The world is ending! Well, not really – but that is the traditional rallying cry of the opponents of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party whenever the Tories sit on the doorstep of a majority, as recent polls would suggest.
Mind you, the Tories never make it easy for themselves. Misquoting the Auditor-General and being called out for it on the same day opposition leaders are blasting the Conservatives about a draft version of a Sheila Fraser report doesn't help. Even a second draft version of that Fraser report the Globe received suggested the Tories had work to do on the transparency front. However, no party has a monopoly on careless mistakes. Just ask the Ignatieff spokesman who told a reporter on Sunday his boss didn't vote in foreign elections only to discover the Opposition Leader did vote in a previous British election.
Back to the end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it narrative that the opponents of the Conservatives love to trot out. No restraints will be placed on hyperbole. No limits will imposed on irrational argumentation. The sky will fall just as has been promised since 2004. Pick up those emergency supplies now. Hard hats are a must.
Were we not talking about taxpayer dollars – their allocation and proper administration – the debate about the Canadian Press story about an early draft report on a portion of G8 spending would be comical. As the Canadian Press properly admitted in its story, they were shown a copy of the draft report by someone described as a supporter of one of the opposition parties. It seems whoever this leaker was, he or she found a version that was extremely critical of the government. Not surprising: You hardly expect an opponent to provide a bouquet of roses to a media outlet when they are more interested in tearing up the lawn.
Equally fascinating is to see how that early draft report is being exploited as the final analytical product by the opposition parties who have generally been well behind the Conservatives in polls since the election started. Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff, both of whom have been authors and academics, should be better versed than most in the variances between early drafts and the finished works. But that matters little when the opportunity to distort for political purposes falls into your lap – or one of your supporters hands it to the media the day before a debate.
Sheila Fraser herself said Monday about the initial leaked draft report:
"I strongly caution the public to wait until our final report on the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund has been tabled in Parliament and made public.
"We work very hard to keep our reports confidential before they are tabled. There are indications that an early draft of this report may have been released by someone outside our office. Our normal audit process requires that we share early drafts of our reports with government departments. We do this so they can validate the facts on which our conclusions are based, provide any additional relevant information, and so they can prepare responses to our recommendations. Sometimes during the process of fact validation, additional information is brought to our attention. Only the final report that is tabled in Parliament represents our audit findings and conclusions."
All parties, including the Conservatives, have asked Ms. Fraser to release the final report. She has says she can't until Parliament sits again. While it remains publicly unavailable, we should all heed some of her wise counsel or caution about waiting to render judgments until the real completed report is available, not drafts.
Elections always present us with a healthy dose of irony. Had the opposition parties not voted the government down to suit their purposes, Parliament would be sitting and now likely be in reception of Ms. Fraser's full report. The opposition who claim to want to make Parliament more accountable slammed the door on their fingers – yet that matters little when you still have one functioning finger to give to the government.
That was just something incredible to see Mr. Ignatieff jumping off his campaign bus Monday to bust the government's chops on this leaked draft only hours after his own team had been caught misinforming Canadians about his overseas voting record. Not three hours after his own error, Mr. Ignatieff was running off half-cocked looking to drive up his poll numbers peddling partial stories and over-the-top rhetoric. So be it that is how things work when the sky is falling.