That David Johnston scandal, in full -

That David Johnston scandal, in full

ANDREW COYNE: A reasonable person would conclude there was neither quid, nor pro, nor quo


I like to think my credentials as an Airbus obsessive are in order, so allow me to dissociate myself from any suggestion that the appointment of David Johnston as Governor General is somehow tainted by it.

It’s true that it was Johnston, as adviser to the Prime Minister on the terms of reference for the Oliphant inquiry, who recommended against including the Airbus scandal in its mandate, a decision that looks all the more baffling in light of the judge’s findings: not only that Brian Mulroney took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, shortly after leaving office, from the very man from whom he was accused of taking bribes while in office, but that he lied about it, up to and including his appearance before the inquiry. Regardless of whether Mulroney was personally involved, the circumstances surrounding the Airbus deal are so suspicious that, even 22 years later, they cry out for an inquiry — not in spite of the passage of time but because of it. Johnston’s reasoning, that Airbus, having once been the subject of an RCMP investigation, was “well-tilled ground,” is simply unsupported by the facts: the RCMP had only just begun their investigation when it was shut down by the leaking of the infamous “Swiss letter,” a calamity from which it never recovered.

That’s my opinion, at any rate. Lots of perfectly sensible people with no obvious axes to grind thought he was spot on. But even if you take my view of it, it’s a long way from an error of judgement to a conflict of interest. Those who insinuate there was something unseemly in Johnston’s appointment — sometimes accompanied by the disclaimer that, although they themselves do not believe any of this, others might — are obliged to offer some evidence, or even a plausible rationale, before tossing about such incendiary charges.

At the very least they should say clearly what they mean. Is it seriously alleged that Johnston and Harper cooked up a deal in advance — you keep Airbus out of the inquiry, and I’ll make you Governor General? Surely no one is that far gone. Is it, then, that a grateful Harper bestowed the appointment upon him as a sort of reward, ie that it was only the appointment, and not the advice, that was corrupt — a prospect the Star’s Jim Travers raises, but can’t be arsed to properly debunk? Or is it merely, as Rick Salutin claims, that Johnston’s role in the Oliphant inquiry was an “audition” (whoops, “what can be seen as an audition”), a “test of what the guy might do in a situation where Harper interests are at stake.” You follow the logic: because he had ruled in a way that was supposedly favourable to Harper’s interests in the matter of Mulroney’s cash, he could also be relied upon to do so, say, in a constitutional crisis, the connecting factor being — what?

Nothing in Johnston’s life or record suggests he would offer an opinion based on anything but his best judgment of the public interest. He has never been accused of any partisan leanings; Elections Canada’s site shows no record of him having contributed to a federal political party (apart, perhaps, from an “Experts-Conseil David Johnston Inc.”, which gave $459 to the Liberal Party of Canada in 2000). As far as I am aware, he has no personal links to Harper, and his “involvement” with Mulroney seems limited to having accepted the latter’s appointment as the first chairman of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy. By the same standard, his 1994-99 stint as chairman of the Advisory Council to the Federal Government on the Information Highway makes him a Chrétien crony. Perhaps it could be argued that, as a prominent member of the Canadian establishment, he is blinded by class loyalty. Supposing that were true: why should that make him a Harper man? Why not Ignatieff, whom he more obviously resembles in background and outlook (and who has warmly endorsed his appointment)?

So the suggestion that Johnston advised as he did in the inquiry out of some personal or professional loyalty to the Conservative cause, or that he might do so in some future controversy, is clearly baseless — as baseless as the notion that he did so in return for being made Governor General, or the reverse, that he was given the office as a reward for his advice. (Some “reward”: as president of the University of Waterloo, Johnston earned more than $503,000 in salary and benefits last year, roughly four times what he will make in his new job.) The only evidence for it is that the recommendation happened to go Harper’s way.

But did it? The Airbus affair happened more than twenty years ago, under a different government and, arguably, a different party. At the time Harper was a member of the fledgling Reform party, founded in opposition to the Mulroney Progressive Conservatives. No member of the current Conservative government is alleged to have been involved, nor is anyone in Harper’s personal retinue – the sole exception being Mulroney himself, with whom Harper had a brief and ill-advised rapprochement, but who was by the time the inquiry was called persona non grata, and has remained so ever since.

And who called the inquiry? Harper. Had Airbus been included in Judge Oliphant’s mandate, there is no particular reason to assume his report would have been greatly damaging to Harper’s interests, any more than, say, the Air India inquiry, which also concerned events during Mulroney’s time in office. Oliphant’s report was damning enough as it was, with regard to Mulroney’s personal conduct: it seems to have had no impact on Harper’s poll standings. Who knows? A broader inquiry might even have won Harper points for transparency. (I know it didn’t work out so well for Paul Martin, but that was about events in a government of which he was an integral part, not least as senior minister for Quebec. It stretched credulity to believe that he knew nothing at all of the sponsorship mess, and whatever benefit of the doubt he enjoyed vanished when he called a snap election before the inquiry had been completed.)

