Minister Oda and ^NOT: Why I Agree With The Minister

I worked as a Ministerial aide for a few years, and even as a card-carrying Liberal, I cannot condemn the Minister for disagreeing with her public service advisors. Here’s why:

1. The “government” is Cabinet, made of of Ministers of the Crown. The public service, despite what the population thinks most of the time, is NOT the government.
2. Public service, or “ministry” bureaucrats, provide ministers with recommendations and analysis of options, but their long-term priorities (remember, governments come and go, the public service is forever) do not necessarily match the government-of-the-day’s priorities. What has happened to Min. Oda is a reflection of that.
3. Ministers also look at all decisions they have to make through a political lens. You might not like that lens, but they are the government and if you don’t like it enough, you cast your vote for the opposition in the next election.

In the fall of 2009, CIDA officials reviewed a request from KAIROS for over $7M in funding from CIDA. CIDA decided that KAIROS should be funded based on CIDA’s long-term priorities, and provided Minister Oda with a document for her to sign on September 28, 2009, that would approve KAIROS’ request if she agreed. The document did not provide any option for the Minister to disagree based on the government-of-the-day’s priorities and was already signed by the appropriate officials, which is totally normal. CIDA President Biggs noted in testimony that this exclusion of a place for the Minister to exercise her prerogative to disagree with bureaucrats had been a problem for a few years, and that documents are now formatted to ensure the Minister can exercise her prerogative (as is my experience in Ontario).

After two months of weighing her options, the Minister was pressed by the public service to make a decision as KAIROS needed the info one way or another. On the day the decision was finally made the Minister was away from her Ottawa office and was on the phone with her staff. Normally, that means all the staff (we had 12 in our office) are gathered around a table in conference call fashion. The Minister directed her staff to indicate that she disagreed with the public service and would not continue to fund KAIROS. ONE of those staffers (we don’t know which one) put “NOT” on the document because there was no place to disagree and then sign with the auto-pen. Standard stuff. We know there was an urgency about the decision, so sending it back to the public service to correct, and go through the process of getting signatures and dealing with some public service blowback, was not a reasonable option.

“Embassy”, a publication for diplomats, filed a Freedom of Information request and obtained copies of the document, presumably because de-funding KAIROS was kind of a big deal. Embassy them reported on the whole story, starting all these wheels in motion.

April 23, 2010
Minister Oda is asked an Order Paper question in the house about de-funding KAIROS by Glen Pearson (L-London North Centre). The question is here. Mr. Pearson basically asks why KAIROS was de-funded if the bureaucrats thought that the request met CIDA’s priorities. Remember, CIDA’s priorities are not necessarily the government’s priorities, and Minister Oda said as much. Once the Minister decided to not fund KAIROS, it became a CIDA decision. That’s because the Minister is the boss at CIDA. It’s like, for example, if a Vice-President at RBC wants to lend $100-million to Facebook, but the President of RBC disagrees, and directs the Vice-President to NOT lend to Facebook. It then is a RBC decision to not lend to Facebook.

No lies, simply, it seems, a misunderstanding on Mr. Pearson’s part about what “government” means, and what constitutes a CIDA decision.

October 28, 2010
Minister Oda is asked an oral question by Mr. Francis Valeriote (L-Guelph). The question is hereT. This question is about, again, the difference between CIDA priorities and government priorities, and what constitutes a final decision. Just to be clear – every recommendation or “decision” a public service department makes is NOT FINAL, nor can it be called a Department Decision until the Minister signs off on it. Mr. Valeriote’s assertion that funding KAIROS was aligned with CIDA’s bureaucrats’ country program objectives is true, but also is it true that funding KAIROS does not meet the government’s objectives (where government is Cabinet in the person of Minister Oda). There is no contradiction. Mr. Valeriote is just upset that the Minister gets to win, because she’s the Minister.

Now, the question of WHY the Minister made the decision she did is valid as well, and the Minister simply said, “because that’s what the government chose”, which is kind of like when my kid gets upset because I answer “because I told you so” when he asks why he has to go to the store to get milk even though I am perfectly capable of doing so myself. I’m the mother, I get to decide. He might not like it, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles and when he’s a father, he will do the same thing.

Again, no lies, simply the opposition being the opposition and likely purposefully not picking up on the nuances of the two statements that appear contradictory but that are both true. Also, being 15 year-olds and not liking that the government in the person of Minister Oda made a decision they didn’t like.

December 9, 2010
Here’s where we get into this, and precision in answers. Keep in mind that these people are trained to answer questions like this (thank you, Aaron Sorkin):
Person A: Do you have the time?
Person B: Yes.

The spirit of the question is that Person A wants to know what time it is. But if Person A REALLY wanted the time, it would’ve gone like this:
Person A: What time is it?
Person B: /provides actual time

When you appear before a committee, you are trained to answer as in example 1. It’s as simple as that – this is national politics, lots of power and the stakes are high. You only answer the questions you are actually asked.

Knowing that, the Minister’s testimony is here. The Minister SIGNED OFF on disagreeing with the bureaucrats’ recommendation as shown by the insertion of the “NOT”. The Minister, while on the phone with a group of her staffers, directed the NOT to be inserted, but did not physically do it herself, and does not know which one of the staffers did it. She did not lie. She answered very precisely and correctly.

In Summary:
1. CIDA bureaucrats have “country program objectives”. These do not necessarily jive with the government’s objectives for foreign aid. Check.
2. CIDA bureaucrats recommended KAIROS to the Minister through a signed document that left no room for the Minister to disagree. The latter has been a problem for a few years and the bureaucrats should’ve stopped pre-supposing agreement and left space for the Minister to disagree a long time ago. The bureaucrats finally get the message and change the way they send decision documents to the Minister. Check.
3. The Minister disagreed after 2 months of weighing her options as is her prerogative. Check.
4. The Minister, while away from her office and needing to make a decision, directed her staff to indicate such disagreement and auto-pen it, thus ending funding for KAIROS. Check.
5. LIKELY: KAIROS freaks out and goes to their MPs to ask WTF. Check.
6. Liberal members who are in opposition start asking questions that are meant to meet their own political objectives in a greater narrative of transparency and accountability. Check.
PROBLEM: There is no issue with transparency and accountability in this particular instance.
7. Minister Oda answers questions in QP and before a committee based on the “government” being cabinet in her person, and “CIDA decisions” are only real when she signs off and is very precise as a seasoned politician should be. Check.

