Bruce Anderson, a pollster and past Conservative strategist, is apparently speaking for many people with one heck of an indictment over at The Globe's Second Reading website.
He takes a cold, hard look at the Conservatives' admission of dirty tricks in Irwin Cotler's riding (see here for details) and offers some cold, hard truth: this is "insulting," "beneath the government" and "wrong at every level." Particularly searingly, he says that anyone who regularly attends church or school is aware what's amiss here.
That this episode risks disappearing under the waves of the next 50 news stories is not surprising. But the story deserves more oxygen, more time in the spotlight.
This truly isn’t complicated. If our children tell lies about schoolmates, we punish them not shrug it off. When it happens on the Internet, we call it cyber bullying and bemoan how young people seem to have grown up without decent values. Conservative Christian groups presumably recognize this as something hard to square with the “Golden Rule.”
When I last checked the story, it had garnered more than 1,000 comments, many of them urging us in the media to keep a spotlight on this story. Anderson, I should note, has every reason to believe that there will be a temptation to shrug and move on from this little episode.
Earlier this year, two University of Ottawa academics went public with their concerns about being the targets of a dirty-tricks witchhunt, also a little Nixonian.
In that instance, we got a categorical denial from the Conservative party and an official denial from the Prime Minister's Office. However, look what the PMO also appended to its denial:
Dimitri Soudas, communications director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said “the PMO did not file these freedom of information requests,” though he added: “There’s nothing wrong with filing such requests, media and all Canadians can do it under the law”
There's the old freedom-of-speech thing again. As some of the commenters over at the Globe have noted, this is not the freedom that your relatives and mine have gone to war to protect. In fact, Canadians have had strong views in the past about states in which people are harassed because they're on the wrong side of power. (And I have a bit of a quibble with Soudas saying this request was legal -- actually, the information being sought went way beyond the bounds of what the law says can be disclosed. The law was written to prevent harassment such as this, in fact.)
Attaran and Mendes fought back against their pursuer with a challenge -- they would release ALL information if the person identified himself/herself. I ran into Attaran at one of the many social events around the Hill last week and inquired whether the access pursuit had continued. He said they hadn't heard a word since they dared the access-requester to come forward. I guess we can conclude that this crusader for freedom of speech prefers to operate in the dark.
Anderson is right -- the best antidote for this behaviour is a spotlight. That's the media's job, for sure, but it also depends on the public demanding that transparency.