You know, maybe there’s a reason why PMO wasn’t so keen on ministerial chattiness …


… Or am I the only person left who still remembers the quaint, old-fashioned convention that forbade government officials from commenting on ongoing court cases, lest there be any suggestion of judicial interference?

First, we have Diane Ablonczy – Minister of State for Small Business, and don’t feel bad if you were drawing a blank, because this may be the first non-boilerplate statement she’s made since her promotion to cabinet – musing publicly on Green Shift Inc.’s lawsuit against the Liberal Party:

“I believe that Canadians will think it’s deplorable Mr. Dion is slamming an entrepreneur for simply defending a business brand she has worked hard to develop,” she said in a prepared statement. “Canadians will also find it deplorable that the Liberals have added insult to injury by suggesting that being linked to the Liberal party is somehow doing Green Shift Inc. a favour. Canadians will be troubled that the same Liberal arrogance and sense of entitlement they rejected 2 1/2 years ago still remains in the Liberal party.”

Not that she’s taking sides, of course; that would be highly inappropriate, given the fact that this is an ongoing legal action, and she is – at least technically – a Minister of the Crown.

Then there’s the statement issued earlier this morning by Jason Kenney – also, as it happens, a Minister of the Crown – commenting on the release of Inderjit Singh Reyet, by the BC Court of Appeal, in a ruling directly related to – and stop me if you’ve heard this before – ongoing legal action, in this case a criminal trial:

Statement by the Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P., Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity), Following Mr. Reyat’s Release From Prison

Mr. Reyat, the only person found guilty of involvement in the Air India terrorist attack, faces prosecution on the very serious charge of perjury. Perjury strikes at the core of our legal system and its search for truth.

Mr. Justice Ian Josephson previously characterized him as follows: “I find him to be an unmitigated liar under oath. Even the most sympathetic of listeners could only conclude, as do I, that his evidence was patently and pathetically fabricated in an attempt to minimize his involvement in his crime to an extreme degree, while refusing to reveal relevant information he clearly possesses.”

The bombing of Air India Flight 182 was the single deadliest terrorist attack in Canadian history, and Mr. Reyat was the only person found guilty of involvement.

Today, my thoughts are with the families of Air India victims, who must now reconcile Mr. Reyat’s new-found liberty with the immensity of their own loss.

You know, I get that Jason Kenney has strong feelings about this case, and disagrees with the decision of the court, just like I get how Diane Ablonczy, speaking as a Conservative partisan, is tickled pink by the latest lawsuit to be launched against the Liberals. But you know what? That’s the sort of thing you rant or giggle or go on and on about over dinner with your colleagues, or your staff, friends or family – behind closed doors, in private. What it isn’t is an appropriate subject for an official ministerial press release.

I always wondered why Sandra Buckler had so little faith in the judgement of lesser communications directors. But the fact that in at least these two cases, that seemingly obvious fact appears to have been missed entirely by whoever in your office is supposed to know this stuff makes it a little bit easier to understand.


You know, maybe there’s a reason why PMO wasn’t so keen on ministerial chattiness …

  1. Frankly, I think Buckler was misunderstood. My MP is Pierre Poilievre and here is an idiot who makes for a perfect example of why Harper/Buckler has to constantly police their caucus to make sure everyone keeps their mouth shut.

  2. Ablonczy is especially out of line since she is in the Industry chain of command. Industry is in charge of trademarks. Green Shift’s entire case is based on trademark law.

    Teneycke f**k-up #1.

  3. If the media (not you Kady, the bad media) were more interested in doing its job, wouldn’t they maybe ask why the taxpayer provides Jason Kenney with an additional $55,800 above his MP’s salary to issue press releases like this on the Department of Canadian Heritage’s letterhead and website. Shall all Justice and Public Safety issues involving non-white Canadians now be considered the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism?

  4. Given that the Secretary of State (Small Business and Tourism) portfolio falls under Industry, then that would make for some serious interference from the crown given that guess what other portfolio is also under industry:


  5. The Tory caucus (and front bench) is profoundly hostile to the very idea of constitutional convention. It’s all a wicked plot by the establishment to keep them from . . . what exactly? There’s never been a government so full of petty resentment.

  6. To be fair, Ablonczy’s comments were directed at Dion’s criticism of the lawsuit (he called it deplorable), and their justification for steamrollering her; she did not comment on the lawsuit itself. Last I checked, criticism of the Liberals is still fair game, but I agree that this is toeing the line pretty close.

  7. Ablonczy is criticising Dion’s comments and Liberal arrogance, not commenting on the rights or wrongs of the lawsuit. I guess she forgot that the media don’t like it when Conservatives do that. And what exactly is “she is – at least technically – a Minister of the Crown” supposed to mean ? Surely not some bias showing here ? I thought the media actually liked her.

    As for Jason Kenney, given the time and attention he has devoted to the Indian community in general and the whole Air India affair in particular, I think he would be soundly criticised for not commenting on this. I realise the Lower Mainland is a long way from the Queensway, but sometimes you guys need to get out a bit and you might understand how real Canadians are reacting to some of this stuff.

