Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tacit Support?

There is no question that Chantal Hebert is a clever writer. She generally includes just enough balance and logic in her articles so as to provide cover for any bias that might be picked up, unless of course she is referring to Stephane Dion.

While she does get a dig in at Dion in this article, that is not the subject of this post.

What bothers me here is that anyone (outside of the obvious partisan opinion piece writers), would entertain the thought that Elections Canada's reputation is on the line for doing their job.

Her argument may seem reasonable at first glance, but she misses an important step. Hebert leaps to the conclusion that without an absolute win by EC, they lose their credibility.

But if it should turn out that Elections Canada overplayed its hand, the cost to its institutional reputation could be prohibitive.

Their credibility has only ever really been attacked by Harper and his compadres at the National Citizens Coalition, Gerry Nicholls for instance. Here's the thing. EC is only at the stage of investigation. To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't yet been determined yet whether or not to refer this to the Director of Public Prosecutions. It may turn out that the commissioner decides not to do that. Will they have ruined their reputation then?

Hebert thinks so, primarily because they went into the offices in such a public way and used the RCMP.

By calling in the RCMP to assist them in executing a warrant against the governing party, election officials had to know that they were hanging the Conservatives out to dry, creating a perception of guilt that will not be easily dissipated and a sense of wrongdoing that may yet not live up to the facts.

Well, from what I've read they used the RCMP because they do not possess the expertise in their ranks to extract the information they required.

It's also been asserted that EC was only able to gain the cooperation of 14 or so of the 67 candidates whose riding's were used for the scheme. It is alleged that the Party advised the remaining candidates not to cooperate with EC.

Let me ask you. If you were investigating a party who was telling key participants not to cooperate with you, would you depend on the party to provide you with the information you felt you needed to complete said investigation?

The Con's tell us that they have provided all the information that they have been asked for by EC, but of course that has to do with the civil suit which involves making a case for rebates. That, specifically, is not what EC is investigating and it's tough to know what information could have been excluded concerning the real issue here...national over spending.

It will be a while before all the facts come out obviously and that is why I take exception to what Hebert is doing here. She's setting up a narrative and unnecessarily raising the spectre of doubt on one of our institutions that has a stellar reputation around the world.

I think it's dangerous, unfounded and while she'd never say as much, her unjustified narrative just happens to coincide with Harper's view.

28 comments:

Gayle said...

It is a dangerous article.

The Elections Act provides the commissioner with the authority to obtain a warrant. Clearly, it envisions that a political party as well as an individual may be subjected to that warrant, since it is possible to prosecute both under this legislation.

There is no reason to obtain a warrant if you have sufficient evidence to prosecute charges without it.

What Hebert is suggesting is that a warrant should not be obtained unless there is sufficient evidence for a conviction, however if that evidence already existed there would be no reason for a warrant.

What Hebert ignores is that in order to obtain the warrant, the evidence in support of that warrant has to be scrutinized by an independent third party.

I suspect that EC was very careful in accumulating its evidence, given the nature of the entity they are investigating. Unfortunately, as they are in the midst of an investigation they cannot speak publicly to defend themselves from such outrageous allegations - and the cons are taking full advantage of that.

I have had been doing some research into the EA over the past several days. It is quite apparent that there have been significant amendments in order to tighten up the regulations as a result of Adscam. That is what politicians wanted. They should not now complain because they got caught in their own net.

Hebert should have the integrity to say that.

Anonymous said...

The credibility of EC was attacked quite recently by Bob Rae on their interpertation of the act and it was found that EC was wrong. All of the leadership hopefuls benefited from that.

I realize that they are 2 completely different things, but to say only that Harper and NCC are the only ones would be wrong.

Gayle said...

You are missing the point anon.

Every agency makes decisions that are subject to judicial review. Would you argue the police have no credibility because they charged someone with a crime and that person was acquitted?

I certainly do not see Hebert arguing that. It is EC's job to investigate and bring charges when they believe they are warranted. It is the court's job to determine if any charges are, indeed, warranted.

If you ask a policing agency to only lay charges when there is a 100% certainty of conviction, no one will ever be charged with anything ever again.

The Rae example is useful though - as it certainly demonstrates that EC are not biased for the liberals.

rabbit said...

The central question to the article seems to be this: Has EC lost its impartiality?

It's a reasonable question to ask, even when the answer turns out to be no. And it's certainly something journalists should ask even when they don't have the answer.

I don't see where it's a dangerous article. It's more dangerous when journalists don't consider such questions.

Gayle said...

rabbit - I am with you unti here:

"Should the Conservatives take a hit at the ballot box on account of this affair and it then turns out that Elections Canada was not able to make a winning case against them, the episode would leave an indelible black mark on the agency's reputation."

