Information commissioner Robert Marleau resigned yesterday, saying the reasons were personal and private.
We’ll take him at his word. He wasn’t pushed out. He wasn’t overly frustrated at being information commissioner under one of the most secretive and domineering governments the country has ever known.
Quite coincidentally, on the day he resigned the news arrived that the government regards the cost of the Afghan war a state secret and will not be revealing it. The Defence Department cited national security in refusing a request by the New Democratic Party on the costs of the war.
Imagine that. What other country, excepting authoritarian states, refuses to reveal the cost of military missions? We recall last fall when the Harper government vehemently opposed Budget Officer Kevin Page’s decision to reveal the cost of the war. The Harper government has been at war, so to speak, with Mr. Page over this and other actions of his in which he has demonstrated a strain of independence.
His deficit forecasting, for example, has angered the government because it has been at odds with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s prophesies. His forecasting has been more accurate than Mr. Flaherty’s, but that doesn’t count. Mr. Page is not on the same page. He is therefore an outcast.
The resignation of Mr. Marleau comes also the day after a report appeared in The Toronto Star in which he was quoted as saying Ottawa has been failing for years to live up to promises of openness. “Static decline,” he called it.
In his periodic reports to parliament, Mr. Marleau had criticized the Harper team for blocking access to information. A prime violator, he said, was the Privy Council Office which works in tandem with the prime minister.
The pattern of the prime minister and his operatives, repeatedly criticized as being control freaks, has become increasingly apparent.
In this so called democracy, any dissent, any independent challenge to its authority, will not be tolerated. Before the Conservatives came to power, the Liberals had established quite a reputation for secrecy and overcentralization of power. The Harperites promised a new era of openness and brought in their Accountability Act. It sounded good on paper. In practice it has been largely forgotten.
We keep thinking Mr. Harper might change. Last week he showed some capacity for openness and power-sharing capacity when he sat down with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to work out some differences.
Some democratic spirit was breathed into the system. But as other developments indicate, change isn’t happening. Our PM has been jokingly referred to as the Sun King. The problem is that it’s not always a joke.