‘This report has not been hidden’


Speaking to reporters last November, a day after a much-watched vote on the firearms registry, Peter Van Loan, as public safety minister, attempted to explain why he was only then releasing a seemingly relevant report into police use of the registry. “I received it and looked at just recently,” he said, “in recent days.”

Turns out the number of days between the report’s delivery and that statement was 49.

The documents include a Sept. 16 letter from William Elliott, the Tories’ hand-picked head of the RCMP, addressed directly to Van Loan. Elliott also serves as Canada’s commissioner of firearms. The letter says the 2008 annual report is enclosed and advises the minister of the 15-day rule for tabling.

Van Loan also received an Oct. 8 memo from his deputy minister, Suzanne Hurtubise, confirming that the RCMP had submitted the report to the minister on Sept. 17 — starting the clock ticking for parliamentary tabling. “It is recommended that you table the 2008 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Firearms on or before the statutory deadline of Oct. 22, 2009,” Hurtubise advised.

The office of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews apparently maintains the report was not delivered until Oct. 9. That is, perhaps notably, the same date of delivery the RCMP provided at the time of the report’s release.


‘This report has not been hidden’

  1. Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

    On behalf of voters, allow me to make a simple request: prior to the next election, can you please tell us (a) which of your and your Ministers' statements are true; and (b) which of your election promises you intend to keep. I expect both lists to be rather short, thus disclosure should not be a burden on your government, not increase the deficit nor endanger our troops. Should both lists turn up empty, please indicate same by just carrying on as normal and/or blaming the Liberals.

    Thank you.

  2. Totally unacceptable. If Peter Van Loan can't provide a satisfactory explanation of why that report's release was delayed by his office, then he should assume responsibility and resign from Cabinet. (Mr. Van Loan, the former Public Safety Minister, has been Minister of International Trade since January).

    • Any particular reason you don't blog, CR? I disagree with a lot of what you say on here.. but you're one of the few conservatives (or seemingly conservative supporters) that shows some principle on here and will take the government to task when they deserve to be taken to task.

      Anyhow, if you were blogging, I'd be one of your daily readers, for what that's worth.. and I can say that would be a rarity amongst conservative blogs for me, many of which I have to clean my screen from the filth on it after reading them.

      • How can a blogger call himself/herself "Critical Reasoning?" It's not possible. That's why blogging can't work for CR.

      • Scott, thanks for the encouragement. I've often thought about blogging, and maybe I'll take the leap and start a blog one of these days.

        • Agree with Scott – even if you tick me off sometimes. Oh, CR – tell Anon 001 it's your chosen name and it's your right and you're sticking to it.

          Some people are petty

    • CR, what would you consider a satisfactory explanation for delay of the report. I ask because it would be interesting to establish conditions up front and see how the story plays against them first rather than just debating things afterwards for a change. i will get the ball rolling. if the report was found to have major substantive errors and was sent back for correction and later resubmitted to the minister such that the the required release date from the resubmitting the report fell in line with Van Loan's timelines, i could live with that. but major substance is the key.

      • A satisfactory explanation? That's easy:

        The report was stolen by Rahim Jaffer and inappropriately hidden in Helena Guergis's office, and was only brought to Van Loan's attention when the RCMP learned about it from a Private Investigator.

      • Sea_n_mountains, I'm probably not the best guy to establish conditions up front, because I don't know enough about the inner workings of departments like Public Safety to be able to speculate about what may or may not be valid reasons for the delay. That judgment call is probably best left to Ottawa insiders and people who understand the nuts and bolts of ministerial bureaucracies.

        I'll say this, though… the optics are terrible. It seems damn fishy that the report's release was delayed until two days after the registry vote. It was PVL's responsibility to release that report on time and according to the rules, and if he delayed the release for political reasons, that's unacceptable. The hypothetical explanation you suggested (the report contained major errors and was sent back for correction) would be satisfactory; the excuse that "the report wasn't interesting" or "we didn't get around to it" certainly wouldn't be.

