The watchdogs -

The watchdogs


The Globe, Canadian Press, Star, and CBC report from the appearances of the former president of the Nuclear Safety Commission, the former chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission and the former chair of the RCMP public complaints commission at a Liberal forum this morning. From the Globe’s account.

More diplomatic was Peter Tinsley, whose term as chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission, was not renewed last year. The commission made news for probing the Afghan detainee controversy, the same hot-button issue that many observers say forced the Tories to prorogue Parliament this winter.

“The perception has become widespread that something is not quite right in the system,” Mr. Tinsley said. Too often, he said, political “horsetrading” and unelected staffers play key roles in hiring and firing watchdogs that serve at the whim of the government they are appointed to criticize. “The potential for abuse itself does not bode well for good governance,” Mr. Tinsley said.


The watchdogs

  1. "Too often, he said, political “horsetrading” and unelected staffers play key roles in hiring and firing watchdogs that serve at the whim of the government they are appointed to criticize."

    And what does that say about how he, himself was appointed?

  2. I don't know. Enlighten us.

  3. Related: Dimitri Soudas lied to the nation just now on Power and Politics; claimed that the Opposition had lost confidence in Linda Keen.

    They lie, they lie, they lie…

    • Bill C-38 An Act to permit the resumption and continuation of the operation of the National Research Universal Reactor at Chalk River passed as amended (seconded) by Michael Ignatieff

      39th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

      Tuesday, December 11, 2007

      Hon. Gary Lunn:
      Mr. Chair, it is in fact the contrary. In all of our conversations with AECL, it has expressed nothing but trying to work in a cooperative approach. Everyone has been focused on solutions.

      I will state for the record that it is exactly the opposite to what the member is suggesting.

      If I may while I have the floor, I would seek unanimous consent to propose an amendment moved by myself, seconded by the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, on which I believe the other parties have had consultations. This would provide greater certainty. I move:

      For greater certainty, nothing in this act derogates from the authority of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in respect of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, except for the specific licence conditions mentioned in subclause 1(1).
      next intervention previous intervention

      The Chair:
      The committee of the whole has heard the request of the hon. Minister of Natural Resources for unanimous consent to move this amendment and to seek consent for it. Is there unanimous consent?

      Some hon. members: Agreed.

      The Chair: I declare the amendment carried.

      (Amendment agreed to)

      The Chair: Shall clause 1, as amended, carry?

      Some hon. members: Agreed.

      Some hon. members: On division.

      The Chair: I declare clause 1 carried.

      (Clause 1, as amended, agreed to)

      The Chair: Shall the preamble carry?

      Some hon. members: Agreed.

      Some hon. members: On division.

      The Chair: I declare the preamble carried.

      [Note: In attendance Linda Keen after giving testimony]

  4. Something I haven't seen re-reported today so just to remind folks: Linda Keen was fired at 11:00pm the night before she was to testify at a Parliamentary committee on the nuclear reactors. No longer an employee, she was not able to testify.

    Parliament did not "lose confidence" in her for doing her job: it overruled her and said medical isotope production was, on balance, more important than a strict following of back up emergency power safety procedures. Keen had no mandate to do anything but follow the safety protocols of the engineers who designed the plant.

    • They didn't even really "overrule" her.

      Keen's position was that as the country's nuclear safety watchdog she didn't have the authority to come to the conclusion that the continued production of medical isotopes was a higher priority than certain reactor safety regulations and that on balance the one should trump the other. She even said, publicly, on many occasions, that if Parliament wanted to make such a judgment they should do so, but that it was beyond her mandate/power to do so on her own.

      To my mind, Parliament didn't so much "overrule" Keen as it "did what she told them they had to do".

  5. Also not mentioned is the case of Robert Marleau, outgoing Information Commissioner.

    Like the others, he held an important accountability oversight position. He reported a number of times about how the Conservatives were setting records in the number of breaches of the Access to Information Act they had and how slow they responded to legal access requests and how much political materials they unnecessarily redacted.

    Not surprisingly, he too was pushed out of his job.

    See a pattern?

  6. Cronies of party not in power upset that cronies of party in power took their jobs! Film at 11!

    Less flippantly, the fact of appearing at a partisan Liberal event to make these allegations pretty much puts the lie to any pretense of professional neutrality or objectivity, and just emphasizes the foolish, sour-grapes nature of the allegations. Guess what, guys: if you had become inconvenient to a future Liberal government, you'd also manage to find yourself mysteriously unemployed, no matter how hard you might grovel today.

    • So Bernard Lord, who is scheduled to speak later this week, is now a Liberal shll?

  7. Also not much mentioned today was the ongoing war between the Conservatives and their own appointed independent Budget Chief who has questione every single financial statement put out by the government as being mostly hooey, to use a somewhat less than technical term for it.

    Result: ongoing fights, failure to deliver information he needs to do his job, and ultimately cutting his budget almost in half.

    See a pattern?

    • Just because the position was created by the Tories, and the officer was appointed by the Tories, doesn't mean he's not a Liberal hack (see: Rights and Democracy).