WHERE IS THE PROBLEM?? There is simply no contempt here. I’d LOVE to find it. But I cannot. The reasons for de-funding KAIROS are the government’s prerogative, and so what if the Prime Minister directed the Minister to disagree? He’s allowed to do that too – he sets the agenda.

Also, if this is the stuff the Liberals are counting on to win an election, we’re toast.


91 thoughts on “Minister Oda and ^NOT: Why I Agree With The Minister

    • Hey, you’re welcome. As much as I am a Capital-L Bleeding Heart Liberal (for the most part), I also believe in my ability to use experience and reason to determine whether an OUTRAGE is actually as such. As anyone who has been in opposition knows, this is what opposition does. But tearing down a person’s character (which is what a finding of contempt would do to the Minister) is exactly what the opposition accuses the government of, and it’s just not the appropriate way to debate issues. By all means, if there is real concern, I’m open to be proven wrong, but I don’t think that answering questions precisely and knowing exactly what “government” means is a reason for OUTRAGE.

      I’m not a gigantic fan of Minister Oda either – she needs to stand up to her boss on maternal health issues in the developing world – but honestly, we need real debate on real issues. If the opposition can’t find a way to do that, they don’t deserve to be the government.

  1. As a Conservative, I thank you for your clear presentation of facts… the best I’ve read so far. In looking into it, I could not see the ‘lie’ that everyone was frothing about. There were many in the media (Don Newman, Andrew Coyne, Chantel Hebert, Power Play panel, etc.) that did not get the basic facts correct, and therefore their conclusions were torqued. The picture of her smoking was a red herring and showed meanness. I feel pity for her, and hope she has a good support group. The whole caucus stood to applaud her when she answered the question on Haiti which must have done her some good. May she not collapse at the onslaught, and may she be entirely vindicated.

    Thank you for your post.

  2. Thank you for your clarity mackenzieam. A lot of what you posted was swirling around in my head but I could never have found your words and flow of thought. People like you are a credit to the Liberal party. You are able to filter through the partisanship and finger the facts. A commendable quality.

  3. Thank you for being so fair. I very much appreciate it. And, thank you Ruth for giving me this URL. I’ll definitely stop by on a regular basis.

  4. Great, CLEAR post. Thank you.

    A question:
    You said ” “Embassy”, a publication for diplomats, filed a Freedom of Information request and obtained copies of the document, presumably because de-funding KAIROS was kind of a big deal. Embassy them reported on the whole story, starting all these wheels in motion.”

    Care to speculate why “Embassy” was prompted to file an FOI request and by whom?

    I can understand if KAIROS had urged Embassy to do so, if the funding they’d lost was a much bigger amount … but $7 million?

    I invite you to speculate, but I’ll add some of my own, if you don’t mind. 😉

    I believe the CCIC has something to do with it. Here are excerpts from a speech by Gerry Barr, President-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC):
    • “A distinguished partner organization at CIDA with its funding prospects extinguished. First, for no reasons that could be named.”

    • “… we have concluded that we have to take the prospect of de-funding seriously.
    It means taking all those steps which anticipate a future that does not include CIDA funding.
    We have given notice of possible layoff to roughly two thirds of our staff team. Those colleagues who were with us on temporary contracts have not had their contracts renewed. …”

    • “… We are here to talk about citizen action in challenging times and our experiences tell us that we are not just making this stuff up. Our analysis needs to be sharp and concise and our sense of our resources (as a sector) should be appreciative and wide ranging. We need to be clear and realistic and we also need to be optimistic and imaginative.
    Our work is citizen action. …”

    So it appears CICC is also afraid of losing its funding.

    So who/what is CCIC?
    “The Council comprises about 100 Canadian voluntary sector organizations working to end global poverty. …”

    Among its members:
    Amnesty International – Canadian Section
    CAW Social Justice Fund
    Canadian Labour Congress
    Canadian Union of Public Employees
    Kairos – Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

    Not exactly a list of Harper government friends, I would say.

    • Thanks for the compliment. Much appreciated.

      What would be interesting to know from the perspective of actually getting into the nitty-gritty of how foreign aid is gathered and disbursed by organizations is, what percentage of KAIROS’ budget came from CIDA? I understand that this $7-million would’ve constituted a continuation of core funding that had existed for KAIROS for the previous 5 years (lucky devils, who gets core funding anymore?) Perhaps this was a change in government priority, in that politically speaking, it was someone else’s turn to get 5 years of core funding? Interesting that it is an ecumenical group, and considering a large part of the Prime Minister’s base, but then again the CICC speech…but that’s not an answer to the question. Random thoughts, indeed.

      What publication would international aid groups go to for such an investigation and for the purposes that Mr. Barr sets out, i.e. convincing the government and the international aid community that cuts are bad and the community needs wide-ranging funding? It certainly wouldn’t be the Toronto Star (no credibility with the sitting government if such an investigation was meant to create pressure on the govt) and not the National Post (no credibility with the public and would not find fault with the Minister, defeating the aims of such an investigation). “Embassy” is totally neutral, and not a journal – most people have never heard of it unless you have more than a passing interest in foreign affairs. So, my guess is that KAIROS, along with CICC colleagues, sitting MPs/staff got together to pitch a story to “Embassy” and it went from there. I can’t imagine that “Embassy” came up with this on their own, they don’t usually get into the politics of aid as far as I can tell (from checking it out when the mood strikes after reading the Hill Times), and is de-funding KAIROS such a big deal (again, how much is $7M out of their 5-year budgets as a percentage?) – unless, of course, this is part of a bigger story, but it’s been a while, so I don’t think so. I think “Embassy” got pitched a story and they followed their noses. Good for them, I like this kind of oversight, it’s democracy in action.

      • First of all, thank you for your reply.

