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Raitt-gate misses the point Add to ...



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The full transcript of the roundtable appears below

JOHN GEIGER

Hello, I'm John Geiger, Editorial Board Editor of the Globe and Mail. I'm sitting in today for the Globe's Editor in Chief, John Stackhouse.

Welcome to the Globe Roundtable, a political panel that often leaves recordings of its off the cuff ruminations in a newsroom just like Lisa Raitt's aide did, the panel does it on a weekly basis. We'll be talking about what has been dubbed rather unfortunately Raitt-gage, the secret documents left by now former aide to the Natural Resources Minister in the CTV newsroom, and a tape that was abandoned in the newsroom of the Chronicle Herald. Both of which have resulted in Opposition howls for Ms. Raitt's head.

Then there's the foul mouthed off-hand remarks by Transport Minister John Baird about Toronto made, of all places, in the media rooms of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention which was being held in Whistler.

We'll also be discuss the government's handling of a damning decision by a federal court judge in the case of exiled Canadian, Abousfian Abdelrazik, Mr. Justice Russell Zinn ordered the government to stop thwarting Mr. Abdelrazik's constitutional right to come home. He concluded that ministers, bureaucrats and Canada security agencies had trampled on Mr. Abdelrazik's constitutional rights, schemed to find ways to deny him a passport, travel documents, and also that CSIS agents were complicit in getting him imprisoned in Sudan in the first place.

The judge ordered Abdelrazik flown home immediately but five days have passed and we still have no response from the government, which is we are told, studying a decision. What is possibly in it for the government to drag out this affair?

To discuss these subjects I am joined today by our Globe Roundtable regulars, Jodi White the former Chief of Staff to Joe Clarke and Kim Campbell and Past President of the Public Policy Forum.

John Manley, Senior Counsel for the law firm of McCarthy Tetrault, Canada's former Minister of Industry, Finance, Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister who also chaired a Cabinet committee on Public Security and Anti-terrorism after 9\11.

Finally, we're joined by Doug McArthur, distinguished Fellow in Public Policy at Simon Fraser University, former Cabinet Minister in Saskatchewan and a Deputy Minister to two Premiers of British Columbia.

Welcome everyone, good morning.

JOHN GEIGER

Jodi I'd like to start with you. You've worked in political officers, what do you make of what's been called Raitt-gate? Is this suggestive of something fundamentally wrong with the current government? Or are those problems involving Ms. Raitt simply innocent errors by a now former aide that have been blown up in both media reports and by the Opposition which seems to want to have Ms. Raitt fired?

JODI WHITE

Well, what I find really disturbing about this whole story is the fact that the real story is the state of Chalk River and the isotope issue. And we're just way off it on all of the other things that we're into. I mean, we have sort of astonishing and that one is by a political staffer which you know you just can't even talk about. It's just so … so many blunders so quickly.

You know, some would say maybe this is exactly why in fact the Prime Minister held such tight control over all of his ministers etc. I mean there were a lot of blunders here, but I do think the real story is Chalk River and what's happened over the last really two years in terms of the firing of the Nuclear Safety Commissioner a couple of years ago. And what the government's doing and we're way off that story now. It is hopelessly dispiriting.

I don't think the Minister should have resigned, I think, she should have apologized though and we still haven't had that. These things do happen and they're awful when they do happen with staffers. But we're at the … you know, June is always a month of total fatigue in Ottawa, they're coming to the finish line to get out and have a summer off.

But there's a story here and the story is Canada's international reputation and our domestic management of our nuclear industry and where we see ourselves in the world in that industry.

JOHN GEIGER

Okay John, you know I certainly take that point that Jodie's made but do you think there are serious issues raised from these cases? I mean I have this memory and perhaps it's just looking at history through rose-coloured glasses, but a memory that there was a time when ministers were accountable even for actions by subordinates that they were unaware of. But that people did resign from government when problems, serious problems, developed in their department.

Do you think that the ministers in question and mainly Ms. Raitt - I'm also referring to Mr. Baird, but Ms. Raitt is really the flashpoint here - should be held to account in the way that Maxime Bernier was in fact?

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