Thursday, April 15, 2010

In the end, it’s really about judgment

The revelations, rumours and innuendo are swirling about so quickly these days in the drama of Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer that I think it’s about at the point where we need to step back, let the investigation proceed and, when all the facts are in, consider the results.

I will make some comments though, now that we apparently know the allegations that led the PMO to accept Guergis’ resignation and remove her from caucus, as broke by CTV and the Toronto Star:

The central allegation Snowdy presented is that Gillani, an accused fraudster, claimed to Snowdy that three offshore companies in Belize – a tax haven – had been "reserved" to hold cash for Guergis and Jaffer. Snowdy said he also told the Tory lawyer that Gillani boasted that he had cellphone pictures of Jaffer and Guergis partying with high-class escorts when cocaine was being snorted.

As was reported last week, the issue here is the possibility of a minister of the crown facing the threat of blackmail. That’s a very serious issue that does need to be investigated in full. That goes above and beyond the moral and comparatively minor potential legal issues of alcohol, drug use and association with dodgy characters to possibly calling the integrity of the government (as an institution, not the governing party) into question. When it received those allegations, the PMO was absolutely right to act swiftly.

Let me say though that, now that we know the source of these allegations: allegedly Gillani, via a private investigator hired by one of his alleged victims posing as a potential business partner, let me say that, while they must be investigated, I find it hard to give these allegations too much merit. Given what we’ve read of Gillani, I wouldn’t be surprised if these were just flamboyant boasts designed to impress a potential business partner with no more basis in reality than Jaffer’s alleged boasts of access to the PMO. I could be proven wrong. We’ll see what the investigation reveals. But the original source doesn’t inspire confidence, and in fairness I think we need to wait for the results of that investigation.

Anyways, the allegations are swirling so thickly like smoke now that we’ll have to wait for it all to settle. What we do know however, and what is abundantly clear, is that at its core this is all about judgment: that of both Helena Guergis and Stephen Harper.

Even if these latest accusations prove to be groundless, at the very least it’s clear that Guergis made some very poor choices about who she has been associating with, as did Jaffer. A person’s character isn’t always readily apparent, and politicians certainly do have all kinds of people trying to develop relationships. And they can't read minds. But for a minister of the crown a degree of discretion is in order, and for a normal person all kinds of alarm bells should have been going off here.

And while Harper moved swiftly when he learned of these latest allegations, the fact is he shouldn’t have put her into cabinet in the first place, and certainly shouldn’t have stuck with her until this bitter end. While these explosive allegations may have been news, there was an encyclopedia of information that should have made it readily apparent for some time that Guergis lacked the competence or the judgment for the job.

He couldn’t have known it would end up like this, but there was enough reason to seriously doubt her judgment. The fact that Harper stuck with her anyways, for what seem like purely political reasons, until he had absolutely no choice but to act, raises serious questions about the judgment of our prime minister and what guides his decision-making in any number of areas of fundamental import to this country

Those are important points that should be made. On a final note though, were I plotting Liberal strategy (perish the thought) I’d step back from this, and spend more energy on the economy and jobs, on health care (I agree no to user fees, but what IS the answer?), on pensions, on more substantive issues.

The media will keep pursuing this story anyway; better to step back and let the investigations proceed unless more information emerges. Polls are a dime a dozen, but one does show this morning that the Guergis affair may be hurting the Conservatives. That’s unsurprising. It’s not going to help the Liberals however, so let’s not worry about it.

People may briefly be willing to consider alternatives. As I’ve long been saying though, the only way they’ll consider the Liberals is if we actually offer one. So let’s build on the work that has been done, from Canada at 150 to the cross-country tours to the roundtables, and take this opportunity to put some ideas out there. That needs to be a long-term, ongoing process.

Frankly, even just BEING SEEN talking about substantive issues at a time like this would be an effective contrast.

Such a focus would be far more productive for the Liberals – and welcome by the Canadian people -- than all the ethics and conflict commissioner referrals, committee hearings and question period bluster in the world.

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8 comments:

Aurelia said...

Dear Jeff:

I have set up offshore corporations in your name, as well as all the other Libloggers, every MP in the House of Commons, and every member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

I did this because while we were both at a Toronto film Festival Party last year, along with hundreds of other guests, I felt a psychic bond and knew that you would want to lend me all of your influence and have your spouse lobby for me, and I in turn would put money in your name.