        You ask “what percentage of KAIROS’ budget came from CIDA?”
        I remembered an article written by Brian Lilley a while back. This is it, written in December 2009.
        “Kairos – the truth is lost as Christian group fights for government funding”

        Lilley wrote:
        “The project that Kairos submitted, and the government rejected, was a four-year plan that would have cost $9 million dollars, of which, $7 million was to come from government. That is a remarkably high level of government money, more than 75% of total costs, going into projects that claim to have the support of Canada’s largest churches.”

        “Good for them [Embassy magazine], I like this kind of oversight, it’s democracy in action.”
        As long as they do it in an objective manner — but I’m afraid they have an activist agenda.

  5. I too would like to thank you for this endepth analizing of facts. I wish you could send this to the media…CBC “At Issue” because Peter Mansbridge said he “KINDA knows the issue”, as he ran with his Kinda assumptions which have me livid right now.
    Takes a bigger person to admit the facts and once again THANKS. Keep up the good work and maybe become a journalist?

    • You’re sweet, I appreciate it. I write about these things when I find a) myself getting upset about some totally irrational happenstance and b) I have a Saturday afternoon open to delve into the details – as a single mum to a 15 year-old, not often.

      What is aggravating the most is the partisanship when we have enormous issues facing us all at all levels of government. I want all of these people to get together, acknowledge basic values (e.g. a proper census, healthcare as a right, etc) and from those common grounds, debate the issues and not personalities. Focusing on engaging the electorate is the key – All areas of public policy are hot right now, everything from military to health to taxes – and we simply need to get past this bickering and come to agreement, particularly in a minority parliament, and get past the threats of elections that get everyone hot under the collar. Although, I love a good election… 😉

      Also, I’m very happy in my day job, advocating on health issues. But thanks for the suggestion – maybe a next career? 🙂

      • Nicely put.

        “…we have enormous issues facing us all at all levels of government..”

        This is the reason why the majority of us are tuned out of politics at all levels and our children won’t bother participating in democracy.

        The adults have left the building years ago.

        PS. Thank you for the analysis and reporting of your own bias. It is a refreshing change from the partisan rhetoric from the Ottawa bubble.

  6. After reading your explanation, I am appalled by the media coverage. The Toronto-based media has clearly tried to misinform and mislead the public. The media and the Opposition are NOT acting in the best interests of the country. I’m so glad that I belong to a different Canada than they.

  7. Add my name to the list of thank you’s. I have spent the last 3 days trying to find the smoking gun in this, but could not find any.

    The facts laid end to end did not indicate to me that Oda lied about anything.

    The media appears to have built their case on the fact Oda should have interpreted what the Liberals were trying to ask her, not on what they asked her.

    It takes an awful lot of effort to buy into Andrew Coynes logic, and no effort at all to understand what occurred in your piece. You have taken an issue the media has obscured and presented it with great clarity.

    I can understand the Liberals trying to make political hay out of this, but the media sensationalized their misrepresentations of the facts, without any questions whatsover. They convicted Oda in the court of public opnion

    In short the media acted with an agenda. I have not found a single dissenting voice.

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  9. I like others appreciate your clarity on this issue. Your post is just exactly what the doctor has ordered. If only the so called professional journalists would be as thoughtful as you have been in this post.
    I agree with you too that the bickering between our parliamentarians must end. There’s way too much partisanship and political gamesmanship going on. It’s a waste of time and taxpayer’s dollars.
    Thank you again. You’ve been a breath of fresh air! I will certainly be following more of your writings in the future.

  10. Thank you for your clear article about the Oda affair.

    As a Conservative/Libertarian, I greatly appreciate your honest views on this situation – makes it very clear how these things happen behind the scenes and why it is playing out in the media and opposition benches the way it is.

    This is the main reason why I hope the next election brings us a majority government (Conservative, of course) so that we can get past this constant threat of an election and all the power plays that go with it on a daily basis.

    Can we not have 3 years of peace and gear up for the next election in the 4th year? Please?

  11. To the satisfaction of the writer of this work and those reading it and commenting to this point is that the discrepancies between what was said regarding the department and the minister concurring which were erroneous and the Minister not knowing who wrote “not” and then that she instructed her staff to write have been resolved. as this CTV Video shows the Speaker is not of the same opinion.
    Further complicating this issue is Minister Kenney’s remarks in Israel.
    Are we to assume that Ministers are at liberty to decide to cut programmes and to give reasons for so doing without counsel from a higher authority? Must be though this is in contradicted by other actions taken by the PMO.

    “The document that cut off Kairos’s funding includes a recommendation for Ms. Oda “that you sign below to indicate that you not approve a contribution of $7,098,758 over four years for the above program.” But the word “not” was inserted in handwriting, and CIDA president Margaret Biggs testified that it wasn’t there when she signed it, just three days before Kairos was told its application had been rejected.

    Ms. Oda’s parliamentary secretary, Jim Abbott, apologized for telling the Commons that CIDA analyzed Kairos funding request and found it didn’t meet their priorities. He said he did not know that was untrue when he said it.”

    • Thank you for the links you provided, Mr. Hueglin. But what the Globe & Mail calls “a procedural technicality” seems to me more than a mere “procedural technicality.”
      The Speaker ends his Feb. 10, 2011 ruling by saying:
      “… It may sound overly technical but the reality is that when adjudicating cases of this kind, the Chair is obliged to reference material fully and properly before the House. With regard to statements made by the minister, this material is limited to a few answers to oral questions and one answer to a written question, not to any comments in committee.
          In the circumstances, with this key limitation in mind and in the absence of a committee report on this matter, the Chair cannot find evidence in documents properly before the House to suggest that the minister’s statements to the House were deliberately misleading, that she believed them to be misleading or that she had intended for them to be misleading. Accordingly, I cannot rule that the minister deliberately misled the House and, therefore, I cannot find that there is a prima facie question of privilege.”

      In other words, the Speaker did not have all the evidence before him to be able to rule a prima facie question of privilege.

      Many people who should know better, including journalists and MPs, have accused Ms. Oda of lying, or worse, fraud and forgery.
      I agree inserting the word “not” is not the most elegant or effective way of expressing the Minister’s disapproval of the funding, but to cry “forgery” is inaccurate in the extreme.