EC are investigating, and they should be able to conduct that investigation within the limits of the law without the suggestion that failing to charge and obtain a conviction means they are biased.

So long as the investigation is based on something - and I have read the affidavit so I know it is - that is all that is legally and morally required.

knb said...

Well said Gayle. I've read the Act and took notice of the ammendments.

I'm not equipped to interpret them so I'm grateful for your ability to do so.

No one seemed to comment on her article today and I found that disturbing.

Creating a false narrative without presenting fact is something I think we've seen too much of.

ottlib said...

knb:

I believe this column by Ms. Hebert is the final proof that she is a Stephen Harper supporter.

She first began showing signs of it during the last election when Stephen Harper started courting the nationalist vote in Quebec.

As an aside, I am not certain how a Franco-Ontarian can become a hard Quebec nationalist but she has managed to do it.

She gushed when Stephen Harper introduced the Quebec Nation motion.

And since then she has had nothing bad to say about Mr. Harper. Mr. Dion volumes, Mr. Harper he is the fair haired boy.

Now we see her blatantly parroting a line from Stephen Harper and the Conservatives so I think we can now definitively determine that her bias is not just against Mr. Dion but it is also firmly for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives.

Of course she is not going to admit as much, which is why I stopped reading her a long time ago. I do not mind people who disagree with me just as long as they have the intellectual honesty to admit their biases so that they can be taken into account when assessing the veracity of their opinions.

Rabbit: I have no problem with Conservatives questioning the impartiality of the EC. Certainly, its motives for the raid on the CPC national office should be scrutinized. However, I would also say the same thing about the announcement of the Income Trust Leak investigation by the RCMP during the last election.

If you believe that the EC's motives should be investigated because you believe their actions are politically motivated then I would assume you would agree that a similar investigation of the RCMP's motives in January 2006 deserves a hard look. After all, that announcement was certainly suspicious.

If not Rabbit, you are just a Conservative hack desperately looking to change the channel on a scandal that is a government killer.

Gayle: Good point. To receive a search warrant you have to convince a judge that there is probable cause of a crime being committed and that the search will turn up something probative. You also need to specific in what you are looking for.

If said judge had any reasonable doubt on either one of those factors he would not issue the warrant. That probable cause would include if he/she believed the request for the warrant was politically motivated.

knb said...

Anon, there is a difference between a challenge and attacking credibility.

Rae and others have challenged...the Act is set up that way.

I don't recall Rae in the media suggesting that EC was bias, or bogus, or lacking in credibility.

Yes, he won his claim but doesn't the whole issue speak to the fact that EC takes on everyone?

knb said...

No rabbit, that is how she is framing it. Look past that.

There is nothing to substantiate that claim, but she is creating a narrative.

It's far too facile, imo, to suggest that it's a question to be asked. There is nothing to rest the question on, aside from right wing lunacy.

Sorry, if you believe she has a point you either don't think deeply enough or you support the position that Harper holds.

knb said...

ottlib, there was a time when I actually admired her writing. Years ago now, because then she shot from the hip and agree or disagree,you had to admire her.

Her premature legacy did not foresee what she would treat us with.

It seems to me in her book, was it French Kiss?, she said that she most admired the Reform Party.

That perhaps should have been our largest clue.

knb said...

BTW, Gayle and ottlib, thanks for letting me know that I wasn't the only one who saw this in the article.

I frankly didn't think I'd get any support on this one.

wilson said...

''Should the Conservatives take a hit at the ballot box on account of this affair and it then turns out that Elections Canada was not able to make a winning case against them, the episode would leave an indelible black mark on the agency's reputation."

Isn't this exactly what Libs are claiming,
re: the RCMP investigation into Income Trusts?

And aren't the media (Travers) and Libs calling for an investigation into the RCMP/IC affair because the event stole the election from the Liberals?

My gawd you people need to get out a little.

RuralSandi said...

Wilson's been all over the blogosphere bashing Liberals as usual and playing the victim card for Conservatives. There's nothing leadership-like by playing the whining victim.

Wilson - the call for an investigation regarding the IT issue is about "political interference" - not what you're trying to claim.

You need to get out more - go to a park, take some reading material and enjoy reading some real facts under a tree.

knb said...

Pssst, wilson. You should get out a bit more.

This post is not about the RCMP and don't get me started on Travers.

Cherniak_WTF said...

Given that Haper has attacked other institutions (how is that nuclear regulator doing?) with disregard for the truth, I don't think EC lightly go there.