  8. Is there not something odd about an unelected commissioner selected by the PM complaining about the role of unelected staffers hired by the PM? And how does adding another commissioner solve the problem?

  9. on the off-chance that your response wasn't sarcastic, I'm implying that if what he said is true, then ministerial and political staffers likely logrolled to put him in office, too.

    Which isn't surprising, just a rather odd admission.

    • Still, as bad as they both are, I'm slightly more concerned about governments inappropriately firing the watchdogs who are supposed to be critically evaluating the government's work, then I am about the government inappropriately hiring them.

      Hiring someone because you think they're not going to do a thorough job as a watchdog is, imho, not quite as bad as firing someone because they ARE doing a thorough job as a watchdog.

  10. When is the government organized symposium? Or did that get prorogued?

  11. Oh come on, are they expected to maintain political neutrality after losing their jobs for the reasons that they did? Would you not like a chance to air your grievances and concerns if you lost your job for the sole reason that you were doing your job – even if said job didn't involve something as important as nuclear safety, complaints against RCMP actions, etc.? We should all be glad they took the time to attend/videoconference.

  12. "unelected staffers play key roles in hiring and firing watchdogs"

    Tony Blair was criticized for relying on informal 'sofa cabinet' – Blair and a mixture of advisers, experts and consultants would sit around PM's office and make decisions without consulting cabinet or other MPs.

    Does Harper using a similar system? What is Tinsley referring to?

    And it has been a decent week for conservatives – bureaucrats being held to account for once and then whinging in public about the unfairness of it all, announcement that we will stop funding UNRWA, that government is appointing proper conservatives to quangos and rumours that Cons are going to get a bit serious about getting budget under control.

    It is normally thin cruel for cons in Canada but the past 10 days or so has been a breath of fresh air.

    • Whining like Wenger, now losing like him, eh? 5 years & counting, Gooner…

  13. "Guess what, guys: if you had become inconvenient to a future Liberal government, you'd also manage to find yourself mysteriously unemployed…"

    Can you back that up or is it just your *partisan* accusation?

    BTW, "partisan" isn't a be-all-end-all excuse for dismissing opinions you don't like. Same with "unelected".

  14. In Dimitri's defense, he has a rare medical condition and the rise in his blood pressure that would have resulted from an honest admission very well might have caused his head to explode.

  15. Good lord jolyon – put down the kool-aid before it's too late. You're too smart to cough up a post of conbot talking points like this.

  16. I'm not sure such a condition is all that rare… might even be contagious….

  17. Hon. Gary Lunn (Minister of Natural Resources, CPC)
    moved that Bill C-38, as amended, be concurred in at the report stage.

    The Deputy Speaker:
    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    Some hon. members: On division.

    The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried. When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave now?

    Hon. Gary Lunn
    moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

    The Deputy Speaker:
    Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    Some hon. members: On division.

    The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion carried.

  18. Hmmm…. Ignatieff wasn't the Leader of the party at that time, so the statement that "the Opposition had lost confidence in Linda Keen" seems a bit of a stretch to me. The bills name suggests that it is about ordering the continuing operation of the reactor and doesn't specifically say that there is no confidence in Linda Keen, merely that the government is choosing to override her advice.

    I don't know what 'the specific conditions" are.

  19. semantics and technicalities.

    de facto vote of non confidence – go read hansard, I gave the date, evening (emergency ) session

  20. Are we playing Jarrid's game again? The one where you take two totally unrelated things to show that the one proves the other?

    In this case they are at least somewhat related, but I see no direct correlation between operating the reactor and lost confidence in Linda Keen.

  21. Political appointees loose their jobs when it's politically expedient. It's the way it has always been and the way it will allays be.

    These "watchdogs" are not impartial. They are partisan political actors and are treated as such.

    How is this news?

    • Ahhh, the "Liberals used to do it too" defense.


  22. Well, you thankfully have no direct understanding how regulation works and the authority vested in a quasi judicial agency by parliament.

    • No, thankfully, you are probably right. I still don't see how voting to keep the reactor going is akin to losing confidence in Linda Keen. As someone else said, the issue of providing the isotopes trumped some redundant safety features and speaks nothing to Ms. Keen doing the job she was supposed to do, which was shutting down a reactor in the face of a lack of redundant safety features.

      Only now, of course, we understand it was more serious than that. But it perhaps take some time to really get a firm grasp of how much "they lie, they lie, they lie.'

  23. I argue semantics and technicalities with my teenager all the time. I have seen lawyers and Conservatives spin and split hairs. I have seen Conservatives apoplectically blame everyone else and try to make words mean what they want them to mean.

  24. have you read hansard yet? When you do, come back with an informed opinion. It does get tiresome debating things on here where people's opinio9ns are substituted for readily available facts.

    In the interim, here's a slide show with some nice pictures. Slide 3:

    Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC): Canada's nuclear regulator

    A federal quasi-judicial agency which reports to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources

    Regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials
    to protect the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment;
    to respect Canada's international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy; and
    to disseminate objective information on the CNSC.

