Behind the curtain
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.