The letter blames Szabo for allowing questions to be posed which extend outside of the mandate of the committee (which was to investigate the Mulroney Airbus Settlement, not any issues pertaining to the Wireless Spectrum auction and MBM’s involvement (or lack thereof) in that matter). The letter labels the actions of Szabo as “the clearest breach of natural justice possible”. The letter goes on to express injury to Mr. Mulroney by violation of his privacy regarding his personal income tax records as Mr. Szabo had requested them from the Auditor General.
Last night, Mulroney’s lawyer sent another letter to Szabo:
This letter demands that Szabo limit testimony to relevant matters and to within the scope of the Committee’s business as defined by the original mandate. The letter also requests that Mulroney be allowed to refuse any answer to any question outside of the committee’s defined boundaries.
Both Mulroney and Schreiber are expected to reappear before the committee soon and it’ll be interesting to see how the committee and it’s chair will rule (and how Mulroney will react) on wide-reaching testimony expected to be given by Norman Spector, Mulroney’s former Chief of Staff in the PMO.
TORONTO, Jan. 21 /CNW/ – CBC News today released the following letter:
Doug Finley, Director of Political Operations Conservative Party of Canada
January 21, 2008
Dear Mr. Finley:
This letter is in response to your complaint to the CBC Ombudsman about “collusion” involving one of our reporters during the recent Mulroney/Schreiber hearings in Ottawa, during which questions were asked about lobbying efforts by Mr. Mulroney directed toward the current federal government.
Following an investigation by senior management of CBC News, we have determined that our reporter Krista Erickson did, in fact, provide questions to a Member of Parliament in the lead up to the Ethics Committee meeting in December. Those actions, while in pursuit of a journalistically legitimate story, were inappropriate and inconsistent with CBC News policies and procedures, specifically under our Principles, Sec. 3:
“Credibility is dependent not only on qualities such as accuracy and fairness in reporting and presentation, but also upon avoidance by both the organization and its journalists of associations or contacts which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality. Any situation which could cause reasonable apprehension that a journalist or the organization is biased or under the influence of any pressure group, whether ideological, political, financial, social or cultural, must be avoided.”
Our investigation determined there was no bias in related news coverage.
However, our reporter, acting on her own, used inappropriate tactics as a
result of journalistic zeal, rather than partisan interest. CBC News
management has made the decision to reassign its reporter from the story and
to Toronto, effective Jan. 21.
Given the potential risk to the journalistic credibility of our Ottawa bureau, its reporters and CBC News generally, we have chosen on an exceptional basis to make the detailed outcome of our disciplinary process available to you, our employees and the public at large.
I trust this addresses your concerns.
It is also my responsibility to inform you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at the address shown below, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at email@example.com
Tonight, I’m hearing from a very well-placed source that Krista Erickson has cleaned out her desk and is going on “stress leave”. Whether this indicates a hushed firing or a quiet reassignment outside of Ottawa politics after a short leave is unclear. (see update)
UPDATE: I’ve heard that she is moving to CBC Sports. (see update)
I should also mention that everyone that I’ve spoken to at the CBC about this has, for the past few weeks, told me that they do not approve of the ways by which Erickson pursued this story. From an outside source I’ve heard that she will issue an apology tomorrow.
I think it would also be important to note that the Liberals should shoulder a lot of the blame for this. Erickson’s pursuance of the story, while over-zealous and inappropriate, would never have made the floor if a Liberal had not raised the issue. It was Pablo Rodriguez, Robert Thibault and Chair Paul Szabo, not Krista Erickson, that tore up the mandate of the ethics committee.
I should also say that I emailed Erickson the weekend after the Mulroney testimony for her comment on the story, but received no reply. Frankly, a frustrating element of this story was the silence coming from the CBC on this. While I don’t blame Erickson for not commenting on the story (in fact, she probably received some sage advice not to talk to anyone), CBC did not respond except to release a tu quoque-ish letter in response to Conservative concerns. CBC management owed it to other reporters (especially in the Ottawa office) to dispel the dark cloud which hung unfairly over their heads. Yet management was quiet. As I’ve said before, there are a number of good professional people that report and produce news for CBC. Management that writes their cheques paid with our money should not use these people as a shield for its own comfort. Management should never shirk accountability.
So, will the Liberals now be called to answer for the damage that they have precipitated? While it was inappropriate for Erickson to hope that they would have contempt for Parliament, it was wholly inappropriate for the Liberals to go through with turning the committee into a free-for-all.
We should always demand better of our public institutions, especially the CBC. The state-funded broadcaster should always seek a balanced product when it reports the news. But it should go without saying that the institution of Parliament should never be abused.
UPDATE 1/9, 5pm: A well-placed source at CBC has amended some of the details given above. Erickson’s reassignment to sports (or anywhere else) has not been confirmed (reassignment has not been acknowledged by CBC management). At this time, I believe that a reassignment to CBC Sports will not happen. Further she’s on vacation (not stress leave) and still has her desk at CBC Ottawa and that she has not yet issued an apology today.
Outside of that, what remains is that Erickson has been the topic of meetings held by senior management for the past couple of weeks and that a disciplinary review has been held. She was the reporter who passed on questions to Liberals regarding the wireless spectrum (well outside of the committee’s mandate on the Airbus settlement). CBC senior management has been very tight lipped about the proceedings of those meetings. What is known is that management must consider the appropriate balance between Canadian Media Guild concerns, political fallout, and details of the employee contract with respect to discipline. I expect a decision to be announced soon.