To recap: there’s no evidence, nor any reason to think, that Johnston’s advice regarding Oliphant was based on anything but his own best judgement. It’s not clear that Harper benefited politically from it, while Johnston’s “reward” involves taking a 75% pay cut. So where is the scandal here? It’s true that there need not be any actual quid pro quo for there to exist a conflict of interest: it is enough that a reasonable person might have a well-founded suspicion there was. But in this case a reasonable person would conclude there was neither quid, nor pro, nor quo.


That David Johnston scandal, in full

  1. Mr. Coyne, you had me at hello today…. Finally, someone that makes sense, thank you!

  2. “Whatever we paid him for this, it wasn't enough” — Mr. Harper is reported to have said.

    • Context? Meaning?

      • Perhaps the context lies in Mr. Johnston's temperament rather than a history of partisan loyalty. In his July 8 post, Paul Wells mentioned that "Here in Waterloo, where I'm visiting, somebody today characterized his role at the University of Waterloo as 'saying "Yes" to everything.'" If true, it's hard to believe that Stephen Harper thinks he's likely to ever get no for answer.

        • That was probably the weakest point in the journalistic career of Paul "just visiting" Wells. I mean, this was not just another anonymous source with insider info.. this was somebody. Not just any somebody, but somebody at Waterloo! It is not completely clear, if the person was a somebody at the University of Waterloo, because last we heard Paul was visiting the Perimeter Institute… but it is certainly somebody who was also in the same city when Paul was there. Kudos to Paul… David Akin he is not.

        • Maybe he's found a Canadian electorate that has given him the power to Overrule Mr. Harper at his whim, and as a smart man he would know that. Perhaps an attempt by the queen to bring Temperament to the Far Right Conservatism currently on display by this incarnation of the the Federal Conservatives. I think he would know what is expected of him. Any petition we piece together as a nation lands on his desk first. I think we should keep the lights on in that office, it works for the people.

          It's up to us who he says 'no' to, really.

      • Oops, sorry.

        “Whatever we paid him for this, it wasn't enough” — Mr. Harper is reported to have said back then to the Clerk of the Privy Council of the day, Kevin Lynch.

      • Emily typically finds context and meaning, you know, meaningless. That's just how she rolls.

    • Aim then fire. Partisan comments are one thing but still hold to one limb of the tree before calling dead rot.

  3. The Airbus trail has probably gone cold by now. The man who knows who got what is sitting in a German prison and he'll take that information to the grave.

    • Well, you sure fell for Schreiber's get out of jail shtick.

    • Anon 001….not to mention several of the key players are dead. Who would actually testify? The Doucet brothers? Schreiber had his chance to talk and he kept silent. As you say he will take it to his grave.

  4. When I read Spector, I got the impression he just felt he had one more good Mulroney-Airbus rant in his system that needed to get out. I agree that the linkage to the GG appointment was weak, but really the next time Mulroney-Airbus is likely to be in the news is Mulroney's death.

      • Although I'm sure he can speak for himself, to the best of my knowledge Norm Spector is not and never has been a "Conservative" in the sense of being a member or supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada. He is a retired public servant and a journalist who has a wide range of views. I think Stewart Smith had it right. Norm just wanted to get one last rant out of his system.

        • Goodness no! Raving leftie I'm sure. Just happens to work for people he opposes.

          'From 1982 to 1986, he was Deputy Minister in Bill Bennett's Office of the Premier. From 1986 to 1990, he was Secretary to the Cabinet for Federal-Provincial Relations in Ottawa. From 1990 to 1992, he was Brian Mulroney's Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister.'

          • You should get your facts right. Working as a Deputy Minister in BC, or as an official in the PCO not only has nothing to do with the Conservative Party they are non-partisan public sector positions!

            Many of us who were or are public servants would be horrified if we were automatically asssociated with the politics of a government just by being an official in the public service.

            As for his role as Mulroney's Chief of Staff, Spector was not the only one who was recruited from the public service to serve the government. And if you haven't noticed, working for Mulroney does not automatically make one a CPC member or supporter. Just ask Joe Clark or Flora Macdonald.

          • Like I said….he just always happened to work for people whose political position he opposes. LOL

          • Give it up. You're looking more foolish with each post.

  5. "well tilled ground"? Normally that might actually mean something if the "tilling" had been done by a legitimate and credible law enforcement agency. But the RCMP? What a joke. How about the RCMP's tilling that we recently learned that the highly discredited RCMP did on Air India botch up? How naive and/or completely out of touch can David Johnston actually be?

  6. It's rather pathetic that the 'Harper haters' make him a Progressive Conservative when it suits them and then a raging, right wing Reformer, when that suits them.

    The author of this piece Coyne, correctly points out that the Airbus affair happened at a different time, under a different government. A government that Conservative leaning voters, kicked to the curb for a regrouping and appropriate, time out.

