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Globe Roundtable

Raitt-gate misses the point Add to ...

JOHN MANLEY

Well, no I don't actually think that this is the Bernier case at all. I do think the principle of ministerial responsibility extends to managing the isotope issue. And when we actually parsed the words from that tape, personally I'm not offended by the notion that the Minister saw this as an issue that she could gain some political success on, because that was premised on the fact that she could solve the problem.

And until we have a plan for solving the problem, I think she is responsible and as far as I can tell nothing's happened since January. I'm with Jodi, this is a really serious issue and my concern is not that she was glib about it in the ladies' washroom, my concern is that nobody seems to be doing anything to get us an answer to the main problem. Those are the things for which ministers should resign. Not goof-ups. I mean if we all resigned because some day we had a "oops" moment, well then there'd be nobody in any job in the government.

JOHN GEIGER

And yet we see the Liberal Opposition especially leading the charge in the House calling for resignations. They're focusing very much on these issues which I think we are agreeing are relatively minor. You know, is this evidence of the more cerebral leadership perhaps or the more pointed leadership of the Liberal Party under Mr. Ignatieff? What do you think the strategy is there for the Party?

JOHN MANLEY

Well I think the strategy is to try to raise the issue of the government's competence in general. And that's whether it's the deficit went from nothing at the end of February to fifty billion dollars in May. Or whether it's this particular issue or when you're in Opposition you try to make the maximum amount of noise possible just so that you penetrate the attention of the voters and try to get them to think of the government in a particular way so that when the election finally comes, they say - well, we've had enough. These people are either corrupt or incompetent or whatever.

That's just regrettably the way the game is played. But I think that on another level the job of quite frankly people like this panel is to say there's really some substantive issues here at stake and this is what we need to be trying to get people to focus on.

JOHN GEIGER

Doug, I'm assuming you agree with that point regarding the importance of the underlying issues here?

DOUG McARTHUR

Well, actually I don't. I have a slight disagreement. I think we've diverted this to another issue, it's a related issue but there are some issues going on here that we should talk about. I mean obviously the direct issues of the documents which were left behind, the secret documents, and then the tapes, has become a media-worthy event and has got the attention of Parliament.

And there is a reason for that at least. Let's break it down. I think in the first instance when the secret documents were left behind, I think that this was clearly a major breach. And I'm not sure that this was handled by the Prime Minister as well as it should have been. In that case I think a resignation would have been justified.

I know that it's no longer the case, as you said at one time and certainly I knew this, if you did something of that sort regardless of what it was about, didn't go back to what the issue was about per se but if you left secret documents behind you were expected to be accountable for that.

And in that case the Prime Minister didn't hold her to account and I think that was a mistake. So I think that is an issue and a substantial issue and I think it is worthy of talking about. And I think we should separate it from the underlying issue of the isotopes.

As for the tape well it's just almost a comedy of errors and I do think that in that case the Opposition parties have become a little bit extreme and I think some of the public is seeing this. I Mean it's almost an hilarious set of events with this tape and how it was left behind and she didn't retrieve it when she was told about it. And then these offhand conversations, or these private conversations were recorded on it, for whatever reason I don't know.

So that's going to be the circus of politics that's true. But I think they've got the wrong issue for demanding her resignation. I don't think this one justifies a resignation. But there are substantive issues here, the handling of documents, the accountability of staff. And one thing I would take from this is that staff have to take a lot of responsibility, need to be responsible people.

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