      I’m curious about what you say here: “Are we to assume that Ministers are at liberty to decide to cut programmes and to give reasons for so doing without counsel from a higher authority?”
      Whom do you consider “ a higher authority”?

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  13. Thank you for the analysis. It certainly helps to clear the fog around this issue.
    The fact remains this attack by the opposition and the media is simply an attempt to create another faux scandal. Of course the media falls right in line because they are terrified of a Harper majority government. If they think he runs a tight government now imagine when he has control of the House of Commons and the Senate. This is not a threat or speaking for the government it is simply an observation proven by Harper’s approach to minority government.
    However, the Oda saga is fast disappearing from the media. There really is no story here and certainly Canadians are not going to get excised over the insertion of a “not” in a government document. With the exception of the partisans of course.

    • As a decidedly conservative partisan and proud of it, I disagree “there’s nothing to see here.” I’m often frustrated by conservative strategists or commentators that dismiss some issues by saying average Canadians are either not paying attention or don’t care about these issues.

      The reality is that average Canadians form their opinions based on the 15-minute news clips chosen by broadcasters who tend to play up the negatives on governments. Talk radio, for the most part, also focuses on the sensational, especially if people in authority can be branded as less than ethical so that the rage meter can reach the stratosphere. And then there are those who get their information solely from reading newspaper/magazine headlines. Be it lack of time or lack of interest, the reality is that many people can be woefully misinformed — but they are still potential voters.

      So, if average Canadians get the impression the Minister “forged” a document, based on those clips and negative headlines, that has a negative effect on the trust people should have in their government, and it also erodes the support my political party enjoys.

      That is why such issues should be dealt with and not dismissed, IMO.

      • Churchill said the thing about lies getting around the word twice before that truth has the chance to get its pants on, right?

        People want to believe corruption in politicians. It’s a sorry state of affairs, but that’s the way it is. A fair number form all stripes have been badly behaved, and it’s traumatic for a society that is as traditionally deferential as ours is. We all seem to have politician PTSD and constantly expect the other shoe to drop, It sounds flippant, but yet, there are a lot of people like us who get upset about the sensationalism in media that we all feed into. Vicious cycles.

        Bigger conversation about media and politics will be added to the list of things to write about.

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  16. Sorry to crash the lovefest here. I was directed this posting and, while very detailed, is about as clear as mud. Like the government’s explanations, it tries to obfuscate the issue by referring to the byzantine process that is the reality of government action. If the end conclusions are ‘gosh, it’s all one big misunderstanding’ or ‘another example of liberal media witch-hunt’ then that’s problematic. The minority government has made a series of decisions that have hurt worthy endeavors, hurt Canada’s international reputation (Security Council seat) and are resulting in financial/security setbacks (U.A.E.)The contempt demonstrated towards accountability is reminiscent of the latter Liberal governments. And where are they now?

    • Hi Dave,

      To me, the point of this whole affair is that the argument to sack the Minister is about technicalities of language that are not problematic to those who understand the context. I’ve learned this week that “Not” means many things to many people. I’ve learned that in order to condemn the Minister, one is required to assume the Minister can read the mind of her questioners, or make inferences that may not be there, so she took the safe route and answered the key questions precisely. The opposition argument is about using common misunderstandings to try to sack a Minister. The commenters have discussed the media side of things (I have a hard time believing that the seasoned professionals are as naive as it would appear they are). Also, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the issue IS, indeed, about bureaucratic process. Yes, someone should’ve initialed the “not”, and likely it could’ve waited til the Minister returned, but having been in the situation where the bureaucrats are putting pressure on you, the Minister’s and PMO’s explanations are absolutely plausible and from all the relevant testimony appear to be, in fact, true. Which is OK – the PMO has been less than forthcoming on other stuff, I’m sure, but on this one, I believe them.

      This is not to say that I disagree with you about other decisions the Prime Minister and his government have made. I’m a Liberal, and further to that, when it concerns foreign affairs, I am a Liberal Internationalist. I believe that Canada has a long history of multilateral success as a middle power, and understanding that place in the world, and frankly, the respect this nation has for playing that role, would’ve resulted in less fumbles (UAE, Security Council, etc). It was disingenuous to make it political and blame Ignatieff for what was a government failure – they simply didn’t prepare far enough in advance for the election and used maple syrup as a hook (really? that was the plan?). It’s clear Prime Minister Harper would prefer bilateral relationships but that isn’t the world we live in right now, and respecting international organizations and the functions they serve instead of railing against them would serve him, and our nation, better. The government must take responsibility for failure and celebrate success – no matter who is in charge. I find that as governments move AWAY from the A-team (both members and staff) after first terms, these kinds of problems increase. Lots of reasons for that, maybe another post. Thanks!

  17. Hello Amanda.

    I think you may have sounded just a bit too authoritative in the fourth paragraph. I have been parsing your use of the word “we” as an assertion that you were, quite astonishingly, yourself one of the thirteen-odd principals of the 11/27 ’09 events. I await your possible correction, with I would be happy to link to in today’s post.

    • Just to be clear – I don’t know how many staffers Minister Oda has. In the MO I worked in, we had 12 staffers, which was on the low side of things. A very fast search on the Government of Canada’s directory site hereshows Minister Oda has a good-size team, with 5 present policy advisors, admin folks and schedulers, a driver and a Chief of Staff. This is absolutely normal in my experience. Please be absolutely clear – I worked in a provincial Minister’s Office, not federal, but worked with federal Minister’s Offices enough to know they basically have the same structure and issues that provincial folks do. The first “we” means the MO I worked for, and the following use of “we” = we, the public. Perhaps not fantastic english, and I usually do pretty well with that, so I’ll be more careful.

      If what I’ve assumed about how Minister Oda’s office worked then and works now is, as someone said, “eerily concurrent” (or something like that) with what the PMO said happened, it’s because this is the way Minister’s Offices work and there is clearly not much difference from provincial to federal, party to party. I am in no way connected to Minister Oda, her team or any member of the CPC. Except for maybe some of you all now. 🙂

      • Applied a link to your clarification in my post. Think we’re straight now. Thanks for the analysis, it provides a clear way ahead to find the identity of the true Doctor ^NOT.

