Bev Oda ‘has to go,’ Ignatieff says

Feb 16, 2011

Source: Globe and Mail

The Canadian Press

The case of a Conservative minister who doctored a signed document and misled the House of Commons is a test of Canada's democracy, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says.

All three opposition parties have been calling for the International Co-operation Minister’s resignation, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has responded that Bev Oda did nothing wrong.
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“In a democracy, ministers make the decisions,” Mr. Harper told the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister has yet to address the substance of the controversy – that Ms. Oda misled the House and ordered a signed document to be falsified.

“It's about the integrity of the democratic system. Of course she has to go,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

Ms. Oda changed her story this week in the Commons and acknowledged she ordered someone to crudely, hand-alter a $7-million funding recommendation for church-based aid group KAIROS.

Ms. Oda apologized if anyone had been unwittingly led to believe by her government's repeated assertions over the past year that the funding cut was made on the recommendation of bureaucrats.

“If some were led to conclude that my language implied that the department and I were of one mind on this application, then I apologize,” Ms. Oda said Monday in a statement to the Commons.

The parliamentary record shows repeated and clear assertions by several different Harper ministers and parliamentary secretaries over the past year stating that officials at the Canadian International Development Agency made a routine rejection of the KAIROS funding application on its merits.

Ms. Oda only made it clear this week that she ordered the handwritten changes to a signed funding approval, which made it appear as though senior CIDA officials rejected the application.

NDP Leader Jack Layton took Mr. Harper to task for the Prime Minister's technically correct but narrow response that the minister had the right to overrule her officials.

“There is no right to forge documents,” Mr. Layton said. “There is no right to mislead the House.”

Mr. Ignatieff said the minister's transgressions can only be firing offences, a point that has already been made by Ned Franks, the most senior expert on parliamentary procedure in Canada.

“Until the Prime Minister acknowledges this, it's as if this guy doesn't understand how democracy works,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

So far, Conservatives have simply failed to address Ms. Oda's document doctoring or the long record of erroneous statements to the House of Commons.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Wednesday that Ms. Oda has apologized. When pressed by The Canadian Press on whether that was enough after misleading the House of Commons, Mr. Kenney shot back: “The CBC lies all the time. What media are you with?”

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