    • It's your evidence. You find it.

  25. Thank you for wasting your own time.

  26. Actually, when I intervened, my side won. So, you're welcome.

  27. Go back to your Sims game.

  28. de facto vote of non confidence<?i>

    Do you know what de jure means?

  29. Need I?

  30. Oh, I get it. You're trying to justify this statement: "They lie, they lie, they lie… "

    But, you qualified it with "the Opposition had lost confidence in Linda Keen. "

    I think I'd side with the plaintiff in any libel trial. You didn't say "voted non confidence"

  31. Oh, give it up!

    • What would you be saying about the Liberal appointee if she said, 'OK, start 'er up, what could possibly go wrong' and then it had to be shut down due to some deficiency in the safety systems. The con trolls would be screaming bloody murder about Liberal appointees exceeding their mandate (hello, Rights & Democracy).

      In fact the universe unfolded as it should. Despite our supreme Nuclear expert's (M.A. – Econ, Calgary) saying there was no danger, she was correct that it was not his call to make, as only an Act of Parliament would be sufficient to restart the reactor, a it fell outside CNSC mandate. Parliament heard from her and various other persons with expertise in the technology and the regulations, heard recommendations and took a vote.

      Harper had her fired because she made him look like the puffed up martinet that he is. If he was in charge of a business with that approach it would have been run into the ground very quickly. His management style is more suited to something like the Sopranos.

  32. Do yourself a favour and read hansard. Who cares what "someone else said". Get it direct.

    Yes, it was an emergency meeting due to the isotope issue, but they voted to reopen it based upon safety evidence from experts. Safety was Keen's responsibility. Testimony contradicted hers. Her's was faulty. She was overruled. End of story.

  33. And the reactor was shut down for…

  34. Go argue with your kids. I'm not interested in promoting ignorance.

    • When you've perfected it, that would be kinda redundant.

      • Partisan fool.

        • There is nothing in hansard that speaks to non-confidence although they certainly heard that immediate threat from turning on the reactor was negligible… they also had evidence about the medical need for the isotopes. I have a hard time viewing this as a non-confidence issue given that it is essentially what Keen asked for.

          Since your getting testy and impatient, I will simply.

          Employer. Go unlock the front door.
          Employee. I cannot, when you hired me you only gave me a key for the backdoor.
          Employer. I SAID unlock the front door, use your key.
          Employee. OK, (comes back) Sorry sir it did not work, I think you have to do it.
          Employer. (Goes down and unlocks door, writes memo to give key to Employee for next time around) Your fired
          Employee. I did nothing wrong.
          Employer. I know but you made me look bad.

          • Whatever. You've alrready put yourself in the corner with your earlier cheap shot at Soudas. An apology or admission that he may have a point would seem too much to ask.

          • Wow, I didn't realize this was all about Dimetre and the exploding head thing. Just to be clear, in my own petty way I am looking out for that other Smith (Gordon) who was earlier smeared by Soudas and never received a proper public apology. (Sure there was an apology to some visiting Russian but why not Gordon?)

            So in defense of Smiths everywhere, I will continue to take cheap shots at Dimetri every chance I get until he relents and apologies.

          • You stay classy, Stuart.

  35. What about the Ethics Commissioner Dr. Shapiro?

  36. Does our Conservative government understand the concept of speaking truth to power?

    No, they don't. This is one reason they are so very dangerous. They see everyone outside the chosen circle as agents looking to sabotage their vision rather than deal with ugly truths about their mismanagement of Canada's affairs.

    This is a bad way to run any organization or country. You want the underlings to have balls to speak the unvarnished truth to the leadership. The unspoken agreement is you cover the leaderships back by telling the truth no matter how bad or good it is and let the higher-ups decide what to do next. Every time you fire a Linda Keen or try to discredit a Richard Colvin the other underlings are more likely to tell you what you want to hear, even if it is not factual and more likely a fantasy. Then you get a leadership who bases decisions on that.

    It doesn't work. Bad decisions are made and people get hurt. They also get angry and look for payback. That is where the Conservative are right now and it looks good on them.

  37. For all you deeply stubborn partisans who refuse to remove your blinkers, the closing comments of Bill Blaikie, NDP, sitting as Deputy Speaker when Linda Keen was overruled by Parliament:

    The Deputy Speaker:
    I might just say in passing from the Chair to the House that tonight was an awful lot like what I think a lot of Canadians think Parliament should be like every day.

    It was more like the Parliament I thought I ran for 28 years ago, but it is too late for me.

    I hope that tonight might be an example for all of us as to what Parliament can be when it is at its best: disagreement, but civility and everybody listening to each other. It was wonderful.

    It being 11:35, pursuant to order made earlier this day this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

    (The House adjourned at 11:35 p.m.)

  38. Let me get this straight. Conservatives cannot replace any LIberal appointees even when their term is up because this might look like they are being partisan. So when (if) the Liberals ever were to return to power does this mean that they will promise not to replace any Conservative appointees?

    If you believe this, I have a nice slightly used bridge over the Rideau canal to sell you….