Do we need more Vikileaks?

In Canada only insiders seem to care enough about politics to be so rude


How very boring that Vikileaks has turned out to be just a sleazy partisan attack from a Liberal staffer. It’s already being absorbed into the system: politics as usual. Rae is sheepish, Toews indignant, Trudeau tap-dances and the NDP are vindicated and can enjoy the show from a comfy distance. Oh well.

As an inside volley, the Twitter-smears were indeed foul play. I found them ugly, but effective. They violated the acceptable codes and norms of Parliament Hill. They used personal details to fight public policy. Adam Carroll, the staffer behind the account, needed to go.

But what if Vikileaks had indeed been the lunchtime project of a random, anonymous Canadian? The divorce affidavits cited in Vikileaks were public documents. Publishing these documents was perfectly legal. Had this been the work of just another faceless face in the crowd, cutting and pasting info from one public source into another, then what would the offense have been? Bad taste?

It’s necessary and good that our MPs have some sense of civility. These people badly need mutually agreed upon norms of what constitutes fair play and what is deemed misconduct.  But among the wider public, such politeness is a curse.

In Canada, land of the disengaged, only insiders seem to care enough about politics to be so rude. In more rough and tumble democracies, like America’s, such rudeness can be depended upon. If there’s dirt about an elected official hidden in plain sight and on the public record, no gentlemanly code of conduct or cabal of ethical journalists can hold it back from blogs and tweets.

I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.  What American politics lack in civility, they make up for in transparency.

Jesse Brown is the host of TVO.org’s Search Engine podcast. He is on Twitter @jessebrown

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Do we need more Vikileaks?

  1. Anonymous gave him 7 days, so we haven’t heard the last of it.

  2. I would say you are a bit too hard on the guy/the Liberals.  Yes vikileaks was muckraking and voters should weigh that, but it was one of the very few times muckracking actually served a broader point. 

    • How many times have heard the left chastising Harper for supposedly believing the end justifies the means? Aren’t you guilty of the same thing here?

  3. I’ve read on several other media sites than Toews divorce info was shopped around to various journos by the opposition some time back, but none were interested.   Kudos to them for keeping the bar raised.  It also explains how the divorce info was so handy for posting.

    • That’s rather exactly what Jesse was getting at though, isn’t it?  We’re so damned deferential to our public representatives that our press is afraid to publish public information about them if they think it might hurt their feelings.

      • I don’t know Thwim – just a guess that when it comes to family matters many folks have found themselves in unpleasant situations – particulary divorces.  Even Warren Kinsella is getting phoo-phooed for dissing the vikileaks30 for posting the divorce info.

        • Except if it was just a divorce, it wouldn’t have caused much of a stir, would it?

          The bit that’s caused a stir is that it’s a divorce brought on by Vic hopping into the sack with the nanny (which for me is neither here nor there) and that he chose to stop paying child support for the kid his other wife was trying to bring up.

          That last bit is especially damning considering the “For the childrens!” cloak he likes to put on.

          • I have no idea about the money details, but it has been my experience that this is the area that gets really messy/muddy in most divorces.

      • I don’t condone it but I think Toews was asking for it.

      • when it comes to family matters many folks have found themselves in unpleasant situations

        Isn’t framing it this way kinda disingenuous?  Toews “found himself in an unpleasant situation”???  It makes it sound as though he tripped on a rug and his penis just accidentally penetrated the babysitter.  Toews CREATED this unpleasant situation, he didn’t just wake up one morning wondering how the babysitter got on top of him.

    • Kudos to them for keeping the bar raised.

      I’m a little torn on this one. I’m a little surprised, frankly, that the self-appointed “Minister of Family Values” can have an affair with his family’s babysitter (20 years his junior), get her pregnant, leave his wife, be delinquent in paying child support, and apparently the entire media establishment felt that this was all best kept quiet.  I’m not entirely convinced that that is an example of the bar being kept high.

      • No kidding. Layton visits brothels, Toews is shagging young women …. maybe if our msm published more details about pols we would elect fewer middle aged perverts to Parliament. 

        • Layton visits brothels, Toews is shagging young women…”

          Of course you know, one of these things is uncontested fact, the other is a murky collection of 25-year-old rumours with no actual evidence whatsoever.

          Funny how we’re all lamenting the lack of civility when someone (re)tells the truth about Toews, but a shameless smear against Layton is considered fair game.

          • Layton was at the brothel – he confirmed he was there in interview with Geddes in fact – he just claimed that he was naked because he was getting a massage at 1 am when cops detained him for a moment while they were there investigating for underage prostitutes. It is crazy world – could happen to any one of us! 

