Why is a bureaucrat covering for Marco Mendicino’s dishonesty?
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As the old adage goes, never attribute to malice what you can chalk up to incompetence, particularly where government is concerned.
My operating theory about Marco Mendicino has always been that he isn’t particularly bright. If that sounds rude, you should note it’s actually the most charitable interpretation of his conduct. The other is that he’s a bald-faced liar.
Mendicino, who, terrifyingly, is tasked with overseeing Canada’s public safety and national security institutions, has the unenviable task of defending the indefensible. He’s the one who has to keep trying to convince Canadians – and perhaps himself – that the Liberals were justified in invoking the Emergencies Act to deflate the bouncy castles and hot tubs in Ottawa a few months back.
Mendicino and Trudeau have always insisted that it wasn’t their idea: law enforcement wanted it.
It might be a compelling argument if every law enforcement agency involved in the convoy response hadn’t denied it.
Even so, Mendicino keeps saying so. I shouldn’t need to prove he has because it’s such a self-evident point, but the receipts are evidently necessary now that Mendicino’s deputy minister is helping the minister rewrite history.
This video contains just a sampling of Mendicino’s specific citation of law enforcement requests for the Emergencies Act.
Plain as day if you ask me, but let’s get the verdict from public safety deputy minister Rob Stewart:
I believe that the intention that he was trying to express was that law enforcement asked for the tools that were contained in the Emergencies Act. My understanding is that there is a misunderstanding of the minister’s words.
Not sure I understand Stewart’s understanding of our misunderstanding of Mendicino’s understanding, if I’m being perfectly frank. The deputy minister thinks we’re all the dolts for thinking Mendicino was referring to police asking for the Emergencies Act when he said, erm, that police asked for the Emergencies Act.
Mendicino has tried to do some damage control in the days since Stewart’s testimony, claiming what he meant was that police asked for powers the government could only grant with the Emergencies Act.
The evidence of this is also thin, given how police had managed to break up the Windsor and Coutts blockades without emergency powers.
Mendicino has been busted making things up before. When the Freedom Convoy was in Ottawa, he asserted there was concrete evidence of a violent conspiracy in Ottawa, but when pressed for details he walked it back to a vague claim that he saw some rhetoric on social media he didn’t like.
That experience hasn’t made him more careful with his words, it would seem.
What’s concerning here is that he hasn’t had to shoulder his falsehoods on his own: the bureaucracy is helping him spin.
Stewart is supposed to be non-partisan, there to serve the department’s day-to-day needs, not the minister’s political reputation.
This is what all the police representatives did when they, like Stewart, appeared before the parliamentary committee under oath. They answered honestly: they never requested the Emergencies Act. If those statements conflicted with what Mendicino said, that’s for him to answer for.
I understand Stewart not wanting to call his boss a liar, I do. To my earlier point, it’s entirely possible Mendicino prefers improvisation to preparation, which I’d argue is similarly disqualifying to oversight of a country’s public safety and security needs.
I’ve always said I’d like politicians who are prepared to speak candidly instead of relying on their talking points. The joke’s on me.
In claiming that this is all a big “misunderstanding,” Stewart and Mendicino are doing what Trudeau does whenever he’s embroiled in a scandal – insist we’re all the ones who erred and must learn from our mistakes to grow in diversity, which is our enduring strength and so on.
The whole episode has shades of the SNC-Lavalin affair, when former Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick, who was supposed to be the most senior non-partisan public servant, was doing the Liberals’ bidding and covering for them in committee when faced with damning allegations from Jody Wilson-Raybould (which the record backed up).
Both episodes affirm what conservatives have often been mocked for saying, which is that the public service is an inherently Liberal institution. I have a hard time envisioning Stewart, or any other deputy minister, going to bat for a Conservative minister with such gusto. Nor should they, when the facts are what they are.
As for what Mendicino said, I think that old Chico Marx line could use an update: “Who are you going to believe, him or your lying ears?”
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