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It is with great sadness that Canada has announced the passing of the concept of ministerial responsibility. The cornerstone of the country’s system of government for the past 154 years had been on life support for some time, but it was finally laid to rest at a House of Commons defence committee meeting on Friday, May 7, 2021. It will be sadly missed. A little overwrought perhaps, but we are witnessing the inevitable consequence of trying to govern everything from the centre. Katie Telford, the prime minister’s chief of staff, appeared at the committee to give her account of who knew what and when, in the military sexual misconduct scandal. She said the military ombudsman, Gary Walbourne, had pulled aside Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in 2018 to make him aware of an allegation of personal misconduct against then chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance. Telford said she was not aware of the nature of the complaint until it was made public by the media in February of this year. She said Sajjan had approached her office for advice “in this unusual circumstance” and he was referred to the Privy Council Office — at which point, Telford implied, her liability ended.

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