Monday, September 28, 2009

 

ALI BABA AND THE MAYOR OF ST.JOHN'S

The Mayor of Newfoundland's capital, Denis O'Keefe, was right last week to infer that there was more than re-fueling a jet plane behind the planned visit of Libyan dictator, Moammar Gadahafi to St. John's.

In fact, O'Keefe's curiosity (among other things) probably played a role behind Gadahafi's "no show" on "The Rock". The since cancelled visit virtually took on a life of its own in the latter part of last week. The Mayor, among a growing list of commentators, speculated on Saturday he didn't believe it was just a re-fueling layover, or that Foreign Affairs Minister, Lawrence Cannon, was only going to scold Colonel Gadahafi over the release of the Pan Am flight 103 bomber from a Scottish jail.

Rather, the facts were reversed. To digress; there is a TV Commercial airing currently for the "Play Station" video game console. It suggests you can't believe everything you read on the Internet..."that's how World War I started." I'd put a bet on the following story:

Airplanes are able to cross the Atlantic with ease, thus going to the difficulty of an overnight stop without an ulterior motive seemed odd to most observers. There is a growing body of circumstantial evidence that Gadahafi's last minute choice of Newfoundland was anything but, and may have been scoped-out with Canadian Foreign Affairs and all the way up to the Prime Minister's inner sanctum quite some time before the dictator ever left Tripoli for his speech at the United Nations in New York.

Four things changed in the intervening period, eventually forcing the reversal of plans for today's overnight stop in St. John's. - 1) The world's outrage over the hero's welcome Libya gave to the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. 2) The tenure of Gadhafi's disjointed, rambling 90 harangue of the United Nations in New York last Wednesday. 3) His cozying-up to Hugo Chavez the revolutionary leader in Venezuela this past weekend. And, as I alluded earlier 4) The buzz, curiosity, and skepticism in Canada over the motive for the St. John's visit.

With the ever hanging, ever growing threat of a Federal Election in Canada at any moment; the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Harper concluded it couldn't be placed in a position of international embarrassment if the real motive about the visit was exposed...or even speculated about as so many had been doing, including the high profile Mayor of St. John's, Dennis O'Keefe. So the planned stop-over was abandoned.

In 2003, Moammar Gadhafi, the Bedoin self-described "King of Kings in Africa", announced he would drop his support of international terrorism and dismantle his country's programs to build chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. In return, western powers, including the United-States, almost immediately eased or altogether abandoned international sanctions against Libya. Though George Bush wasn't about to drop in on Gadhafi nor invite him over for tea in Washington. Among the first Western Leaders to visit with the reformed dictator in Tripoli in 2005 was then Prime Minister, Paul Martin. Martin's visit established valuable capital for our Foreign Service with Libya and earned us Gadhafi's gratitude.

There is anecdotal evidence to speculate last winter, desperate for a break over the capture and taking hostage of Diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay in neighbouring Niger; Canada went knocking on the door of the "King of Kings in Africa" for assistance. Bob Fowler, who was in Niger for the United-Nations, has hinted recently that people with knowledge of his mission were behind the kidnappings on December 14, 2008. For sure the United Nations, and its Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, were powerless to deal with the circumstances. The Canadian Government quickly took over from the U.N. in the search for, and eventual release of Fowler and Guay on April 21, 2009. Canada's pay-off from the United Nations Secretary-General will come when our delegation is elected to the 15 member Security-Council this coming winter...I digress.

Now you get the drift of the St. John's visit: Moammar Gadhafi's overnight stop-over on Canadian soil, and private visit with Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon, was to accept (to the extent that if could be diplomatically) an expression of official gratitude from Canada for his role in working on the release of Fowler and Guay. Circumstances over the last several days changed the agenda.

Lastly, McLeans.ca, the news magazine's website, has reported that although hotel rooms and other bookings for Colonel Gadhafi's delegation and retinue of body guards in St. John's have been cancelled..."the accommodations were still paid for." I would be surprised if the payments came from the Government of Libya.

Labels: ,


Friday, September 25, 2009

 

ONE PERSON'S RIDICULOUS IS ANOTHER'S YA-BA-DA-BA-DOO!

Although her "street creds" are in serious disrepair; Elizabeth May, the Green Party Leader, may not be far off the mark suggesting Stephen Harper may himself spark a Federal Election.

