The Commons: ‘This is the most secretive government in the history of our country’

Stéphane Dion should apologize. For he gives this government too much credit.

The Scene. “This,” Stéphane Dion posited with his third opportunity in Question Period, “is the most secretive government in the history of our country.”

Though perhaps unfair to those scoundrels in the Tupper administration, the Liberal leader later elaborated in a scrum with reporters.

“They are secretive, they, they, they have a mentality where they have a list of enemies and they want to deprive you journalists, deprive researchers, deprive MPs of the opposition of the ability to scrutinize what the government is doing. They have a secretive mentality and you see that again today.”

The specific issue this day was the government’s quiet ixnaying last month of an Access to Information database. And though we thank Mr. Dion for so kindly representing the interests of the press gallery (among others), it is, of course, our solemn duty to correct all misstatements of fact. And in this case, the opposition leader has erred. This is not, in fact, the most secretive government in Canadian history.

Quite the contrary. You see, for a government to be considered highly secretive, it must, in most cases, actually keep its malfeasance to itself. And this government most certainly does not.

Indeed, if this government was even half as secretive as Mr. Dion believes, there wouldn’t have been this weekend’s Winnipeg Free Press report detailing new examples of budgetary dodginess by the Conservatives in the last election. There wouldn’t be new details of the previously detailed dodginess on the front page of today’s Le Devoir—a front page one member of the Bloc helpfully held aloft during QP today in case the government members had missed it.

If this government were at all able to hide its silliness, its approach to the safe-injection site in Vancouver wouldn’t have been so soundly flayed in recent days. If the Harper administration enjoyed a mystical hold on the flow of knowledge, its crime policy wouldn’t have been so specifically mocked in the pages of Sunday’s Ottawa Citizen.

So sure, this government may be disingenuous, prone to exaggeration, and likely to mislead. But it hardly makes an effort to conceal as much.

Take, for instance, their response this day to the opposition’s questions about the demise of the aforementioned database. Rising to respond, Vic Toews, president of the treasury board, cited a “leading expert” and quoted said expert as disparaging the existence of said database.

Within an hour of Question Period’s conclusion, the Liberals were distributing a copy of those remarks and noting how out of context Mr. Toews had presented them. Shortly thereafter, the leading expert was communicating, via an e-mail to the Globe and Mail, all of the disconcerting questions he had about this latest Conservative move.

Though certainly setting a new land speed record for the debunking of this government, it was hardly the first time this bunch has found itself so easily refuted. And knowing how poorly they guard the secrets of their stumbles, it’s fair to say this won’t be the last.

Perhaps, then, Mr. Dion owes the government side an apology. If only for giving them too much credit.

The Stats. Election financing, eight questions. Government disclosure, seven questions. Burma, six questions. Quebec, four questions. The Prime Minister, Ontario, drugs, diplomacy and the Olympics, two questions each. Immigration, New Brunswick, the environment and gas prices, one question each.

Stephen Harper, seven answers. Maxime Bernier, six answers. Vic Toews and Pierre Poilievre, four answers each. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, three answers. Peter Van Loan, John Baird, Tony Clement, Bev Oda and Helena Guergis, two answers each. Josee Verner, Jim Flaherty, Diane Finley, Dave MacKenzie and Gary Lunn, one answer each.

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