Stephane Dion suffers strategic communications leak

The Prime Minister recently announced a new set of by-elections to be held in early September. Stephane Dion, the Liberal leader, is facing renewed pressure to deliver during these contests and a number of observers have declared this to be a test of confidence in the man as quarterback of that party. If he fails in one or more ridings, Dion will face calls to step down. This comes after the announcement of the beleaguered Green Shift, a hail mary of a policy for Dion and commentators have noted that the policy will be the cornerstone of any future Liberal platform and will serve as a test run for this round of by-elections.

Therefore, it should be troubling for Dion to learn that there are members of his own political staff that are actively undermining the man at this critical time by leaking strategic communications that have landed right in my inbox. Take a look at this ten-percenter template that I received courtesy of a source at the Liberal Research Bureau.

Read this document on Scribd: greenshift

The document is a template for Liberal MPs to message on the Dion Liberal Green Shift. Dion’s staff sent along the Microsoft Publisher file of the document above. It doesn’t get more original than that from LRB. You can download the file here.

If you’re trying to find a silver lining in this by speculating that perhaps this was a brilliant strategic leak in order to get a Conservative blogger to spread Liberal policy for free, this also landed in my inbox courtesy of LRB:

Read this document on Scribd: greenshaft

It appears that some kids in LRB were having a bit of fun while their boss was away. The document also came in the form of a Microsoft Publisher file and you can download it here. The derivative version of the Liberal ten-percenter is a bit disturbing as it is insulting to francophones as Dion’s staffers mock his accent. There’s also a literary reference to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the name of the fictional candidate Simon Legree. I haven’t figured that one out yet (UPDATE: Simon Legree is a literary reference to greed probably referring to Dion’s tax shift as a money grab from Canadians). This spoof on the ten-percenter by LRB is disrespectful of Dion and is juvenile. The lit piece leak in its original design format and the forwarding of the derivative piece mocking Dion are evidence that there are members of Dion’s trusted staff that are undermining their leader at this critical time. If Dion has a poor showing in the upcoming by-elections, he may be asked to resign as Leader and some Liberal staffers may only be trying to hasten that exit.

We’re also seeing evidence of Dion being undermined in a recent blog posting critical of Dion’s team which was recently stomped down by Dion loyalists. The posting was deleted but the subsequent apology explains the sequence of events.

Also, on the Guelph Mercury blog today, we see a pattern of Liberals using name-calling to diminish their opponents. Most disturbing for Liberal partisans though is that some of their staffers are doing it to their leader as well.

During the 2005-2006 General Election, there was talk of a mole in the Liberal war-room leaking information to the media and to Conservative bloggers. At that time there was a Chretien faction and a Martin faction. The Liberal Party under Dion is so fractured that they emphasize unity (“stronger together”) to convince their factious partisans rather than swing voters.

UPDATE (8/1): Last night, I was called and invited to meet up with Sarah Bain, a senior communications officer in Dion’s office. Bain wanted to put the Liberal side of the story out there. We had a great chat, and while it would have been helpful for them for me to reveal my source, Bain was respectful of confidentiality and didn’t even ask. I asked her to email me a quote,

“The Publisher file of the Green Shift ten percenter was distributed twice in the normal manner in which all LRB products are distributed. It was e-mailed to an extensive mailing list including all MP offices, as well as other caucus and party officials using a mailer program. It was also posted in the LRB Intranet site to which all Liberal offices in the Parliament Precinct have access.

“These products are distributed as Publisher files so that Liberal offices can modify them to their own needs. The intention is that MPs can put their own pictures and individual message in the file to personalize it before submitting it to printing.”

What Bain is communicating here is that while the ten-percenter was produced by LRB, it met a wide distribution list across the Liberal party from LRB to OLO to MP and Senators offices to even party HQ. Therefore, Bain suggests the leak could have come from a variety of Liberal offices. The original ten-percenter was dated July 7th, 2008 and has been in internal Liberal distribution for three weeks. Though the file has been circulated among Liberal staff, my source was LRB.

Bain agreed that the second piece was childish and disrespectful of Dion and noted that the wide distribution of the original ten-percenter among staff meant that any disgruntled Liberal staffer could have made the derivative piece. This may be, and it could have been forwarded to LRB because my source of the first and second document were the same.

To her credit, Bain is broadening the list of suspects and therefore trying to diminish the severity of the leak; if the ten-percenter was in the hands of more staffers then the level of secrecy of the document goes down.

As for the second piece, I’m sure that it is quite disturbing for Liberals to see evidence of their staff undermining their leader.