    One can only hope, Liberal voters offer their party the same wake-up call and perhaps that is what partsan journalists such as Travers and Salutin should be focusing on, not a GG appointment that had a precedent setting consultation process.
    Now THAT WAS refreshing for a change.

    • Conservative is Conservative, no matter how many times you change the name.

      • Uh, Emily, the reason the Conservatives were ousted in '93 was because they weren't conservative: they were merely Conservatives (and with a very very very nasty and highly offensive word tacked on the front that I won't utter here), and more than just a little name tinkering was necessary.

    • The author of this piece Coyne, correctly points out that the Airbus affair happened at a different time, under a different government. A government that Conservative leaning voters, kicked to the curb for a regrouping and appropriate, time out

      That's very true and I hope you ppl will remember that statement when you use "But the libs did it " I won't waste my time mentioing all the times the left wing reformerss and their puppet suporters have used that line.

      Please remember that the electors of Canada kicke them to the curb then and hopefully todays voters will do the same with this bunch of clowns currently occuping the PMO

  7. I don't think he was a partisan, even though the process was full of hyper-partisans.

    However, I do think that he is more partisan than the prior two GGs. For all that has been said about the last two GGs or at least their nomination, I think it has been quite forgotten that the real break from tradition that they represented was that they were not party loyalists/former cabinet ministers but completely independent.

    Johnston may not be a partisan but I don't think you could say he is completely independent or as independent.

    • I think you could say he is more politically engaged that the prior two appointments, I don't see how that makes him less independent. Indeed, the guy seems to have made a pretty good side career out of being seen as independent by virtually everyone.

    • I don't think I've read a more incoherent comment in some time. 'I don't think he was a partisan, but imply he is because the people who picked him were partisans, and thus I will assert confidently and without any justification that he is more partisan than prior GGs, but at the same time he may not be a partisan, but might I add that whatever he is, he's certainly not independent and thus is maybe partisan. I'm just saying' Let me know who wins the argument between yourselves.

      And a process full of hyperpartisans? Aaaaiieeee! I'm assuming that you're referring to Manfredi and Knopff. That's two out of six, which is a committee less than half full, at best. I'm also guessing you, like me, have never heard of the other four members, however from a quick browse I see no connections with the Conservative Party of Canada. And I remain astounded how people can't seem to sort out the difference between "partisanship" and "ideology". Manfredi and Knopff (particularly the latter) can, I think, properly be described as ideologically conservative, however that does not establish "partisanship" in the sense of a Soudas or a Kinsella, or what have you, and it certainly doesn't establish that they are hyperpartisans.

      • Olaf! Thought you were dead, or in law school! ;-)

        • If you add "inside" to the former status, I no longer think the two states are mutually exclusive. But I have some free time, so I thought I'd indulge in a bad habit (commenting here).

          • Zombie Law School (A paper chase for the undead)

          • I hope you indulge in this bad habit more often, at least during the fleeting summer months.

      • I don't think I've read a more incoherent response in some time, unless it is deliberately trying to read in much more than I wrote. But good effort at thinking you know what I know about all six members. Though admitting you don't know anything about them, kind of undermines any authority to your comment. For my part, I remain astounded how people can presume to know so very much when all the while admitting (and showing) they know very little.

  8. Why give this job to an "old Man", I mean the old people had their day and it is now pasture time for them. Make no wonder the younger generations are disconnected……..

    • Wha… you wanted a 14-year-old girl with surgically-embedded MP3-earbuds and a belly button that sets off alarms at the airport?

      I'm not saying she couldn't do a fine job. I'm just not sure our country, full of ageists as it is, would feel as comfortable.

      • I'd prefer not to hear about prorogation via a facebook update. I'm a member of generation y, and frankly I don't think we are cut out for much. However that is true of many younger people. It isn't that they aren't smart or talented in their own ways, only that they lack the caution that [hopefully] comes with experience. As I get older, I realize how often I am wrong or make mistakes. I don't know about you, but I want a governor-general that knows they can make mistakes.

        • I want a G-G who can notice when something doesn't pass the smell test. And I hope she or he never gets anything smelly. But if something stinks, really stinks, if it is an affront to our democracy and the rules we have accepted for our governance, well, I want a G-G unafraid to stand up and say "This goes too far, and is disallowed." Words I used elsewhere were something like: chat with the Sovereign in London, then break the glass and pull the alarm. I want someone who would not make that call lightly, but I want someone unafraid to make that call if the circumstances called for it.

          In short, I want an unelected ceremonial seat-warmer to be the last non-judicial non-military defender of our democracy. It may be too much to ask of any one person. But it matters.

    • Why give this job to an "old Man", I mean the old people had their day and it is now pasture time for them. Make no wonder the younger generations are disconnected……..

      Sorry son, but Justin Trudeau is a sitting MP, Ben Mulroney already has a job that he likes, and Avril Lavigne probably isn't interested. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilara – while both fascinating choices – are Americans. That leaves us with Michael Buble and Justin Bieber. Now do you understand why the job is going to an "old man"?

