This clarification appeared in my copy of the Toronto Sun today (in case you hadn’t heard, you can now get the Sun delivered seven days a week in the 416):
On April 3, the Sun published a column by Ezra Levant that implied Ajax-Pickering MP Mark Holland personally read through personnel files of former Canadian Alliance and Reform party staff.
We are advised by Holland and accept that he did not personally read the personnel files but rather they were looked through by a researcher at the Liberal Party Bureau.
Holland has also stated that he only learned of the existence of these files the previous week, and that he has never had them in his possession other than during a news conference.
The foregoing has been Holland’s line since the Case of the Purloined Documents morphed horribly from a story of Conservative negligence, into yet another tale of the Liberal party’s integrity deficit. (The Western Standard’s Kevin Steel provides a good rundown here – free registration required). Shortly thereafter, Holland made good on his threat to sue over Levant’s column.
But contrast Holland’s denials with what he and his fellow junior detective Marlene Jennings told the Ottawa Citizen’s Juliet O’Neill:
Accusing the minority government of “gross negligence”, two Liberal MPs had 10 boxes of Conservative personnel files carted on a trolley for three blocks through pouring rain to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office in order to have them returned.
The files contain highly personal information, judgments on individual employee performance and comments by their peers and supervisors, Ontario MP Mark Holland and Montreal MP Marlene Jennings said. They accused the government of “gross ineptitude” and “cavalier disregard” for privacy.
“If I’m one of the 34 people who had my personnel files left behind I’d be having a lot of questions and I’d be very upset,” said Holland, who noted 174 performance appraisals were among the documents.
Holland and Jennings said they held back another dozen boxes of papers in case they find some “of public interest.”
--Ottawa Citizen, March 27, 2007
I hope Holland had the good sense to ensure that only Liberal staffers read those files too, to preserve his pristine deniability.
Clearly, Holland was – at the very least – well-briefed on the nature and contents of the documents prior to his participation in the Wellington Street photo op. To insist that he be cleared of the sin of actually reading them is the type of parsing that has been missing from public life since the retirement of Bill Clinton.
Further, Holland’s scurrying from a photo op turned sour, and subsequent blaming of political staff, provide an interesting preview of the kind of cabinet minister he might make if he were ever given the chance. A classic case of why politicians who’ve been running for prime minister since high school are my least-favourite kind.