Goodale’s office received “private sector feedback” prior to Income Trust Announcement

From today’s Globe and Mail, details of the RCMP investigation and interview of then Finance Minister Ralph Goodale surface:

Transcripts of RCMP interviews with Mr. Goodale and his staff show that, among other things, the Mounties scrutinized consultations between his office and private-sector investment players in the days and hours leading up to the trust announcement.

Mr. Goodale told the Mounties in a March of 2006 interview that two of his staff were tasked in the days before the announcement to “get some private-sector feedback” on the idea of a tax on trusts and other options.

He told the RCMP that his staff later assured him they didn’t disclose or signal which option the government would ultimately take.

“They would know having worked through budgets and other very confidential matters within the Department of Finance that there is no definitive information that is to be disclosed,” Mr. Goodale told the RCMP.

Mr. Goodale has repeatedly emphasized he made inquiries among his staff and department and was satisfied that no advance notice was given.

Daniel Leblanc and Steven Chase write that the Mounties were set to charge “at least one [more] federal official” surrounding the Income Trust leak but that (or those) official(s) were lucky because of a provision of the Security and Information Act was struck down in an unrelated case. It is not known who the RCMP was set to charge.

Back in February of 2007, Ralph Goodale said

“The investigation has indicated no involvement in this matter by me, my staff or any other political person”

and Stephane Dion in February of 2007,

“The RCMP income trust investigation exonerates the Liberal Party of Canada and shows that the Conservative and NDP allegations of a politically-motivated leak were false”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the Obama leak

It’s official, the Canadian government will be using every available resource to investigate the source of the Obama leak.

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister stated:

Well Mr. Speaker, I don’t think I could be plainer, we will take every step necessary to get to the bottom of this. The leak of this kind of information for whatever reason by whomever is completely unacceptable to the government of Canada. It is not useful, it is not in the interest of the government of Canada, and the way the leak was executed Mr. Speaker, was blatantly unfair to Senator Obama and his campaign. Mr. Speaker, we will make sure that every legal and every investigative technique necessary is undertaken to find out who exactly is behind this.

This was a necessary move by the Prime Minister in order to maintain strong diplomatic ties with whoever becomes president in January 2009. Canada cannot be seen to be interfering with the U.S. electoral process and this move indicates that the leadership of this government holds this firm view.

Whistleblower stomped by unaccountable Senate

I cannot believe the news that has been swirling around the city in the past couple of days about Tory staffer Jeffrey Kroeker. Kroeker was reprimanded by a Senate report from the board of Internal Economy for having the audacity to blow the whistle on a junket taken by Senators to Dubai last year.

CTV had the original report of the trip:

Canadian senators waited in an expensive Dubai hotel for seven days after a failed attempt to reach Afghanistan when the military had warned them not to attempt the trip in the first place, CTV News has learned.

Liberal Senator Colin Kenny had hoped to take his National Security Committee to Kandahar province for a fact-finding trip, as well as Dubai — a city in the United Arab Emirates that is trying to become a global business hub. Instead, the senators ended up spending seven days in Dubai.

The total hotel bill came to more than $30,000. Plane fare, meals and other expenses were not included.

CTV reported then that it obtained the information from a “leak”.

We now know that the information came from Jeffrey Kroeker, then a staffer for Conservative Senator Marjorie Lebreton.

Kroeker should be commended for bringing the excesses of the Canadian Senate to the attention of the public. Unfortunately Joan Bryden of CP makes an unfortunate comparison to the bureaucrat that was arrested two days ago for leaking the Tory’s Green Plan:

Coming a day after a federal contract employee was hauled off in handcuffs for allegedly leaking a draft of the government’s climate change plan, Liberal Senate Leader Celine Hervieux-Payette questioned how the Tories can sanction keeping Kroeker in the employ of a cabinet minister.

Of course, the situations of Kroeker and the Green Plan leaker Jeff Monaghan are completely different as Monaghan leaked government policy whereas Kroeker made available information that the Senate has actually chosen to keep itself exempt from revealing — yes, the Senate is not accountable to Access to Information requests. With respect to the environment leak, Monaghan broke his oath to keep state secrets. While the cost of junket to Dubai was meant to be kept secret by Kenny and his co-travelers, the information hardly represented any information critical to policy/security or governance. Kroeker simply blew the whistle on Senate excess. While Monaghan was an activist who leaked confidential and secret government policy that he didn’t agree with, Kroeker acted to disseminate information on the extravagant expenses of a handful of senators from the Upper Chamber which has exempted itself from the kind of transparency that keeps other facets of government accountable. Moreover, these expenses were not authorized by the Senate.