      • Without going over the top on Neil's post, it certainly says something about how we have gotten into so much trouble over the last few years. It is precisely that dismissive attitude that led to Afghanistan; to Iraq; the current unreality around Iran; not to mention the collapse of the Progressive Conservative Party (and its rebirth as the Regressive party); the collapse of the Liberal Party as the technocrats pushed up Dion, then Iggy; the pipe dream that Layton could succeed Lewis and Broadbent.
        There is always tension between the generations and that's fair enough. But the current crop, having absolutely zero experience at anything but (plastic-inflated) good times, having no institutional memory of how the institutions that fed and educated them were created or why, having fought to protect nothing, having not protested against anything, are increasingly noxious to me.
        In the interests of full disclosure I'll be 61 in a few days and I've worked with, watched, and gagged at their behaviour up close and personal.

        • Well Andy, some of us weren't very at home in the old Progressive Conservative Party either. Personally, I find the word 'progressive' tainted to the point of repugnance, and was more than happy to see it erased. It means the same thing 'leftist' did a decade ago. Surely to God we don't need three leftist parties!

          While the current edition of the Conservative Party has much to be desired, it isn't nearly so "regressive" as you seem to think. In fact, I'm more concerned that they're ignoring the remaining word ('conservative) a little too much these days. And I'm not sure what progressive things they could be doing right now that would bring the the Red Tory die-hards such as yourself back into the fold. It seems the remaining holdouts (Sinclair Stevens, Dorothy Dobie, Flora MacDonald, Olive McPhail et. al.), will pine for good ol' days of Joe Clark until they die. They had exactly 6 months to shine back in '79, and they've never really gotten over how it was taken away from them. It's the elderly equivalent of the attitude espoused by young Neil above. And it's kind of sad.

          But I'll give two thumbs up to your final statement. The youngsters of today (under 27 or so) are easily the most pampered, spoiled, narcissistic generation we humans have ever produced. Their idea of civic engagement is starting a Facebook page and attending a protest against "globalization". A more gag-worthy lot has never existed.

  9. I suspect there is no chance Harper will ever ask for a prorogation in the same circumstances as the last two, and thus it is quite safe for him to appoint anyone as GG.

    I also suspect the reason so many people feel it is a partisan appointment has more to do with Harper's history than Johntson's.

  10. David Johnston's appointment is not as bad as it could have been. There is no one that Harper could have appointed that would be satisfactory to everyone. Undoubtedly he will carry on and do a satisfactory job. As far as losing pay, the quirks and perks far out shine anything he lost. He gets a reasonably good house and as many helpers and servants he may need at no costs to himself. As an end of career he could do a lot worse and he will not need another job after this.

  11. I accept your conclusions, Andrew, but I find the pay-cut argument to be unpersuasive. Not everyone is in it to max out the bucks every year. Especially those who have already maxed out that income. "What an incredibly cool start to my retirement!" Some reward, you say. Well, as a matter of fact, it is a plum assignment…

  12. Well if Andrew Coyne would take into account feminist issues from time to time he might muse that Johnston's participation in The Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption might in fact have been a deal between him and the liberals to make the province of Ontario a cushy place for high-risk/low benefit reproductive healthcare business interests. What benefits accrued to Accentures Health and Life Science Practice as a result of the recommendations? Many of the panel participants have private financial interests in reproductive healthcare and as Chair of the Panel, if Johnston was truly the paragon of virtue that Coyne makes out, he would have made damn sure that no panel member had private financial interests.

    300 IVF children in 2008. 100,000 live births. Which area should be the focus of Ontario's reproductive healthcare dollars? Underserved birth services leading to higher neonatal death rates in Canada or a tiny minority of hopeful parents. I know the answer. It's hard to say but some of us can't have what we want unless we pay for it ourselves, especially while the majority suffer. A Governor, A Governor GENERAL, would say just what I just said.

    • So "feminist issues" and "batsh*t crazy conspiracy theories" are interchangeable terms?

      • Well aren't you 'unusual'. A slew of anonymous sites. Good thing you don't use your real name though cause anyone can drag it through the mud, right down to accusing you of criminal activity and there's no way to get your name back after that, is there? Be lucky you have your freedom and say what you damn well please as long as you believe it's true.

        This is my last visit to this Maclean's blog so I guess I get the last word with 'Faclc'. It is a 'feminist' issue when average and low income women struggle to find healthcare providers for birth, while richer, connected elites lobby and support the provincial government in a public relations scheme (oops…panel) designed to appropriate taxpayer dollars to be spent on high risk/high social cost/low benefit reproductive healthcare service. Of the people who use IVF and very small percentage end up with children. This is not a priority for our struggling healthcare system but our new GG participated. How good will his judgement be on matters that affect us all if his involvement in The Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption is an indication? And I just mentioned it here because Coyne's journalism asks the newshounds to be — no lazy — to be aggressive I suppose — if they are digging up dirt. If any of them read this I just want to kick up a little more dirt. Cause it's the job of the media to dig and find truth and bring it to public. It's not your job and it's not mine, now is it? Those who have the responsibility, should as Coyne points out, be vigorous when they bring doubts to light. If those doubts sprout they have to tend them now don't they?