            I am not lamenting the lack of civility, I think it is ridiculous how fawning msm is towards toews and all our other MPs. Toews embarrassed himself with his actions and he deserves all the attention he is receiving at moment. I don’t worry about the feelings of dirty old men.

          • The word you’re looking for is “alleged.” 

            And you’re still parroting murky 25-year-old rumours about a dead man as though they were incontrovertible fact. And you’re lumping Layton in with the odious Toews, whose Jerry Springer private life is public and unchallenged.

            You stay classy, jolyon. 

          • Olivia Chow herself confirms the visit during the last election. 
            But she said if was for a legitimate massage at midnight! So I guess we have to take her word for it, even if she is naive.

      • Wow – LKO – have you any idea how many middle age men fall for a much younger lady?    I know a fellow who did the exact same thing.  He and his wife brought an eighteen year old young gal from Finland to be a nanny for their son.  Within a year she got pregnant, he divorced his wife and married her.  She in turn hired a nanny for her son, but she was in her fifties, lol.   I should add that this young Finnish gal was drop-dead gorgeous.

        • Have you any idea how many middle aged men are the self appointed “Minister of Family Values”? So far as I’m aware.. just one.

          That’s the critical difference.

          • I actually agree with you, lol!

        • So, because adultery is (apparently) pervasive it’s no big deal if the “Minister of Family Values” cheats on his wife?

          It all reminds me of Gingrich. Don’t you suppose that people might have responded differently to Newt’s highhanded lectures on the importance of the sanctity of marriage during the Lewinsky affair if they’d known that he was shagging a congressional aide behind his (second) wife’s back the whole time?

          •  Apparently it’s wrong to talk about it because leo’s friend did it…

        • Just so we’re all on the same page here: “she got pregnant” = “he cheated on his wife, with the employee he hired to care for his other child”, and not just “somehow, she just happened to become pregnant”. (I mean, I’m just assuming it wasn’t one of those immaculate conception things.)

          Further, “fall for a much younger lady” = “violate his marriage bonds with the not-younger woman with whom he already had a family”, not just “I’m an older guy, and I met a younger gal who I liked”.

          Do I have that right? I want to know just how low the ethical standards are in case I ever run for office and gain the authority to make decisions about the moral boundaries of all those common citizens who may or may not be child pornographers.

    • I’d actually read the info about Toews some time in the past – either in MSM news or in comments like this. It was already “out there.”

  4. Still liked #tellVicEverything was more effective though didn’t get nearly as much coverage as Vikileaks. Dealt with the issue in a humorous way and pointed to the problems of Awful Access.

    • I agree; I spent a lot of time reading & laughing over those.

  5. What Adam Carroll did was wrong.  I think some engaged guy off the street doing it would be wrong also, but certainly not illegal and there’d be nothing one could do to stop it, I don’t think.

    But for us Liberals to have been responsible shames and embarrasses me.  (Although I laughed at some ot it, too, at the time.)   There are two things here; 1) we want competent people to step forward as candidates.  I don’t know of that many people who have never done an embarrassing or questionable thing in their entire lives.  I would hate people to think they could run, and would make a good candidate or MP, but they won’t because someone will bring up that time back in University when . . .  2)  There was more than Vic Toews involved in the saga of his divorce.  Do those people deserve to relive the pain and humiliation on such a public stage?  As is usual, personal scandals almost always involve someone else, somehow.

    • for us Liberals to have been responsible shames and embarrasses me

      How exactly were “the Liberals”, writ large, responsible?  Did I miss the story about how Carroll was acting on direct orders from Bob Rae and the caucus?

      • No, not at all.  But, the current political “game” in this country is that of a team sport.  So, just because I wasn’t on the ice at the time, or even in the arena, my team made a bad hit.

        Now, I’ve been working for some time to try to get politics to be the act of running the country, and not a game at all, but I’ve yet to be successful in that endeavour.  I am still working on it, and you can help if you like by filling out a survey.  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/8VPQRHW

    • 1) “We want competent people to step forward as candidates”

      Competent people would shepherd competent legislation through the sausage maker. Toews’ C-30 sausage was so ill-packed he didn’t even have the courtesy to taste it himself. This is far more than “Back in university when…”

      2) “”There was more than Vic Toews involved….”  

      Too bad Vic didn’t appear to think that way at the outset of his ill-faring ways.  Then, the public court records of  divorce would never have been, well, public. 

