as you swooned in the merciless face of the "elite consensus", I certainly would have given you the benefit of the doubt.

    • Amen. I expect if from the Blogging Tories – but Macleans?

      • Well put – a double amen. Try as I might – and try as he might – it's very difficult to take Colby seriously.

  44. What I'm find most disappointing about the comments here are how many claim "But she lied!!!!!!!" without providing a shred of new evidence, or rebutting a single one of Cosh's points.

    To me, this signals that the issue will die out, and this has been nothing more than a plot to assassinate the character of a competent cabinet minister.

    • "But she was less than truthful and forthcoming!!!!!!!" ;-)
      I agree that the odds are at least even that the isue will die out with few consequences (like the Census brouhaha, which has strong parallels), but that doesn't in itself make this a "plot to assassinate the character of a competent cabinet minister." The fact that Canadians may not ultimately care about Minister Oda's behaviour doesn't make Minister Oda's behaviour acceptable in absolute terms. The majority's perception of an incident is not the only measure of an incident (if it were, our criminal justice system would be even more fouled up than it is!)

  45. When I look back at all of the information available, I find it to be another example of the slime that forms the foundations of the current Liberal Party. CIDA acknowledged that this was standard practice and that they understood completely her answer. What part of this is not understood? Nit picking at a party that is doing the finals on the start up of a tank that is about to run you down is not a smart thing. What in God's name has happened to the Liberals? They're like nasty and spoiled children that are dealing with adults.

    • Couldn't have said it better myself, lol!!!

      • Standard practice for Minister Oda to order the falsification of government documents? Really? What else has she altered on the fly? Any back of the napkin policy decisions we should know about?

  46. When we negotiate lease and business contracts, we tend to cross the word we do not like and initial them to note our disagreement with that specific crossed word. We also add in hand writing the words we would like to be added into that contract so attention is focused on the addition. If there really is an intention to maliciously alter the signed document, why would she write it by hand? Why not have it scanned and edit with computer's typewritten style? This, I believe is way over blown, after all the minister has the last word whether he/she agrees with the recommendations or not. I believe this is an issue of parties desperately looking for blood as ammunition for the coming election.

    • You mean she should have forged it more effectively.

      • I meant that it was obvious that the purpose of the addition is not to fake or forge the document as alleged. The alteration is so in your face.

        • And yet again with the red herring.

          Nobody's arguing she didn't have the authority to change it.
          The point of contention here is why she dissembled to the committee of the House of Commons about it, and how can we trust her to not do the same thing at some point in the future?

          • Are you a fishmonger?

  47. The minister can tell CIDA that "I had a bad dream and I just don't want this funding to go through" and no one coud do anything about it. It would be a horrible way to explain it but it doesn't change the fact that the minister has the last word on such things, that's her job.

    The issue is she said she didn't know who did it and later said she ordered it done. The two aren't exclusive I accept that, however it's hard to deny that it raises concern and the matter should be looked into. I don't think much will come of it and I do think this is going to end up hurting the opposition more than the government though.

  48. No doubt I'll be called a Conservative lapdog for saying so, but I find myself balking at the elite consensus.."

    Elite consensus – not conclusion of a reasonable observer? That's a good way to establish your creds as a disinterested purveyor of devils advocasy CC – 'NOT' a lapdog perhaps, but equally perhaps 'NOT' a completely unbiased opinionator.

    [cont]…oops someone ate my additional…and i really was going to say some nice things about you CC, honest.

  49. Leaving some of the nuances aside, let's look just at the big picture. MPs have been trying to determine how that "not" got there since at least December. Minister Oda first claimed that it was placed there on her order on Monday, February 14th. Is that not a pretty significant problem all by itself?

    She was asked at Committee if the word was there when her signature was added, if she wrote the word herself, and if she knew who wrote the word (no, no and no) in an increasingly desperate attempt by MPs to get her to explain how that "not" got there. She appeared, while before the committee, to have NO IDEA. Then, THREE MONTHS LATER she lets everybody know that she ordered it inserted herself???

    Come on now.

  50. Oda was entirely within her rights and obligations to deny the funding.

    The way she did it displays nothing less than total incompetence if not deception…and for that she should resign.