        • Karen…….it is the job of the media to "investigate" and report. It is not the job of the media to slander through inuendo and misinformation someone's reputation. You have an issue with Dr. Johnston. Nobody can deny that but any comments or criticizms need to be evidenced based and simply not ad hominem attack on someone's character. Johnston took one view. You took another. There is room for disagreement. However, that does not mean he is not fit to be GG.

        • This is my last visit to this Maclean's blog…

          And we're heartbroken.

  13. I can already see how this will be a threat to the CPC stalwart. Rumours of the 'Johnston / Ignatieff' rift aside.


    Remember over %70 of the concerned country is watching, waiting for David Johnston to purse his lips once. I hope he never looks uncomfortable, or has a complaint, or has any criticism. Want to make government simple? Put one person in charge. Congratulations, you win.

  14. You forgot Stephen Maher in the list of those trying to draw inferences between Johnson's report and his appointment.

    It is fair to note, though, that Johnston's report worked out well for Harper, allowing him credibly claim that he was taking the advice of a respected academic working at arm's-length. Now Harper has given Johnston the most coveted prize he has to give.

    • "most coveted prize"?

      Yeesh, more like a bucket of warm spit, if you ask me.

  15. Holy moley, I see that the apostates are singing from the hymn book the loudest on this one. In a perfectly non-partisan way, bien sûr.

  16. "Mulroney had appointed Dr. Johnston to chair the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy — a position that reported to Mr. Mulroney."

    excluding the Airbus transaction from scrutiny…wise?

  17. It doesn't really matter!

    If Harper want s to appoint his brother or sister in law to GG, it is his prerogative. Johnson is clearly not highly partisan, regardless of the conspiracy theories out there.

    Look at historical appointments, versus this appointment! Clearly this is another case of the PMO decentralizing the process of appointments at the whim of a PM. Like the vote on afghanistan, this PM has actually moved toward less partisan appointments and decision making processes with significant national interest.

  18. Coyne, simply answer this: would Johnston likely be GG were it not for his work on the Terms of Reference? If not, what does that imply?

    • I think the answer is that Johnston would have been on any short list even without his work on the Terms of Reference. As his CV shows, he is typically on every practically every short list for getting non-partisan reasoned advice.

    • EFL….any answer would be pure speculation. Apparently his name was recommended to the PM. This whole discussion wreeks of tinfoil hat stuff. The man is going to be the next GG. Why is it we have to try and destroy him personally before he even serves a day on the job? Then we wonder why quality people do not want to run for political office. Trying to ascribe motives and speculating about why he got the job etc is part of the reason why the country is cynical about politics. There is nothing that happens that there are not a bunch of boo birds criticizing it for whatever reason.

      Mr. Johnston is going to be the next GG and his actions while in that position will stand for themselves.

    • These increasingly strident affirmations of the non-partisan nature of the appointment have convinced me. When Dmitri Soudas and other Cons make hilariously insistent claims of merit and non-partisanship of the "search" (sic) committee and the ever-so-surprising final choice, contrary to the slightest research of the pasts of the one and other, I can only accede to the consensus of notably non-partisan and apolitical cons like Soudas and hollinm, who judge everything on merit.

      I guess we all just have to agree how, uh, "baffling", Johnston's terms of reference were, ESPECIALLY given his CV which so touted by his supporters, and how "baffling" his refusal to ever be questioned about said decision, given he's such a good faith non-partisan who would be aware of responsibility of a public servant to take such questions to remove all doubt – Oliphant, judge, had a press conference when he released his report – and so now that the search committee has been shown to be, predictably, a partisan fraud, and Johnston has been given the one job that shields him from questioning and puts him in a position to use his CV and reputation to legitimise any "baffling" future decisions re. Canada's democracy, as he did re. terms of reference, we can all agree that while all this is quite "baffling", Johnston is a jolly good fellow, that no-one can deny – hip hip hooray! Cheer cheer cheer for the old school side.

      Finally, I am glad that Coyne showed such good faith in contrasting salaries, since we all know that at such stages of such careers, what people really care about is slight differences in elite salaries, and not in the prestige of jobs. Given the opportunities to such folk in the private sector to earn more were they willing to do this or that, Coyne has just destroyed any suspicion of bias about innumerable such appointments through the years, and I for one am glad to have the historically non-partisan nature of prestigious patronage appointees reaffirmed through this good faith logic.

      • The tinfoil hat is functioning as designed.

  19. When all is said and done (and it probably isn't), the fact remains that the person who was responsible for the kind of enquiry Harper wanted has just been appointed GG by Harper. The coincidence is hard to disregard. It's unfortunate that the neither the search committee nor the PM nor Johnstone himself, who seems like a very respectable and qualified person, foresaw that the normally uncontroversial GG appointment would generate so much controversy this time. If it comes to another issue like prorogation, with either a Conservative or a Liberal government, whichever way he decides will likely generate even more controversy than it did with his predecessor.

