Ottawa ON – The Bev Oda saga drags on made all the worse by the Prime Minister’s stubbornness to keep her in place. Unfortunately in the process a minister’s reputation will be destroyed and the government’s reputation tarnished. The one saving grace for the Conservatives is that the issue is just confusing enough that the general public won’t bother to read much further than the headlines.
To begin with Oda had every right to refuse the grant. As the minister is responsible for the spending of these funds, it is up to her to decide how they are spent. Contrary to some of what I have heard, department officials don’t make grant decisions, they make recommendations to the minister. Only the minister can say yes or no.
Usually there are discussions between the minister, the staff and the department as to which grants will go forward and for how much. Eventually a letter is prepared for the minister’s signature and the minister signs off. Somewhere in the department there will be a paper trail about those discussions with the minister’s office and it will be clear that the minister agreed to the funding request.
Unfortunately all sorts of groups get used to receiving their government grant each year and build it into their yearly budget. Living off the government becomes a way of life for them. When government priorities change or a new minister with a different agenda arrives on the scene the groups are outraged when they don’t get their expected funding. Backed by media and opposition MP hype they try to get their funding back. The minister will have to stand in the House and defend their decision and that is the way it should be. Yet in reality groups who receive funding support from the government should have been raising funds to match what they got from the government, they should not be dependent on it. It is not up to taxpayers to fund their activities indefinitely.
As for how the letter was signed it gets more interesting. Did Oda sign it in person or was it auto-penned? The result is the same, Oda’s signature is there and it’s official. If the minister instructed someone to insert the “not” then she was probably under pressure to do so as a last minute attempt to stop the funding from going forward. Oda has been a minister long enough to know that simply refusing to sign the letter stops the funding process. There was no reason to insert the not unless it was already signed. Did the minister simply phone her office and ask that it be inserted? In that case she would not know who did it and her answer would be correct.
Having a “not” inserted shows some last minute attempt to stop the funding. That it was done indicates a lack of understanding of the process, the legality of doing so and quite possibly the inexperience of staff if they did not caution the minister that this should not be done.
No matter how it happened, in the end the minister is responsible for what took place and the minister pays the price if a mistake was made.