  18. mackenzieam
    In answer to your question on KAIROS budget, govt funding has INCREASED in 2009 to 41%, up from 34% in 2005

    The funding proposal they submitted was for a $9 million project (over 3 ? years), of which $7 million would come from the government, shockingly representing 78% govt funding.

    “….Those churches by the way have been cutting support for this group at the same time. In 2005 Kairos’ annual report showed the religious denominations they claim to represent gave the group $1,961,157 while the government gave $1,369,331 out of a budget of $4,010,499.

    In the fiscal year that ended on December 31 2009 the denominations gave $1,493,556 while the government gave $1,772,082 out of a budget of $4,283,044.

    Religious contributions are down 10% and government support is up 10% in the same time period.

    The question you would expect the tough as nails journalists of the Parliamentary Press Gallery to ask is. “Why is Kairos funded at all by the government?”

    Another question might be at what point does a group like Kairos cease to be a charity and simply become an arm of the government?

    The funding proposal they submitted was for a $9 million project, of which $7 million would come from the government. That’s not a church backed charity anymore, it is an arm of the government….”

    • KAIROS is faith-based, and let’s be honest about where the Prime Minister’s core base comes from. I’m not making a judgment about it – but I think we can agree that the Prime Minister enjoys the support of a large number of Christian Canadians. So, not surprising that at the beginning of their tenure, the government wanted to give back to faith-based groups like KAIROS – and the lovely part is that KAIROS had a lot of faith groups under one big tent (ruh-roh…big tents…subject for another post) and so, to put it crudely, a bunch of birds with one stone.

      I’m speculating, but perhaps KAIROS got a little cheeky with their government funding – it WAS core funding, and NO ONE gets core funding anymore – and so perhaps stopped knocking on proverbial doors so much. Who knows, but I agree that if the government was spending $7m on a $9m project, perhaps the project should’ve been brought in-house if they thought it was that valuable.

  19. Why was there no place for Minister Oda to reject the request for funding on the CIDA memo??????
    Was there an alternate method of rejection?

    President of CIDA, Margaret Biggs said (testimony in committee) that the insertion of the NOT was ‘normal’.
    And the memos have since been changed to accomodate a rejection.

    Yet Ned Franks insists this is a clear case of falsifying documents, in essence directly contradicting Ms Biggs.
    That’s a criminal charge,
    but who is the victim?

    • It appears that the charge of “doctoring” the memo rests on the bureaucrats signing it with one intention, and then the Minister making the document have another intention, ostensibly making it look like the bureaucrats recommended that KAIROS be de-funded. The victims being the two bureaucrats who signed it first. This also assumes that the Minister signs first, then the bureaucrats…but, no, bureaucrats sign first usually to indicate their advice. If they signed after the Minister, it would look like the public service was “approving” the Minister’s decision. Minister signs last, and gets to exercise prerogative.

      The problem for those calling for Minister Oda to resign is, the bureaucrats don’t see themselves as victimized by the Minister, so why should anyone else? In fact, the bureaucrats took responsibility for the fact that the Minister shouldn’t have to do what she did to disagree and implement that disagreement, and changed the way they do business.

  20. mackenzieam,
    re a question on KAIROS budget
    Govt funding at 34% yr ending 2005
    increased to 41% yr ending 2009
    CIDA request rejected represented 78% of the ask.

    (repost, not sure if this got caught in moderation due to a link)
    from Feb 16/11

    ‘…Those churches by the way have been cutting support for this group at the same time. In 2005 Kairos’ annual report showed the religious denominations they claim to represent gave the group $1,961,157 while the government gave $1,369,331 out of a budget of $4,010,499.

    In the fiscal year that ended on December 31 2009 the denominations gave $1,493,556 while the government gave $1,772,082 out of a budget of $4,283,044.

    Religious contributions are down 10% and government support is up 10% in the same time period.

    The question you would expect the tough as nails journalists of the Parliamentary Press Gallery to ask is. “Why is Kairos funded at all by the government?”

    Another question might be at what point does a group like Kairos cease to be a charity and simply become an arm of the government?

    The funding proposal they submitted was for a $9 million project, of which $7 million would come from the government. That’s not a church backed charity anymore, it is an arm of the government….’

  21. Pingback: Stephen Taylor – a blog on Canadian politics » The Bev Oda “not” scandal

  22. I want to thank you for an excellent post on an issue that has been poorly reported on by journalists of all stripes.

    You provide a clarity and non-partisan view that we can all understand. Thank you!

    This should be forwarded to the Speaker of the House.

  23. Pingback: Bev Oda the excuse to trash Tories & trigger election | Crux of the Matter ►

    • Regarding David Akin’s posting of the Tory memo: My experiences, the Minister’s answers to questions and the testimony of President Biggs, which are the only things I can go on as an opinion writer, tell me that the Info-Alert is bang-on. I know a lot of non-Conservatives want to find something wrong with the situation, and it is admittedly weird from a CYA perspective, but I just don’t see wrongdoing at all. I think I need to address the other noise, like Jason Kenney and his speech and a few other things, so I’ll do some research on that and get back to you all.

      On your comment, this is an interesting point about government funding to non-profit agencies who necessarily use some of their funding from various sources to ask for more funding each year. It can be touchy – NGOs must, as far as I know from CRA rules about non-profits, indicate where advocacy funding came from, i.e. if you are the GR director at KAIROS, which pot of funding did your salary come from? It sure better not have come from government or a donor with an interest in the outcome of the advocacy. This point in the memo might be overstated, and now I’m very curious about the decision process Minister Oda undertook to come to the conclusion she did. What does she know about KAIROS that the public and their other donors should know, if anything? Or was it a purely political decision?

      The actual de-funding of KAIROS (which might be the bigger story – is the government making funding/de-funding decisions based on political whim? Minister Mike Colle in Ontario got in a pile of trouble for *appearing* to do the same thing with immigration NGOs) isn’t really a part of the story here, and maybe it should be.

      • (I posted a similar comment at Keith Beardsley’s blog, whom I discovered today thanks to his name being mentioned by journalist Elizabeth Thompson on CPAC’s The Week with Mark Sutcliffe)

        There have been references made to Kenney’s role in the de-funding of Kairos.

