House of Cards

February 21st, 2020

“T’was the night before solstice and all through the co-op
Not a creature was messing the calm status quo up.”

We think it odd, the civil service’ religious fervour for just keeping things the way they are.  It might have something to do with the empowerment of those empowered by all this keeping of things the way they are. 

But things can change reeeealy quickly. 

Way back in the fall of 2017 (when the days were young and full of hope, dreams were made to clutch in grasp, etc. and so-forth), we sent a briefing note to hundreds of Members of Parliament, their staffs, the PMO, and sundry other sordid sorts.

Yet this was no ordinary briefing paper.  Oh, no.  No.

Friends, Parliament isn’t short of briefing notes.  Whole forests have been lost due to the perceived need of perverse people to paper Parliament in needless notes.  I mean, there are scads of the things everywhere out there.  We needed ours to stand out.

We wanted to convey to Parliament that by the end of 2017 we had uncovered enough questionable conduct, and indeed a stunning collection of illegal conduct, on the part of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and had amassed enough evidence that the status quo couldn’t last long.  With so many liabilities, and such a wealth of evidence against them, the CSA was now the biggest looming scandal in civil service history. 

The CSA was a house of cards just waiting to fall. 

Aptly, this was our briefing note to Parliament:

CSA Poker Card 1

Decks of cards, folks, and we sent hundreds of them.  Ottawa was deluged with CSA playing cards.

We’d taken inspiration from the Iraqi Most Wanted Playing Cards, released by the US Defense Intelligence Agency in 2003.  Each of their cards featured one Iraqi war criminal, listing their government position and some indication of their crime.

Our deck did the same.  Each card had a suspect’s picture on it, listing their role at CSA, the PMO, or other government body, and something of their involvement in the CSA scandal.

CSA Poker Card 2

By 2017 we knew the CSA was a house of cards.  Remove any one of those cards, expose any of their liabilities, and the whole thing falls apart.  That, by the way, is why they fight so hard on every front, no matter how insignificant the issue.  You only have to kick one card out and everyone, featured on every card, is suddenly prosecutable.

We had used the house of cards analogy as early as 2014, in certain discussions, and that very effectively.  Alas, we’re still bound under privilege so we can’t really say much more about it, save that the analogy -and its accuracy- is well known in the civil service and by 2017 had been acted on within Government already.

As to privilege, while I can’t comment on the mechanics, I can advise that we’ll shortly be released from our obligations to hold legal privilege.  Readers will recall that CSA is likewise under privilege but, ahem, they’ve not been good at holding it.  They’ve massively breached privilege twice and each time when caught they claimed in Court it was accidental. 

Anyway, we’ll soon be free to write freely.  Could be good.

Well friends, going to the trouble of printing, shipping, and following up the hundreds of decks of cards that we sent was a lot of work in 2017.  It was successful in that it introduced the CSA scandal to many Parliamentarians who until then hadn’t heard of it, and the originality of the format kept the issue in conversation.  The cards illustrated how vulnerable the civil service was, and is, to legal scrutiny. 

Of course, it’s also testament to how tough it is to get Ottawa to treat government corruption as a problem.  To all those who benefit so much from so much corruption, the system isn’t flawed; it’s working just the way they want it to.  Corruption isn’t a flaw; it’s a feature.

Hence, in Ottawa at least, not a creature is messing the calm status quo-up.

Except us, of course.  And we’re making progress.


“Twas the night before solstice” is a politically incorrect poem by James Finn Garner.  See: