Over last weekend at an Edmonton conference of the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Prime-Minister's Office earned the dubious distinction of being named the "Most Secretive Department" in Canadian Government.
The President of the journalists association, Mary Agnes Welsh, says the choice was easy because of Prime Minister Harper's "white-knuckled death grip on public information." The obvious PMO mantra to avoid transparency and scrutiny, I suspect, is a lesson learned from the insecurity of the opposition benches far too long; and a resulting lack of experience in governing. If with due respect I may quote the American humourist, Mark Twain. He described fear and control of this nature with these words: "To a man who has a hammer; every problem looks like a nail."
The Prime Minister may be right. Although public accountability is its victim. There is ongoing, perhaps mounting evidence that when the glow of the media and opposition spotlight is shown on some: their reflection is substantially more translucent than transparent. How else to explain the cast-offs of Cabinet's high profile jobs: Rona Ambrose, Gordon O'Connor and now Maxime Bernier. Neither the flame-outs of Ms Ambrose at Environment nor Mr. O'Connor's at National Defence are as spectacular as Maxime's "high-jump" yesterday. Still they call into evidence the failure of this policy of "white-knuckled death grip on public information".
Mount the barricades, make light of the revelations, tell people private activities are none of their business, hammer the opposition and the media at will...and, in the end "eat crow" when the accused "walks the plank" anyway! I don't know if, as some have suggested, this calls into question Mr. Harper's "judgement". I do know that the Conservatives' high-handed, unpleasant, nasty public defence of Mr. Bernier's activities over the last few weeks in the House of Commons and elsewhere is now a bitter embarrassment to the party and to Mr. Harper's Government.
After all, in public life perhaps it is better to practice Pete Seeger's words of Peace and Love in the 60's ditty: "If I Had A Hammer", rather than Mark Twain's astute observation about a man who has a hammer.