        It’s my understanding that Kenney mentioned Kairos ONCE in passing in a speech he made in Jerusalem. See Kenney’s speech here:

        If Kenney and by extension the PMO is labelled as playing up to the Jewish community in order to attract votes, can’t the same be said of Liberal MP John McKay, an evangelical who was tasked by Michael Ignatieff to reach out to the Christian community? 

        Wouldn’t taking up Kairos’ cause be a convenient way for the Liberals to get those Christian denominations back into that big tent?

        • I’m going to spend some time on this point tomorrow because its a part of the story that is being attached to the Minister’s part in it, and it doesn’t belong. I think its static but worth looking at to see the bigger narrative of action and reaction on all parts – the government, the opposition and the media.

    • MPs and MPPs are provided with talking points. ” not to provide millions of dollars in advocacy funding to KAIROS” is ab best an exaggeration at worst an untruth. For a thorough assessment you agree I believe the variues expenditure requests must be analysed and before that the meaning of the term “advocacy” agreed upon. Its meaning for me is pressing for a cause as opposed to taking positive action.

      Your thoughts regarding this will be most appreciated since this has added a new dimension, accusation without substantiation.


      • I’m going to get to this when I get home tonight, Joe. I think it’s important as well – and since my day job is in advocacy, I have a bit of knowledge about how non-profits are required to use funds by CRA and what that means for the organization in terms of accounting and how proposals are viewed. Really good point, and I’ll comment tonight.

  24. If the only way for Minister Oda to convey her disagreement with the recommendation, was by adding the word “NOT”, then there should be many other examples of this.

    Why doesn’t she produce mounds of documents where this has happened before, as evidence that this is how she routinely communicates to the public service what her decisions are?

    • As in the next reply, I agree – there should be other examples or else there would’ve been no reason for the Minister and ministry to be at odds for two years over how to formally indicate disagreement with public service advice.

      The thing is, FOI requests like this can be pricey and I don’t have deep pockets to do it. 😉 This might be something for Embassy to follow-up with considering the depth of the affair. I’m certain the government will not give up these documents proactively, as it would indicate that they felt they had to prove themselves if they did so. Damned political optics get in the way of cleaning up a mess that, frankly, the public has a right to see cleaned up.

  25. I don’t find this convincing at all:

    We know there was an urgency about the decision, so sending it back to the public service to correct, and go through the process of getting signatures and dealing with some public service blowback, was not a reasonable option.

    What a Minister or CEO normally does if he or she doesn’t like a recommendation is NOT TO SIGN OFF ON IT. You issue a decision letter and send it and the unsigned doc back to the initiators.

    The absurd notion that Oda had to both sign and negate a recommendation at the same time is the stuff of fantasy. I know it’s what most folks here want to hear, but it’s simply not how the system works.

    As the commenter just above noted, though, if against all odds this is indeed the odd way in which her shop carries on its business, there would have to be numerous other examples of “NOT” insertions for her to trot out in her defence. It’s not as though this is the first recommendation she’s ever nixed as Minister.

    • So John Baglow is calling the President of CIDA (and everyone else who has confirmed her statements) a (gasp!) LIAR, then? If there is any justice in the world at all, you’ll now be on the receiving end of one of those “he hurt my feelings” lawsuits you take so much delight it wishing upon others.

    • The thing is, though, that is in fact the way it works. These decisions, once actually made (that’s the part that takes time and process), happen lightning fast.

      In my experience, when a Minister disagrees with the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy will spend an large amount of time trying to convince him or her to get on board. It seems that after two years of decision notes without space to disagree, Minister Oda had had enough. CIDA President Biggs testified to the loggerheads the MO and bureaucracy found themselves at, and as a result of this (and perhaps other) notes, they have since changed the way they do business to the way that I have always seen this type of thing done – check boxes for the Minister to choose to agree, disagree, or a third option. Usually, this all happens at a briefing, and I assume Minister Oda had her briefing on this issue in September ’09, and then her staffers held on to the note until she was ready to decide.

      MO staff do not produce documents like they do in the private sphere. The normal process to not sign and send back would’ve gone like this (if they do it the same was federally as it is done provincially):
      1. Inform the deputy minister’s EA that the Minister disagrees and wishes to de-fund, verbally or by e-mail or both.
      2. The deputy requests a meeting with the Minister to discuss the issue, or will make it an agenda item at their weekly meeting. This could take weeks.
      3. Once the discussion (where the deputy will attempt to persuade the Minister to get on board) is had and the Minister still disagrees, a new document will be produced, with the deputy and ADM indicating their position, and another portion of the document indicating that the Minister has received advice from the bureaucrats and disagrees, and the decision is to de-fund. Again, this could take weeks, and would likely include another attempt at persuasion by the bureaucrats to the policy advisor and the Chief of Staff.
      4. Minister signs her portion of the document and life goes on.

      The issue is that the Minister delayed decision making on this issue until it became urgent, as President Biggs testified, due to KAIROS’ budgeting needs and, it seems, another letter to KAIROS that required a timely response (the letter that went out to KAIROS a few days after the infamous signing). As such, the usual process of disagreeing with ministry advice could not be followed – it had to happen quickly.

      I would think there would be other examples of such disagreements in the two years that the ministry and Minister were at odds with each other over how to note formal disagreement with advice, as if there had been no other instances of disagreement, there wouldn’t be loggerheads to start with that were testified to. I’d be interested in seeing such documents for sure.

  26. Wow a thinking liberal. Im putting this site into favorites in case of more. I would Love to see a whole lot more of these organizations defunded. Almost all commentators talk of the 7 million as chump change. On the ground in say Haiti 7 mill could do a lot but these guys are mostly funding staff.

  27. It’s a sad day when note has to be taken of a Liberal that sees and speaks the truth. What has happened to the Liberal Party of Canada?

    Thanks again for revealing your honesty and insight, while identifying yourself as a “Card Carrying Liberal”.