Ms. May was ridiculed earlier in the week for suggesting to the "Halifax Chronicle Herald" that Mr. Harper will find a way to engineer an election this fall, even as he attacks Michael Ignatieff for trying to send Canadians to the polls. In so doing Elizabeth May was simply picking-up the vibes from rumours circulating in Ottawa since Thursday's release of the latest Ekos National Poll. It shows the Tories at 37% popular support, and the Liberals trailing about 9-points behind...a trend which suggests the Ignatieff Liberals are paying the nation's price for threatening another election less than a year into the last mandate.

A spokesman for Harper, Dimitri Soudas, ridiculed Elizabeth May's suggestion that Mr. Harper is a "control freak" who doesn't want to..."have a government that depends on reaching out to other parties, achieving consensus; moving forward based on giving a bit here, giving a bit there." - Mr. Soudas replied: "Liz May, Who?."

Ponder this: Since passage of the September 18th "Ways and Means" motion in the House of Commons with the support of the New Democrats and the Bloc Quebecois, most observers have concluded that the threat of a national election had been averted at the very least until after next February's Winter Olympic Games in British-Columbia. But, The Olympics are just the start of an ever growing list of events involving Canada in the first half of 2010 which will catapult the country to the forefront of the international stage. I can't name a Prime Minister, particularly one who likes complete control, who'd want to be threatened with a national election in the glow of the world's spotlight.

Sparking an election; a first for these Tories in which there's the glimmer of a majority in Parliament; may be tactically tempting for any Prime Minister about to host the sporting world at the 2010 Olympics; followed almost immediately by Canada's ever more likely election to a seat on the United-Nations' Security Council by winter's end...and the back to back hosting of leaders: First the G-8 Summit of the world's eight most powerful nations in Huntsville, Ontario; and then the G-20 of the planets most significant economies also to be held in the Muskokas before summer 2010 kicks into high gear. Who could possibly want pesky elections to gum-up that dream schedule? Kinda tempting to get one out of the way sooner rather than later wouldn't you think?

This scenario is a golden opportunity handed the Conservatives by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatifeff's ill advised, ill conceived ultimatum delivered in Sudbury (of all places) a couple or three weeks back that Harper's ..."time was up!" - What could the Liberal strategists have possibly been thinking? They got the headlines; the party's standing in the polls tanked; and we may be on the cusp of a Federal Election of convenience for Mr. Harper for which the Liberals will get blamed.

Events on the international stage in the first half of 2010 have aligned in ways which signal a critical period for Canada's own global "street creds". Clearing-up thorny domestic housekeeping issues on the homefront before the glare of the world's spotlight hits centre stage may be too tempting to pass-up or ignore.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

 

THE LINE FORMS TO THE RIGHT

It was pretty obvious, as the current edition of the Parliamentary newspaper; "The Hill Times" notes, that there was plenty of Tory party networking going-on at last Thursday's celebrations marking the 1984 Mulroney landslide victory.

The Prime-Minister may have an iron-grip control over the current manifestation of the Conservative Party of Canada. Be that as it may, a failed bid to secure a majority or worse a defeat in the next Federal Election could easily signal Mr. Harper's demise as leader.

As Mulroney himself made clear by ignoring any reference to the current leader at last week's Montreal shindig: Scars over the marriage of convenience between the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform Alliance which gave the "Harperites" their January 2006 victory over Paul Martin haven't exactly healed. Meantime, the list of potential candidates grows marking time behind the curtains to take over after Harper goes for the high jump. And, with Harper conveniently absent from the Montreal affair due to a pressing 45 minute engagement in Washington over an Air Canada matter with the President of the United-States (See previous post), those thinking about leadership easily saw an opportunity to press the flesh of potential contributors along with the Party faithful.

The candidates it seems are also evenly split between the western based Alliance-Reform Movement; and those of the centrist Progressive-Conservative Party who followed in Mulroney's footsteps. Judging from the Mulroney bash; former P.C. testing the waters of a leadership bid include Ex-New Brunswick Premier, Bernard Lord; the last national leader of the P.C. Party, Defence Minister Peter MacKay; and Quebec (Liberal) Premier Jean Charest. Charest too is a former leader of the Progressive Conservatives. Among the right-wing Reform contenders are the Environment Minister, Jim Prentice; Trade Minister, Stockwell Day and (Ontario based) Industry Minister, Tony Clement. Clement and two other former Ontario Cabinet Ministers, John Baird, who has been Harper's "Go To" man on the front benches; and the Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, are disciples of the Mike Harris regime, though Baird is viewed as the least far right advocate.

