JUNE 15, 2022 – The present Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie Joly, needs to learn when to be quiet.
It is enough that a bureaucrat in her department attended a Russian Embassy reception when Canada is supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion.
But to keep insisting the buck stops with her and she didn’t know etc. only serves to make her look foolish and out of touch with her department and more importantly her own office.
Anyone who has dealt with Ottawa bureaucrats knows how risk adverse they are- especially at foreign affairs. Everything there happens at a snail’s pace with lots of required sign offs for even the smallest note heading to a minister. It would not be uncommon to see five or more sign offs on a briefing note as the original desk officer’s memo got massaged by each level above that position. Massaged into a note hardly recognizable from the original one. I always found it worthwhile to get a copy of the original note.
Considering the sensitivity of Canadian-Russian-Ukrainian relations right now, there should be lots of memos out there on this event.
The minister has indicated her office knew, but not her. Dumb answer. For her office to get a note, it was almost certainly signed off by the Deputy Minister. At the very least her Chief of Staff (COS) got a copy. An ATIP might one day let us know who signed off.
If the COS got one, that note was important enough to raise the issue with the minister.
Either she has incompetent staff, or she is incompetent for hiring them and clearly, she has not put in place procedures in her office on how to handle sensitive files.
In trying to distance herself from the issue she has only succeeded in making it worse. Sometimes it is best to just shut up.
Keith is a former political staffer with over 50 years of active involvement in Canadian politics. He is a former Deputy Chief of Staff to a Prime Minister for Issues Management and he was a senior political advisor involved with political research, Question Period, political attack teams and election war rooms for over 20 years. A well-known political pundit, Keith has appeared many times on Canadian political panels.