Rejean Pelletier


BTC: Say goodnight, Boo Boo

(This post will be updated below. Last updated at 2:40am.)

The popular guess among the dozen or so reporters gathered in the foyer had Maxime Bernier as good as gone. Only one member of the press gallery foresaw something less interesting to come. And, to be fair, on most matters of Hill anticipation, he probably would’ve been guessing right.

But here came the Prime Minister, walking a bit slow and looking a bit glum. (Were those tears in his eyes?) A small gaggle of Conservative MPs lurked in the shadows, apparently unaware of what was to come. So too loitered a few opposition members, the House having just voted on some matter or another. And, surely, as the Prime Minister arrived at the mic stand, those reporters nominated to ask questions—two English, two French—prayed their Bernier-centric preparations would prove worthwhile.

And so they did. Bernier had resigned. Something about leaving some top secret documents where they shouldn’t have been left. A very grave error, the Prime Minister said. “A failure to uphold accepted standards on government documents,” he explained, managing to make it seem Mr. Bernier had merely failed to fill out the proper form in registering for some health insurance.

And yet. “This is not to do with the Minister’s private life,” the Prime Minister assured.

And for that matter, “I thank Mr. Bernier for recognizing the mistake himself.”

Indeed. He’s a hero. Of sorts. Though perhaps one a bit slow on the uptake.

As the Prime Minister has it, Mr. Bernier realized his boo boo last evening and admitted it to his boss today. Never mind that Mr. Harper, at approximately one this afternoon, dismissed any talk of a national security threat involving the now-former foreign affairs minister—”I don’t take this subject seriously.”

I might swear I saw Mr. Bernier in the House just moments before Question Period began an hour later. But when the Speaker called for oral questions, he was nowhere to be seen. Indeed, as noted in today’s column, a binder on his desk was quickly delivered by a Parliamentary page to Peter Van Loan. Seems Mr. Bernier has a bit of problem with keeping track of his belongings.

Or maybe that binder didn’t technically belong to him by then.

In any event, the Prime Minister’s off to Europe now. Others will be left in the next few days to explain, well, a lot.

“A lot of questions are still not answered,” Gilles Duceppe astutely observed, the BQ leader the first of the opposition leaders to emerge from the House foyer for comment.

“We have more questions then when we started,” offered Jack Layton, upping the ante a touch.

Canadian Press is now reporting that Mr. Bernier left a classified document at the apartment of one Julie Couillard. If we are to believe the Prime Minister, it matters not that Ms. Couillard was dating the minister at the time he left said documents in her possession. But it will surely now matter that Ms. Couillard was once tied uncomfortably close to reputed members of organized crime.

Indeed, if Mr. Bernier is to apologize to anyone in the coming days, it is surely to the government ministers who, over the last few weeks, loudly proclaimed this to be much ado about nothing. Time and again, the Liberals and Bloc rose and suggested to this government that this messy business might make for a bit of a national security concern. Time and again, they were derided as meddlesome busy-bodies, shamelessly peering into the private life of Mr. Bernier and smearing he and his ex by association. Admittedly, watching from the gallery, it seemed at times to be veering toward the tawdry.

Those on the left side of the House may now bask, if quietly, in some redemption. And Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and our federally recognized sovereigntists will no doubt point out in the days to come that now it is this government who has a responsibility to peer into Mr. Bernier’s private life and determine just how great of an error he has made here.

We’ll save the political obituary for later. Though there are no doubt a few lessons to be taken from Mr. Bernier’s rapid rise and spectacular flop, there is probably one lesson to take away immediately. Namely that every so often, the accusations of scandal and whispers of wrongdoing that are endemic to this place do indeed amount to something. Sometimes there is a there there.


Here, for the sake of closure, is the text of Mr. Bernier’s letter to the Prime Minister. Note that he places the time of his informing the PM of the breach as “late this afternoon”—seemingly after Mr. Harper’s statement at 1pm. Though conspiracy theorists might wonder why Mr. Bernier felt the need to tell the Prime Minister in writing the time at which he told him what he told him.

Prime Minister,