We have been hearing for months how the clownservative have had little respect for the election laws, almost lauding their "cleverness" with bending the rules.

Many times, lawful Canadian institutions have asked Conservatives for clarifications, only to be ignored. We can also look at the detainee situation to see how much clownservative outright lie and see no same.

Good for EC to bring along the corrupt RCMP with them.

As for Hebert, she has a deep seated hated of Dion because he's a Federalist and apply put her back in her place...

Dr. Tux said...

My suggestion to bloggers and writers is to study the clever manipulation present in the arguments Chantal Hebert is making. and to invest in creating a counter narrative.

Hebert's narrative is already being taken up by the likes of Jane Tabber and Gloria Galloway.

* Chantal starts out reasonably enough, there are stakes on both sides of the argument. An organization like Elections Canada can't just arbitrarily create spectacles like this one we've seen. There must be just cause.

* She then sets up an impossibly high benchmark for success - which is defined as an airtight, slam-dunk case against the Conservatives.


* She then uses superfluous language to describe consequences for EC if they don't meet these artificial conditions. We see this in quotes like: "elections commissioner William Corbett has now staked his credibility (and Election Canada's according to Chantal) on building an airtight case." And, "[EC's] moral authority is on the line."



I wonder if the moral authority of the courts are on the line as well Chantal, since they authorized the warrant and must have known that this would've caused a spectacle and a sense of wrongdoing without all the proof already in place.

I guess that if EC doesn't make a slam dunk case against the Conservative party, this "episode would leave an indelible black mark on their reputation" too.

Dame said...

As usual I put my compass on the PERSON in this case On Chantal ...
I just got To the point I am Not able to watch her in live talks.. as she is such a pain in live performances.. A Nervous Wreck quivering On front of me .I don't understand why CBC is taking her regularly on panels.. is she the only one who can talk from Quebec?
Her personal hatered and bias Coming through every breath she takes,, it is just not standard for a jurnalist of a national exposure.
She makes me cringe and running away .
yes years ago I read her columns but now she went crazy .

jad said...

"It's also been asserted that EC was only able to gain the cooperation of 14 or so of the 67 candidates whose riding's were used for the scheme. It is alleged that the Party advised the remaining candidates not to cooperate with EC."

It would be nice if you could get your facts reasonably accurate.

Paragraph 82 of the application talks about attempts being made by the investigators to schedule interviews with 18 candidates or agents. It continues :

"16 individuals declined to be interviewed and stated to investigators that they had been advised by counsel to the CPC that they should not speak with EC investigators without involvement of counsel to the CPC. Many potential interviewees cited civil litigation commenced by 2 official agents against the Chief Electoral Officer as a reason for declining to be interviewed."

Now in the world I live in, if the organization I work for is in the processing of suing any other organization, public or private, I would most certainly not be permitted to sit down with lawyers or investigators for the other side and have a little chat about the matters at hand. Obviously this would be in part to protect my organization, but it would also be to protect me as an individual getting caught up in the litigation unawares.

Paragraph 82 continues:

"The Commissioner of Canada Elections (ie the guy behind the so-called raid) is not a party to the litigation."

Now maybe within CE the lines between the Chief Electoral Officer and the Commissioner are very clearly drawn, but to any outside organization, the two guys draw their paychecks from the same bank account. So when one of them happens to be the opposing party in a lawsuit I am fighting, why would I believe that the other, who is trying to investigate me for the same alleged infractions, would be a completely disinterested and unbiased party ?

Any organization in these circumstances would have an obligation to protect its employees, or in this case candidates, and quite frankly any organization that did not do so would not be worth being associated with.

knb said...

cherniak_wtf As for Hebert, she has a deep seated hated of Dion because he's a Federalist and apply put her back in her place...,

What I find remarkable is how obvious she is about it.

knb said...

Good points dr.tux. I saw that Taber and Galloway article.

They seem to be attempting to build sympathy for the poor Con's.

Neither one of them is especially compelling. Galloway was on the press invitee list btw.

Gayle said...

Well Jad - then I would say you have just shown us why the CPC decided to launch their little lawsuit.

Sadly for them, the civil proceedings have nothing to do with the quasi-criminal one. The civil suit does not negate the need for investigators to investigate.

If they are going to hide behind the civil proceeding I guess the only thing left for EC is to get a warrant.

jad said...

Hi Gayle, nice to see you over here working hard for the party as usual.

"the civil proceedings have nothing to do with the quasi-criminal one."

And what quasi-criminal one would that be ? No charges have been filed, so there is actually no criminal proceeding, quasi or otherwise. Along with most Liberals, you appear to be convicting and sentencing the CPC before they have even been charged. Whatever happened to presumption of innocence ?