        • your humble response was admirable CR, but i think, inadvertently, you put your finger on the issue, no? that whatever the inner working, official procedures and what have you, are going to be secondary in deciding what is legit (assuming any such judgement will ever be made). for example, the potential litmus i suggested (the report was erroneous and couldn't be released, with an ability to speak to the problems i assume) passes the 'smell test'. won't these informal, but cogent tests always be the measure of appropriateness?

    • I agree with you 300% that Van Loan should be removed if he deliberately delayed the release of the report. But I don't know whether it would do much good – he would likely be replaced by somebody else who would do exactly the same thing.

      • Mr. Van Loan has in fact been replaced by somebody much worse.

  3. And these are the guys trying to dictate to parliament when and how things happen?

  4. At least 17 times a reporter asked him to answer the question of when he received the report. He continued to ignore the question. This cannot be allowed in this day and age. I don`t know how we put up with it, but surely we can't let it continue. I'm open to suggestions.
    I only wish a participatory democracy was possible, but what a dreamer i am, eh?

  5. Once again, our government acting in contempt for the institutions of democracy. Maybe they figure this sort of behaviour has been rendered commonplace in voters' minds, and that this sort of dishonesty and dishonour will simply get lost in the shuffle of their numerous abuses.

    How do these folks look at themselves in the mirror?

    • I wonder if to a certain degree Sean we are aiding and abetting. I don't mean to single you out here (knowing that I and the bulk of the regular contributors on here with a similar perspective would write in nearly the same way), except that I know I can have an interesting exchange with you on the matter. While you are obviously correct that this is another act "in contempt for the institutions of democracy", it is chiefly an affront to citizens. I wonder if rather than letting the affront to citizens be assumed, if more of us, and esp the media made this explicit it would start to piss people off more? Something has to give with the conditions and limits placed on power being trampled and people barely raising an eyebrow.

      • I'm just off to bed now, and I'll add more to this tomorrow. But I sometimes fear we live in an era of 'bread and circuses', where no amount of discourse, no amount of critical journalism, and no amount of citizen activism will make much of a difference.

        But I'm no nihilist, and there are occasional glimmers of hope. The growing acceptance of coalition governance could help restore some stability to parliament (offsetting the instability realized by the BQ presence, in terms of their share of seats). An unstable parliament (minorities, fractured oppositions) places far too much emphasis on gamesmanship and political survival, and makes the excesses we've witnessed since Mulroney too attractive.

        The anti-proroguation movement – for all its flaws – has to be taken as a positive sign that people are willing to shove back.

        But I suppose the core question is why folks don't get more p*ssed off, more often?

        • The lesson of Iraq was learned, when folks demonstrated in the streets of cities all around the world, and nobody in power gave a damn.

          "Why bother?"

        • thanks for the reply Sean. I will respond below given that the conversation has advanced with some others responding to you below too. the time change has a way of fragmenting conversations.

        • People tend to only notice government when it does something that directly affects them (which is understandable).

          At present, the Conservatives haven't really done anything that causes pain to the ordinary voter. In fact, their whole MO is to avoid this sort of pain by allowing the deficit to grow and by simply not worrying about the environment. Because there have been no financial consequences related to the deficit, and environmental change hasn't really impacted people's day-to-day lives yet, they have been able to get away with this. (The BP oil spill may change people's awareness of the environment – especially if some enterprising journalist points out that the Conservatives are willing, if not eager, to allow offshore drilling off the Canadian coast.)

          In the longer term, the Conservatives will probably try some form of the Mike Harris single-tracking strategy: take care of their core support and promise incentives to potential swing voters, while remaining indifferent to the fate of those who are predisposed against them. It's an open question whether this will work – it worked in Ontario for a while, but then it didn't.

      • I'll take a stab at answering your question by paraphrasing one of the responses that we often see from hollinm: Ultimately Canadians don't really care all that much about tactics, process and strategies. I'd say that that observation from H is one of his most accurate.

        And I'm not sure that "shining more light" on these types of issues will have the effect for which you seem to be hoping, at least not by itself. It is going to take a serious amount of work to get significant numbers of voters as interested as the average macleans commenter.

        I'll venture that the bigger answer is a variation of "We have it too good." For most of us life is good, at least good enough that we worry more about who will win the next "So you think you can dance" or the Stanley Cup of the next WPT event.

