The amnesiac, the control freak, and the 'woman scorned'

Must-reads: Christie Blatchford on the National Day of Action; Lawrence Martin on Maxime Bernier; Greg Weston on the Olympic boycott fizzle.

Left behind
Maxime Bernier, Julie Couillard and Stephen Harper sift through the post-apocalyptic rubble.

The National Post‘s Terence Corcoran doesn’t think much of Julie Couillard, her “glamour-puss makeup,” her TVA interview with its “preposterous dialogue only a soap opera writer could create,” and her insistence that she’s not a security threat despite calling her lawyer, and then the media, instead of Bernier himself when she discovered the documents. He also doesn’t think much of Bernier’s taste in women. And he doesn’t think hardly anything of Stephen Harper’s decision to pull Bernier out of Industry, where he was “continuing a telecom revolution,” and ship him “to outer Afghanistan, a country he possibly couldn’t locate on a map prior to running for office,” and where he had no independence to put his considerable talents to good use.

Indeed, The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin notes, the leave-behind affair exposes a paradoxical and crippling weakness in Harper’s management style: he won’t suffer insubordination, but he’s quite “prepared to suffer fools.” This problem goes back to the Reform days, Martin notes, as chronicled by Preston Manning in his book. (We can’t recommend poking around Manning’s website highly enough, incidentally, starting with this.) If anything’s going to convince the Prime Minister to dial back the self-defeating micromanagement, Martin says the Bernier fiasco might be it. Making it happen will be Guy Giorno’s job one.

There’s an amazing variance of opinion over Bernier’s performance at Industry, we must say. The Toronto Star‘s James Travers cites his “gadfly performance” at the portfolio—which might be a veiled reference to the whole Pierre Karl Péladeau birthday phone call, or might mean nothing at all—and implies Bernier was no more qualified for it than he was for Foreign Affairs. But “Harper is his own all-purpose minister,” after all, and he wanted a Quebecker in the job, “and while a few manageable diplomatic gaffes were to be expected, who could have predicted biker gangs, bedroom bugs and forgotten briefing books?” It’s all evidence of a government with an unprecedented addiction to power, he concludes, and the “public interest” be damned.

“At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old busybody”—nice line—the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin says the “five-week gap between Bernier’s bizarre document dropoff at Julie Couillard’s home and her subsequent surrender of the NATO briefing book to unknown officials last Sunday is where the truth in this story seems to check out—and fails to check back in.” The Privy Council Office is not in the habit of letting sensitive documents languish, forgotten, on coffee tables for weeks on end, various MPs assure him, which makes the government’s assurances that no security breach occurred less than convincing. It also gives rise to theory—which Martin admits is far-fetched—that Bernier was somehow “set up by staff, bureaucrats or his own department officials.”

It all comes back to that low-cut dress and the fury of “a woman scorned,” the Globe‘s Margaret Wente assures us. Not to say that Bernier should “have been trusted with anything more secret than a tourist map of Bucharest,” but surely, she argues, Couillard’s two-wheeled acquaintances would have been “puzzled” by his briefing notes had she forwarded them on. And the media and opposition wouldn’t be baying for blood, she believes, if Couillard had been a, er, less statuesque woman. Either way, Wente concludes, “she end[ed] the guy’s career, she made his boss look like an idiot, … and she reminded us how embarrassingly shallow Mr. Harper’s Quebec talent pool really is. Not a bad day’s work.”

Duly noted
The Star‘s Haroon Siddiqui summarizes the portions of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission report dealing with accommodations for religious symbols and practices, but doesn’t seem to have much of an opinion about any of them. Which is a little odd.

The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford reports from the Toronto courtroom where seven native leaders were “formally” sprung from prison (some had already been released) and had their “enormous court-imposed fines” for contempt of court put on hold. The appeal court judges’ reasoning hasn’t yet been released, but she says “if the trio’s comments and questions of the lawyers are any indication, they were troubled by the severity of the sentences, and perhaps by more.” The “applause and incredulous shouts of joy” that greeted the decision highlighted the extreme rarity court rulings in favour of first nations groups, Blatchford argues. And government lawyers “appeal every loss, fight on every technicality, argue for the harshest punishments, stall and obfuscate”—a policy that “utterly belies” official talk of “reconciliation.”

The Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson tries to make sense of a precipitous drop in Quebec Liberal donations in 2007, as revealed this week by a report of the Chief Electoral Officer. Theories include habitual contributors “sit[ting] on their chequebooks … to show their dissatisfaction with Premier Jean Charest’s leadership,” and anglophones protesting Charest’s decision to drop two of their own from his Cabinet.

Two months ago, Sun Media’s Greg Weston recalls, “pollster Darrell Bricker predicted … any ‘shocking’ images of Chinese brutality, or the growth of pro-Tibet movements in other countries could quickly inflame Canadian support for [an Olympic] boycott.” There’s been plenty of such images in the meantime, Weston notes, and yet the number of Canadians supporting a boycott has actually plummeted. He suggests we may “have finally accepted the reality that boycotting the Olympics mainly hurts the athletes, while doing little to correct political misbehaviour.”

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