    • knick…….what you say is true. However, prorogation is a routine matter for governments no matter whether we agree with it or not. It has been done 104 times in the past.

      The GG is generally obligated to take the advice of the first minister unless there is something untoward. I would suggest that Jean made the right decision back in 08 and she litterly saved the country from being destroyed by the coalition of fools.

      Harper used his perrogative this past spring. Whether we agree with it or not it is a tool that is used by governments of all strips. It was hardly the end of democracy as we know it as some of the hyperbolic members of the media tried to portray. Did you honestly miss Parliament not sitting for 25 days.

      Now if you want to get into a discussion about changing the rules for prorogation then you are talking about changing precedence or even the constitution. That is going nowhere in a hurry.

      • hollinm, the point of my comment was not rules for the proper use of prorogation, but the unfortunate cloud of suspicion that has been cast on the appointment and tenure of an apparently respectable and qualified person. Those who believe that Harper never misses an opportunity to consolidate his power will speculate about the motives of any decision GG Johnstone makes because of his role in the enquiry.

    • "normally uncontroversial GG appointment"?

    • The last GG was appointed by Martin, yet she OKed prorgations both times Harper asked for it. It's basically a rubber stamp. Hard to see how it would ever cause Johnston any problem, regardless of who was PM.

  20. A New GG – PMO-Drone or Benevolent Autocrat?

    Executive Summary
    Without a publicly acknowledge Mandate the most morally-backboned, highly educated, apolitical, Solomon-wise Governor General just doesn't have a chance to exercise His/Her Benevolence or His/Her Powers.


    • robertede……..Interesting we have seen some good GG's appointed and some medicocre ones appointed. A number of f them patronage appointments for former politicians who served their party well. This goes for both parties.

      It is readily acknowledged that the Liberals have governed this country for most of the last century and therefore it is that party who has had the opportunity to appoint more unelected Senators and of course appoint most GGs. I do not recall before M. Jean's appointment much written about the GGs appointed. It was a fairly run of the mill exercise.

      However, now suddenly we have had a Conservative government in power for four years and the process of how the GG is to be appointed must be reviewed. We now must have a vetting process for all judges and political appointees because God forbid there maybe Conservatives appointed.

    • robertede….hollinm continued…

      Even the subject of prorogation which has been exercised with regularity by Liberal governments must be reviewed because that dastardly Conservative Prime Minister has used his good office to prorogue parliament for 25 extra days.

      Then we wonder why Canadians have become cynical about politics in this country. Would it be a good exercise if Canadians had a civic lesson? By all means yes. However, it is not going to happen. They are busy trying to live their lives and survive in a tough world.

      Unless we are prepared to open up the constitution and change the rules under which we are being governed we are doing nothing but destroying ourselves from within. Will we be happy when say only 30% of the population choose to vote in an election?

      In the meantime we are busy besmirching the reputation of a solid Canadian citizen who has agreed to take on the thankless job of GG for a five year term.

  21. A very fine appointment, he'll be perfectly competent

  22. Yeh it didn't take you liberals long to attach the word Scandal, a word you all seem to love so much, to the new GG. I am so @#$%ing sick of you Liberals. Get a life!

    • Congrats Newfie Guy. Look at what the Bleeding Heart Liberals are doing to the USA. Lambs to the slaughter. I'm surprised that Mr. Johnston was not hired on the basis that he was a "A God Fearing Protestant or Catholic" like the Liberals do south of the border when they appoint a God Fearing Muslim to a highly sensitive office especially in one like Homeland Security. We are going to Hell in a hand basket all the while skipping through the political tulips or cherry trees.
      Show them your nice white teeth and Keep smiling so they will never know what you are up to.

  23. Andrew the foundation for positions such as supreme court appointments and Governor General Appointments is that the appointee not only BE free of conflict of interest, but they also CLEARLY APPEAR free of conflict of interest. In this case the appearance is one of conflict of interest. The Governor General's position involves the prospect of months or years of continuous ceremonial activities where conflicts of interest are not relevant. But every so often a Governor General is called upon to make a decision where an apparent conflict of interest can count for everything. It could make all the difference between the decision being accepted by voters and the decision causing huge division in the country followed by a constitutional crisis.

    One of David Johnston's colleagues is quoted a saying his job at the university was "to say yes to everything". That would be Stephen Harper's dream prerequisite for a Governor General.

    David Johnston should not be appointed Governor General for these reasons.

