Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jeffrey Monaghan: Eco-Hero or Eco-Ego?

Monaghan first target of Witchhunter John?

The story of an Environment Canada contractor arrested yesterday became a good deal more interesting today as the contracter, Jeff Monaghan held a press conference on Parliament Hill.

While decrying his arrest as part of a "witchhunt", Monaghan failed to confirm or deny that he leaked the draft copy of the Conservative Party Green Plan. Monaghan was arrested in the office he worked for Environment Canada in, as a "clipper" -- someone paid to monitor newspapers for mention of the department, and catalogue information about how the department is being portrayed in the media.

Monaghan, in his press conference, noted that he was hired as a contractor in order to "skirt government hiring policies". Listed as a temporary employee, he worked at Environment Canada for four years. Interestingly, he was hired under the Liberal government.

While Monaghan wasn't forthcoming regarding his potential guilt (he left the press conference without answering any questions from reporters), he did take the opportunity to vent his criticisms at the government. "The leak under investigation is the first explicit document of the government of Canada that states clearly that it has no intention to follow its legal responsibilities."

"That document cynically reframes our country's legal commitments within a 2006 evaluation framework, which is essentially abandoning the 1990 standard," he said.

In a note attached to the leaked document, the leaker wrote, "Your source objects strongly to the secrecy of the Harper government, its continuous PR campaign and the abandonment of international standards for [greenhouse gas] emissions."

In his press conference, Monaghan "coincidentally" complained about the secrecy of the government. It's not quite a smoking gun, but it's awfully close.

Perhaps the most ironic thing about the entire issue is that Monaghan worked for two years under a Liberal government, seemingly holding the same PR-related job, and never complained. Until the Conservatives came to power. Now he's complaining.

Many public servants and opposition politicians are complaining that Monaghan's arrest may have been planned as a deliberate act to intimidate a public service that the Conservative party still feels is partisan.

Perhaps one of the more interesting facts of this story is that Monaghan worked for the government at all. A member of an anarchist collective, one might have expected that Monaghan would be disqualified from government employment if it were known that he holds anti-government views.

Earlier in May, Monaghan was even involved in the organizing and opening of an anarchist book store.

While it could be argued that Monaghan could have been dealt with in a different manner, the fact of the matter is very simple: Monaghan broke the law. As an employee of the government, he leaked confidental government information. The government was not breaking any laws. In fact, the information that Monaghan "allegedly" released would have been released no more than a day later.

Monaghan was not acting as a concerned employee blowing the whistle on illegal or unethical government activities. He leaked government information as an activist.

If Monaghan wants to be an activist, he'll likely have a lot of time on his hands now. Which is fine. It's his right to express his opinion as a private citizen. But as a government employee, he had no right to leak such confidental information to the news media.

Monaghan is not quite the eco-hero he would like to believe himself to be. Eco-ego? Perhaps.

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