Happy to see Oda go? Really, you shouldn’t be.

Her departure had little to do with anything relevant

by Adam Goldenberg

(Ben Fisher/CP Images)

Adam Goldenberg is a Kirby-Simon Fellow at Yale Law School. He was Michael Ignatieff’s speechwriter. Follow him on Twitter at @adamgoldenberg.

Bev Oda’s resignation had as much to do with abortion as it did with foreign aid.

She left with neither a bang nor a whimper. After eight years in Parliament, six as a minister, she was simply gone, vanished, disappeared. Pushed out of the helicopter of political expediency, perhaps, or fed to the sharks beneath the Cabinet table.

Since her OJ trial, the international cooperation minister’s prospects, long a stretch, had turned to pulp. She could have resigned herself to the backbenches. She resigned her seat instead.

Her departure is no cause for celebration; it says much more about our politics than it does about Ms. Oda. Our standards have become so superficial that, where once we expected accountability, we demand damage control, instead.

Ministers are now mouthpieces. We judge them by their spin in Question Period and their sound bites in scrums. The federal Cabinet is so flimsy, so insubstantial, that a six-year veteran can be felled by a single glass of $16 orange juice.

Sure, Ms. Oda’s sins against parsimony were several, and accumulated over time. But she was, by the Harper government’s standards, a reasonably accomplished minister. At the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Ms. Oda presided over major shifts in Canada’s foreign aid policy; our help now goes to a smaller set of countries than before, and is less restricted once it gets there. Policy shifts like these may not grab headlines, but their significance outstrips their sizzle. But how much thought was given to Ms. Oda’s record before the Prime Minister showed her the door?

No, this was not a governing decision; it was a communications strategy. In that, it was anything but unusual. To smirk at this week’s turn of events is to take pleasure, if unwittingly, in the government’s way of doing business. Surely the banality of sheeple deserves less than mirth.

If the Conservatives’ opponents cannot resist raising a toast to Ms. Oda’s misfortune, they should take note of who is standing with them.

The government backbench and the Tory base will be glad to see her go, not because they value ministerial accountability, but because they object to the expenditure of public money on, well, just about anything. That includes MP pensions, per-vote subsidies for political parties, public broadcasting, seasonal Employment Insurance benefits—and orange juice, too.

Another group of Ms. Oda’s antagonists deserves special notice: the anti-choice crowd. Few, if any, organizations—and that includes the opposition parties—have spent as much time calling for her head as the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), which cheered her resignation in a statement on Wednesday:

“Oda has been notorious in her pro-abortion position,” it declared. “In 2010, Oda spoke against the stated decision of her leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, when he said that Canada would not pay for abortions in developing countries.” For that alone, said CLC National President Jim Hughes, “she should have been asked to resign.”

Whether or not it was his intention to do so, Mr. Harper has placated his pro-life supporters by sacking a minister who had the temerity to suggest that women in poor countries should enjoy the right to choose.

Still, one wonders whether Ms. Oda would have yet survived had she been quicker on her feet in the Commons, swifter in a scrum, or more charismatic on camera. After all, the well-toned Peter MacKay—he of the rugby pitch and the potato patch—is all but certain to stay in the Ministry, if not at National Defence, despite the fact that his gaffes will cost the taxpayer billions more than Ms. Oda’s stay at the Savoy.

And for the sheer comedy of Conservative Cabinet-making, look no further than Ms. Oda’s replacement: Julian Fantino, the erstwhile military procurement minister, whose single achievement in government has been to turn the slow-simmering F-35 fiasco into a full-blown boondoggle, the priciest in Canadian history.

For him: a promotion. For her: a pension. And, given that Ms. Oda was punished for abusing the public purse, it is worth noting that Mr. Fantino already collects several of the latter.

We should not celebrate Ms. Oda’s ouster because there was no honour in it, no redemption, no import. She did not take responsibility for malfeasance on her watch. She neither stood on principle nor fell on her sword. In the end, she was not even fired for cause. She simply left, with a one-day story in her wake, a summery execution in the slow heat of July.

It would be naïve to imagine that Ms. Oda was let go for her views on abortion, any more than she was fired for her record as Minister of International Cooperation. Not in today’s Ottawa, where Ms. Oda’s defence of contraception could not kill her career, and neither would her management of foreign aid.

OJ did.




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Happy to see Oda go? Really, you shouldn’t be.

  1. Falsifying documents regarding the disposition of over $7 million not even worth a few strokes of the keyboard, I see….

    • Yes, no mention of the Kairos cuts and the politics behind them.

      • And no mention of the fact she bare faced lied to Parliament; used to be a hanging offense that one. I wish Adam had been a little more judicious in his use of pronouns…less we more I. This reads like a pro political operatives verdict on Oda, too forgiving for my tastes.

        • What’s your problem? She is gone. You got what you wanted. You should be dancing in the streets. Does nothing make you happy kcm2?

          • Yeah because my objection to her was only based on partisan considerations…like her being Consrevative was reason enough. I’ll leave that sorta dim witted level of politicking to folks like you.

        • If I were the type who hated Liberals (and I’m not) I might say something like “looks like the young crop aren’t that much different from the ones that did adscam”

        • get a life

          • That was brilliant – I must write that down.

          • Dont bother. It’s not even worth the effort to read it; why bother preserving it?

          • I must confess, I was being sarcastic. Amazing that there are some standing by her. for whatever reason.

    • I really do not get this falsifying documents crap. They were her documents. She did not bare faced lie to Parliament. Her word were misconstrued.Such confusion around this issue. No wonder it had no traction with voters in the election.

      • Nice try.

        • I misconstrued; I didn’t lie – that is rather good isn’t it?

      • “I really do not get this falsifying documents crap.”

        Clearly. What happened was that CIDA approved KAIROS for foreign aid development funding. But instead of vetoing CIDA’s decision, which was in Oda’s purview, she scratched a “^NOT” on the document to (lamely) make it appear like CIDA rejected KAIROS.

        Jason Kenny let it slip the reason for the document falsification: it was believed by Conservatives that KAIROS supported the Gaza flotilla (which, ironically, it didn’t.)

        So Harper (who runs the show) was trying to blackball KAIROS (which has been delivering foreign aid for 35 years) without any media exposure. He, of course, got the opposite reaction.

        Did this issue have no traction with voters? The reality is over 60% were strongly opposed to Harper getting 4 years of absolute, corrupt power. If Canada was a literal democracy (majority rule,) Harper would be long gone by now.

      • So you didn’t follow it at all I take it?

  2. “Our standards have become so superficial that, where once we expected accountability, we demand damage control, instead.” How precious. Any article that uses the word “sheeple” gets a big Fail.

    • At least he refrained from ending with the works of the Bard (as one does, apparently).

  3. Good article, one thing though……”Sure, Ms. Oda’s sins against parsimony were several, and accumulated over time. But she was, by the Harper government’s standards, a reasonably accomplished minister.”
    But it still doesn’t make her an accomplished Minister by any stretch, yes she pushed the agenda of government…..but what was that agenda exactly? That’s right….crickets, like all policy eminating out the PMO, her agenda was driven for it’s communication value, scribbled on the back of a napkin and executed. Sadly, her replacement is even worse, at the very least Oda KNEW that she was spewing largely facile dreck and meaningless policy……Fantino doesn’t have a clue (he was the perfect foil for the F-35s in that regard)

  4. I am not entirely convinced Harper fired Oda. Maybe Oda decided to quit – she had enough of politics after making changes to CIDA? – and now she has pension. Oda will now have more time to spend on her hobby of going to her local pub’s karaoke night and sing Roy Orbison songs.

    • If I were her, I’d be so sick of seeing myself in the news regarding these issues that I would go crawl under a rock somewhere.

    • You may have a valid point. I just wish you hadn’t ruined your post by then making a sarcastic comment about a woman’s looks. Fantino is no improvement in that department, yet I’ve never once seen a comment about it.

      • Wha… I don’t even… What did he say that had anything to do with her looks?

        • It was the Roy Orbison reference. Not really that subtle.

  5. A single glass of orange juice? Really? Oda’s previous gaffes in this department — and that the $16 glass of orange juice demonstrated that she hadn’t learned from them — do not merit a mention? I am very surprised to find an article of such low quality in Macleans. Guess I’ve gotten used to Mark Steyn.

    • Seems theyve been pulling all their news from twitter recently.