    • I'm assuming by "free from conflict of interest" you mean "a partisan supporter of the party in power." Otherwise a large number of our previous Governor Generals would not have been so. For example:

      Vincent Massey was a Liberal minister and ambassador before becoming Governor General.
      Georges Vanier was a strong supporter of the Liberal Party (although appointed by a Conservative)
      Roland Michener was a Member of Parliament for the Progressive Conservatives and Speaker of the House.
      Jules Léger was under-secretary of state for Pearson.
      Edward Schreyer was Premier of Manitoba for the NDP (although appointed by a Liberal)
      Jeanne Sauvé was a Cabinet Minister for Trudeau
      Ray Hnatyshyn was a Cabinet Minister for Clark and Mulroney
      Roméo LeBlanc was a Cabinet Minister for Trudeau

      • No, what I mean by "free from conflict of interest" is when someone is appointed or engaged to undertake responsibilities that demand an impartial decision free from partisan advantage to anyone, that person renders a decision that clearly avoids undeserved partisan advantage to one party. The examples you have sighted do not fit into this category. In every case these individuals were clearly partisan actors before they were appointed Governor General, but there is no suggestion that they ever acted other than in an impartial way while the held the governor General's position or any other position that required impartial decisions.

        In the case of David Johnston, he was engaged to render a decision where the national interest clearly required that it be free form partisan advantage. Unfortunately he delivered a decision that even Harper incredulously described as being in his own partisan advantage. (Whatever we paid him, it was not enough). I believe Andrew Coyne shares this opinion; feeling that it is illogical and irresponsible to evade investigation of the Airbus scandal thoroughly. This would at the very least suggest that Mr Johnston may make the same type of decision in his role as Governor General.

        • Simply because a decision gives partisan advantage to one group over another does not mean that it is the wrong decision, or that improper influence was applied by one of the parties. Mr. Johnston felt that the RCMP had done a proper job of the investigation and that it was not worth pursuing further; that evidence uncovered in the inquiry might suggest that an expanded investigation would be warranted is not something he could have known a priori. Considering that Mr Coyne spends this entire article arguing that he believes Mr. Johnston made the decision in good faith, it's a bit of a stretch to say that he agrees with your position. He doesn't even feel that Harper benefited particularly from Mr Johnston's choice in the matter.

          Without the context, I can't say anything about Harper's comment. I can't even say that he's talking about this, and not, say, his dinner at a restaurant.

          • As far as Governor Generals are concerned, they have sided with their Prime Minister on every decision since, what, 1910? And that prompted a constitutional crisis? They aren't impartial decision makers; their role is purely a ceremonial reflection of the wishes of the government of the day.

      • Thanks for that list ABarlow. Against that background, David Johnston does very nicely on the "conflict of interest" front. As for the "appearance of conflict of interest", that is in the eye of the beholder. Had Harper appointed an alien to the post, he'd still be accused of conflict of interest by those who wish to see it.

  24. David Johnsron's entire career shows that he is a politician.

    'Nuff said!

  25. This was posted first at the July 8 Maclean’s report.
    Hallelujah! Canadians stay focussed on soccer, spilling oil and beaten heads from G20 protests.
    They fail to understand that this is the GG position which allows or denies our elections. They also fail to
    understand what the implications are when it is yet another politicized lawyer who is promoted while candidates from our aboriginal community are denied consideration because they “are not bilingual”. Go to the Globe and Mail report on this appointment and understand that this “prestigious lawyer” and “academic” was selected by a panel of Parliamentarians.
    Then understand this.
    Contrary to Andrew Coyne’s findings, this man is found on Elections Canada donor data as a Ken Dryden (another elected lawyer) Liberal leadership campaign supporter (June 16, 2006). The amount of money given is inconsequential. It is unfathomable that our media, with their deep pockets, does not come out and directly ask this man if he has had any partisan relationships. By god, if there was a hint of “the scandal” being sex, then the word “relationship” would have created a real reporting scandal in more venues than just Coyne’s deep blogging pages.
    A supposedly “unbiased” man of Johnston’s legal standing should be familiar with the constitutional requirement of “equal before and under our law”.
    Johnston was solicited by Harper to design the terms of reference for another inquiry which made more lawyers richer and more citizens poorer. The Oliphant inquiry became yet another farce where a once Canadian elected lawyer, to the position of Prime Minister, Mulroney, admitted to swinging satchels
    of cash in a manner that would get any other Canadian a Criminal Code trial.
    Johnston only shows that he is easily swayed to bow to the partisan in power, not to uphold the right of the citizen to see even the politician sent to jail. As our “equals under the law” part of our constitution compels.
    So, now we not only have an old crony of Mulroney (William Elliott, the Conservative aligned lawyer) ruling our prestigious federal RCMP. We now have another “expert” who is a politicized lawyer who tells us that “the Queen” is ultimately our “ruler”.
    This is how corrupted our “democracy” has become. The lawyers have corrupted our courts and our institutions of governance so badly with partisan elitism that the citizen has no avenue of uncorrupted, non-partisan consideration. Worst of all, Canada’s journalists stay stupid to the implication that, to complain about all of this “to the Queen”, we must now get past another lawyer. This is another “expert” man who stays silent to the constitutional idiocy of a Prime Minister insisting on bilingualism of French and English while the real issue of violations of founding laws of this nation goes unchallenged.
    Our constitution forbids discrimination of any kind, including of language. So why does “constitutional expert”, Mr. Johnston, stay silent to the suggestion that aboriginal candidates were overruled on the basis of “bilingualism”? Might this be because few in our media reported loudly on this GG appointment while the Anglican Journal became one, crowing that a member of their church was now “an appointed”. This is something to crow about when the record for this nation is abuse of First Nation children by these churches, which people in the highest places stayed silent to?
    This appointment happens because those who say that only the Liberals or the Conservatives should rule us have ensconced their own into the highest positions of this land.
    A GG’s first duty should be to the citizen and the constitutional parts serving the citizen, not the partisan.
    No, Mr. Johnston has shown that he can be loyal to either the Liberals or the Conservatives and this is then the selection priority for the partisans who have been screwing this nation since our treaties were signed and then our constitution, agreed to “by the Queen”, became the property of the politicized lawyer and the politician.
    It matters not if Mr. Johnston took a cut in direct pay (Coyne says his GG salary drops to one quarter of his “$503 g’s” University salary). What matters is that the man is now in a position where he can globe trot like the old friends of journalists, Ms. Jean and that “other lady GG”, did and sit in rich accommodations sipping tea at Queenie hours. While the rest of the citizenry continues to get screwed by corruption into business and governance.
    Protected by politicized lawyers appointed by judges. And now as “our GG”.
    But our media have become part of the elitism which allows this to happen.
    Sorry, Mr. Coyne. This is indeed “a scandal” for any citizen who really cares for this nation.
    Read my pending book, Just Business, to understand how all of this can be stopped, peacefully, by the citizens.

