07.22.2013 09:35 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: who oversees the overseers?

Who provides oversight for the overseers?

In this era of ombudsmen and commissioners and incessant inquiries, it is no idle question. In a time when, increasingly, gutless politicians are delegating authority for government oversight to unelected megalomaniacs, we need to consider whether we are heading down the right path. Mostly, we aren’t.

About a decade ago, when John Gomery was presiding over his circus-like inquisition into the sponsorship program in Quebec, the issue came into sharp focus. With his reckless comments to the news media, his clear bias against Jean Chretien, and his willingness to spend upwards of $100 million over two years — even hiring his daughter’s law firm — Gomery became a case study in how not to do these things.

In June 2008, the Federal Court agreed, blasting Gomery for his “preoccupation with the media” instead of fairness, for “prejudging issues” before all the evidence was in, and for wrongly assigning blame to Chretien and his former chief of staff, Jean Pelletier. Two years later, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld that scathing decision, and even ordered Stephen Harper’s government to pay some of Chretien’s legal costs.

Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, should heed the lessons of Gomery. Cavoukian is the unelected narcissist who wrote a report a few weeks back about deleted e-mails in the ongoing Ontario gas-plant controversy. At the time, Cavoukian said the e-mails had been deleted “to avoid transparency and accountability.” It was “just appalling,” she said. It could even hurt the Ontario Liberals’ “ability to be re-elected,” she said.

Cavoukian, like Gomery, loved the attention that her over-the-top report received. So she dialled up the rhetoric. Immediately thereafter, the opposition also started screeching that laws had been broken and the OPP decided to investigate Cavoukian’s claims.

A few weeks later she was at it again, claiming the e-mails had been deleted to avoid “public scrutiny.” She then went on to call Chris Morley, Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff, “misleading,” “disingenuous” and alleged Morley had engaged in “misrepresentation.”

But, when pressed, she admitted much of what Morley had said had been “technically true.” And that she hadn’t even interviewed him to get his side of the story — not once.

Oh, and the deleted e-mails? Turns out some of them weren’t “deleted” after all.

That’s a pretty big mistake, considering what her mistake led to — headlines, subpoenas and a police investigation. Her excuse is that some unidentified functionary in government told her the e-mails had been deleted, and it was that person who got it wrong, not her. But that’s not good enough.

Cavoukian has a huge staff that is paid to weed out information. They forwarded on to her information that was not true and she used it. By her own admission, she rushed her report out the door. Most seriously, before accusing people of actual crimes, and viciously attacking them in print and on air, Cavoukian had a legal obligation to leave no stone unturned. She didn’t do that.

Instead, she (like Gomery) reminded us that, most of the time, the overseers are just as bad as those they were hired to oversee.

Or worse.


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    Brent says:

    The Wynne Liberal minority government is getting sucked down into the mire of political misrepresentation. Once the attack is made, that’s what registers in the voter’s minds. Any retraction becomes a waste of effort. You can’t eliminate a negative with a belated positive — ask Goodale and Martin.

    The same with Trudeau’s speaking fees, they will always be considered inappropriate no matter what. And the same goes for Harper’s “Alberta firewall” gaffe. Mulcair’s looking aside for 17 years at overt.corruption in Quebec too.

    It will live with them throughout their political lives.

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      Kaspar Juul says:

      Oh observant…

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        DanielX says:

        You mean “How observant”.

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          Kaspar Juul says:

          No I mean Oh Observant. Just wont go away

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      JH says:

      But Brent, isn’t that the purpose of ……………..wait for it – War Rooms? LOL!

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    Derek Pearce says:

    I will not read the reader comments over at the Sun, but my hunch is that the point of your article will be lost entirely and the comments will all be railing against the Liberals for adscam etc etc etc. Such is the Sun, alas.

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      Joe Harrington says:

      I stopped reading that stuff at the Sun long ago, douches will be douches. Only when I need a fix of comedy will I even look at it. Warren, great job identifying yet again another great irony of our political system. In some ways, we (the voting public) are to blame for this. We need to therefore take it back.

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    Glen says:

    You have done an admirable job of trying to change the focus on this one.

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      Warren says:

      I credit people with having the intelligence to make up their own minds. If I persuaded some of them that there is more to this story than meets the eye, I am satisfied. But I will not stand by while my former Premier and my friends are demonized by the likes of Cavoukian. I will do to her ilk what I did in the Gomery debacle.

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      Tiger says:

      “My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.”
      – Ferdinand Foch

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    Mark C. Robins says:

    Great Column Warren you hit the nail on the head. Unlike your fellow Sun media Employee Sue Ann Levy who will not let the Facts and truth prevent her for her continued witch hunt of the Ontario Libs, you have taken the time to put a light on the Truth thank you.

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    Steve T says:

    Is this sort of like the witch-hunt of a particular mayor, alleging his drug use (and even implying that someone might have been killed to cover up the drug use), based on a “video” that no one ever saw, and whose very existence magically disappeared as soon as the money was raised to buy it? Something like that?

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    Bonnie says:

    Are you serious? The person who did her job and uncovered this is the bad guy?

    • Notice: Undefined offset: 180 in /home/q84jy4qfdyhq/public_html/wp-content/themes/warroom/functions.php on line 314
      Warren says:

      Who are you really, “Bonnie?”

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