  6. Ms. Oda was a token visible minority in a lily white party. She was in way over her head from day one and it showed. She was a good soldier who had a sense of entitlement…perhaps because she was given her position without earning it, perhaps for other reasons. She was thrown under the bus because her liabilities were greater than her assets politically. Until we fix our electoral system and make it so that you have to have a majority of the votes to have a majority we will be doomed to have cabinet ministers who are unqualified, (Oda, Raitt, Fantino, Toews,…) two faced opoortunists, (David Emerson and Micheal Fortier), arrogant twerps (MacKay) or a combination of these. While the Harper Cons have taken it to a new level of sleeze, this would happen with any party because the system is broken and it is systemic.

    • …not mention, old fashioned crooks like Clement and Baird! Surely the G-20 (Gazebo) scandal is the worst waste of money (not to mention the bald face lying) EVER !

  7. The whole article is woefully superficial. The real point is that Bev Oda repeatedly lied to parliament and the Canadian people, and tried to cover it up. Anywhere else that’s called perjury. Now she is fittingly gone in a puff of smoke of her apparent own making. If only the rest of the clumsy cabinet crew would realise that they are self-immolating and do the same magic.

    • BS — you need to look at the facts, not the political spin.

    • I think the point of the article was that she didn’t suffer for any of those sins. Instead, she was pushed out for “a communications strategy.” If the government actually believed in ministerial responsibility, she would have faced censure and lost her cabinet post earlier. This is hardly a victory for accountability.

  8. Oda is gone now the opposition and the anti Harper crowd will have to find another sacrificial lamb. Interesting that we have an unbiased Liberal talking about another party. Lots of credibility there.

    • There’s a whole bloody herd of them, h, there’s no need to find one.

    • “Sacrifical lamb”? LOL you’ve reached new levels of sanctimony.

      • ” that we have an unbiased Liberal talking about another party. Lots of credibility there.”

        Actually I would picked this statement as the pinnacle of sactimony…or is it self irony ~ always a tough call with Merv.

    • Can I nominate the next oh-so-innocent “lamb”? There’s a pretty long list of people misusing public resources, liars, and incompetence in cabinet right now. I’ll start with the obvious: MacKay, Clement, del Mastro. Perhaps others can help me out.

  9. “Anti-choice”? less ridiculously biased terminology, please. “Pro-life” or even “anti-abortion” will be fine. Those who are opposed to abortion are not opposed to being able to choose things, they are opposed to *abortion*.

    • As long as you want to take away my choices, it’s anti-choice.

        • If it’s her choice about her pregnancy, who else is it about?

          • No no; you see you can choose things, you just can’t choose abortion. Apparently that’s. now anti abortion but not anti choice. Your thinking lacks sufficient flexibility.

          • Of course, if the child is born ‘out of wedlock’ it will be called a bastard.

          • By pro-abortionists anyway, who consider it a grave enough offence that the child has to be offered up as a blood sacrifice for the sake of social propriety.

      • Right! Just like wanting to take away your choice to drive 300 mph on the highway also makes us anti-choice. And your wanting to take away my choice to be referred to as “pro-life” makes you anti-choice. And Batman’s wanting to take away the Joker’s choice to wreak havoc in Gotham makes him anti-choice. And…. never mind. Please, do us all a favour and think for at least 3 milliseconds before posting.

        • I generally think you are smarter than this post, but I just want to point out that the highway is a public road … but my body is not. It’s mine, thank you very much.

          • So what are you going to do when artificial wombs and transplanting the unborn become a reality? Will you join us in being pro-life and anti-abortion then?

          • You mean we have to start formulating public policy based on futuristic possibilities now? Sheesh.

          • I’m just wondering if that selfish idea that you owe nothing to your children, even basic succour, is all that is behind your support of abortion.

          • I generally think you overestimate my intelligence. However, allow me to point out that while the highway is a public road, speed limits still take away your choices in terms of what to do with your body and your car. Those anti-choice traffic laws! They do this because your choices with your own body don’t justify you slamming into the bodies of other people. Similarly, your choices with your own body don’t justify you hiring a doctor to tear the limbs off your child. Ergo, I am anti-tearing-the-limbs-off-children, or anti-abortion for short, or pro-life for a positive spin on something so evil, but no more “anti-choice” than a traffic sign.

    • Unless you’re arguing that abortion shouldn’t be allowed even in cases of rape, it’s not pro-life or anti-abortion. It’s simply against women having a choice as to whether to have sex for pleasure instead of procreation.