        But have at 'er, I'll be following the discussion!

        • A couple of thoughts…

          First, "we've got it good" certainly plays into the political or democratic lethargy we see in Canada. I'd suggest same context also contributes to the difficulty that opposition parties – witness the current Liberals – have in identifying differentiating issues and policies. It also encourages the government and opposition to tack around "big" issues and instead focus on tactics. Government is not unique in that it often takes a crisis to enable truly significant change. There is no shortage of crisis candidates, including: health care cost; fiscal deficit; and a PQ government in QC.

          However, in addition to voter involvement, leadership is the other crucial attribute to a healthy democracy. Harper is providing strong and welcome leadership to, say, 40% of the populace. Still, for something approaching a majority of Canadians, his leadership has not been welcomed. As the sole federal government alternative, the Liberals are simply failing the leadership test and have been for upwards of seven years. I'd submit that we have leadership deficit as large as the fiscal one and perhaps even more damaging.

        • We have it too good

          I think for a great many people, politics has become another boring reality TV show.
          Busy people with limited attention spans have a buffet of distractions competing for their limited free time – and let's face it, politics requires a commitment to engaging in deeper issues – a commitment that superficial entertainment does not. Shorter version – most people find politics boring and are too lazy commit to delving beyond binary headlines. Apathy seems more easily drawn to "celebrity, and we just don't have rock star politicians or issues generating excitement among the herd.
          Unfortunately, I just don't think that the people posting here at Macleans represent the general population.
          People are becoming full time entertainment junkies, leapfrogging channels looking for something benign, inoffensive and amusing – brain candy – which is something politics is not and should never be.

        • I have to say that for the myriad of abuses the Ontario Harris crew engaged in, nobody got too bent out shape about those that related to process and democracy (ridiculous omnibus bills, 'creating a crisis in education', etc.). Yes there were headlines, but I don't think dissatisfaction on that level ever shifted voter allegiance in any meaningful fashion.

          I have no doubt the "good life" thesis has some significant bearing. But I wonder if the issue is worth exploring in more depth. For example, we know the average Canadian's grasp of how our system works is poor (heck, how often do we supposedly 'informed' types need a primer on the vagaries of prorguation, committee powers, etc.?). It's hard to explain to folks just what they should get cheesed about, when our system is both complex *and* often based on matters of honourable convention and precedent.

          The whole anti-proroguation thing on Facebook was heartening in some ways, but seemed to include significant numbers of people who thought the issue was politicians simply trying to grab more vacation time (which is the easily digested version, if not the one that ought to be of concern). In the absence of a hard and fast rule, education and judgment are needed to assess these sorts of things (we all know the PMO has grown into a beast of unholy magnitude, but it's not like we can provide a clear and obvious template of rules or guidelines to tix the situation).

          I'm rambling a bit here, so let me try the the short version: there are some growing problems with our parliamentary democracy that are complex, multifaceted and impossible to boil down to any single act or omission. As such, it's hard to expect the public to mobilize to fix it.

          • I have to say that for the myriad of abuses the Ontario Harris crew engaged in, nobody got too bent out shape about those that related to process and democracy

            Agreed. They, by my observation, got bent out of shape over Harris' inability to manage unrest – civil, political, and labour. The Liberals were elected in Ontario on a mandate of "peace." What lesson does this serve to those thinking on a national scale?

            In the absence of a hard and fast rule, education and judgment are needed to assess these sorts of things

            It sounds like you're referring to a concept called "public judgement"; which is a laudable goal in any society. Nonetheless, we can't force people to learn and attempt to understand processes and tactics; they must be expressed in a meaningful way to those whom we hope to convince. In other words, "make it real." If we don't, the inevitable reaction is a mass public that sits back and claims that politics isn't relevant to them.

    • "How do these folks look at themselves in the mirror?"


      • The disturbing part for me is that they probably congratulate themselves for being "winners". It's the feeling somebody gets when they zip through an intersection as the light is changing to red: look at all those losers forced to wait while I zip on ahead!

        It's one of the most infuriating things about this regime: they confuse ruthlessness and lack of scruples with cleverness.

        • And it's sort of the same attitude that says your sports foul wasn't a foul unless you get called by the official….