"If they are going to hide behind the civil proceeding I guess the only thing left for EC is to get a warrant"

I guess it is OK for Bob Rae to hide behind a a civil proceeding, but not for the CPC. Are you seriously trying to say that the CPC has no right to file a civil suit simply because they disagree with the pronouncements by Elections Canada ?

As for the warrant, read Steve Janke's latest post on the Elections Canada Investigators' Manual

Gayle said...

jad - if you bothered educating yourself, you would know that a) an investigation is part of a proceeding, and b) I have posted several times that the CPC is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

But enough about me... let's talk about Bob Rae. Nice little diversion there. If Rae had also been investigated by EC for an offence, and if he refused to answer questions because of his lawsuit, and if EC then decided to get a warrant to obtain the information he refused to disclose, you might have a point. But as it stands, you do not.

In any event, no one is saying they do not have a right to file a lawsuit. I am saying they do not have the right to use that lawsuit to avoid a quasi-criminal investigation.

As for Janke - he is confusing official "documents" with evidence. I cannot post to his site from work so check back there later and see why he is so wrong.

knb said...

jad, people like you fascinate me.

On the one hand, I'm grateful that you want to debate and actually present a point of view.

It doesn't hold water imo, but it's a relief from the "Harper rules!" diatribe.

You went after me because my numbers were wrong. Well that wasn't the thrust of my post so I relied on my faulty memory. As the saying goes, sue me.

You quickly expend energy to prop up the Con talking point...this has everything to do wth the civil case.

No. Plain and simple it doesn't.

Gayle has tried to open your eye's to the fact that we are speaking about 2 different issues. I know it's the spin of the month to keep this issue confused, (well, many months if you look back at committee), but it is not the truth.

Bob Rae is your argument? Good grief.

Of course you are entitled to challenge EC. That is the process.

It's quite another matter to be investigated, as a national party and be instructed to not only speak them, but to the media too.

Go for it. Tell me why Harper is good for this country?

jad said...

"On the one hand, I'm grateful that you want to debate and actually present a point of view.

It doesn't hold water imo, but it's a relief from the "Harper rules!" diatribe"

Well thank you for that. I think some of these blogs would be much more interesting if people would just accept that other people are entitled to hold other points of view and we can all agree to differ. (Pause for a chorus of Kumbaya)

Seriously, comments such as "if you bothered educating yourself" (not yours) simply detract from the view expressed. Even if can't agree, we can at least be polite about it.

As far as Bob Rae is concerned, no-one has yet explained to me why it was OK for him to challenge EC, but not for a "national party". And I repeat, at the risk of being pedantic, people were not told NOT to speak to EC, they were simply told not to speak to EC without benefit of counsel. This does not in any way imply guilt, it is simply a protection for everyone concerned. And since we now live in an age if not of "Soldiers in our streets", at least RCMP with guns in our streets, I think we all need all the protection wwe can get.

As for why Harper is good for this country, well I guess it 's one of those things that if you have to ask, you're obviously not smart enough to handle the answer. Seriously, I'm not an evangelist and it's getting pretty late even out here on the Left Coast, so if you can't sleep tonight just go here.

Pleasant dreams.

Gayle said...

It is odd that someone who says this:

"Seriously, comments such as "if you bothered educating yourself" (not yours) simply detract from the view expressed. Even if can't agree, we can at least be polite about it."

Can also say this:

"As for why Harper is good for this country, well I guess it 's one of those things that if you have to ask, you're obviously not smart enough to handle the answer."

And I really wonder who suggested the CPC cannot challenge EC. I certainly have not done so. I have simply said they cannot use that challenge as a means to avoid an investigation.

jad said...

"It is odd that someone who says this:

"Seriously, comments such as "if you bothered educating yourself" (not yours) simply detract from the view expressed. Even if can't agree, we can at least be polite about it."

Can also say this:

"As for why Harper is good for this country, well I guess it 's one of those things that if you have to ask, you're obviously not smart enough to handle the answer.""

One comment appeared to have been made as a serious response, the other was definitely tongue in cheek, but I guess if you don't have a sense of humour you would not be able to see this.

knb said...

jad, I do have a sense of humour (as I am sure Gayle has), but your comment was a bit Poilievre in it's tone.

I'm quite comfortable with my level of intelligence, so life goes on.

That you ducked the question with both your tongue and cheek, seem's to be a pattern with you guys.

I've asked the question of others and never really get an answer.

My question was serious.

Talk to me about policy and how that speaks to you. How does Canada benefit?

I'm honestly curious and what worries me is that Harper's followers do not have a clue what they are following.