  51. I am more than prepared to follow your line of reasoning, Colby. Benefit of the doubt should still mean something. If all we are dealing with is dumb sloppy document handling that has since been corrected by better template formatting, well, ok, fine. BUT:

    I am under the (mis?)impression that Oda testified that she had followed the advice not to fund, when the rather clear evidence was that the advice was the reverse, and, further, that we are now pretty certain she (on her own or more likely under orders) directed that the advice be overruled.

    So my problem is that misleading testimony about the advice she was given. You may not want to call it lying, but I sure have oodles of difficulty calling it the truth.

    And this from someone who has been repeatedly accused of being the Con lapdog, fwiw…

    • I also have a problem with the fact that the notion that Oda ordered the word inserted didn't come out until this past Monday, THREE MONTHS after she appeared at committee. MPs were trying to figure out how that amendment got there back in December. They asked Oda if it was there when her signature was added, they asked her if she wrote it, and then they asked her if she knew who DID write it. She answered no to all three questions. Now, I realize that , technically, she may not have been asked the explicit question "Did you order the word inserted?" but as I've said before, COME ON!!!

      This is the Mulroney defence. When asked to describe the nature of his relationship with Schrieber, Mulroney left out that Schrieber had handed him large envelopes stuffed with cash during several meetings between them because no one ever asked him the explicit question "Did Mr. Schrieber ever hand you any large envelopes stuffed with cash?" Again, COME ON!!!

      If MPs on a committee are trying to figure out how a document managed to be amended after being signed by three people, and the Minister testifying before them is the person who ordered the amendment be made to the document, that rather pertinent fact shouldn't come out three months AFTER her testimony. Period.

      • Which leads me to think her original testimony was infact the truth [ up to a point] She didn't know[possibly true] ; she didn't say she did it then,not because she was lying by omission but because she did not order it someone else did. I agree, the mea culpa 3 months later was just too convenient by half.

    • On your impression on the advice, I believe the Tories are parsing this around the use of Oda's phrase "CIDA's decision". They claim that when Oda referred to "CIDA's decision" she was referring to HER decision, imposed on CIDA even though the CIDA officials wanted to see the opposite decision. Essentially, that "CIDA's decision" is separate from "CIDA's recommendation" and that "CIDA's decision" is essentially whatever the Minister says "CIDA's decision" is (and therefore the fact that the ultimate decision was a result of the Minister overriding what CIDA officials recommended is neither here nor there). Of course, the Minister is entirely within her rights to substitute her judgment for that of the officials at CIDA (that's why she gets a limo) but her phrasing clearly left the impression that she was following the lead of CIDA officials, not leading them somewhere new herself. It's fine for the Minister to lead, it's just NOT fine for her to dress it up like it's following.

      The Tories may may even be using a technically accurate parsing of her wording, but to my mind anyone who buys this post-facto reasoning probably also believes that Bill Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky was entirely chaste.

      • Who is this Lewinsky?

  52. This article is, if read superficially, actually not bad.

    It is when one reads it very closely a number of times, referencing previous paragraphs during that reading, that the obfuscation and baffle-gag begins to appear in near boldface type

    I am sorry, the dung heap simply continues to get deeper and deeper, gathered from "all" out elected officials and parties

    We need and deserve better than all of this. The only other explanation is they are all incontinent, er ah, I mean incompetent (oops), pointing out that, at the very least, salaries, pensions and perks being paid need to be halved until job performance and ethical responsibility return

  53. Well, I don't think people shoud lie. According to Mr. Cosh, that makes me "elite." And I never even knew!

  54. As well planned and executed as this over blown, hysterical, Liberal/Separatist/Media co-ordinated smear job goes, in the end smear jobs have to at the very least resonate beyond the tribe to have any real lasting effect. The Liberal party media has done a great job of presenting this issue in the most hysterical, over the top, dis-honest way possible, but the reason it doesn't resonate any further than the always ready lefty lynch mob is because the accusations are specious at best and assumes guilt without the benefit of evidence to back it up. "Notgate" was a well planned co-ordinated smear campaign, but the media and the Liberals need to manufacture a smear that resonates beyond the tribal, lynch mob. The Speaker will rule that there was no breach of trust and that misconstruing comments made by the Minister is NOT a "scandal", and the whole smear campaign will have been a complete waste of time. The media and the Liberal/Separatist party have to stop crying wolf and come up with a co-ordinated smear campaign against another woman cabinet minister that can actually resonate with the general public.

