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Police advance toward protesters at Queen's Park during G20 demonstrations in Toronto on June 26, 2010.Roger Hallett

One hesitates to be sweepingly negative. But it's fair to say that nobody came off especially well in Tuesday's release of Andre Marin's G20 report, and its accompanying theatrics.

Actually, that's not quite fair. Andrea Horwath, the provincial NDP Leader, came off just fine. I'm not sure I see the need for a provincial inquiry - there's really not much about the province's role that we don't know by now - but she expressed an entirely reasonable degree of outrage with the government's actions last summer, without going over the top.

In part, though, Horwath probably looked good by way of contrast.

As I explained at more length in this column, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair - who wasn't even really the focus of Marin's investigation - seems to be emerging as the big villain in all this. But that doesn't change the fact that Dalton McGuinty and his cabinet behaved shamefully, abdicating their responsibility and effectively giving police carte blanche to run wild. It speaks to a recklessly hands-off approach to the police file, and no amount of contrition in the wake of the report's release changes that - especially since the Liberals spent months defending their behaviour.

One might expect, in that situation, that both opposition leaders would come out swinging. But this is clearly not a topic Tim Hudak is especially fond of, because it runs up against his law-and-order message, and he waited long enough to respond that most reporters had gone elsewhere by the time he turned up.

No wonder he wasn't looking for a large audience. The Progressive Conservative Leader's message, more or less, was that the province had committed a grave sin by handing the police "secret" powers - but that police had done absolutely nothing wrong in blatantly misrepresenting those powers, and arresting innocent people, because of all the nasty "thugs and hooligans" out there. This position seemed incongruous - you can't be concerned with lax treatment of civil liberties, but not with outright civil liberties abuses - to the point of being laughable.

And then, speaking of laughable, there was the performance by the Ombudsman himself.

Marin's report contains some useful information. Not a ton, really, when it comes to the government's role, because most of it had already been reported. But it's a helpful documentation of everything that went wrong, with a little new information on police conduct thrown in, and it passes judgment on some things that need to be judged.

But it would be a much better report, and easier to take seriously, if Marin wasn't busy establishing himself as the Pat Martin of ombudsmen. His thirst for attention appears to be insatiable, and like the federal NDP MP he delivers a sort of dialed-up outrage via an endless string of sound bytes - his every sentence a Hail-Mary aimed at getting quoted.

This was most pronounced at the end of his press conference, when Marin spontaneously pronounced that the G20 weekend will "live in infamy" as "the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history." But pretty much the whole thing was like that, and so (to a lesser extent) is his report.

I can't really do either justice, but you'll get a sense if you read the thing. Enjoy the subheads. And if you like the line about the government waking a "sleeping giant," you'll be pleased to know that at his presser he also accused it of poking a "hibernating bear."

If you're not familiar with Marin, you might think he just got really worked up over flagrant civil liberties violations. But this is how he responds to pretty much everything, so it becomes impossible to tell when he's actually outraged, and when he's just putting on a show - and the whole thing turns into a circus, in which any hint of nuance goes out the window.

I'm aware that all of the above comes off a little peevish. But how we balance civil liberties with security is a serious issue, meriting serious discussion and debate. And with the arguable exception of the NDP, I have a hard time seeing how any of the key players around Queen's Park have lived up to their responsibilities on that front.

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