    All the best,

    • I’m going to get into a pile of trouble now from all my new Tory pals (love you guys, thanks for making my winter – this has been a terrific and respectful debate, and we need more like it), but I think that it’s obvious the LPC (or variations thereof) has been incredibly successful since Confederation, and Prime Ministers like Pearson have taken this nation to the next level. Right now, they are almost where the PCs were in 1993 when Jean Charest and Elsie Wayne were the only two survivors. Parties goes through period of success, failure and re-building. I think the LPC is between the latter two states at the moment. It’s a sad time when a great party, an integral actor in Canadian history (same as the PC/CPC), is grasping at such desperate straws to win cheap points that won’t materialize and doing the same thing they accuse their opponents of doing. We’re a pretty bright lot, and appearing Prime Ministerial, as a “government-in-waiting”, is what wins elections. We are in a period where Prime Minister Harper actually IS the Prime Minister, appears Prime Ministerial, and has building support. Mr. Ignatieff, and his team (I cannot name 5 Liberal shadow cabinet members – I could name 5 CPC shadow cabinet members in 2005) don’t have the “je ne sais quoi” that makes them appear as a government-in-waiting. But that’s getting way too much into the dynamics within the party, which maybe I will take a look at later on. It’s certainly interesting, and if we can stay rational about it, it might result in an issues-based debate instead of personalities.

      • What kind of “card-carrying Liberal” from Ontario can’t even name 5 of its Critics:

        like, the Premier’s brother; and the former Premier (Bob Rae); and a different province’s former premier, Ujjal Dosanjh; and the Deputy House Leader and former Finance Minister Ralph Goodale; or Mark Holland, who’s angrily denouncing Vic Toews practically every day; or even Justin Trudeau, for pity’s sake?

        An Ontario provincial Liberal, maybe, but if that’s all you are, and you’re not a federal Liberal Party member, then you, too, are guilty of misleading the country.

        • Settle down. I couldn’t name 5 critics. I got to 4 including Scott Brison, David McGuinty, Bob Rae and Trudeau. Your attempt to discredit me was clumsy. Come back when you can be respectful like everyone else here please.

      • This is an interesting exercise, because it directly relates to the issue. I will answer your question, but only after you show me where exactly you think I implied that I am a member of the LPC.

        Nevertheless, your conclusion that I am not a member, or at least a poor member, of the LPC, results from your belief that no LPC member would not be able to name 5 of their own critics off the top of their heads. First of all, I do not accept your criteria. The only criteria for membership as far as I know in the LPC is paying their membership fee. Second, you have decided by attempting to read between a fair number of lines that “card-carrying Liberal” means the LPC. You have also decided that I must be a member of the LPC to make a valid contribution to this argument. Further, You did not allow for “card-carrying Liberal” to be expressive of my core Liberal-ness (but might’ve forgotten to send back the membership renewal, or was never a member to start with) instead of actual membership – people do this all the time: One cannot be a “card-carrying member of the mafia. As far as I understand it, they don’t produce membership cards. You also don’t allow for me to be a member of the OLP, which would be a just as valid expression of Liberal-ness to anyone in this country.

        I do not need to live up to your criteria of what a Liberal is. I am an adult, I can make that decision for myself and I know that I have worked actively for the party for a number of years. I was canvassing for federal candidates with my parents at age 7. Stop being so damn suspicious and let a good argument actually be a good argument without getting into character attacks. It’s not becoming on you nor the party.

      • Hmm. Lots of hand-waving & indignation there, but no straight answer.

        You declared yourself to be “a card-carrying Liberal,” at the outset, before launching the criticism that the LPC is making a big mistake in accusing the Minister of misleading the House and pursuing this issue, and giving some scenarios to explain how Ms. Oda might be completely innocent.

        And the Blogging Tories are seizing upon it like a lifeline BECAUSE it comes from a Liberal (here’s a couple of Google searches on that )

        So I ask you again, point blank: ARE you currently an LPC member?

        (Because I’m not even a member, just a one-time donor, and I get emails from different members of the LPC shadow cabinet about once a week, so, again, your self-acknowledged inability to name more than four of their Critics DOES call that into question.)

  28. Thanks for this! It made the popularly-reported version of events alot more clear and less nefarious.
    I’d have read the article even if it set out to prove the condemnation of M. Oda – if it was written with the same clarity and absence of malice.

    Thanks again!

  29. Have you considered crossing the floor mackenzieam? You have been very well received by the blogging Tory community. I am putting a permanent link for stuffoccurs on my site. Having read your post and comment responses, I have a great deal of respect for your opinion.

    Though I’m sure we don’t agree on everything… 🙂

    • Thanks, Iceman. I try to think through my opinions and back them up with facts, but I am always willing to be wrong and look at issues from a human, what is the “right thing to do” perspective as opposed to always through a party lens. I find the the vast majority of the time, the way I understand our world and the decisions that need to be made jive with the Liberals, but I’ve agreed with the NDP, Bloc, Greens, ADQ…I think we all have, if it can be admitted to oneself that the people on the other side of the aisle are not evil half-humans with no soul, reptilian kitten-eaters (sorry, it had to be done!), or the equivalent, rather are either governing or developing policy/platform based on their understanding of the world. Obviously, variety is the spice of life, but I have a basic philosophy that I think I’m going to need to articulate after this whole affair is done with so that you guys know from when I come. And I promise you, we will likely not come to agreement on a fair volume of issues. 😉

  30. Pingback: The Bev Oda “not” scandal

  31. Not to belabour this point, but since it’s essential to your narrative: a CEO or top-level executive doesn’t indicate disapproval by signing off on a positive proposal and then altering the document to make it look as though everyone endorsed the contrary.

    In my experience, the decision-maker in question would, at the very least, scribble a note on the memo saying “Nothing doing” and sign it. A proper decision letter would follow, having been drafted as per instructions by an assistant.

    As for Jason Kenney’s comment in Israel, it wasn’t off the cuff. .(Kenney never speaks off the cuff.)The remark in question was picked up by the media, as he knew it would be, and there wasn’t the slightest attempt to recontextualize or walk it back.

    In the hierarchy of ministers, he is close to the apex, even mooted as Harper’s successor. Oda is a junior and not very competent minister.

