Stephen Harper got front page media play with this stunt Tuesday, posing beside a briefcase containing $132,000 and holding-up an empty file folder, demonstrating the lack of value he said the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs got from a consulting contract it let. It was all to underline his commitment to end government-polling contracts going to those infamous ‘Liberal insiders.’
To quote the release still up on the Conservative Web site:
This practice has continued under the Martin government. In February 2005, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs hired a consultant for $132,000 and specified in the contract that “presentations shall be oral with supporting material provided to aid comprehension but not retained by the department.”
It made for nice TV. The only problem with this well-staged photo-op? Turns out it was completely wrong, as the CBC National news outlined quite scathingly in one of their recent Reality Checks.
For starters, it seems this wasn’t even a polling and public opinion contract, but was to look into human resources practices at the department. And as for the lack of paperwork the Conservatives claim was generated? Turns out pages and pages of it was released via access to information back in the Fall. Opps!
Indian Affairs Minister Andy Scott has come out swinging on this. A raft of (already publically available) related documents which debunk the baseless Tory claim (which was reported as fact by the media) have been posted on the Liberal Web site. Andy also gets off a good line in a letter to Harper inviting him to retract these baseless allegations:
“I have taken the liberty to enclose a copy of the material that was released last fall under the Access to Information Act. May I suggest that you put it in your empty file folder.”
As the kids like to say, that’s a wicked burn. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a retraction though Andy. It will be interesting to see if the media does the right thing and gives this thorough debunking the same breathless coverage they gave Harper’s false photo-op. But again, no breath holding advisable on that front.