As was apparent at the Montreal soiree, relations between the Prime Minister and Brian Mulroney (who once mentored Harper) remain strained. Harper launched the inquiry into the Karl Heinz Schreiber affair, muzzled his key advisors from speaking to the former P.M., and his Ottawa office has been blamed for the false rumour that Mr. Mulroney was no longer a Party member.

While history may judge Brian Mulroney's significance in Canadian public life; particularly once the Schreiber Inquiry results are made public this coming winter; within the ranks of the Conservative Party he maintains a significant role. He is well connected, the most ever successful Tory politician in Quebec, and the "Grey Eminence" architect behind Jean Charest's three successful elections as Premier of Quebec. Mulroney is also credited with Harper's breakthrough in Quebec in the January 2006 Federal Election...before relations between the two men soured.

From the floor of last week's Montreal event, Canadian Press reporter, Jennifer Ditchburn described the mood in the Sheraton Hotel ballroom as follows: "For those Harper loyalists who believed the party...would be a display of renewed (Tory) unity, the evening was a clear miscalculation." The Premier of Newfoundland, Danny Williams, was more succinct: "The people of Canada are looking to mobilize around strong leadership, but I think right now there isn't one single person who has the charisma of Trudeau or the savvy of Brian Mulroney."

Come to think of it: Maybe Mr. Williams may want to add his name to the list of the party's National Leadership candidates in waiting - And, no less make it the tie-breaker amongst "nine" white middle aged men coveting the party's top job. On charisma and savvy alone he might just stand a damned good chance.

Labels: ,


Friday, September 18, 2009

 

CAN'T WE "JETZ" GO?

The Prime-Minister's brief 36 hour visit to the USA provided several photo-ops for the folks back home but few tangible results on key areas of Canadian concern: Hardening of our mutual border; buy American provisions imposed by Congress; and Afghanistan.

Pretty much touted as the only significant achievement on the whirlwind visits to the White House, Capitol Hill and then on to New York; was a somewhat nebulous agreement so that Air Canada "Jetz" may continue to fly professional sports teams from city to city within the USA; a practice commonly known as "cabotage". In an unexpected turn of events, on September 4, the American Department of Transportation had banned Air Canada from the practice throwing the carrier's exclusive wholly owned subsidiary; "Jetz" into panic and chaos.

Though Prime Minister Harper is a devoted NHL fan and his love of hockey surely helped. The fix to the Air Canada malaise was more the doing of the Minister of Transport, John Baird; seconded by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon: Both of whom (as is known in Ottawa circles) are adept at backroom arm twisting. It seems that there was a lot more than the practice of "cabotage" to the sudden surprising decision by U.S. Transport authorities to clip the Canadian bird's wings earlier in the month.

Lest I abuse of the birds and wings metaphor - I like to pigeon hole discussion points: First the background then the issue: For the uninitiated, Air Canada "Jetz" is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Montreal based Canadian flag carrier. It operates a fleet of five specially configured Airbus A-320 passenger jets exclusively for the high end charter business. In the case at hand, millionaire hockey playing members of the National Hockey League. Curious about how special the aircraft are? For starters, a regular Air Canada A-320 carries 146 passengers. A "Jetz" Airbus has 64 seats. "Jetz" has carried rock bands U-2, the Rolling Stones and several others on world and North American tours.

But - the main business of the charter carrier is professional sports teams. Its exclusive domain includes all six Canadian NHL franchises, the Toronto Raptors, the Boston Bruins and until the September 4th action from Washington was also about to include the Anaheim Ducks. And - Therein lay the problem! Legacy carriers, Delta, American, United, US Airways and several charter operatives south of the border have seen profits vanish and red ink flowing by the billions through the recessionary period. Predictions for this fall travel season are even worse.