  55. Although it's clearly not popular with the conspiracy-theory crowd, it's a pretty good article. At the very least it restores a bit of balance to the hysteria generated by this issue. Don't we want government ministers to take a leadership role in their departments and to make tough decisions which are in the interests of the country? Isn't that what happened here? Was there something about the process and the explanation of the process that was unclear? Yes … that appears to be the case. Is it a serious breach of conduct? I don't think so. While I'm sure she'll be more cautious about process in the future I hope Oda continues to be the kind of minister who isn't afraid to make the right call.

  56. The point is pretty simple.

    A Minister can always overrule the advice he/she receives from experts in a Department of government. That's why her signature is required.

    If he/she overrules, she takes responsibility.

    The Minister does not lie about the Department's advice. Seems likely, in this case, she was acting on orders from the PM, because we know how tightly he controls the Ministers, right down to talking points. They sound like robots in Question Period.

    The same thing happened in a Statistics Canada case not long ago. In that case the head of the Department resigned because this sneaky, lying government misrepresented his advice, and pretended they were acting on it. Good for him. Too bad all public servants didn't have the guts he did. So many of them, under this government, have just given in. But not them all. A lot of them have been fired, spoken out, and I think that will continue.

  57. My view is that Colby's take on this is refreshing in that it actually provides factual and detailed information about what transpired. In general the media have taken to giving ad hoc version of what Oda actually said (most not an accurate reflection of the specifics Colby provides) before proceeding with a diatribe about "lying" to Parliament. Lying is one thing; misleading is another; and misinterpreting is something else again. The waters are very muddy here. I think Colby's version is reasoned and reasonable. I think his analysis of Oda's reference to CIDA in her response to Pearson are particularly astute.

    • Hear, hear!

  58. Just to be clear – at the beginning, Mr. Cosh says that Oct. 28 is irrelevant, but then in the next paragraph says that April 23 and Oct 28 are the issues. I assume this is a typo and that it's April 23 and Dec 9.

    Please let's also remember, in terms of the April questions, CIDA is NOT the government. The government is cabinet, and represented by the Minister in this instance. A CIDA decision is not a GOVERNMENT decision until the Minister signs off on it. Further, CIDA priorities are not GOVERNMENT priorities unless the two match, and likely would not because of the government doing everything, as normal, through a political lens. It might not be a lens you like, but that's the way it is.

    Full explanation: http://stuffoccurs.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/minis

    However, her Chief of Staff needs to tell her which staffer inserted the NOT (it was likely the CoS or her policy adviser on this file) and be done with it.

  59. Changes like this are made in legal documentation all the time. Haven't any of you ever signed a contract?
    What stood out for me was that the changes were neither initialed nor dated.
    What is obvious is that somebody changed their mind; not the end of the world. The problem is that somebody changed their mind and did not want anybody to know about it. That is a big deal.
    What I would also like to know is, if people knew about this situation almost a year ago, why are we just beginning to see this barrage of media attention now? Sounds like political expedience to me? Let's see… How many people on Parliament Hill have an agenda?
    Go figger!

  60. You know what everyone is missing here is the fact that she (changed, caused to be changed, order said change) then denied it then kinda of admitted it. All this over a WORD, next time it could be a sentence, then a paragraph, then maybe a whole paper. Absurb you say, but hey we are talking government here and what you caan get away with once, well try try again.

  61. I concur, doesn't matter if Oda wrote it or not. All orders come from the top. That is the kind of governance you get with a hard core ideologist like Harper.

  62. Doin 55 in the 50 zone…..

  63. The most rediculous faux scandal yet.

    A single "not" marked up on an internal document and the political sky is falling, our democracy being threatened?

    Yet suggest to these same people that perhaps, just maybe, tracking down 40 million or so of the adscam money that is still in Liberals' hands,

    and they'll look at you as if you're from Mars.

  64. That she lied can't be denied
    Now she's been caught, it seems she ought,
    To admit the wrong, but before too long
    We'll find there's more, to be sure
    I doubt it stops before you reach the top.

  65. Yet another wafergate! The closest the Liberals can find to a "lie" is that Oda claims that her judgment represents the final word on CIDA judgment, which is true.The famous "altered document" represents the minister saying "no" in the most quick and clear way available to her. Coyne had embarrassed himself in the interests of seeming fair-minded.

    My only problem is Cosh's introduction where he apologizes for pointing out the emperor's nakedness.

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