Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stephen Harper Spins YouTube

In the highly publicized but erroneously delayed YouTube interview, Stephen Harper spun his way out of Parliaments supremacy and into Parliaments banality, suggesting Parliament has no more of an ability to see government documents than do ordinary citizens.

Stephen Harper in his carefully worded response to a question on the Afghan detainee abuse scandal made it appear public servants decide on whether Parliament can see the documents, this is of course not true; Parliament has the constitutional right to view those documents and it's the Conservative government that is denying that right.

In answering a question, "Why is the government not more open about the Afghan detainee issue?" Stephen Harper chose his words carefully so as to falsely suggest the government has been as forthcoming as it can with releasing documents, and all other documents that were not released were a result of decisions made by independent public servants. The Prime Minister conducted this spin by predicating his answer as if he was only speaking about requests through the Access to Information Act and not those requests based on Parliaments constitutional right to view them.

Stephen Harper in premising his response with, "Now you know, through the process, various people have asked for all kinds of background information on this. It's called Access to Information." implied all the requests for documents were only done through the Access to Information Act and no requests were made by Parliament. This implication is of course not true, but the spin allowed Stephen Harper to disregard the constitutional crisis that is brewing as result of the government, not public servants, refusing to allow Parliament to see all the documents in question.

The spin didn't stop there however, it was such a frenzied twirl, irony abounded. The ordinary Canadian who posed the question on the Afghan scandal had ended their query with "Every time a legitimate question is asked, the response is we should "support our troops" and look the other way." So with such a statement one would suspect the Prime Minister wouldn't respond with "support our troops", and a person would usually be right to think that, however this is Stephen Harper and as he made blatantly clear, he supports our troops; stating:

"I think our men and women in uniform and other public servants have been doing a good job in Afghanistan, under extremly difficult conditions. I think they do deserve our support and I certainly think they deserve it before they are accused of anything."
Below is a video of Stephen Harper's full response to the question and just immediately below is text of his more pertinant reply, sans the jingoism. In regards to the text it's important to notice how Harper specifically predicates his response with mention of Access to Information requests thus completely avoiding why his government is denying Parliament's constitutional right to see the documents and why his government is hiding them.
"Now you know, through the process various people have asked for all kinds of background information on this. It's called Access to Information. There's been court cases, there's been Access to Information requests.

Within this government, there are public servants in charge of releasing documents, independent public servants, they release documents based on the law. Most things can be released, some things can't be released. So if they have to do with national security or privacy or there's a number of other things.

These public servants make the decisions independently on what can be released or what cannot be released according to the law. But tens of thousands of pages of documents have been released.

Now there are some who are saying they are hiding something in the unreleased material - there's no particular evidence of that - but I've asked Frank Iacobucci, a former Supreme Court justice to review the work of all these independent public servants and be sure things are not being hidden, and everything that's supposed to be released is released. So I think that's a fair compromise."


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