The two videos produced by the Prime Minister’s Office and published on its 24/Seven Internet website earlier this week, apparently, had not been reviewed by the Department of National Defence prior to the posting, which is contrary to an earlier claim by the Prime minister’s Office.
I refer, of course, to promotional videos of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tour of Iraq and Kuwait that showed the faces of members of Canada’s armed forces, some of whom are believed to be operators in Canada’s elite special forces.
Activities and identification of personnel of the special forces are considered classified, and are not usually commented on by officials of the Government or the Department of National Defence. And some believe the PMO’s carelessness has left the special forces personnel shown in the videos vulnerable to attack by extremists.
According to The Globe and Mail:
Initially, the PMO had assured reporters the military vetted the videos before they were published online. Senior government officials told the media that the Forces had raised no objections to what had been uploaded, statements that left the impression the military was in part responsible for the fact the videos made it online.
“Sources say in fact it was only after journalists drew attention to the videos Tuesday that the Canadian military had an opportunity to scrutinize the footage and to conclude, as it did later that day, that the material represented a risk to soldiers.”
If the newspaper report is accurate, then we have a serious breach, not just of security, but of trust in the PMO, one of the most important institutions in our land.
For months now, we’ve been hearing from the Tories how seriously they take the terrorist threat and how they are the party most able to keep Canadians safe. Moreover, members of the media who accompanied the PM on his trip to Middle East were prohibited from publishing or broadcasting images that show the faces of members of our armed services out of concern for the safety of the military personnel and their families.
But still it reportedly took some eight hours for the PMO to apologize and admit the posting of the offending videos were a security breach. And, even then, their statement came across more like a mealy-mouthed excuse than an honest, heartfelt apology. Moreover, PMO did not correct the false impression that the DND had given the go-ahead prior to the original posting on the Internet.
It is not clear if any disciplinary action has been taken against PMO personnel. That office would only say they were “…undertaking a thorough review of the protocols,” and refused to discuss the matter further.
The Conservatives in Ottawa have made one political gaffe after another—a pretty steady stream since 2006 in fact. And in most cases one can point to the PMO as the source, or the root cause. And, yes, the media does blow everything out of proportion, but we should not use that as a reason to excuse poor judgement or to condone political tone deafness or downright ineptitude on the part of the PMO.
For years, we’ve heard concerns that the Tory government is too influenced by the “boys in short pants,” you know, the too-clever-by-far youngsters who work in the PMO. There is about the PMO a culture of extreme partisanship and arrogance that seems to say: We always know what’s best for everyone, and we are above the rules. So you (everyone else) must do as we say, not as we do. Unfortunately, with a fall general election looming, it may already be too late to change the culture in the PMO.
The way I see it, the Conservative Party of Canada could take a lesson from the reversal in fortunes experienced by the Alberta PCs. That party seemed to operate on the basis that its base had nowhere else to go so it could go about its business while paying little or no heed to those voters. Those Tories soon found that conservatives can and will go elsewhere if pushed too far.
Some, though probably not many, will “park” their votes with the Greens while others will vote for the Liberals. And many of us will stay home and not vote at all.
While it’s never too late to get one’s act together, time is running out.