      So. yes, it’s very unfortunate that other, innocent parties were affected by the twitter account.  And it certainly doesn’t reflect well on the LPC, But, at bottom, relaying the information the twitter account did was not illegal. Nor did it likely offend parliamentary privilege (whereas the Cotler matter most certainly did. Scheer is a coward.). 

      On the other hand, C-30 is a truly offensive piece of ill rendered, poorly considered and, frankly malicious legislation ham-fisted-ly and last-minuted-ly re-branded so as to play upon our worst fears and darkest sympathies.

      • Yes, that’s all very true, but beside the point.

        • How so? if the argument is Vikileaks and such like will keep the competent out of politics, it’s obvious that the incompetent have had no obvious impediment prior. 

          As always, the competent will stand when the circumstances suit. Look at a decent, well-meaning person like, oh, say, Glen Pearson.Indivduals like him will always be convinced to try and make a difference.The second part – collateral damage –  is a more convincing, if emotional appeal. Still, the fact that Toews ‘brought it on himself’, both by his initial actions and then standing as some kind of moral bulwark when he was plainly no such thing, is hardly beside the point.

    • I think your second point is a good one, and one that is generally ignored in situations like this. The line between identifying behaviour which defines a politician’s character and causing  harm to members of his/her family is a tricky one.

      • If they’re a family, the decision of a member to get into politics isn’t one made without the knowledge of the other members.  It’s not like you can come home one day and say, “Oh by the way, dear, you might not know this, but I just got elected.”

    • I agree it was a bad move for someone affiliated with a party. It was only a matter of time until he was identified, and he had to know there would be blowback on the party.

      Was it wrong? In bad taste perhaps, but no more so than Toews slandering half a nation and then crassly renaming the bill to accord with his slanderous comment as if we’d be suckered by the blatent propaganda. (And that’s without even discussing the bill itself.)

      At least Carroll took it down when his point was made. I’ve followed this story pretty closely, but if Toews ever apologized for his outrageous comment, I haven’t heard about it.

    • RE: “…we want competent people to step forward as candidates.  I don’t know of that many people who have never done an embarrassing or questionable thing in their entire lives.  I would hate people to think they could run, and would make a good candidate or MP, but they won’t because someone will bring up that time back in University when…”
      I understand your point, but it seems to me that there would be a lot less grandstanding and self-righteous behaviour if public figures realized that their attitude could come back to haunt them.
      Honest upstanding people who don’t make black & white morality statements have little to fear.
      Someone who stands on principles that are inclusive rather than exclusive and demonstrate a level of understanding of human nature are unlikely to be derailed by this.
      People like Toews on the other hand would and in fact have eh?
      I have to agree with Jesse to some degree. If politicians are going to start acting in the manner they have over the past few years, perhaps the honesty and transparency they have in the US by airing this stuff out so completely, is a requirement to keep them honest to some degree?
      Canadians prefer a cleaner body politick certainly, but realistically, can those values survive the type of politicking embodied by the major parties?
      I doubt it very much.

    • I don’t even think it was wrong.

      He chose to be a public figure. More important, he chose to be a representative of the public. With that should come some inkling that the public may want to know the character of the person representing them.

      If these kind of records were not made for public consumption, why on earth are they public in the first place?

      As to your two points: First if competent people refuse to run because they’re ashamed of what happened in their past, that’s a *good* thing, because such a person should not be representing me.. if only because that’s an obvious route to blackmail. There are plenty of competent people out there, and while we likely all have things in our past were not terribly proud of, if the thought of having it exposed turns a person away from representing us, they probably shouldn’t be representing us in the first place.

      As to your second point, while it’s slightly more concerning, I don’t think it’s convincing. I’ve seen no indications that anybody is attacking the baby-sitter or wife or kids, and I highly doubt the baby-sitter had no inkling of what it is Vic does. This is one of those things were choices do come with consequences, and one of the consequences of sleeping with a public figure while he’s still with his wife is that word of it might get around.

  6. The Toews’ divorce details and allegations are quite juicy. And public domain to boot.
    In the UK they would have been front page news. I don’t agree with some of (illegal) methods used by British papers like “The Sun” or “The Mirror”, but I too was wondering if the Canadian media was still a little too supine and cautious.  

  7. The divorce details are icky but fair play given Toews’ was unwilling to accept that his critics’ have legitimate privacy concerns and instead attacked them personally. He’s a hypocrite for dishing it out and then whining to the Speaker.

