Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Lisa Raitt is twisting in the wind

I do have work to do today, but I did need to take a brief break this afternoon to catch the beginning of question period, where, as you can imagine, Lisa Raitt and the atomic docu-scandal (how’s that for a potential name?) dominated.

Stephen Harper had a previously scheduled engagement in Quebec, but the senior ministers that were in the house left Raitt to fend for herself as she faced a steady barrage of questions from all the opposition parties, until Joe Volpe finally took pity and asked one about all that missing gold at the Royal Canadian Mint (there’s a 24 karat story that’s been overshadowed today).

What struck me was that the other ministers left Raitt to twist in the wind and take every question. Someone is the designated In Charge when Big Daddy is away, but no one stepped-up to take even one question for Raitt and express the government’s confidence in her. Very telling.

As for Raitt, she repeated the same question time and time again, with only minor variations, such as when she outrageously accused the NDP’s Thomas Muclair of sexism. Basically, her lines were its serious, it’s the staffers fault, the staffer resigned, I offered to resign but Harper said no.

She almost seemed a little peeved at times at Harper for now letting her quit. One wonders how much longer they'll let her twist in the wind.

Here’s her first answer, which is pretty representative of all of them:

Lisa Raitt: Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter. Correct procedures were not followed in this case. Corrective action has been taken. I offered to resign if the prime minister felt it necessary, and he did not accept it. The person responsible for handling the documents offered their resignations.
Speaking of Big Daddy, Harper was in Quebec today, and took a few questions from reporters. Here’s what he had to say on Raitt:
Well, as regards Minister Raitt, she has worked diligently on her files. She was with her employee. She had a reasonable expectation that her aide would look after her documents, and that that person would be responsible for the documents and deal with them if they were missing. Obviously this is a serious question. There should be changes because of this, but it's not the fault of the minister's staff. Bernier, the situation was quite different. But I should also say that i believe Maxime have learned a great deal from that incident. He remains a very important part of our team today and I expect that to remain the case in the future.

Well, I think it's a matter of personal action. As I've said, Minister Raitt was working at the time she was undertaking employment activity, ministerial activity in the company of her staff who were responsible for these documents and certainly for accounting for these documents later, and as I say, I think she had a reasonable expectation that that would be done. This is a serious matter and there will have to be changes as I've said, there will have to be an examination of this, and this kind of thing cannot re-occur. That said, in the case of minister Bernier, his actions were much more personal in nature, and that was the difference in the responsibility. That said, as I said earlier, Maxime think has learned a lot from his own experiences. He is a valuable member of our team, and I anticipate him playing a valuable role in our team in the future.

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Saskboy said...

Let's recap:
Leaving Secret documents at girlfriend's = Minister fired
Leaving Secret documents at unscrupulous media station = Minister off the hook.

Jennifer Smith said...

I prefer to call it 'Lisa's Paper Problem', or (if we must) 'Papergate'.

What I find curious is that, despite her youth, the staffer in question was hardly inexperienced. She was also press secretary for Raitt's predecessor, Gary Lunn. So you'd think she'd know how to keep track of a briefing binder if that was, in fact, part of her job. I'd be interested to hear from other ministers or former ministers on that.

lyrical said...

Wait a minute - something doesn't add up here. That binder was left at CTV a week ago. Why didn't CTV call Minister Raitt's office right away to pick it up? They also could have returned it to her. Isn't that a breach of security, to hang onto someone else's confidential documents? If the Minister's office was notified right away, why didn't her staff retrieve that binder ASAP? If they didn't, that could mean these documents weren't that important.

Last Thursday was the day after the announcement of CTV looking bad over the St├ęphane Dion interview. Now it seems they're trying to redeem themselves. Or is there something else going on here? If those documents were left with the media on purpose the orchestrators should be fired.