The story that won’t be spun

According to a Toronto Star report from this Tuesday, there’s compelling evidence a controversial memo on NAFTA that damaged Barack…

According to a Toronto Star report from this Tuesday, there’s compelling evidence a controversial memo on NAFTA that damaged Barack Obama’s US presidential campaign came directly from the office of Canada’s prime minister.

The NAFTA memo was the object of an internal government investigation that found no one to blame for the leak.

The affair may do serious harm to cross-border relations in the event that Obama is elected while Harper still clings to power.

If the Star’s allegations are true, the Conservatives’ self-investigation looks like the worst sort of cover up, and should easily be enough on its own to drive them from power.

But the Harper government is in an enviable position. With a flaccid opposition and a complacent electorate, it has been able to shake off scandals that should have been disastrous even in a majority government, let alone in the kind of flimsy minority Harper holds.

Canada knowingly sends detainees into torture? The PM shrugs, and the story blows over. Close ties to the sleaze of the Mulroney days? Another shrug. Fiddling the books during a federal election? Bribing a dying parliamentarian? Plotting to influence a US presidential race? Interfering in Ottawa’s municipal elections?

Shrug, shrug, shrug.

For a time it seemed like there was a new scandal every week, and still the government remained untouched, their popularity at roughly the same level that brought them to power, the Liberal opposition still cringing at the threat of an election.

Enter Maxime Bernier, and the scandal that just wouldn’t go away. When the story first broke that Canada’s bumbling foreign minister had named Julie Couillard, a woman with recent ties to Canada’s biggest crime gang, as his spouse for official purposes, Harper was scathing in his response to opposition members who raised the issue of a possible security breach. He called them “gossipy old busybodies.”

Harper’s posturing was absurd, but it worked. Globe and Mail political blogger Adam Radwanski was just one of the pundits who swallowed it hook, line, and sinker, gleefully repeating “the gossipy old busybodies.”

This despite the fact that Couillard’s very recent ties were to men connected with senior members of Hells Angels, an international consortium in the narcotics and prostitution industries, with an interest in the heroin trade and criminal control over Canada’s ports.

Lest we forget, Canada is at war in Afghanistan, the source of most of the world’s poppy. Hells Angels might well have an interest in Canadian foreign policy, especially as it affects the heroin trade.

Since the Couillard story broke, opposition members have been asking the government to state whether anyone had ever expressed security concerns about the liaison, and if so, what had been done to investigate.

For days ministers refused to answer, remaining perfectly on-message: the government isn’t interested in the ex-girlfriends of cabinet ministers. By their jeers they managed to imply that the subject of a security risk never arose, surely a proposition too improbable to entertain.

Julie Couillard may be exactly as she presents herself, a respectable real estate agent who happened to go around with some bad boys.

The question is, when the government became aware of her past, did they make any effort to find out if it was indeed all in the past? And if it is, how so? Are all her old friends dead or in jail, or does she just shun them now?

Once secret cabinet documents related to Afghanistan showed up in Couillard’s hands, Bernier had to go. But countless questions remain unanswered.

What were the documents, and how can we know who read them before they found their way home? Has anyone questioned the private security company that Couillard claims found evidence of bugging in her house? What were secret documents doing at her house in the first place?

It may well be that Couillard’s connections to organized crime are all broken, that Bernier was never the subject of espionage, that national security was never breached.

If so, the government should have been able to say so the first time the subject was raised. Instead, the Conservatives stonewalled, derided the opposition, and insisted there was no security issue, when clearly there was.

Why pretend? Why cover up? Are they still hiding something? Or are they just trying to let an embarrassing story die?

Harper has protected Bernier in the past to shore up his party’s support in Quebec. Did he just blindly keep protecting him for a few days too long this time?

Is this yet another sudden squall that will blow over in a week or two, or will the Liberals smell blood in the water, and take this one to the voters? And the biggest question of all: has Stephen Harper finally run up against the scandal that won’t shrug off?

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Whitehorse staff will report back to city council members in three months, detailing where efforts are with the city’s wildfire risk reduction strategy and action plan for 2021 to 2024. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council adopts wildfire risk reduction plan

Staff will report on progress in three months

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Nov. 25, 2020

Ivan, centre, and Tennette Dechkoff, right, stop to chat with a friend on Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. Starting Dec. 1 masks will be mandatory in public spaces across the Yukon in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

Most Read