  26. Why need we hunt evidence of a deal between Messrs. Harper and Johnston, at the Oliphant Inquiry, to agree with Rick Salutin that the inquiry was an 'audition' for Mr. Johnston? Mr. Harper apparently noted that Mr. Johnston preferred to shrug his friendly, don't-worry-be-happy shoulders and keep Mulroney's misdeeds out of it. If no pressure was needed, so much the better. What prime minister, least of all Mr. Harper, wouldn't want such a governor general?

  27. Shame on us. We find a man that is apparently very qualified for the job of GG, and what do we do…..we castigate the guy because he was
    smmart enough to be asked to chair some panels and committees.
    Big Deal. I bet any University in Canada would be glad to have a chancvellor or president of Mr. Johnson's caliber.

    Get a life !!!

    For my money, he won't have to work hard to outshine GG Clarkson and GG Michael Jean.

  28. "….a prospect the Star's Jim Travers raises, but can't be arsed to properly debunk?"
    a freudian slip Mr. Coyne, or just bad proof reading?

  29. what a timorous piece. this is what passes for political commentary in harper's new world?

    of course it's a quid pro quo. at a minimum, harper is appointing a governor general who is going to dance to his tune — before the tune is even played.

    • Now if he had hired Leonard Cohen as was the choice of multiple Canadians, Harper would have had a truly fine and revered Canadian Gentleman, musician, poet and entertainer for his dancing.

      • I'm still partial to Justin Bieber. But Cohen I could live with.

  30. I have not been satisfied for a long time in this land..Medicare is unsustainable, Marhar Arar was apparently an agent of some note for America before 9-11, and the Swiss Air disaster investigation was shut after 3 days with 5 experts having found incendiary substances that had no business being on a plane. What makes anyone think people in the Conservative Party inner circles, who maybe went to the right schools and all, didn't have something to do with this GG appointment???
    Mulroney stunk out the joint, until the Libbies AdScam came along… the filth in Quebec CNTU (where Mulroney actually began practicing as a lawyer! The Hal Banks SIU scandal! ) anyway..we have a long history of more corruption and lack of proper moral fibre than we can numerate.

    In a letter from the Turks & Caicos today.. they're ready to receive my assets. NR74 form to be filed anon.

    • And this has what to do with the topic at hand?

  31. Governor General sent the wrong message to Canadians from his office peering down the sights of a weapon.

  32. good repost from Jeff Casselman:   We owe the Queen for putting a bishop (Gov. General David Johnston) in place to check Harper’s rook.
    For those of you who don’t remember the Queens last visit here is a reminder:  She arrived.  David Johnston got appointed.  She laid a stone from Runnysmeade (google it: it’s where the Magna Carta was signed) into the site for a new Winnipeg Library (dead center of the country).
    Do not believe the Conservative ‘pro monarchy’ spin by any means.  We have lost enough of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms already that we shouldn’t strive to remove the last bastion of freedom we have.  The people who operate outside our government and by virtue of the Magna Carta have discretionary control of it.
    snip snip:  The Queen dedicated the cornerstone of the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  The stone came from the fields of Runnymede — near Windsor Castle — where the original Magna Carta was signed in 1215.


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  34. The Governor General should not only be free of scandal, he should be free of the appearance of scandal. He is not the only Canadian qualified for the job.