    One can speculate, but the Occam’s Razor version is that Oda singed off on the grant, got a short, sharp phone call from the Langevin Blaock, and tried to fix things by causing the “NOT” to be inserted subsequent to the signing. Might have worked, actually, if she hadn’t prevaricated so ineptly when the opposition got wind of it.

    • I do not agree. I worked in a loan department for a bank. As the credit supervisor I would recommend a deal be approved. It would go up the line and come back with a decline. So inserting a not is the perogative of the head person. The process may be messy but it is the end result that counts.

  32. I suspect what you have discovered even along partisan lines an adult conversation on the big issues are not newsworthy.
    Are we at end of universality, the division of powers, role of government? Are we are being fed mistakes or unpopular decisions by the Federal government as a sinister plot every other week by the MSM-opposition war rooms?

    I have NO problem with disagreeing with the Federal Conservatives on priorities or spending. The bigger question is what is the alternative?

    Canadians in Feb 2011 have been polled and they find the alternatives are sorely lacking. (Can we blame the media buy exclusively?)

    Canadians deserve better. You will find Conservatives come in all shapes and sizes. Some want deep cuts immediately. Some want a pragmatic approach slow and steady nothing too big.

    The Liberal party of Pearson-Douglas coalition is dead. The world is turning away from big government entitlement culture.

    Vouchers for education and maternal health accountability are the result of failures for generations in funding without measurable results.

    What about freedom from oppression for the middle east and Africa?

    Is the Bev Oda decision to defund Kairos of seven million worthy of four weeks of a national conversation?

    This witch hunt reminds me of the Helena-Rahim circus.

    When Canadians are asked to tune back in to the real campaign the opposition may be very disappointed with the results for not tackling the bigger issues in this minority.

    • You’ve asked a pile of questions that I want to think about. It’s basically my new blog to-do list. I’ll deal with Kenney first and the Minister’s actual words on this and then move on- I don’t want to give the issue too much more attention because any points any guys are scoring won’t last in the long-term, and certainly aren’t being seen by the people we all worry about – undecideds.

      • No worries or rush.

        One size or one brush painting Conservatives won’t work anymore. The recent polls don’t matter as most of us are not following or paying attention to the noise in Ottawa.

        I was a Liberal and left with John Nunziata. I can accept each party has a job to do in Ottawa. QP is a sideshow and our MSM ignore the big issues for the tabloid stories.

        The Conservative agenda has been clear with groups like Kairos for over five years. The media and opposition MPs can recycle the shock and surprise about the defunding.

        This is an old story that is recycled to paint the CPC in a negative light.

    • ” the bigger issues” would be the Border-Perimeter Agreement for one most certainly, aside from this and opening up Canada to more foreign investment what would you place in this category, please.


      • I prefer a smaller Federal Government. I want taxation at the local level for those priorities from Provinces-Cities. I don’ agree with Ottawa central planners can get it right.
        Division of Powers, Equalization formula, democratic reform (Senate, Rep vs Pop), Role of citizens vs entitlement industry.

        I am not worried about the Perimeter agreement. I was not scare about NAFTA or the potential free trade deal with Europeans.

        Those who have vested interests to protects are making noise. The supply side dairy farmers feel threatened by cheaper goods from Europe and the US.

        Consumers win, I have no problem buy American or European products including food.

        • (to continue this slightly O.T. topic)

          Actually, I’m becoming increasingly alarmed about some of these border security and NAFTA issues. The US dollar has been within the range C$1 +/- .03 for about five months now, tending generally closer and actually touching parity or within 1 bp three times in that period. The head of our central bank is a fine fellow, but he does have an ominous CV, and Canada has been behaving more and more like the Fed’s Thirteenth District lately. If the world’s appetite for US sovereign bonds were to wane (and the numbers hadn’t been looking good for a while until last week) we could conceivably lose much of our own independence literally overnight.

  33. Then,

    Why did she not simply refuse to sign the document in the first place? Obviously, it seems that the final decision to cancel all funding to KAIROS originated at a higher level . Did one of her staffers use a signature block to sign this funding agreement without her consent? Frankly, I don’t buy the argument that they added the “Not” simply because there was no other way to indicate refusal. To indicate refusal is to refuse signing. There are proper ways to make modifications to legal documents or executive orders; such as add abbreviations for manual inserts. Due process was not followed. Obviously, the people in the room were either incompetent or this whole story reeks of fabrication.

    I still smell a fish.

  34. Pingback: The Oda Affair and Election Talks, Oh My! « Poli-Log

  35. Well said… thanks for renewing my faith in the fact that there are SOME folks with a non-partisan brain within the ranks of your Party… whom I HAVE voted for in the past, I must note.

    Posted a link to you over on my blog.

  36. It’s nice (and far too infrequent) to see an adult analysis from the left side of the political spectrum. If the Liberals had more adults they might actually elect more MP’s.

    Thanks for the excellent summation of the Oda/Kairos story.

  37. Thank-you for your honesty and clarity on this issue.You have renewed my faith that there still are some sensible Liberals out there.
    My family were Liberal, I used to vote Liberal and am now a staunch Conservative.My pet political peeve are parties,mine included,who focus on issues,however miniscule,with only THE VOTE in mind.It completely detracts from the job at hand of running the country.
    Thanks again for proving where this issue belongs, in the waste basket!

  38. Your welcome, the link reinforces the old story of a department resisting the new direction from government. Bev Oda may have not been forceful enough to get her department in line with the new priorities. I bet going forward the memo(s) will have a space to highlight her rejection.

    I have been clear she could have been clearer with a rejection and explanation. I don’t think she mislead the parliament or lied about it.
    5 years ago we had the same theme play out.
    “The changes are consistent with program cuts the government made to policy branches and advisory committees in several departments. Government watchers say it’s indicative of a move away from “government-funded lobbying,” in favour of results-oriented projects.”

    The SOW and other groups need to raise their own funds for their advocacy work.

  39. Pingback: Conservative “Party” is NOT the Conservative “Government!” | Crux of the Matter ►

  40. Pingback: Crack of Doom: a Former Oda Staffer Raises her Hand? - Housing Doom

  41. Pingback: Conservative "Party" is NOT the Conservative "Government!" « CRUX OF THE MATTER

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