Musings —06.10.2013 08:33 PM—
“Grits suffer the bitter agony of delete”
In comparative terms, you might think stealing taxpayer dollars — or smoking crack — are a bit more serious than deleting personal e-mails. But you’d be wrong about that.
Crack? Fraud and theft? Big deal.
Deleting e-mails from your mom, to remind you about a family dinner on Sunday — now, that’s a real crime!
Bear with us, here. Up in Ottawa, as you may have heard, two Conservative senators have been accused of breaking every rule in the book and claimed expenses they weren’t owed. The prime minister has lost his chief of staff to the ongoing scandal, the ruling party is in turmoil, and the RCMP have launched an investigation into — one assumes — possible fraud, breach of trust and theft. But (as noted) who cares, really.
Down in Toronto, the mayor has been accused of smoking crack cocaine, his councillor brother has been named as a dealer of drugs, and people who are photographed with the mayor are getting shot. Both Rob and Doug Ford have denied the claims but neither the mayor, nor his brother, have sued the media organizations making the allegations. Hmmmm…
Call me crazy, and plenty do, but those allegations (to wit, stealing taxpayer dollars, doing drugs, dealing drugs, Your Honour) seem to me to be, you know, sort of serious. But Conservatives — panicked and desperate to change the subject — have conjured up a scandal of their own: A departed Liberal political staffer deleted e-mails before he left his job at Queen’s Park. Oh, and another one inquired about how to expunge e-mails, too.
The e-mail “scandal,” which is clearly bigger than Watergate and Adscam put together, has been given life by Ontario’s publicity-seeking John Gomery wannabe, “Information and Privacy Commissioner” Ann Cavoukian. Like Gomery, Cavoukian has issued a hysterical report about the affair, and even huffed that the Liberal government deserved to be defeated for it.
Unlike Gomery, Cavoukian didn’t even bother to contact some of the political staffers she has sought to smear in her inquisition. Not has she apparently given a moment’s thought to the notion that officials delete e-mails all the time, at all levels, in governments of all stripes. Nor, for that matter, did it apparently matter that the statute in question is the Ontario “Archives and Recordkeeping Act,” and not the “Criminal Code of Canada.”
Conservatives urgently needed a channel-changer, and Cavoukian — in need of a close-up, as commissioners and ombudspersons so often do — gave them one. The Ontario Provincial Police have therefore opened an investigation into whether it is appropriate for departing political staff to delete e-mails from their girlfriends about whether to see the new Star Trek movie, or the one with Vince Vaughan in it (um, Star Trek).
Now, it isn’t just the OPP, the Conservatives and kooky Cavoukian who deserve opprobrium, here. So too does the former Ontario Liberal premier, Dalton McGuinty, who rushed out a panicked press release on Friday to say (a) he didn’t know anything about deletion of e-mails and (b) to throw several former aides under the proverbial bus. (As a former McGuinty campaign worker, I say shame on him.)
But, again, what do I know? Clearly, deleting e-mails from mom is bad-ass bad. Crack and fraud? Yawn.
Oh, and one more thing: If you start prosecuting departing politicos for deleting e-mails, you’d better start building a lot more jails.
You’re gonna need ’em.