Gary Bettman aside, the National Hockey League is a Canadian institution, and senior managers in most American franchises have connections to Canada. Our national carrier has been aggressive both in lobby efforts and in touting "Jetz" as the carrier of choice for NHL teams south of the border. When the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its edict against the carrier on September 4th, not only did it ice the deal with the Anaheim Ducks, but it froze confidential negotiations underway with the St. Louis Blues and the New Jersey Devils as well as an extended renewal deal with the Boston Bruins. Unprecedented pressure was being applied to transportation bureaucrats in Washington D.C. by airlines and their employee unions in the United States. Reflective of the American Congress desire to "Buy American", the Department of Transportation was only too happy to oblige and freeze the Canadian competitor all the way out of the USA.

When Ministers John Baird and Lawrence Canon were seized with the real motive behind Air Canada's clipped wings, the Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, though himself a Republican, albeit one with the same Illinois connections as the President, relented to avoid embarrassing Barack Obama during Harper's short 45 minute visit to the Oval Office. Obama's retaliatory message was clear when he sent an unknown underling to greet Harper at the front door to the White House. Diplomatic niceties aside: Now you know! Surely Air Canada will happily oblige if the Conservatives need a campaign plane for the next election.

Labels: ,


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

 

THE PACHYDERM NEXT DOOR

Another manifestation of the decades' old conundrum of the mouse sleeping next to the elephant: Prime Minister Harper heads to Washington and New York to repeat Canada's case against America's growing trade protectionism.

Wednesday's one-hour photo-op with Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the world's most famous mansion is really more for the folks back home. It's basically designed to raise Harper's international profile just in case a Parliamentary misstep back in Ottawa plunges the country into a Federal election no one wants. And, for which some politicians would likely to get a severe thrashing at the polls...I digress.

Futile as the open trade effort may be. Harper and those who surround him know these days the real power in Washington comes from the Democrat controlled Houses of Congress. Though D.C. and the rest of the United-States are mired in the more pressing issues of the health care reform debate - both leading Congressional Democrats; Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives; and Harry Read, the Senate Majority Leader, have at least made time to hear the Prime Minister state his case on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, before he heads to New York for a speech to the Canadian-American Business Council.

Any power has pretty well eroded from all three levels of Government here at home to mitigate against the impact on the Canadian business sector of the "Buy American" provisions which were included in the close to One-Trillion dollar U.S. stimulus plan adopted by Congress late in the spring of this year. At July's meeting of Canadian Municipalities in Whistler B.C. it took several behind the scenes arm-twisting initiatives from Federal officials to narrowly avoid the additional embarrassment to Canada of having the country's major cities refusing to do business with the United States in retaliation...after all that is not the Canadian way!

There is some anecdotal evidence frankly that some Americans; Governors in particular, may be getting tired of Canada's whining against U.S. protectionism.
Just wrapping-up today in Saint John, New Brunswick is the annual conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers. I was the CBC's lead reporter at the first conference 33 years ago in Sugarbush, Vermont...as well as the second: In St. Andrews, New Brunswick...and third in Chatham (Cape Cod), Massachusetts - Humour me, I am old and given to digression. - This week's session in Saint John hasn't received much media attention. It seems to me far less than past conferences. Perhaps telling is that Governors from Connecticut and New Hampshire didn't bother to attend, while Massachusetts' representative was the State's Lieutenant-Governor. The six New England Governors combined represent a population of about 40-million American consumers, clear targets of lobbying by the Premier of Quebec and his four Atlantic provinces counterpart: Graham of New Brunwick; Ghiz of P.E.I; Williams of Newfoundland; and Nova Scotia's Dexter...all hit as hard as any other Canadian region by the economic meltdown which began in the U.S. a year ago.

Tradition dictates that the 2010 meeting of the Governors and Premiers take place in the United States. The economy may turn better in the interim. It's hard to tell though whether America's spiral into protectionism, fueled by an ongoing psychosis over securing and hardening its borders, will also turn-around no matter what arguments Canada may advance on the issue. If we're going to bed down with an elephant, maybe we should be planting peanuts!

Labels: ,


Sunday, September 13, 2009

 

HONEST! IT WASN'T ME

Crunch time: There is a sense as Members arrive in Ottawa for the resumption of Parliament on Monday that the shine on the Liberal euphoria following the Sudbury caucus may have tarnished.