    And what could be more relevant to public discourse than the prior conviction for provincial election financing irregularities of someone who is now a senior member of a federal party that has recently been convicted of election financing infractions? How is it offside to remind the public about a lawmaker who has broken election laws previously and now consorts with similar lawbreakers while pretending his opponents are soft on crime?

    Any reporter or news outlet that covered the busty hookers story should explain why they never reported on either Toews’ election spending conviction or his distasteful personal behaviour, which is in stark contrast to his moralizing about family values.

    • Any reporter or news outlet that covered the busty hookers story should explain why they never reported on either Toews’ election spending conviction or his distasteful personal behaviour, which is in stark contrast to his moralizing about family values.

      Just wanted to re-post that part because, DAMNED STRAIGHT.  For all the stories in the media about Jack Layton once getting a massage, suddenly the media feel that the “Minister of Family Values” impregnating the nanny, leaving his wife, and refusing to pay child support is nobody’s business???


  8. We live in the age of TMZ and The Smoking Gun and Gawker, so it’s not news to conservatives when pedantic socialists explain to us things we knew 30 years ago, like divorce records being public, even here in Canada.  

    When the socialist Canadian media colludes en masse to cover up personal scandals like Jack Layton’s whoring (while serving on the police commission and pontificating against lap danses – lap danses! – as “rape cubicles”), and when publications like Maclean’s deliberately sow uncertainty and doubt about grotesque slavery revelations about Ruby Dhalla, both scandals being exceedingly relevant to their careers as MPs, it’s time to question whether the media patting themselves on the back here in Canada for not revealing, or doing damage control over, damaging info about Liberal and NDP politicians is actually a good thing.  All I know is that I miss Frank Magazine, a lot.

    • Start it up again, Terry, you seem to like writing and have loads of time on your hands. 

    • How was the alleged ‘happy ending’ insinuation ever relevant to Layton’s political career?

      How is the (according to court record) impropriety with a babysitter the nation’s ‘bulwark against a nation of pedophiles’ undertook not relevant to his? Or, more importantly, the nation’s business?

  9. Interesting. Reposting already-public information about a cabinet minister = uncivil.

    Preventing some people from marrying whomever they choose: A-Ok.

    Accusing opponents in a policy debate of siding with pedophiles: Just a spirited debate.

    Giving police new powers to act without judicial scrutiny: see pro-pedophiles above.

    Give me a choice between an uncivil Canada and a Conservative Canada, I’l choose incivility any time.

  10. “They violated the acceptable codes and norms of Parliament Hill.”

    Way to fan the puck again. In case you haven’t noticed, the code and norms of acceptable conduct are gone, courtesy of the conservatives.  Contempt of parliament, election funding fraud, an embezzler running the treasury, and a Minister of Public Safety who makes outrageous, slanderous accusations and innuendos in Parliament, and then either denies it or publishes it in a compliant press, depending on whatever serves his aim best. 

    This is the same who man wants to give “authorities” (like himself) the ability and equipment to spy on us without any judical oversight whatsoever, but only under “exceptional circumstances” .  Then he denies that those provisions were in the bill.

    This is same man who changed the name of the bill from “Lawful Access” (an oxymoron if there ever was one) to “Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act”, the day after he slanders the opposition, again, in the House of Common.  The words “children” or “predator” are nowhere to be found in the bill.

    Vikileaks was a beautifully simple and effective campaign that did more to raise awareness of the pernicious Bill C-30 than anything you (the media) or the opposition parties were doing at the time.  In case you didn’t notice, it was also perfectly legal and used public information.

    That it targeted Vic Toews, one of the most disgusting, duplicitous and, I have to say, one of the dumbest politicians to stand tall in the Harper government does not make it patently partisan.  It’s a complete bulls-eye. You people in the media should learn from this.

    Do you think for a moment, that if Adam Carroll were on the Harper team, he would be fired?  Are you not aware the conservatives use every piece of laundry (some of it completely fabricated) they can fling at the opposition at every opportunity they get?  Tell us again about that $75 iPod tax radio campaign ad the conservatives ran for months leading up to the last election.

    Mr. Brown, for someone who has good knowledge of how dangerous access to personal information by the wrong people can be, I’m astonished you sympathize with Toews.  He is getting everything he deserved.  Adam Carroll should be getting an Order-of-Canada. Instead he gets sacked.

    This piece is just a another tacit endorsement of a Harper talking point. 

    How about starting to connect the dots in those isolated Robocalls and how “lawful access” will in no way prevent this kind of abuse in the future?.In fact it kind of gurantees it.

  11. 1. Why should we not know the character of the Minister’s of the Crown?

    2. What other information has the Media held back and is keeping held back?

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