  8. Actually, I had to check myself to be sure she was a privy counsellor — I don’t think secretaries of state are automatically sworn in — and I’m not sure if she gets to go to full meetings of cabinet. But she *is*, in fact, a minister of the crown — as is Kenney — which means that by my logic (with which you are, of course, welcome to wildly disagree), neither should be commenting publicly on matters that are before the court. There are all sorts of very good reasons why that is the case, but I’m sure you already know most or all of them, so I won’t bore you with a recap.

  9. Kady, Dion is free to suggest that the lawsuit is “without merit”. That is much different from saying it is “deplorable”. This could be interpreted as suggesting that the entire idea of a citizen taking legal recourse to defend herself is disgusting to him.

    I don’t think being before the courts means anybody, including the Conservatives, have to give Dion a free pass on this kind of dangerous statement.

  10. Stephane Dion is not currently a minister of the crown (although he remains a privy counsellor). If he was, your point would be entirely valid. If Diane Ablonczy was not currently a minister of the crown, her comment would be entirely valid. I’m sure you can understand the difference, which has nothing to do with whether the commenter is a Liberal or a Conservative. (That said, I tend to agree that “deplorable” was a bit excessive; you’ll note that he hasn’t repeated it.)

  11. Geez, Green Shift Inc. sure is getting lots of free publicity.

  12. I understand the distinction, but I don’t see why even as a Cabinet Minister she should recuse herself from criticizing the Liberals.

    She did not comment on the lawsuit other than to defend the idea that it is OK to bring lawsuits forward to protect yourself. Surely this is not controversial?

    She is the Minister of State for Small Business…Dion’s Liberals are attacking a Small Business’s right to defend itself in court. She has every right to publically defend a small business being bullied by illegitimate criticism from the Liberals, (without commenting on the case itself), doesn’t she?

  13. In the past, ministers have (generally) given a wide berth to the application of the “this matter is in court so I can’t speak to it” rule. When they haven’t, they’ve (generally) regretted it.

  14. Jason Kenney’s rant is just another example of the Cons. trying to demonize the Canadian Justice System and the Canadian judiciary in particular.

    Not surprising coming from Kenney when his own Prime Minister claimed that Canada had no alternative for trying Omar Khadr – that the US quasi-tribunal system at Guantanamo, which is so against the US Constitution that even the conservative-dominated Supreme Court declared it illegal under habeaus rules – was much more satisfactory to try Khadr then you know, the Canadian justice system, where we still have rule of law and due process here.

  15. “Canadians will also find it deplorable that the Liberals have added insult to injury”

    Well, it sounds like the Honourable Diane Ablonczy has deemed that injury has been done, which is a judgment I thought it would be left up to a court of law to give a judgment but it is nice she made an announcement of Liberal guilt prior to a single day in court…

  16. Calling a specific lawsuit deplorable does not equal saying that it is deplorable to bring forward a lawsuit. I think it is entirely the same as saying that he thinks the suit is without merit (although I agree the latter is more professional than the former, but if the nastiest thing Dion ever says is that a lawsuit against his party is deplorable he’ll never win the nasty competition)

  17. john g: you wrote – “She is the Minister of State for Small Business…Dion’s Liberals are attacking a Small Business’s right to defend itself in court. She has every right to publically defend a small business being bullied by illegitimate criticism from the Liberals, (without commenting on the case itself), doesn’t she?”

    You missed Kady’s point.

    And both you and Ms. Ablonczy are being judgemental here. You with your comment: “being bullied by illegitimate criticism”, Ms. Ablonczy with hers: “I believe that Canadians will think it’s deplorable Mr. Dion is slamming an entrepreneur for simply defending a business brand she has worked hard to develop”.

    By that statement, Ms. Ablonczy appears to have already found the LPC guilty. She is not commenting on a purely hypothetical situation – she is commenting on a case before the courts involving the LPC.

    And since her department is in charge of trademark approvals, what do you think the chances of Ms. Wright’s trademark application succeeding are right now?

    I have a feeling this application is getting singled out and fast tracked through the system.

  18. I was really surprised that Ablonczy chose to do this, it just seems so beneath her. It’s like that time that Jim Prentice came out with an attack ad (that ended up embarrassing him when it was revealed that the Conservatives didn’t pay to use the music in the ad) and he ended up hurting his PM-in-Waiting image because of it… and note that he has stayed away from the nasty partisan efforts since… I think Ablonczy will ultimately be embarrassed for doing this.

  19. Good on Ablonczy, Good to see her stick up for small buisness owners. Somthing that Kady would never understand. Sit in your bubble kady it must be nice.

    But ya, green shift should just roll over b/c kady and the liberas say so. And nope the small Buissness minster should not comment on a poltical party steamrolling a small buiss.

    Is it hard to see from way up there on your pedestal?

  20. What a breath of fresh air these comments are!

    I don’t think I’ve noticed public comments on Maclean’s website before, but I have had the misfortune to read many comments on The Globe and Mail’s site. The latter consist largely of badly written rants, whereas these are generally written in correct, coherent English, and actually discuss the points made by the writer and others who have commented.

  21. “What a breath of fresh air these comments are!”

    yeah lol harper r00000lz!1111

    And, while I have an immense amount of sympathy for Ablonczy’s point of view and think she’s absolutely right about the lawsuit, I also think it showed poor judgement to say so. Just about the worst thing somebody in Ablonczy’s position can do with these things is say what she thinks.

    I realise this probably isn’t the most popular line of thought on a comment thread of the nation’s major political reporting magazine, but it’s true.

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