I'd predicted earlier that once the politicians touched base in their home ridings for the Labour Day weekend they'd get an earful from Canadians clearly in no mood for a fall election again this year.

The problem is that the game of ultimatum and heading to the brink of an election every six months will end eventually, as electors grow increasingly weary of a House of Commons paralyzed by the bluster, charges and counter charges from each side.

There is growing concern amongst politicos that Canadians though will punish both the leader and the party they blame for forcing yet another Federal election. In particular if there is an election before year's end. In this case the Liberal Leader, Michael Ignatieff, has already called his play and it may take a Herculean effort to extricate the party from being blamed once the Prime Minister again visits with the Governor-General and the writ drops for a bitter trek to the polls.

Never mind the $400 million cost of a fourth national election since Y2K! The message about voter fatigue, if not outright burn-out, seems to have resonated with more than just Liberal caucus members in their ridings over the past two weeks since Mr. Ignatieff threatened to pull the plug. The evermore dysfunctional charade of minority parliamentarians who balk at cooperating for the good of the country seems to have also infected the lesser party leaders as the threatened election looms. The leader of the N.D.P. has been sounding increasingly conciliatory as the hours tick-down to Monday's first sitting of the House of Commons in three months. At this late hour, the trouble for the three opposition parties is that Mr. Harper's Conservatives, infused with improved polling results, may seize the opportunity to trip their own defeat in the House with a "Ways and Means" (budget) Motion over the popular home renovation credit program. Then blame the Liberals for forcing an election. Out of the gate into a fall election, that scenario could be Micheal Ignatieff's, undoing...or at least his worse nightmare.

The Prime-Minister heads for his first Washington meeting at the White House with President Obama on Wednesday. The national and American media will be trailing close behind; particularly since from an American perspective, Canada's universal health care system is playing a significant role in the health care debate down south. After a heavy, heady media frenzied high down in Washington at mid-week, it could be tempting to shaft the House of Commons with the "home renovation credit" motion on Friday - Something the Tory House Leader, Jay Hill, hasn't exactly ruled out.

One thing is clear. Whether sanity soon prevails or not: It is quite unlikely that anything progressive for the good of rank and file Canadians will be achieved in Parliament over the course of the next however many days. The atmosphere has been charged...if not once again poisoned; and political posturing will trump any substantive issues and matters which should be debated at our critical juncture in the country's economic recovery.

Labels: ,


Thursday, September 10, 2009

 

OF WINNERS AND LOSERS

It has been just slightly more than 26 years since I relocated to the nation's capital. I suspect this makes me as good as any observer of Ottawa's political scene leading into one of the most ever fractious Parliaments when the Members resume sitting on Monday next, September 14th.

At the risk of emulating the over-exposed "Staples" back to school television commercial - "They're Back!" - Though in 2009 it isn't likely to usher-in a "Most Wonderful Time Of The Year."

To set the scene: Pierre E. Trudeau, who served 4 mandates, was Prime-Minister when I moved from CBC News, Montreal to the Corporation's Head Office in August of 1983. Though this year's September highlights were to have been the Prime-Minister's "tete a tete" visit with American President Obama in Washington, on Wednesday next week (The 16th); and the subsequent Summit of G-20 Leaders in Philadelphia in a couple of weeks: The Liberals so far have effectively hijacked the early fall Parliamentary agenda: Threatening to overthrow the minority Harper Tories at a moment's notice and plunging Canada into its 4th national election since the turn of this millennium.

Author, columnist and bon vivant; the 77 year-old Allan Fotheringham; held court for more than 27 years as "McLean Magazine's" last page columnist until 2001. Doctor Foth, as he is known best, has more than once described his years in Ottawa as: "Ennui on the Rideau"-: Fall of 2009 risks being anything but!

To dispense with the obvious. At the end of the day (as it were), when the dust settles finally, although they hold in their hands the balance of power for now, very little will have changed in the status of the third party's leader, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc Quebecois; nor for the leader of the fourth party; Jack Layton of the New Democrats.

The confrontation of "wills" set into motion two weeks ago in Sudbury by the Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has, on the other hand, career altering potential for both the Liberal leader and for the Prime-Minister, Stephen Harper. If Canada is plunged yet again this fall into another Federal Election it is unlikely that Mr. Harper can sustain his iron grip hold on the Conservative Party unless he can deliver (at this point at least an unlikely) Majority Government at the polls. A fall 2009 Federal Election would be Mr. Harper's 4th national election as Party leader. He failed once against Paul Martin, and in two successive elections since hasn't reached beyond minority status. Since Confederation no other national party leader has survived any leadership mandate under such circumstances - The knives and the back stabbing were in place long before this potential outcome for Harper's predecessors - John Diefenbaker, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark and yes...even for Lester B. Pearson. John Turner, and Stephane Dion of the Liberals.

As for Mr. Ignatieff of the Liberals: The ultimatum the opposition leader has delivered to the ruling Conservatives at least on one hand was clearly designed to differentiate his leadership from the frequently unjustifiable ditherings of his predecessor Stephane Dion. Dion was not only savaged in unrelenting attack advertising by the Conservatives, but his last ditch coalition of the willing to overthrow the Conservatives in December of 2008 was somehow derailed, in her wisdom, by the Governor-General. Ultimately costing Mr. Dion the leadership role he'd occupied for a couple of really miserable years. As noted with the fore mentioned Mr(s) Pearson, Turner and Dion, the Liberals - Frequently dubbed the natural governing party - Have a century long tradition of intolerance over failed attempts to regain power once it's been lost. Mr. Ignatieff has already roiled those dice: The outcome is in the hands of the electorate if he moves the confrontation to the next level and defeats the Harper Government on a House vote this fall.

With school started, the summer tourists have now left the national capital and by Monday's resumption of the Parliamentary debate the "Chip and Poutine" wagons will once more descend from the Gatineau Hills (My favourite: LOU PATATES) to occupy stalls nearest the House of Commons; only to vanish once again as the daily Question Period ends...and as always by 3:30 PM the wannabee lower level nabobs and mandarins of the public service begin to head away from the downtown core to the security of their Kanata, Orleans or Manotick half-acre mini estate homes.

The script for the drama which may be about to unfold in the national capital over the next several days has played-out before. The media will enlarge, underline and emphasize each nuance and interpretation. Were he still around even Doctor Foth might be tempted to reconsider his "Ennui On The Rideau" descriptive. At the end of it all though, events will unfold as they should...and life as we know it will remain unchanged and unmoved. Twenty-six years of living in Ottawa teaches that!

Labels: ,


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

 

CARPE ELECTORUM!

With the serious potential of a Federal Election this fall - And, trapped as the country seems to be in the morass which is increasingly the unworkable reality of Afghanistan - Perhaps we should "seize the election" to force politicians into a serious reflection over these Afghan commitments.

The facts are simple: The NATO coalition, cobbled together to secure Afghanistan after the Americans diverted to Iraq, has never had neither the resources, financing, manpower nor, in reality for most, the willingness to defeat the Taliban and win the hearts and minds of the Afghans.

Dragged into this war to nowhere as a stopgap because Jean Chretien's cabinet saw the folly of Iraq and opted out...successive governments: Paul Martin's next, and the Harper crowd since, have dragged-out our commitment to 2011 - A full ten years after the September 11 tragedies which sparked the conflict.

Canadians are glowing in their support of our military. Support for this war is something altogether different. Americans too are beginning to get fed-up with war. At a time when President Obama can least afford to lose public support; polls south of the border show Americans balking at plans to deploy even more than the 68,000 U.S. troops now on the ground in Afghanistan. Many increasingly view this as America's next Vietnam.

If the opposition in the House of Commons wants to defy the public will and defeat the government forcing an election this fall: Then let's debate Afghanistan - The "Vietnam" surely no Canadian wants at a time the number of body bags arriving CFB Trenton grows incessantly.

It seems to me there is mounting Afghan evidence that speaks for itself:
- Canada's per capita troop casualties are highest of all NATO nations deployed in Afghanistan. (2,200 troops / 129 killed)
- Last month's national election is being described by U.S. diplomats as..."fraud en masse." The United- Nations Elections Complaint Commission has uncovered widespread evidence of ballot stuffing, and has ordered numerous recounts. Some sources say the next 4 or 5 days will decide whether Afghanistan's entire electoral process stands or falls.
- Tensions are rising amongst NATO military partners, many of whom are stressed and surely stretched to their limits. Last Friday's air strike by U.S. jet fighters on orders from a German commander, which killed 70 civilians in Kunduz, has turned into an ugly public dispute over Germany's role in ordering the attack.
- On our own soil, the Military Police Complaints Commission has subpoenaed senior Harper Government officials and is seeking Court Orders to release information about allegations in 2007 that Canadian Military handed over prisoners knowing they would be tortured. It is a war crime to transfer prisoners between countries knowing they will likely face torture.