  6. what never ceases to amaze me is how casually Ministers (of any colour, and any era) forget that their ministries keep meticulous, date-stamped paper trails of documents routed for approval, and that these records are subject to Access to Information requests…

    • …which the Conservatives are reluctant to honour.

      One fear is that the Conservatives will simply cut off the "Access to Information" process if they get a majority.

      • maybe. but in this case, it is obvious that someone got access to (at least) the routing slips for these documents.

  7. It starts at the top. Harper has lied repeatedly in the House. His Ministers simply follow suit. Even newbie MPs like Shelly Glover make things up to justify their preconceived biases. If you think that your government should behave in a more responsible and dignified manner, vote against the Conservatives in the next election. If you think gamesmanship and contempt for democracy are just dandy, vote for the Conservatives.

    • Regardless of how you vote (in the past or the future) it would also be at least as helpful to contact your MP and/or the candidates from the other parties every once in a while; let them know what's on your mind, give them credit where it is due, on matters of both policy and technique/style.

  8. "The report has not been hidden"

    I guess it just Freudian-ly slipped under that pile of other reports on your desk, eh Peter?

  9. People will get pissed off when the problems they observe are (or appear to be) relevant to them. Examples:

    – They think politicians are going to take an extra six weeks' paid vacation when they themselves have to return to work;
    – Their kids don't get to go to school because the government can't work out a contract agreement with the teachers for any substantive length of time;
    – They can't drink their water because someone hired inspectors who don't know (or have any concept of) environmental and health protection standards;
    – Their hydro bills go up by 30% in the span of six months;
    – They see evidence that their rights and freedoms are being abrogated (specifically: reduced access to health care)

    Want to get people involved? Demonstrate in a concrete way that they will be negatively affected if they do not. Inspiring people to change – the Obama principle – only works if the appetite is already there. Whereas not enough people feel the impact in order to gain the appetite, inspiration will have limited effect.

  10. Let me throw this idea out, if only to be dismissed:

    Between the BQ and Conservative party members in Ottawa, one could say the majority of representation comes from parties that don't particularly believe in Canada as a meaningful social, political, or cultural entity.

    If, on some gut level, this represents the mindset of many voters, that might explain the lack of engagement to some extent.

    Minimally, a generation of Pearson-Trudeau style nation building – with all its excesses of spending, unjustified (to many) appeasement of Quebec, and bias toward central Canadian worldview – has likely contributed to some apathy. I'm not saying that approach was totally without merit (our paucity of future vision scares me more than low voting turnout), but that it's caused something of a rejection of Ottawa as force to care about. It's painful to watch Ignatieff fumble and grope with ideas that are rooted in that old style of thinking, when clearly many Canadians are content to have us decentralize.

    It will be difficult to have citizens care about process, if they don't really care about the outcomes (or simply want those outcomes to be as muted as possible).

    • For all my fellow political science degree cohorts: P * I = O.

      Preferences multiplied by Institutions equals Outputs. (Gasp! She's gone American! What an inapplicable equation to use in Canadian politics!)

      First, we get people to care by demonstrating how things are important to them and will affect them in everyday life.

      Then, we ensure that the institutions are able to manage and effect policy to manage those preferences.

      As a result, policy outcomes would (theoretically) improve.

      As of right now there is neither a set of common preferences nor the institutional strength to produce the desired outcomes. So how do we go about changing that (without it becoming a circular-style argument).

      • hi Lynn

        I will aggregate my responses to your posts here.

        Is it important to ensure that problem are cast in terms that make clear the implications vis a vis their interests? fully agree. in fact that is where i started. that said, i don;t think that the translation from people knowing and seeing their preferences translate, with or without institutions, all that neatly (or not neatly) to engagement. ostrom had made clear that P * I unto themselves didn't equal O along time ago.

      • I think the whole 'common preferences' thing is where it falls apart in the Canadian context. :)

  11. I forgot to add what an awesome summary that was! You have the makings of an intersting essay there.

    • Thanks very much for this discussion, everyone. I have been asked to publicly speak on behalf of CAPP, and if you didn't already know it I can tell you I am the world's worst public speaker. Although the discussion will not help my public speaking skills (but the interesting thing is just HOW I will turn it into a disaster this time) it may very well help me in preparing what to say.

