My favourite political blog post this week was penned by Garth Turner about the Lisa Raitt controversy. It’s a succinct & tartly delivered case study that reflects many observers’ frustrations with partisanship & the unflattering cut’n'thrust of ‘real’ politics.
For those outside the Canuckistan borders, or otherwise not tuned into this stuff:
- Political staffer leaves Minister’s briefing binder at a television studio – Big whoops in Yawnsville, right? Well, erm, it was backgrounders & talking points about NUCLEAR ISOTOPES & our $1.7B/3 year investment in these facilities (which wasn’t listed in the last federal budget…)
- Studio decides NOT to broadcast info & contacts Minister’s office to arrange pick-up, no doubt partly because docs’re stamped ‘secret’, which makes’em tough to get under Access to Information Act (for an opposite approach, check out Day One of MyBO in office).
- Word gets out + Calls for resignation + ‘Ministerial Responsibility + Outrage in the Legislature + Public hanging, etc = Staffer got quit.
- Some who’d worked with politicos kinda felt sorry for the staffer ‘thrown under the bus’ in light of the Minister’s resignation not being accepted by the PM.
- Then it got worse. Really worse. No REALLY – involves a taped conversation by the Minister. Left on a recorder. Left behind (you guessed it!) at a media outlet – a good ol’fashioned newspaper.
- All fairness to the Minister, it was very old convo, taped unknowingly…but the media outlet patiently gave the staffer months notice/reminders to pick it up (tiny Ottawa geography fact – the Press Gallery is across the street from the Main Legislative Buildings)….& when they heard of the staffer’s dismissal…they pressed ‘play’. (& so can you! cilck here to launch Halifax Chronicle Herald media player)
© Bette Burgoyne
- Staffer tries to ban the paper’s use of the tape’s contents -> Futile – a Halifax judge (rightly, IMHO) ruled that the contents of the conversation were more important than ‘reputation’ of staffer:
The comments were tough to take on two fronts – Minister assesses a policy decision that could have been potentially fatal for cancer patients as a ‘sexy’ political win & describes a political colleague with a different cultural background as being disadvantaged due to her cooperative & collaborative approach to public service.
Drama & hype aside – why do I love this story so much?
- Demonstrates that Access to Information is a vital piece of legislation to monitor, maintain & strengthen (less than half of FOI requests are met within 30 days, & 1/3 go longer than the most extended timelines allowed by law)
- Humanizes politicos/staffer caught in rat-raciness of work (we all screw up, leave things behind, indulge in gallows humour & have ALL said things to close friends & colleagues that we’d be mortified to have distributed on a newspaper’s pop-up media player – Blatchford has a valid point & is often the first to remind us how overhyped stories in this vein become)
- Serves up perfectly parallel karmic retribution finale (eventually when Raitt is shuffled off…just wait for it…) for losing sight of what it means to be a public servant
- Completely reaffirms the imporance of mainstream media sources – & their Job-levels of patience – in staying professional with politicos & staff…& holding public interest above all – fighting to publish documents that are necessary for an informed citizenry
- Proves online content & media-rich resources have changed the way we expect to consume this information. Immediately after the court decision was announced the paper posted an audio file of the conversation – blogs & other news sources can grab this file & link back in seconds. News hounds can watch the apologies online as they happen or archived at their leisure
That’s the REAL ‘sexy’ part of the entire schmozzle – swoon-tastic three part harmony of old media, new media & karma.