The pen is mightier than the sword
The saying “the pen is mightier than the sword,” has been around for nearly two centuries. And I’m sure it probably has been used thousands of times since it was coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839.
I thought of that saying as I was motoring home late Monday night after sitting through a four hour city council meeting and listening to my favorite radio show, “As It Happens” from Canadian Broadcast Corporation’s public radio system.
Carol Off and Jeff Douglas, the show’s co-hosts, spun an interesting and entertaining account, written by Chris Howden, of how a Canadian Press reporter shed enough light on the spending spree of a Canadian minister that she decided to reimburse the folks in Ottawa for her decadent behavior.
Here’s how Off and Douglas reported Howden’s story:
“In the federal budget, the government cut $380 million from Canada’s foreign aid budget. International Co-Operation Minister Bev Oda said, ‘We have retained a strong commitment to various developing countries around the world. We have to balance that with good use of public funds.’
“What Minister Oda didn’t say was that, all by herself, she has been wisely spending public funds to help countries in need. And that she had the foresight to start disbursing funds long before the budget.
“The needy region in question is the United Kingdom. Now granted, technically it’s a developed country, but its economy is in crisis. Clearly, Minister Oda knew that when she visited the U.K. last June for a conference.
“The minister could have stayed at the Grange St. Paul’s Hotel, a five-star establishment with four restaurants and five bars. Cost of a room for the night: $287. But she knew that wouldn’t inject enough Canadian cash into the British economy. So she refused to stay there — and found accommodations at a much fancier hotel — the Savoy. Cost of a room at the Savoy: $656.
“And Ms. Oda’s selflessness did not stop there. Rather than spend a few bucks on a cab, or walk, she employed a limousine. Total cost, over three days: $2,850.
“But it’s the little touches that prove her commitment to foreign aid. Like the glass of orange juice she drank at the hotel, which cost $16.
“When Canadian Press reporter Jennifer Ditchburn first reported this story — the result of an Access to Information request — there was no mention of Ms. Oda reimbursing taxpayers for the difference in hotel rates. Nor the $16 orange juice. But this afternoon, a message went out from the Minister’s office announcing she had, in fact, paid for the difference in cost between the Grange St. Paul’s Hotel and The Savoy. And she had paid for the cancellation fee.
“And she did it this morning — after Ms. Ditchburn’s story was published,” the CBC radio story concluded.
This is just another example of how inquisitive minds, especially those of journalists around the world, can be a wonderful benefit to mankind. Ouch! I pulled a muscle patting myself on the back.