      Does anyone, for example, have any specifics on how to make relevant to an average Canadian's daily life?

      • Can you give a few more particulars about the theme/focus of your talk?

        • Well, it is going to be at the non-violence festival, and it is about participating in our democracy. That immediately brings to mind violence in places without democracy, of course, and I'll likely use that to begin, but I'd really like people to participate, dammit, however they see fit to do so. You should know, I haven't convinced my own husband or my son or daughter. Yup, batting 100%, I am.


            A wonderful opening to a talk on non-violent participation in a democracy. Maybe you should bring some throwable blunt objects to the podium. That'll get their attention…


          • Hmmm. What do you think of beach balls?

          • I suppose you could give them a try, but I confess that choice doesn't quite live up to the bluntobjectification I had in mind. Let us know how it goes.

  12. To be fair to the Minister, the report arrived just as he was entering a 49-day non-stop eating binge. That whole period is just a blur for him.

  13. Why aren't people more pissed off and/or not paying attention? Maybe it's a simple as people are tired. The last couple of years have been so stressful – economy, environmental crisis, turmoil every day around the world.

    Maybe it's as simple as that – they don't want to have to face more – they're tired and fed up.

    When's the last time you watched the news and something positive was happening?

    • Our press only covers these stories on Friday afternoons and over holiday weekends. By the start of the work week, they've moved onto something else. Absent a vibrant press to keep unpleasant stories in front of the electorate (we don't need them so much for good news, btw), Canadians sleepwalk through the week. In our dreams we have no medical isotope crisis, no destruction of the Canadian nuclear industry, no disasterous 8+ year wars, no lying Ministers, no suppression of information, no assaults on watchdogs and public servants, no reversals of policy, no crumbling infrastructure, no deficits, no unchecked federal spending, no pitting of region against region or demographic group against demographic group, no criminal acts by the RCMP, no sole source contracts shielded from scrutiny, no 10 foot fences in the heart of our biggest city … We do have the latest on what happened last night on AMERICAN Idol, however.

  14. I know I keep saying it, but the comparisons between this government and Duplessis' keep getting stronger and stronger.

  15. Can I add number 7? If an opposition in disarray is busy crying WOLF! at every little thing that isn't even a thing, or is a thing but not enough of a thing to overthrow the minority government even when it is overthrow-able, then they will have an increasingly difficult time getting the citizenry to care when the wolf actually appears.

    • Which gets me wondering if anyone can think of an example of an exemplary official opposition in Canadian history? It's not something that tends to be celebrated (history tending to focus on those who hold power), but it would be an interesting line to follow. Who fulfilled their duties the best?

      • Good question. Anyone know the history of Sir John A's Pacific Scandal? Was the opposition doing its job, or the news media, or the justice system, or all three? Or none?

        It no doubt says something that I went all the way back to our first Prime Minister to come up with an example.

        • I believe all three were doing their job (well, maybe not justice since, once again, I don't think anyone was charged for anything (I could be wrong)) , which is how he lost the election. It's just that he came right back afterwards.

      • Maybe Trudeau? Although, as a Joe Clark PCer, I don't appreciate the good job he did.

      • Probably not what you intended with your question:

        I (vaguely) remember a (Martin?) budget that started paying attention to trimming the bloat, and Preston Manning came to the microphones positively pleased that this was a responsible budget that incorporated many of the measures that the Reform Party had been advocating.

        It was a refreshing change from whining that "they stole our ideas" (Manning seemed quite happy about it, genuinely pleased that the country would benefit), from opposition for pure opposition's sake, or worse, from opposed-but-we-won't-vote-against.

    • sure myl. though truth be told, i think that i prob would broaden it out a bit, or add, a couple items, though mostly i would want to broaden it out to

      7) cynicism inspiring acts – people are jaded enough, but when oppositions cry wolf over trivial matters, governments make clear they are willing to bury their, and their supporter's, principles at first sign of difficulty or opportunity for gain, and the media's, at times, inability or unwillingness to sort those instances out, people can only be expected to be more alienated.

      that work myl?