Monday, July 06, 2009

If it wasn't Jasmine MacDonnell's binder, whose was it?

The Calgary Grit has posted a portion of the transcript from the court hearings in Halifax last month, where former Conservative staffer Jasmine MacDonnell went to court to unsuccessfully try to block Stephen Maher and the Halifax Chronicle Herald from publishing the contents of the infamous Lisa Raitt tape.

This is the tape, you'll remember, where Raitt, the Natural Resources minister, said that cancer and radiation leaks are the new sexy and questioned the competency of the health minister. It's a position Harper and Raitt doggedly defended in question period before she finally apologized, a day later.

But back to the transcript. You'll remember the first faux pas (that we learned of) of Raitt and her then staffer, MacDonnell, was the binder of isotope related files, some of which were stamped "secret" that was left at CTV's Ottawa studio.

After some "investigation" by the Prime Minister's Office, we were assured this wasn't Raitt's personal binder, and so she shouldn't have to quit, because that makes this different from the Maxine Bernier affair. The binder was left by a staffer, and so MacDonnell, the communications director, was made to walk the plank.

Said Stephen Harper:

"(Raitt) was undertaking ministerial activity in the company of her staff, who were responsible for these documents, certainly for accounting for these documents later . . . and she had a reasonable expectation that that would be done."
Said Raitt herself:
"The procedures in place were clearly not followed. Corrective action has been taken. And I have accepted the resignation of the individual who is responsible for the documents."
Said PMO spokesperson Kory Teneycke:
Teneycke said that ultimately the staffer was individually responsible for the secret documents and would only say the "government is globally responsible" for the system's failure in this case.
So, from their comments it would seem pretty clear the Conservatives were telling us that MacDonnell was reponsible for the binder, she misplaced it, so she offered to resign and it was accepted. Don't blame Raitt, blame the staffer.

So with the binder, and then the tape recorder that MacDonnell left in a press gallery bathroom and then failed to pick-up from Maher for months, Maher and the Chronicle Herald argued there was a pattern of forgetfulness demonstrated by MacDonnell.

It was an assertion, thouugh, that the transcript from the court hearings shows MacDonnell's lawyer was determined to discredit:
AWAD: “My friend also mentioned that, I guess Mr. Maher, in his draft article, has characterized Ms. MacDonnell as careless, the Minister’s judgment may be questionable in that she promoted Ms. MacDonnell. That’s how they want to spin this story my lord. It’s not about medical isotopes. The Chalk River shutdown was in May – the conversation that was recorded inadvertently was in January. This isn’t about last week or the last two weeks medical isotope issue, this is about a private conversation. Not a confidentiality question, a privacy question, and the rights exist, in my submission, in this country. Mr. Grant suggested that the binder that was left at CTV was Ms. MacDonnell’s; there’s no evidence of that before your lordship, that’s never been demonstrated. Similarily that she “lost” her job, my lord the evidence is absolutely that she resigned.”
Why was MacDonnell seemingly not willing to stipulate that it was her binder? That was at the crux of the Conservative spin on this: it wasn't Raitt's binder, it was the staffer, the staffer resigned, so shut up already.

If it wasn't MacDonnell's binder, whose was it? Was it actually Raitt's all along? If that's the case, why did MacDonnell quit? And if she was taking one for the team, why didn't she back it up during the hearing? Indeed, why did her lawyer make a point of essentially calling the entire CPC defence in the binder drama into question?

It's puzzling.

And not.

Also, let's not forget, MacDonnell was willing to make a deal with Maher to stop publication, or at least keep her out of it.

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Jennifer Smith said...

My understanding is that there is a difference between being 'responsible for' a document and that document being 'hers'. It was Raitt's binder because she is the Minister and she is the primary person making use of it. The staffer is only there to fetch and carry, and while she is 'responsible for' such documents while they are in her possession, so too is the Minister.

Whether they were in McDonnell's possession at the time or in Raitt's is the real question, but just looking at the photo you have attached and having seen these folks tailing their masters, I would suspect the former is more likely.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Perhaps Jennifer, but that seems like a mighty fine distinction for her lawyer to be drawing, and spending significant time on during the hearing. For whether it was her personal binder, or she was merely responsible for it, it would seem to make no difference to Maher's thesis: the binder and the tape demonstrate MacDonnell has a habit of leaving sensitive materials laying around.

Unless she's saying she actually wasn't responsible for/the owner of the binder, her lawyer's point seems moot.

ktr said...

Did Raitt mislead the house by implying that the binder was actually McDonnell's? That is a very serious mistake if so. To determine the truth, there should be an inquiry to look into this. Knock knock knock. Justice committee? Hello?

McLea said...

I think all political bloggers should be forced to take July off, because for God's sake, this is the most uninteresting story ever, and it's still getting play.

I'm half praying that a Conservative says something brazenly homophobic just so I don't have to hear about this ever again.

A BCer in Toronto said...

We'll see if we can find you a sexier scandal maclea. Perhaps this Pride parade funding thing? It, at least, has nudity, as well as intra-Conservative conflict. But as ktr, I think the fact that Raitt may have potentially mislead the HoC to be pretty substantive.