Be­hind the cur­tain

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - This ed­i­to­rial was orig­i­nally pub­lished in The Tele­gram.

In “The Wiz­ard of Oz,” the mighty voice and machi­na­tions of the wiz­ard turn out to be a fa­cade. A cur­tain is opened, re­veal­ing a small man op­er­at­ing levers and pul­leys.

Gov­ern­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion is like that. Much of the pop­u­la­tion ac­cepts the good and bad news trum­peted by min­is­ters at face value when, in fact, there are minions and strate­gists of­ten pulling the strings.

This is the case with any gov­ern­ment, but it’s as­tound­ing how of­ten the cur­tain has been pulled back on the Con­ser­va­tives in re­cent years – and how of­ten they just carry on as if no one has no­ticed.

CBC-TV’s “Power and Pol­i­tics” crew re­cently got their hands on a most cu­ri­ous email that was meant for bu­reau­crats work­ing for For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Rob Ni­chol­son. The memo, dated from April, asks staff to come up with three ter­ror­ism-re­lated state­ments per week.

In other words, the min­is­ter’s pro­nounce­ments on ter­ror­ism would not be driven by ac­tual news or cur­rent events, but by quota.

The only good thing that can be said about this edict is that staff ap­par­ently haven’t taken it too se­ri­ously.

“We’re not mak­ing a spe­cial ef­fort to ful­fil this odd re­quest,” one staffer told CBC on con­di­tion of anonymity.

And, in fact, the quota was ap­par­ently only ful­filled once since the time the email was sent.

It’s been crys­tal clear for years now that Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper is play­ing the fear-of­ter­ror­ism card ev­ery chance he gets. This di­rec­tive only con­firms that.

So, what morsel of ter­ror­ism non-news might the min­is­ter toss out in the days to come? Well, here’s one statis­tic he might want to play up: ter­ror­ism is in­creas­ing.

That’s right, ter­ror­ism crimes sky­rock­eted by 39 per cent be­tween 2013 and 2014, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port on crime by Sta­tis­tics Canada.

That seems like a huge jump – un­til you look at the raw num­bers.

In fact, the to­tal num­ber of ter­ror­ism crimes rose from 73 to 100 over that time span. That’s out of about 1.8 mil­lion crim­i­nal of­fences in to­tal.

So in 2014, there was one ter­ror­ism-re­lated of­fence for ev­ery 18,000 crimes. Rounded off, that amounts to, es­sen­tially, zero per cent.

As well, the scope of ter­ror­ism of­fences in­creased un­der Bill S-7, passed in 2013. They in­clude such of­fences as leav­ing the coun­try to par­tic­i­pate in ter­ror­ism abroad.

Sta­tis­tics Canada even states this in its re­port: “The in­crease in ter­ror­ism was pri­mar­ily at­trib­ut­able to new ter­ror­ism vi­o­la­tions that were added part­way through 2013, in par­tic­u­lar leav­ing Canada to par­tic­i­pate in the ac­tiv­ity of a ter­ror­ist group, as well as an in­crease in vi­o­la­tions re­lated to fa­cil­i­tat­ing ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity.”

But don’t ex­pect those facts to get in the way of the Con­ser­va­tives’ mes­sage ma­chine.

The cur­tain may be wide open, but they’ll still be pulling those levers right up un­til elec­tion time.

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