I have written all of my friends and boasted about how close we are. Those glances across the room, and the time when you shook my hand. (I was #267, just to jog your memory)

Love, your stalker,

Aurelia

P.S. *headdesk*

Michael said...

Let me say though that, now that we know the source of these allegations: allegedly Gillani, via a private investigator hired by one of his alleged victims posing as a potential business partner, let me say that, while they must be investigated, I find it hard to give these allegations too much merit.

On a final note though, were I plotting Liberal strategy (perish the thought) I’d step back from this, and spend more energy on the economy and jobs, on health care.

Yeah, now you guy want to back off, now that we know this PI wanted to give his information to Iggy first.

Try not to hurt yourself when backpeddling, guys. :D

Jeff Jedras said...

Mmm hmm. I'm just saying there's lots of smoke here Aurelia, and probably some fire, but we need the arson investigators to sort it out. I think Guergis and Jaffer made bad choices, and shouldn't be in government, but I don't think we can trust all the details at this point.

Michael, your logic escapes me. Could you explain your point a little more?

On the PI, who reports have indicated is a loyal Conservative, why he'd go to the Liberals first and now the PMO, I don't know. Doesn't seem to make much sense. The reports you reference do indicate he was turned away by the Liberals without disclosing his information. Are you saying they made the wrong decision? I can well imagine the reaction from Conserva-land if the Liberals had come forward with the information. Can't you?

The Liberals acted responsibly by turning him away, sight unseen. The PMO rightly received the information, and took the appropriate action. It will now be properly investigated.

And who, exactly, is backpedaling? For one thing, just like the Liberals have been calling for for months, Guergis is now out as minister.

Second, the matter is now under active investigation by the RCMP.

We've taken the matter about as far as we can. An incompetent minister is out, and serious allegations are getting a full and proper investigation by the proper authorities.

Now it's time to await the results of the investigation, unless more information comes forward raising questions about the activities of still serving members of the government.

So unless you're bizarrely arguing that the Liberals should be trying harder to squeeze some kind of partisan advantage here, your point escapes me.

Bill Mooney said...

Of course Donolo made the right call here. Who in their right mind would go near that powder keg and risk being tainted with a conspiracy brush if it fell apart.

It's obviously a very hot tater if the PM tossed it to the RCMP.

Niles said...

It would have been convenient for the Conservatives if the Liberals had taken the information from the PI and brought it out. Darned convenient.

Likely an automatic wedge distraction right there full of accusations against the Liberals as horrid political animals, just as you say Jeff. Lard knows the rightwing blogs are full of anti-Liberal spew re: Geurgis that sounds...queerly off (to me) until you add in this little bit about the Liberals apparently having been offered the information first.

It's easy, as an outsider looking at the thin line of revelations via the press, to think it was a deliberate and cunning try, but as it turned out, the Liberals didn't take the bait.

I don't know why, but the reported attempt strikes me as similar to Harper's effort to force the other parties into calling an election, which they studiously ignored so he was forced to call one himself despite his own law on the matter.

wilson said...

It seems that the Client of the PI directed the PI to contact Donolo.
Curious, eh.

http://pragmatictory.blogspot.com/2010/04/rosemarys-confusion-and-layton-pi.html

Steve V said...

Well said Jeff, all around.

On this point

"Let me say though that, now that we know the source of these allegations: allegedly Gillani, via a private investigator hired by one of his alleged victims posing as a potential business partner, let me say that, while they must be investigated, I find it hard to give these allegations too much merit. Given what we’ve read of Gillani, I wouldn’t be surprised if these were just flamboyant boasts designed to impress a potential business partner with no more basis in reality than Jaffer’s alleged boasts of access to the PMO. I could be proven wrong. We’ll see what the investigation reveals. But the original source doesn’t inspire confidence,"

I admit being a bit surprised no caution directed to the source. So some guy you are saying is shady is claiming outrageous things, completely in isolation and you run with it? As soon as you heard the accusations in the context of the source, it was a sea of red flags.

lyrical said...

This story sounds like something straight out of one of that Aussie guy's tabloids. Hang on a second; you don't think that....