Monday, May 26, 2008

Does this pass the smell test?

The Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services (OCCOPS) has decided that a recent case of possible political interference somehow just isn't worth investigating. We'll not soon know why. The OCCOPS decision was made at a secret meeting, and its report is confidential. Civilian watchdog, eh? How did it get locked in the panic room?

On December 11 last year, less than a day after Ontario Provincial Police superintendent Dave Truax had announced that the OPP was forwarding its bribery dossier on Mayor of Ottawa Larry O'Brien to the RCMP, Environment Minister John Baird's chief of staff Chris Froggatt contacted the OPP. Baird had been connected in some accounts to allegations that O'Brien offered a bribe to mayoralty candidate Terry Kilrea to drop out of the municipal race in 2006.

A few hours after the call, the OPP announced that it was not going to share its files after all, and Superintendent Truax, who had given two earlier interviews (one recorded) stating the contrary, now claimed that the press coverage had been inaccurate. OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino huffed and puffed and called allegations of political interference "nonsense."

Liberal MP Mark Holland, who had asked for the investigation, has run into a buzz-saw recently, first being sued by Froggatt, and then (in a break with tradition) being refused coverage of his defence costs by Parliament's Board of Internal Economy.

Lawsuits, of course, have become the Conservatives' weapon of choice recently: The Conservative Party is suing Elections Canada. Stephen Harper has filed a notice of libel against Stéphane Dion. Liberal opposition critic Robert Thibault has been ruled ineligible to sit on a Parliamentary committee because he is being sued by Brian Mulroney. (Who made that ruling? Why, Mary Dawson, appointed Associate Deputy Minister of Justice by that same Brian Mulroney, and appointed as Ethics Commissioner last year by Stephen Harper.)

O'Brien isn't up for prosecution for a few months yet. Meanwhile, the OPP has received its usual OCCOPS shielding. John Baird, told by the PMO that he would be ejected from Cabinet if the RCMP were to pry into his alleged connection to the O'Brien bribery affair, is no doubt a happier man today. And the public remains, as usual, squarely in the dark.

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