We have now learned that the Senate “investigated” Kroeker’s act in total secret and the investigation was conducted by a Senate sub-committee. Kenny himself sits on the board of internal economy, which had oversight over the investigative sub-committee, however Kenny did not think to recuse himself.

Bryden also makes an unfortunate omission in her article. She writes,

The rebuke of Jeffrey Kroeker was contained in a unanimous report of the Senate’s committee on internal economy. The 15-member committee includes four Conservative senators.

The description of a “unanimous report” is misleading here because “unanimous” means that the decision to table the report was unanimous, but the acceptance of the report was hardly the same.

In summary, what do we have here?

Unaccountable senators, part of an unaccountable Senate — the lack of transparency of that body is reflected by its lack of public accounting and disclosure — went on a seven day junket to Dubai at the cost of $30,000 to the Canadian taxpayer. The purpose of the trip was to observe the operations in Kandahar, however, it was expressed to the Senators that this leg of the trip would not happen therefore making the excursion overseas useless. Nevertheless, the senators spent seven days in the hotel, only attended two meetings, and “wrote a report”. However, CTV’s original article includes a quote from Sen. Tommy Banks that the report for the most part was written before the trip was taken. The Vice Chief of Defence Staff in two separate letters confirmed that Senator Kenny was fully aware that they could not get into Afghanistan and as such, should have canceled that leg of the trip. When Kroeker learned what they had done by staying the hotel for over a week, he knew that they had gone beyond the authorized expenses of the Senate and as such, he decided to research the costs. When he saw how galling the expenses were he made the decision to blow the whistle. What the senators did was grossly unfair to taxpayers.

Kroeker should be commended, not condemned.

This seems like politically motivated retribution by a Liberal dominated Senate for the whistleblowing act of a Tory staffer. Why should the cost of a senate junket to Dubai be “secret” from Canadian taxpayers?

Bryden’s article thankfully includes praise from Conservative Senator Terry Stratton:

Senator Terry Stratton, the Tory whip in the upper house, rejected the report’s conclusions. He cast Kroeker as a conscientious staffer who blew the whistle on misuse of taxpayer’s money.

“(The report) makes it very difficult for people to expose the unauthorized expenditure of public money,” Stratton said in a written statement issued late Thursday.

“We should be proud of the stand that Jeffrey Kroeker took. He is a staffer who saw wrong and tried to make it right.”

Unfortunately, the Globe and Mail omitted this praise from its editing of Bryden’s CP article.

Here is a statement, released from Sen. LeBreton’s office just a few hours ago:

Today the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration tabled a report with the Senate in which it called into question activities of former Senate staffer, Jeffrey Kroeker.

The report is the result of an investigation undertaken by the Committee following media reports in October 2006 regarding the alleged misuse of public money on a trip to Dubai by the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, led by Liberal Senator Colin Kenny.

Senator Stratton today rejected the report: “I am extremely disappointed that this Senate Committee has issued this report. I disagree entirely with its conclusion. It makes it very difficult for people to expose the unauthorised expenditure of public money and is contrary to all of the principles in a post-Gomery world.”

In 2006, a group of senators were to take a trip to Kandahar, Afghanistan to visit Canadian troops. This trip was cancelled due to operations before the committee left, but some of the senators decided to proceed to Dubai, in any event, where they stayed, at taxpayers expense for 10 days.

Shortly following the trip, Jeffrey Kroeker discovered that the expenses for the trip to Dubai were not properly authorised and, further, that Senator Kenny, the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence was aware he would be unable to visit the base in Kandahar before he left Ottawa.

When Jeffrey Kroeker became aware of these facts, he blew the whistle, and reported the misuse of public funds to the media.

Today’s report of the Standing Committee is retaliation by a group of Liberal senators against a hard working Senate staffer, who exposed misuse of public funds. Jeffrey Kroeker did what anyone else would do when he saw public money being misused.

“We should be proud of the stand that Jeffrey Kroeker took. He is a staffer who saw wrong and tried to make it right. I am disappointed that this action has been taken,” stated Senator Stratton.

Canada’s New Government has worked hard over the last year to toughen laws that protect whistleblowers. This is exactly the type of staffer that such laws were designed to protect.

“I am very disappointed in this action by the Committee. We need more staffers like Jeffrey Kroeker and we need to support them, not punish them for doing what any honest person would do,” concluded Senator Stratton.

Liberals spooked by fax?

When the Liberals received a misdialed fax from the Environment Minister’s office and the subsequently faxed threatening letter suggesting that the original document contained sensitive market information, one wonders if the Grits would have made more of the incident if the Conservatives hadn’t hit back so hard and successfully on the Holland/Jennings boxes incident which backfired on that party highlighting Liberal arrogance when it comes to sensitive information…