The Friendly Police State
For your reading pleasure, Greg Weston (no Liberal sympathizer he) on the recent Conservative police-state action against the evils of leaking propaganda:
The Ottawa Sun
In the latest chapter of Stevie in Wonderland, the Conservative promise of open and accountable government is fulfilled by RCMP goons slapping handcuffs on a young federal temp and hauling him off in front of his co-workers, all over a leaked piece of Tory propaganda.
If nothing else, the incident befitting any friendly police state should certainly help Stephen Harper convince voters that the Conservatives have no hidden agenda.
The supposed crime that demanded the use of police restraints on 27-year-old Jeffrey Monaghan was faxing a reporter a couple pages of draft bumpf from the Conservatives' latest environmental plan several weeks before the official announcement.
At worst, this had the effect of lessening the incredible national suspense that had been mounting in anticipation of the all-important government press release and ministerial photo op, in case you missed them.
So odious was this alleged act of felonious faxing, so damaging was it to the state, Monaghan was questioned and released without being charged.
All of which is almost funny: For months, we have been hearing horror stories involving the highest levels of the RCMP, revelations of lies, coverups and missing millions from the Mounties' pension fund.
Did any of the country's top cops responsible get yanked off their high horses in handcuffs? No way. They all got promoted with performance bonuses.
And how about all those great Canadians responsible for the sponsorship scandal? Did the RCMP march into their government offices and slap the cuffs on even one of them? Nope. For a long time, the Mounties wouldn't even investigate.
So why all the handcuffs and Hollywood high drama over a media leak of some public relations poop, little more than a sneak peek at the Harper government's environmental plan to save the planet and Conservative votes?
Monaghan is certainly no dark operative out to subvert Harper's government and spousal cat collection.
By his own account, he comes into work at 5 a.m. every day to assemble a package of press clippings for the bosses at Environment Canada, a job he describes as "the lowest ranking temp employee in the department, possibly in the entire government."
The information that got leaked was hardly spilling national security secrets to the terrorists, nor even the stuff of insider-trading on the stock markets.
In effect, the story was that the Conservatives' new plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions would be tougher than their first kick at the smokestack last fall, but not as stringent as environmental groups would like. Stop the presses.
For his part, Monaghan has no doubt why he was led off in handcuffs: "The spectacle of my arrest, the subsequent RCMP press release and the prepared statements from Environment Canada, including minister (John) Baird, have been crafted to bully public servants whom they, in a paranoid fit, believe are partisan and embittered."
It other words, the Harper government is engaging in good old-fashioned intimidation of public servants -- open your mouth to the media, and the Mounties will haul you off to jail.
This type of attempted message control, of course, is everything the prime minister and his press office have been striving for, save perhaps one additional detail -- they would really like if the Mounties would throw the cuffs on reporters, too.
It is also possible Monaghan was bitten by environment minister Baird, who may well be one of the government's most rabid anti-leak freaks.
Last year, when Baird was still in charge of Treasury Board, we gave our readers an advance preview of a federal report to parliament that he was scheduled to release a few days later. It's what we do.
The report had next to nothing to do with Baird or his department, but he went ballistic about the apparent leak anyway.
The day after our story ran, the minister buttonholed me at a social function, and told me he had already torn a strip off the official Baird was (wrongly) convinced had been the leaker. "I told him he would pay."
The whole episode struck me as inappropriate at the time, all the more so when the official he had supposedly berated on the phone denied even talking to Baird.
Whatever the reasons the government and RCMP went beyond reason this week, whoever leaked bits of Baird's beloved green plan was asking for trouble.
Was it worth internal discipline? Definitely. A firing offence? Perhaps.
But an RCMP raid, handcuffs, and the threat of prison time are, as Monghan said, "without precedent in their disproportionality; they are vengeful; and they are an extension of a government-wide communications strategy pinned on secrecy, intimidation and centralization."