By signing-on to a War in Afghanistan after the United-States abandoned its own initiatives there: Canada abandoned it's significant and praiseworthy role and its stellar well respected reputation as "Peacemaker to the World". If we are to have a Federal Election this fall over insignificant political posturing; then perhaps the time has come at least for a national debate of some significance over abandoning our country and our military to someone else's Quixotic idealism!

Labels: ,


Friday, September 4, 2009

 

HIGH NOON AT THE RIDEAU CORRAL

Though I am hesitant to say this: Perhaps it is time for the real Parliamentary session to resume rather than the confrontation of "swinging dicks" we have all witnessed this week.

As crude a description as "swinging dicks" may be; It seems appropriate to what appears at least from my vantage point as a testosterone fueled gambit of high stakes politics with the real potential of accidentally plunging Canada into another national election. Yikes!

Sadly yes, I too am venturing into the now well travelled territory where everyone else has been since Micheal Ignatieff blurted his: "Mr. Harpper, your time is up!" call to the political battlefield even before his own Liberal troops had caucused on Tuesday in Sudbury, precisely to - whether or not - make that decision.

Ignatieff's withdrawal of Liberal support means Mr. Harper's Conservatives, with just 143 seats of the 308 in the House of Commons will now somehow have to cajole votes from either the Bloc Quebecois or the New Democrats on an ad hoc basis to pass legislation...the most contentious of which is a "Ways and Means" motion on last spring's budget to allow the very popular home improvement rebate credit program to kick-in.

In Parliamentary terms a budget related motion is a "vote of confidence" in the Government. The Tories (as many are increasingly suggesting) may be tempted to test every one's resolve over the Ignatieff challenge by introducing the home improvement rebate motion shortly after the House resumes on September 14.

In the confrontation of "dicks", Mr. Ignatieff's latest ultimatum to the Tories was as much a rallying cry to his own fractious Liberal caucus lest the Party's own internal divisions become public during or after this week's Sudbury caucus. Mr. Ignatieff has determined to gamble that the Bloc and the NDP really don't want an election - Probably no more than he wants one himself - but his message is that it's someone else's turn to prop-up the Harper's Tories. The truly cynical have suggested that with 100 Members of Parliament from all parties with less than the mandatory six years served in the House to qualify for the "gold-plated" lifetime pensions - No one wants to jeopardize losing their seat in yet another election this fall.
(About 40% of the Bloc Quebecois' 49 Members fall into that category - Get the picture?)

In raw numbers, the Conservatives are really only about 15 or so votes from of an absolute majority in the House of Commons. And, there is the threat of a national outbreak of the H1N1 (Swine) Flu by early fall. Real or imagined, of 308 Members in the House of Commons, odds are that a dozen or more could easily come down with Flu like symptoms and stay home on any given day a crucial vote is scheduled in Parliament.

Of Mr. Ignatieff "ballsy" outburst; writing in the "Calgary Herald" earlier this week, Columnist Licia Corbella quoted an unidentified Liberal insider's description of the Party Leader..."to know him is not to love him." I suspect that's part of the message party faithful communicated to their elected representatives over the summer political BBQ season; and why there is no way Mr. Ignatieff can now back away from his threat against the Harper Government.

But reality dictates that this "Showdown on the Rideau", like the others over the past year; also will pass particularly as electors forcefully communicate their disdain over yet another election which would halt the business of Government at a crucial moment in our economic recovery.

Otherwise; as we prepare to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, and arrange next spring's Summit of World leaders (The G-8) in Huntsville, Ontario: From an International perspective; Canada risks displacing Italy as the world's "poster child" for the pre-eminent fractious and dysfunctional of democracies. Justifiably, the Italians have had more than 70 elections since the end of World War II. But just three national elections since the year 2000. Canada has had a total of four...and may be on the way to number five!

Labels: ,


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]