*** Too much secrecy can sometimes be a bad thing. By the way, Fadden has not sunk any ships - he has validated his awareness of the obvious: countries spy on other countries. Canada is one of the greatest in the world - don't tell me we think we're immune from the threat of foreign espionage/interference too! Oh boy, here we go again.... MS ***
OTTAWA - Opposition MPs say they might compel testimony from officials in the prime minister's circle in a bid to unravel the mystery of controversial remarks by Canada's spy chief.
When summer beckons, politicians usually busy themselves with grilling burgers on the holiday barbecue circuit.
But on Monday they'll apply the heat to Canadian Security Intelligence Service director Dick Fadden over his recent eyebrow-raising assertion that Canadian politicians are being unduly influenced by a foreign power.
Liberal and New Democrat MPs on the Commons public safety committee said Sunday they haven't ruled out further summer sessions to hear from officials in the Prime Minister's Office or the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic nerve centre of the Harper government.
"It's hard to see it stopping at this," said Liberal MP Mark Holland, a committee vice-chair. "There'll probably be a need to talk to others, including in PCO and in the Prime Minister's Office."
Fadden's words enraged many who said they cast aspersions on all elected officials with ties abroad. Some spywatchers marvelled at Fadden's uncommonly loose lips. Still others said the spymaster was being refreshingly forthright.
Fadden, a veteran bureaucrat who became CSIS boss one year ago, will now have to walk the fine line of satisfactorily explaining his candid remarks without shining an even brighter light on the shadowy confines of his agency's operations.
"Once toothpaste is out of the tube, I think there's a mess to be cleaned up," said New Democrat MP Don Davies, also a public safety committee vice-chair. "You can't just deny that it happened."
Fadden told CBC-TV in a late-June interview that he was in the process of warning two provinces, through the Privy Council Office, that members of their cabinets had come under foreign influence.
Fadden also said CSIS had suspicions about a number of municipal politicians in British Columbia.
He was cagey about the countries involved, but indicated China was a country of concern for the spy service.
On the eve of a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Prime Minister's Office denied knowledge of Fadden's worries.
The CSIS director quickly backpedalled, saying in a statement that he had "not apprised the Privy Council Office of the cases" because they were not "of sufficient concern" to alert provincial authorities.
Fadden said foreign interference is common in many countries around the world and CSIS has been probing such threats for decades.
While he clearly hoped that would end the matter, the controversy only flared.
Holland said Fadden must account for the discrepancies.
"You can forget that you went and got a bag of milk, but you don't forget a conversation with the Prime Minister's Office about foreign governments having influence over Canadian politicians."
Davies said if Fadden tells the committee he did indeed advise Stephen Harper's officials about the alleged foreign interference, "we may very well want to call someone from the PCO."
Fadden's comments were improper, Davies added, but that doesn't mean he should now be able to hide behind the cloak of national security.
The Chinese Canadian National Council called Fadden's remarks "contradictory and harmful," and said if he chooses to make such public comments, "he should direct his allegations at specific groups and individuals."
The council noted early Chinese communities in Canada were subjected to overtly racist laws and experienced tremendous hardships.
"Today we live in a multicultural society. We have the Charter, a more open immigration policy and about 1.5 million Chinese Canadians fully participating in nation building. We've come a long way from those dark days. Or have we?"
Fadden was merely trying to remind people that CSIS is on the lookout for nefarious foreign activities, Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny said in a weekend opinion piece published in the Ottawa Citizen.
"The sad part is that Fadden is now liable to chill into silence," wrote the former chair of the Senate security committee, "and we Canadians will stop learning about what we all need to know."