Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Top Harper Aide refuses to testify before parliamentary committee.

Surely the public will wake up one day and realize that this government has absolutely no respect for the parliament and will do everything it can to frustrate its activity when it fears that some political harm might come of it. However one might think that the public would not be all that pleased with attempts to avoid accountability. Even with a weak opposition leader such as Ignatieff eventually people may come around to the view that this government just has to go if we are ever to have accountability and not constant attempts to dodge it. This is from ctv.

Top Harper aide refuses to testify before committee

Canada AM: Robert Fife in Ottawa
The Tories are launching another showdown with the opposition over the powers of parliament, saying only cabinet ministers and not their political staff can appear as witnesses before committees.

Date: Tue. May. 25 2010 11:21 AM ET
One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's top aides is refusing to appear before a Commons committee for a scheduled appearance today.

Harper's director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, has been called to appear before an all-party committee as they investigate allegations of political interference in the release of documents under the Access to Information Act.

But speaking to CTV's Question Period Sunday, Soudas said cabinet ministers, not staffers, will only go before committees, announcing a new "government-wide" policy.

"Ministers are the ones who are accountable and answer to Parliament," Soudas said.

Government House Leader Jay Hill told the House of Commons that the committee system doesn't play fair when questioning staffers.

A number of other government staffers are now not expected to testify later this week.

The matter is expected to set off a row with the opposition, who just won a hard fought victory over the release of documents relating to the Afghan detainee issue.

"The Harper government doesn't hesitate to blame political staff when they're caught carrying out the Conservative culture of deceit," Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale said in a statement Tuesday. "Now that Parliament wants to hear from those staffers, they're trying to cover it up. Does the Prime Minster need to be reminded again that it is Parliament, not him, who decides the rules?"

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe has called the government's move "just unacceptable."

Tuesday's committee has been looking into whether Sebastien Togneri, as an aide to then-Public Works Minister Christian Paradis, pushed bureaucrats to "unrelease" a 137-page report on the government's real estate portfolio that had been approved for release to The Canadian Press.

The document was later released with 107 pages blacked out.

Togneri has appeared before the committee twice, including with his lawyer at his side.

Last Thursday, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley surprised committee members Thursday when she appeared instead of her communications director, Ryan Sparrow. Sparrow was to address a report that he had blocked an information request by the Globe and Mail.

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