Monday, February 21, 2011

We Do Not Love the Way You Lie

As an adult I am frequently reminded of the fact that if you act like you are guilty, you probably are.
Sometimes you have the stupidest openings.
I like suspense, Dear Reader; some anticipation before you find out I am talking about Bev Oda's idiotic alteration to a parliamentary document. Trust is a fragile little birdie. If you hold it too strong, you end up strangling it, but if you hold it too loosely it flies away, and typically poops on you as it goes.
Nice analogy.

Back in 2009 the government was looking at aid group funding, including funding for a church-based group called Kairos. Some speculation abounds that the government was looking to cut funding to groups that did not support the government's beliefs, but the basis for Kairos is a span of nine churches including catholic, Mennonite, Presbyterian, and Evangelical Lutheran churches among many other organizations, so it is hard to argue that perspective. The official reason for the funding cut was that the focus of the group had shifted from where the government wanted to focus; some of the group's primary mandates include: support of Canada's aboriginals; empowering and defending women (especially those of native ancestry); and developing a better energy alternative to the tar sands, all of which are programs I dearly support and it would be super cool if my government supported the things I supported. The CIDA funds groups based on three criteria, but they have made it clear that a group could support these goals and still be denied funding, due to the increased demand for funding. The goals in questions are:
1. Increasing food security
2. Securing the future of children and youth
3. Stimulating sustainable economic growth

All of these are heavily geared towards the millennium goals pledged by Canada, and supported by three additional goals
1. Increasing environmental sustainability
2. Promoting equality between women and men
3. Helping to strengthen governance institutions and practices

The proposal to continue funding for Kairos was put before the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and they allegedly concluded that funding should be continued; the brief document illustrating as such now contains a strategically placed "NOT" in the phrase "That you sign below to indicate you approve a contribution..." which reverses the meaning from recommending funding to not recommending funding. Three signatures grace the bottom; Dr. Naresh Singh, who has contributed environmental issue papers to many journals,  Margarat Biggs, who has gone on record saying she did not know where the alteration came from (she allegedly does not have a problem with the decision, however), and the final one being Beverly Oda, who insisted (twice) she did not know who put the "NOT" on the paper.

Apparently papers are typically submitted in this fashion, with alterations and comments, so the lack of alarm at the time is unremarkable; what is notable is that Prime Minister Steven Harper has insisted she had the authority to override the committee's decision, but that raises two uncomfortable questions:

1) If she did posses the authority, why would she lie about doing so to avoid admitting to it? It is true it was an unpopular decision, but government policy cannot take place in a vacuum - we need to hear about decisions.

2) If she has the authority to override their choices with her personal decisions, without even informing people who had previously signed off a completely opposite decision, there is no need for a committee at all. We can  just let Beverley Oda make all the decisions; They are trying to enforce austerity protocols, cutting an entire government department seems a logical move.

If the government wants to shrug its shoulders and accept the whole issue, fine. If it genuinely feels no harm is done, that perhaps Mrs. Oda did not want to be connected to the unpleasant decision of cutting funding for a charity group, fine. But the important detail to me is that I disagree with the change in funding - I want that group funded. With the loss of funding to many woman's groups (Kairos being just one), issues like the decision to keep Caribou classified as threatened instead of endangered as recommended by conservation groups in Alberta, and the deliberate ignoring of proper parliamentary procedure, it is unclear how we can hope to make an international difference, if we can not even support these goals within our own country.


Anonymous said...

OK, I disagree with you a bit.
As minister, she has the final say. That's the way the government works and always has. The civil service makes recommendations but the government (read, the minister) decides. That works for me because if we don't like the decisions, we boot out the MP at the next election. We have no choice in the civil service workers.
Personally, I don't care if she altered the document in that way, whether someone had already signed it or not. The decision was hers to make. What drives me crazy is her artful "I don't know who wrote the "NOT" " statement. The statement could be perfectly true because she only ordered the word to be added and probably has no idea who actually held the writing implement but it is misleading and I believe she was misleading on purpose. If she truly did not know what they were actually asking then she's too stupid to be in office, and I don't think she's that stupid.
If you think Kairos should still be funded, don't worry about the minister having the final decision, worry that she's not taking responsibility for it and not being booted out of caucus.
Full disclosure: I have never liked Bev Oda.
lol, mapa

Miss Ernst said...

Every time I read the little "Full disclosure" bit at the bottom, it makes me laugh.
Also, I can not believe the brew-haha that has arisen from this tiny incident. A whole PROC, crazy huh?