The learned minds of the Globe and Mail editorial board are in full tut-tut mode today, wagging a disapproving finger at “all parties” for making a farce of the last round of ethics committee hearings into the Conservative Party’s In and Out scandal, and chastising Liberal committee chair Paul Szabo for issuing 31 summons for witnesses ahead of next week’s hearings.
In issuing an astounding 31 summons for apparently reluctant witnesses - some of them senior Conservative operatives and officials - to appear at hearings that restart next week, Mr. Szabo has made terribly gratuitous use of his powers. And in sanctioning him to do so, the committee's opposition majority has all but ensured that the hearings will take on an even more adversarial tone than before, particularly when partisans are not just asking the questions but also answering them.
But hey, before you get too upset, the Globe does reluctantly admit that maybe, just maybe, a bunch of senior Conservative Party officials refusing to cooperate with a parliamentary committee, forcing the committee to resort to summons, might not be totally the Liberal Party’s fault:
But the Conservatives have to bear some of the blame. The party should have respected the authority of Elections Canada to investigate alleged improprieties during the 2006 election campaign, when the Tories may have inappropriately funnelled national campaign expenses through individual ridings. Instead, they have done everything in their power to undermine the agency's credibility - claiming without evidence that it is on a partisan crusade against them. In so doing, they have invited the opposition to take a stronger interest in the matter than they otherwise would have.
I don’t know, maybe it’s the fact the Globe editorial board endorsed these clowns in the last election, maybe they’re feeling buyer’s remorse. Maybe they’re interpreting fair and balanced to mean taking shots at all sides, whether they make sense or not.
But to attack Szabo for making “terribly gratuitous use of his powers” is ridiculous. He was forced into this action by the Conservatives, and their refusal from Day One to cooperate with either Elections Canada or parliament on investigations into their alleged scheme to circumvent election spending limits and enrich campaign coffers at taxpayer expense.
The Conservatives stonewalled in committee after committee, delaying these hearings for many months. When they came, they mercilessly attacked the integrity of an officer of parliament appointed under their watch, whose name they put forward. And about this next round of hearings, it’s the Conservatives that have refused to have their MPs testify (and MPs can’t be summoned). And I have little doubt they put the word out their officials on the witness list to refuse to voluntarily comply with the requests to testify, forcing Szabo to go the summons route.
This is the party of accountability and transparency that you endorsed, Globe editorial board.
Why are the Conservatives refusing to cooperate with parliament? Why did they force summons? And why won’t their MPs testify? Those are the questions they should be asking, and the actions they should be condemning. Blaming Szabo is like making the fireman share the blame with the arsonist. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers