Hon. Linda Frum: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate on one of the pressing issues Canadians are indeed talking about today.
In her testimony yesterday, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said Katie Telford, Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister, promised to line up favourable op-eds to give the then-Attorney General cover if she agreed to issue a directive to reverse a decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Senator Harder, is that a common practice of the PMO, to instruct pundits and editors to write and publish favourable op-eds for the government?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for the question. She will know from her acquaintance with the journalism profession that those attempts are rarely successful.
Let me simply say that the former minister has expressed her views with respect to the interactions that she’s had with a number of individuals. Again, I repeat that those individuals, by her own acknowledgment, did not engage in any form of direction or in any illegal activity.
Did they express the views that they held and the views of the Prime Minister and of other representatives of the government? Did they suggest that there were appropriate ways in which the actions that could be contemplated could be communicated to the public? Absolutely.
Senator Frum: Senator Harder, something that did not happen in my days in journalism but is happening now is that this government is ready to hand out half of a billion dollars to so-called qualified media outlets, and now we see that we have the Prime Minister’s right-hand woman openly bragging about her ability to use those same favoured media outlets for political cover.
Senator Harder, how can Canadians be confident that this promised aid to the media is not a way for the Trudeau Liberals to buy themselves political cover? How can Canadians trust Katie Telford with this file or, frankly, with any other file?
Senator Harder: Again, I want to say to the honourable senator that Katie Telford is a talented woman who does her job extraordinarily well.
With respect to the accusation that’s implied in the question, the honourable senator will know by the criteria with which funding for media is being contemplated, that any direction from ministers would be impossible to achieve.