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It is mid-July now, but there are a couple of cabinet ministers who have owed us explanations for months.

Both Bill Blair and Marco Mendicino haven’t adequately answered a question about why they didn’t know something important. Government officials tried to tell them, and somehow, neither was told.

But now the bigger issue is that there are no explanations.

In the early days of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, then-house leader Dominic Leblanc went before the Commons procedure and House affairs committee to talk about improving the atmosphere in Parliament.

“Certainly for my colleagues in the cabinet, it starts with answering the questions,” said Mr. Leblanc, now the Intergovernmental Affairs Minister.

Those were heady days when Mr. Trudeau’s freshly elected Liberals touted openness, doing politics differently and the revolutionary simplicity of just answering questions.

In 2023, few things make the Liberal government seem more stale than ministers’ inability to provide simple explanations.

Mr. Mendicino, the Public Safety Minister, can’t get off the hot seat because he won’t explain why he didn’t know that notorious serial killer Paul Bernardo was being moved to medium-security prison until May 30, after it was a fait accompli.

He has been the subject of repeated news stories about the notifications sent to his office by corrections officials.

Mr. Mendicino, let’s recall, expressed his surprise at the transfer and said he’d issued a directive requiring the Correctional Service of Canada to notify him of such things.

After that, we learned that Mr. Mendicino’s office received a heads-up that Mr. Bernardo might be moved months before it happened. And that Correctional Service Commissioner Anne Kelly told senior officials on May 26 that the minister’s office had been advised.

This week, a spokesperson for the Public Safety Department told a reporter that the deputy minister didn’t tell Mr. Mendicino because Ms. Kelly, “as part of her normal practice” had already told his office.

Yet somehow, we don’t know how all those notifications never made it from the minister’s staff to his ears. We are owed a better explanation than a shrug that someone messed up.

In the traditions of Westminster government, it’s not supposed to matter how staff in Mr. Mendicino’s office messed up, or who did it, because the minister is responsible – and in theory, it is the minister’s head that is on the block. But the notion of ministerial responsibility is starting to look defunct.

Maybe, in its place, we can just expect a simple explanation. Without one, Mr. Mendicino’s credibility has taken a beating, and so has the Liberal government’s.

It’s a recurring habit with ministers that makes Mr. Trudeau’s government look its age.

Mr. Blair, the Emergency Preparedness Minister, has been at the centre at another unexplained tale of a minister kept in the dark. It’s a tale from Mr. Blair’s days as public safety minister, told by former governor-general David Johnston in his report as special rapporteur on foreign interference in May, and batted back in forth in parliamentary hearing. And still, there is a hole in the middle where answers should be.

On Tuesday, he still wasn’t filling in the blanks.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service wrote a warning to Mr. Blair that Beijing intended to target Conservative MP Michael Chong and his relatives in China, but Mr. Blair never received it.

The “issues management note” from CSIS was sent to a secure system to which the minister himself did not have access, and Mr. Blair has insisted that the agency should have briefed him directly. But Mr. Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser, Jody Thomas, told a Commons committee that the minister would have been given a reading package. And CSIS director David Vigneault said the note was sent for the attention of the minister, with the expectation he would get it.

On Tuesday, Mr. Blair’s explanation for why he didn’t get the memo was simply that no one told him it was there. What he didn’t explain is how that happened. Who didn’t bring him a reading package?

“I think it’s been well established that there was a breakdown in the way in which this information was shared,” he said. And that’s true. It’s just that no one has explained precisely how the breakdown happened.

Of course, Mr. Blair and Mr. Mendicino want to put those things behind them. After a while, governments do that reflexively, even when an explanation is due.

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