Wikileaks: the Canadian files - Macleans.ca

Wikileaks: the Canadian files

The shocking truth about John Baird, Harper’s hockey book and those ‘pandas’

by
Wikileaks: the Canadian files

Included in the treasure trove is John Baird’s personal diary, filled mostly with self-help affirmations and drawings of himself | CP; Getty Images; Redux; Illustration by Taylor Shute

So far, WikiLeaks has focused primarily on exposing secrets of the United States. But what if . . .

OTTAWA: The Harper government has been broadsided by the release of thousands of confidential documents, including sensitive diplomatic cables, secret internal emails and the only known reproduction of Peter MacKay’s little black book.

Reaction was swift. “Three stars?” Belinda Stronach asked.

The document dump by WikiLeaks offers a candid glimpse of Canada’s foreign service, whose diplomats work day in and day out to remind the world that Lester Pearson did a bunch of stuff 50 years ago. The cables reveal the lengths to which the current government will go to portray its foreign policy as producing tangible results. An example: those exotic animals we’re getting from China? Tony Clement and Mike Duffy in panda suits.

Furthermore, diplomats across the globe are under direct orders from the Prime Minister to monitor intelligence chatter in search of any reason for him to head overseas—such as progress in the Middle East or, better still, a Tim Hortons’ opening. (In many of the secret cables, Harper is referred to as “Dick”—not because he required a code name, but because people don’t like him.)

Documents revealed that employees of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa tune obsessively to Canadian TV to monitor how Americans are portrayed. WikiLeaks confirms that Canadian diplomats closely monitor American TV as well. They don’t write cables about it or anything. They just think Big Bang Theory is hilarious.

Despite the provocative international content, much of the public’s focus is expected to be on domestic political revelations unearthed by WikiLeaks.

Here we find a treasure trove of information, including Jim Flaherty’s calculations for his 2008 fiscal update—presented on their original cocktail napkin—and John Baird’s personal diary, which took extra time to crack because of the clever locking mechanism just below the Hello Kitty. Historians seeking insight into the minister’s motivations are likely to be disappointed: the diary consists mostly of self-help affirmations and what appear to be Baird’s drawings of himself, without a shirt, defeating Batman.

WikiLeaks even managed to uncover documents that weren’t thought to exist, including a draft of the Prime Minister’s much-talked-about book on hockey. The first 400 pages consist in their entirety of claims that Michael Ignatieff skates “like a girl.”

The documents also offer rare insight into the Conservative government’s strict message-control machine. Consider the text of the holiday greeting card sent out last year by the PM. The greeting originated in the Privy Council Office, where a three-day retreat for a dozen speech writers resulted in the draft message: “Happy Holidays.”

The card then went downstairs to be reviewed by a working group, edited by a press secretary, tweaked by a senior adviser (who added an exclamation mark and a fundraising request) and sent for final sign-off to chief spokesman Dimitri Soudas, who rewrote the whole thing himself. This helps solve the mystery of why the PMO’s holiday card read “Happy Please For the Love of God Someone Offer Me a Job in the Private Sector.”

Other revelations in the WikiLeaks files:

• Vic Toews’ collection of TV Guide covers is missing only the May 3, 1980, shot of Mork and Mindy.

• Harper doesn’t actually care how many stimulus signs have been erected—but having them counted one by one was a great way to keep Pierre Poilievre out of his hair for three months.

• Before the PMO went to work on it, Don Cherry’s endorsement of by-election winner Julian Fantino featured nine incorrectly conjugated verbs and six mentions of Cold-FX.

• A high-level cable sent last December indicated concern in Africa about tyranny and the short-circuiting of democratic process. “But,” it said, “the people here will eventually get over Harper’s decision to prorogue.”

Any partisan advantage for Liberals was undermined by the simultaneous release of internal party documents that reveal low morale, dismal fundraising results and the fact that Michael Ignatieff is a traveller from a distant future where humans have evolved beyond the need for charisma.