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What the Liberal prorogation ad is hoping we forget

I see that my esteemed blogging colleague Bruce Anderson is suggesting that the Liberals hammer away at Stephen Harper's arrogance rather than on the Afghan detainee issue, which he says does not resonate with enough Canadians. It appears however, that Mr. Ignatieff and his advisers have their own ideas: In their ad, the Liberals are accusing Mr. Harper of a cover-up which the narrator says has until now been far more familiar to other countries.

Mr, Ignatieff's chief of staff, Peter Donolo, knows the truth on that point - and all about cover-ups - having been Jean Chrétien's director of communications when the little guy from Shawinigan shut down the Somalia inquiry investigating the torture of Somali civilians, including one who was shot in the back.

Compared to that unprecedented action by the Chrétien government, Mr. Harper's decision to postpone opposition questioning on Afghan detainees that will inevitably come with a new session - while deplorable - looks almost benign.

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Peter Desbarats - one of Canada's leading journalists and journalism educators - was one of the commissioners who had his work guillotined in 1996. Here, from a speech at McGill that he gave shortly thereafter, is part of his reflections on the incident, and on the Chrétien government's communications strategy:

"We achieved the dubious distinction of being the first public inquiry in Canadian history to be terminated by a government - for blatantly political reasons - before its work was completed. I still have a hard time believing that this actually happened, and an even harder time accepting and understanding that Canadians tolerated this violation of our democratic system with hardly a murmur…."

While the government acted without scruples, Desbarats says the media also failed to exercise any ethical responsibility, concentrating instead on the political gamesmanship. In doing so, they completely failed to see the forest.

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