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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FELDSTED -- If a breach of ethics, Criminal Code, or federal statutes investigation is underway, investigators must be allowed to seek an Order for government to produce relevant Cabinet materials

As an explanation, this CBC article is an epic fail. First, the Queen’s Privy Council and the Government Cabinet are separate bodies with separate mandates.

The Privy Council provides apolitical advice to the Governor General on what is going on in Government. The Cabinet oversees operations of government departments and agencies. Cabinet ministers are usually members of the Privy Council and their duties vary depending on which body they are attending.

Privy council confidentiality is absolute. Members cannot disclose what is discussed during a privy council meeting. The Clerk of the Privy Council has no authority over the Government Cabinet. It is outside of his jurisdiction.

Cabinet confidentiality is less onerous than Privy Council confidentiality and can be waived by either the Prime Minister or the Courts.

Prior to 1940 the roles were separate, and should be separate today.

Amalgamation causes confusion of the sort highlighted during the SNC-Lavalin affair. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice are separate functions with different responsibilities.     

Justin Trudeau is fairly caught. The Clerk of the Privy Council is not independent; he or she reports to Trudeau. Privy Council confidentiality cannot be applied to Cabinet meetings and material. Trudeau and Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart can’t hide from their responsibilities.

There is no justification for the confusion.

Separate the roles of the Clerk of the Privy Council, and Secretary to the Cabinet, and Minister of Justice and Attorney General. The media, MPs and the public should not need an index to sort out who they are communicating with.

In past, courts have held that Cabinet confidentiality is important to encourage Cabinet members to speak fully and frankly during meetings. That is fundamental to democracy. These men and women were elected to represent us in government and cannot be censored in what they say or the ideas they put forward.

If there is an investigation underway in respect to a breach of ethics or the Criminal Code or other federal statutes, investigators must be allowed to seek an Order for the government to produce relevant Cabinet materials. The Judge can preview material to ensure that it is relevant to the investigation before releasing it.

The Mark Norman affair is another example of where our government refused to produce documents vital to Mr. Norman's defence and when it had destroyed his career, admitted it did not have case. These who wrongfully charged Mr. Norman need to be brought to justice.

For our Prime Minister to play a game of “Simon Says” with the media, opposition parties and police during an investigation into potential criminal actions is disgusting.

Trudeau must not be allowed to escape accountability.

Our Prime Minister, Cabinet members and Members of Parliament are all accountable to the public.

When our representatives break the law, they must be held accountable. The litany of excuses and evasions we are offered can be expected when petty criminals appear before a court. They are not appropriate in our parliament during an investigation.

None of them are above the law.

The Way I See It ~~ John Feldsted
Political Commentator, Consultant & Strategist
Winnipeg, Manitoba


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