By Frank Moher
While the States deals with its case of loose lips sinking General McChrystal, are we watching a similar self-capsizing occur up here? CSIS director Richard Fadden is today backing-off statements he made in two interviews with the CBC, broadcast earlier this week. Fadden said that CSIS suspects some municipal officials in BC, as well as cabinet ministers “in at least two provinces,” are under the influence of “foreign countries.” He later told Peter Mansbridge that the agency was discussing the situation with “the centre” — meaning the Prime Minister’s Office.
The PMO responded that it had no idea what he was talking about, and now Fadden has issued a statement saying that, actually, he hadn’t discussed the matter with “the centre” after all. Oh.
First of all, it’s necessary to remark on how deliciously Pearson-era Fadden is, with his G-Man style glasses and meticulously circumspect phrasings. Asked whether China might be one of the culprits, he replied by noting that media reports suggesting China was engaged in economic espionage in Canada were not “entirely incorrect.” In other words, Yes. Really, he could be Alec Guinness playing George Smiley.
But apparently he’s not been circumspect enough. BC preem Gordon Campbell has given him one day to explain himself; the timing is embarrassing to the Feds as Chinese President Hu arrives in Canada for the G20 summit; and the Post‘s John Ivison has already suggested on CBC’s “Power and Politics” that Fadden may be fired.
It would be too bad, though, if that happened. The CBC’s interviews with Fadden were truly remarkable, and his candour, however circumlocutory, serves democracy. Already theories have emerged as to what his real agenda might be — a University of Toronto professor suggests, unconvincingly, it’s just an attempt to divert attention from the security budget for the G8 and G20, while The Georgia Straight thinks maybe he’s trying to distract us from the 25th anniversary of the Air India bombing. But if Canada wants to avoid the sort of seeping distrust of government that besets the States, Fadden’s availability will be a lot more effective than the PMO’s increasing hermeticism. Perhaps he’s enjoying his role as spymaster a little too much. Better that, though, than scurrying back into the dark, and treating the Canadian people as among the security risks of whom he must be wary.