Originally published in 24 Hours Vancouver. Photo: Chris Mikula, Canwest News Service
Tuesday night's shocking accusation by Canada's head of security that several municipal politicians in B.C. are "agents of influence" for foreign governments has the whole country talking.
The timing of CSIS Director Richard Fadden's comments on CBC's The National couldn't have been more conspicuous, with the most powerful world leaders about to touch down at the G8 & G20 summits in Ontario this week.
It begs an important question - why would Fadden reveal this investigation, and why now?
To say this is a bizarre turn of events for B.C. politics would be an understatement.
We've already got enough of a reputation for being Canada's "wild west" when it comes to politics, and now we have to wonder if "secret supporters" of foreign governments are running our towns and cities.
There are shades of John Frankenheimer's brilliant 1960s classic film The Manchurian Candidate in this story. Fadden explicitly spells out that the influencers exist at the municipal level of government, and he uses the word "several" to suggest there is more than one political figure under surveillance.
Fadden also says that the people are often "groomed" over years, and they develop "quite an attachment" to foreign supporters.
He also says that the people they're looking at have been quite open about their relationships with foreign governments, and they're shifting policy to reflect those relationships.
Just like The Manchurian Candidate, Fadden seems to suggest that you need to look at the backgrounds of political figures to understand the nature of their political supporters. Where did they go to school? Who are their donors? What kind of influence do they wield on policy at the local level that could possibly be a threat to Canada's national or economic security?
It really starts to sound like the stuff of spy novels, but it's apparently reality according to this high-ranking civil servant.
There are those who suggest that it is a deflection to distract the public from past failures of Canada's security establishment. SFU security expert André Gerolymatos on the Bill Good Show zeros in on the timing. Why did it happen, he asks, the week that the final report on the Air India disaster was released?
Somehow I find the "smokescreen" argument weak. This is a significant accusation that will have big ramifications for governance in our province and elsewhere. Fadden doesn't seem that careless.
Professor Gerolymatos stated that "politicians will be looking over their shoulders in the B.C. government and in Vancouver", but he doesn't explain why it would be our largest city and not somewhere else.
There are Cold War undertones to Richard Fadden's accusations that we must consider. Once the finger pointing begins it's hard to control. Before you know it you could have a form of McCarthyism rearing its ugly head.
Fadden seems to be sending a signal flare to Canadians that something is coming, and he wants us all to pay attention.
In a post-911 world where we've focused on terrorist threats, have we made ourselves vulnerable on other flanks? I think that's what CSIS is telling us.
- post by Mike. See the Fadden CBC interviews.