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Paul Martin: Can't say "No"

Remember this from the Finance Department?

Pat Breton, a spokesman for Mr. Goodale, said yesterday that Finance officials met on the night of Nov. 22 for two or three hours and came up with the plan that became the next day's announcement on income trusts. He also said that the Prime Minister's Office was told after that Nov. 22 meeting — either later that night, or the next day — about the decision. The policy development was “entirely an internal Finance” effort, he added.

Remember how I said it was a load of crap, that Paul Martin and his office knew of the decision days, not hours, before the announcement on November 23?

Now who would you believe?

If you said you'd believe me, your confidence in me has been rewarded:

Paul Martin said he and some other people in the Prime Minister's Office had advance knowledge of a government decision on income trusts before it was made public, something he says isn't out of the ordinary.

Martin, who spoke following a campaign stop at a Montreal-area mosque, said he was one of a number of people in the PMO who were informed of the decision before it was made public.

"I knew and I'm one of them. The fact is, that the people who would be on a need-to-know basis would have that information," said Martin.

Now Paul Martin hasn't said how long before the announcement he knew, but the implication is clearly that he and his office knew well before, not just a few hours.

I await a reporter's question that will attempt to pin him down on the timeframe.

In the meantime, we get to hear the Prime Minister's answer to the question of whether the PMO leaked the information:

"The fact is we are dealing with opposition allegations. And that's all we are dealing with. Opposition allegations during an election campaign," said Martin. "The RCMP obviously have a responsibility to follow up on matters such as this. That's their job."

What the...?

Does the Prime Minister believe that someone in the PMO leaked the information? "Yes" or "No"?

One problem is that Paul Martin can't give a simple answer to a simple question. It's not in his nature, and when he's speaking off the cuff, you can see that.

This is also a lame attempt to shift the discussion to opposition motives. It won't work. Everyone knows that the opposition is motivated by a desire to win an election. It's called democracy. We're all fine with that.

We're not fine with insider trading, especially insider trading committed by the government.

But there is one more dynamic at play. As a politician, Paul Martin is extremely sensitive to being caught in a bald-faced lie. Every answer has layers and conditionals that allow you to re-spin the answer over and over again as the facts become known.

There is no way the Prime Minister can say "No" to the question "Did the leak come from the PMO?" unless he is absolutely certain. And he isn't certain because of one of three reasons:

  • He knows someone leaked.
  • He suspects someone leaked.
  • He knows his people well enough not to be fooled into thinking they weren't capable of committing a crime.

None of these are great options.

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