The strategic leak of two early drafts of a still unpublished report of the Auditor-General on the federal government's controversial G8 infrastructure plan has left Canadians in a state of unknowing. They are about to discharge their highest duty of citizenship - the election of a new government - in the midst of a collection of unconfirmed but disturbing allegations about public spending.
In the interests of the electorate and the Parliament to which the Auditor-General is accountable, the final report must be released, immediately.
All the federal parties, including the Conservatives, the subjects of the allegations, are in agreement. And the allegations get to the core of the main point of contrast - their managerial competence - that Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been drawing with the other parties. They also hit on an issue, spending during the G8 summit, that the opposition parties had been raising since before the summit had even started.
There is a significant barrier. While the government is still functioning, guided primarily by permanent civil servants, Parliament itself has been dissolved for the election. And so Sheila Fraser, the Auditor-General, says, with considerable justification, that she cannot release the report until Parliament reconvenes.
In almost any other circumstance, that process ought to be respected.
But greater issues and the pressures of time are conspiring against due process. Appropriate spending from the public purse is among the first duties of government, and monitoring it is among the prime duties of Parliament. The allegations, which may not appear in the final report, include suggestions that money was spent on the direction of a resort owner and that the government was not transparent in its spending.
The urgency is great. With the leaders' debates being held tonight and tomorrow night, the air must be cleared. Insinuations about what might or might not be in the Auditor-General's report cannot be allowed to foul the debate.
In an interview with iPolitics, parliamentary scholar Ned Franks said that Peter Milliken, who still holds the office of Speaker of the House of Commons, could be urged, on unanimous agreement of the parties, to release the report if it was provided to him by the Auditor-General.
Now that they already know something, the usual procedures should not get in the way of Canadians' right to know the full story.