      • Having an abortion doesn’t make the fact that the crime of rape happened go away, it just kills your son or daughter that may have resulted from it. Too many people still cling to the idea that the woman is just a receptacle for the man’s seed, instead of the child being her blood relation as well.

  10. Oda gets a pension and to avoid future lime light. Why wouldn’t she quit? If nothing else a pension should not be available to her until the next federal election.

  11. Oda is gone. Next.

  12. “Adam Goldenberg … was Michael Ignatieff’s speechwriter. ”

    No wonder Iggy went down in flames…

    • That’s a little too hard. One of his points seems to be that Oda got turfed because she couldn’t hide her incompetence at all – an unforgivable sin in Harperland, maybe the only one.

      • You have to get special dispensation for incompetence from the PM himself. It’s why Clement still keeps his job.

        • Glad Harper is keeping Tony “Gazebo” Clement as prez of the Treasury responsible for the cuts. He is not only a symbol of fiscal incompetence and malfeasance but also a symbol of Conservative arrogance flaunting its broken promises of accountability. Every time Clement makes an announcement, the Harper Government thumbs its nose at Canadians.

  13. This article gives the words shallow and empty new meaning. Finding anything worthwhile here is more elusive than the Higgs-Boson.

  14. Good riddance. Bothers me that she keeps the pension.

  15. Too little, too late. If Harper actually had a pair, he’d have sacked Oda, MacKay, Toews and Del Asstro, but instead he gets rid of Oda, not for her scandals, but because she disagreed with him on an unrelated matter.

  16. I think it is quite clear that proper stewardship of the public purse is expected from all taxpayers Mr. Goldberg, no matter what the disagreements might be on the size and scope of the government and its power. Profligacy is an abuse of the public trust, an abuse to the notion of equality, and is definitely a reason to punish a politician.

    Will people suffer some amount of wasteful or irresponsible spending from their politicians? Sure, but whether you are a Liberal, NDP, or Conservative it still rankles the supporters when people point out the Jack Layton’s or Olivia Chow’s expenditures, Tony Clement’s gazebo, or the billions that simply went missing under the Liberals.

    That’s because in ideology the moonbats and the wingnuts stand together in their desire for an accountable civil service and an accountable legislative branch. That common ground is a good thing, and isn’t something that should be sacrificed for the sake of the culture war like you are implying.

  17. What’s with the ‘Anti’ noise??? Oh, I guess the only one side can use the ‘Pro’ word, as it sounds positive. So let’s get this straight: We are supposed to be ‘Pro’ killing babies, and ‘Anti’ NOT killing babies….. Ok, got it.

    For the record, I am inclined to leave the choice to the individual woman, but with full knowledge of what is actually happening. That a human life is being killed, and there is other options.

  18. Ah yes, in spite of a superbly reasoned article the children still want their say. Two hundred and fifty billion dollar budget, but they go ape shit over an upgrade hotel and a glass of orange juice, makes you want to cry.

  19. Obviously gender is also an issue as Oda is of the disadvantaged group(re: women). Thank you for ‘hinting’ at an issue that is systematically ignored!

  20. So she had a 16,00 OJ–the opposition wet their pants over as did the media.In Denmark OJ is about that price if it is fresh squeezed..Big deal

  21. The guy who wrote this is a crony hack. I’m 65 and i have never seen a politician so universally hated as this woman.

  22. Her practices as a minister are not to be in any way congratulated. Her shifting of foreign aid is based on absolutely no evidence that it will help improve where our money is spent, but in the process many foreign communities that have benefited in the past such as in Tanzania will now be ruined halfway through the process, resulting in loss of money and more importantly loss of lives. Also remember when she was minister of heritage and tried to push for a bill that would allowed the conservative government to choose which films the government allows funding for based purely on if it follows their political ideology? The only reason we should not celebrate her leaving is her incompetence will just be followed by another Harper puppet so it makes no difference.

  23. What a stupid comment:

    “Whether or not it was his intention to do so, Mr. Harper has placated
    his pro-life supporters by sacking a minister who had the temerity to
    suggest that women in poor countries should enjoy the right to choose.”

    I would guess that the majority of Canadian’s don’t want their money to pay for abortions in other countries. This have nothing to do with ‘choice’. Again, what a dumb statement.

  24. ……sheeple….OMG, where is Conrad Black when you need him? This isn’t even in Merriam Webster. That IS a great phrase Mr Goldberg. ….the banality of sheeple…

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