Two letters posted on the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) website were quickly removed after links to them appeared on Twitter on Tuesday.
"Dear NDP: CIDA Does Not Need Your Economic Advice," one of the letters opened, before stating that it is "ironic" that "a party that wishes to impose a $21-billion carbon tax on Canadians … now wants to give advice to developing countries on their economic development."
The other letter railed against Liberal policies. Both posts celebrated Conservative initiatives.
And both were written (originally as submissions to other publications) by Julian Fantino, the Minister for International Co- operation, who oversees CIDA.
It violates policy to use government resources for partisan purposes. Officials speaking on behalf of Mr. Fantino insisted that the posts were made "in error" by bureaucrats casting about for "appropriate Web content" and not at the minister's request.
The officials' tone was, "How could this have happened?" Yet there were two posts, remember. Both were made in mid-December. One was modified somewhat in January. As errors go, this one is not unlike spilling milk, not crying over it, carefully cracking a few eggs on the counter right next to it, coming back after Christmas and making a Béarnaise sauce, then finally applying a damp cloth to the whole mess.
Increasingly there's a My Favourite Year feel to Mr. Fantino's political career, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper shifts him from post to post. The guy gets moved about like a man in the witness-protection program before a big trial. So it takes some suspension of disbelief to see the minister as a man at the mercy of bumbling CIDA staffers, who, according to Andrew Frenette, director-general of CIDA's communications branch, are "all communication professionals who are keenly aware of the comms policy."
They just forgot themselves, we're expected to believe, and posted their boss's correspondence on the CIDA website, perhaps concerned that Canadians, during the holiday season, would find themselves in want of fresh CIDA reading material.
It was a toss-up – either the document lambasting the "tax and spend NDP" or a young Mr. Fantino's letters home from summer camp: "Dear Mum and Dad, I am ticked right off. I am disgusted and like everyone else outraged. Love, Julian."
Liberal MP John McCallum, a former cabinet minister, has now formally requested that the House of Commons committee on government operations study the issue of the politicization of the public service.
I imagine the Conservatives, the same people who brought you "the Harper Government" are all Harper-ears. "What more can be Harper-done?" they cry.
I offer the following suggestions to better maximize once-neutral, but let's call them underutilized, aspects of Canadian life:
1. Streets in the Parliament Hill district should be renamed: Wellington Street should become No Carbon Tax! Street. Metcalfe Street should become Mulcair is Shifty-Eyed Street. Bank Street should also become No Carbon Tax! Street.
Locals would quickly adapt, saying, "Let's meet at the corner of No Carbon Tax! and No Carbon Tax! But avoid Don't-Tax-and-Spend Avenue – there's 'Your Conservative Government at Work' construction going on there."
2. Federal operating subsidies to the National Arts Centre must be made contingent on launching a new orchestral series of Stephen Harper Beatles Covers Pops concerts.
3. MPs' greetings to constituents celebrating 100th birthdays should be replaced by a 400-page omnibus bill that unprotects personal bath water – eliminating red tape for anyone trying to build a dock alongside you while you're reading in the bath.
4. Every time a passport is issued, Stephen Harper will be Photoshopped in, photobombing the Canadian citizen at hand.
5. I think blue casts are a small price to pay for our public health-care system.
6. Following the implementation of new Transport Canada regulations, all pre-flight safety instructions will be delivered in the form of a video starring the great Stephen Harper. Unless the flight is delayed, in which case the Leader of the Opposition will be happy to assist you.
7. Cars on the Harperbahn (formerly the Trans-Canada Highway) bearing a Conservative Party of Canada bumper sticker and blasting Nickelback with the windows down will be allowed to travel at unlimited speeds.
8. Green lights will now be blue lights.
9. The Bank of Canada will continue to issue bills with larger and larger transparent sections. A picture of the Prime Minister must appear on all retail countertops.
10. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will require all doughnuts to be cut into "C" shapes. Really, you just have to take one side off – quit whining.