By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
In celebrating Norman Bethune, Tony Clement at least has company in the likes of Chuck Strahl, Michael Chong, Lawrence Cannon and Gary Goodyear. Last year, the Canadian Mint released a commemorative coin to mark the 75th anniversary of Dr. Bethune’s invention of the blood transfusion vehicle. In 2007, the Harper government created the Norman Bethune Health Research Scholarships Program that allows for Chinese students to pursue PhDs in Canada.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 6:32 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Ted Opitz, he who may or may not end up being the duly elected MP for Etobicoke Centre, had just finished doing his partisan duty, standing up to deliver the day’s harangue of the official opposition (“Ill-informed! Foolish! Dangerous!”) and Thomas Mulcair thought he spotted a segue.
“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Mulcair offered in English before proceeding en francais, “let us talk about unemployment insurance, something that will become important for the member very soon.”
There were groans and grumbles from the government side, the Conservatives in attendance apparently finding this to be poor form. Profoundly saddened, John Baird stood and shed a single tear. “Mr. Speaker, what is most interesting is when this gentleman became Leader of the Official Opposition he said he would bring a new civility and raise the tone of debate,” the Foreign Affairs Minister sighed. “I guess not two months after his election, they have thrown that to the side.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 5:29 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair began with a reminder of something Stephen Harper had once said. This is always a good place to start. Not for the sake of accuracy or precedent or for the purposes of demonstrating the seriousness with which one should regard the words of the Prime Minister, but for entertainment’s sake. A bit like sitting around with a bunch of friends recalling various things one of you once did or said. As that Nickelback song so poignantly captured.
“Mr. Speaker, this is what the Prime Minister said in 2009,” Mr. Mulcair said. ” ‘The military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011. I have said it here and I have said it across the country. In fact, I think I said it recently in the White House.’ ”
That is, indeed, what Mr. Harper said on October 1, 2009, as recorded in Hansard, in response to a question from Jack Layton.
“It is now 2012 and our soldiers are still in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mulcair continued, now speaking for himself. “Has Canada received a request from the United States to keep our troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014?”
Mr. Harper stood here and said another one of those remarkable things. ”Mr. Speaker,” he said, “our military presence in Afghanistan is determined by this House.” Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
David Pugliese reports that the Harper government is discussing with the United States the possibility that Canadian special forces will be on the ground in Afghanistan after 2014. This despite a vow two years ago that Canadian Forces would be out of Afghanistan when the current mission ends in 2014.
Before that the Harper government said 2011 was the deadline. And before that the Prime Minister said that it didn’t make sense to set a deadline.
Herein, the highlights of how we got this far. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 9:45 AM - 1 Comment
The Prime Minister and Benjamin Netanyahu exchange greetings in New York.
During the brief photo op, the two men both said the solution to the Israel-Palestinian impasse lies in a resumption of two-way peace talks, not a United Nations declaration of statehood for Palestine.
“We know that nobody wants this more than our friends in Canada and our friend, the prime minister of Canada,” said Netanyahu. “I want to say Stephen, we have a lot in common.” The Israeli leader added: “Same heart and same values. And that I say with great appreciation for your stance, for your conviction, for your friendship.”
Despite some previous consternation over Lawrence Cannon’s choice of words, Canada still officially opposes Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Embassy magazine looked at that and other issues last year in a fairly extensive review of Harper government policy in regard to Israel.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 1:37 PM - 5 Comments
After making a great show of dispatching Lawrence Cannon to Newfoundland to give Colonel Gadhafi what for, the Harper government apparently dispatched Mr. Cannon to Tripoli to smooth over any offence that great show might have resulted in.
Instead of delivering a dressing down to the Libyan leader, Ottawa quietly sent Cannon to Tripoli to smooth things over with his government. Cannon was advised to tell Libya that Canada regretted “any misunderstanding” and had supported its bid to join the World Trade Organization.
He was also told to remind Libya that Canada had supported Gadhafi’s attempt to get a seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency in exchange for Libya’s support of Canada’s UN Security Council bid.
In fairness, this occurred two years before Stephen Harper declared that the country’s purpose was “no longer to please every dictator with a vote at the United Nations.”
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, August 14, 2011 at 7:30 PM - 18 Comments
Former foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon commends Quebec Premier Jean Charest.
Defeated in the May 2 federal election in the West Quebec riding of Pontiac, Cannon strode into a meeting of the Liberal’s youth wing Saturday to take part in a panel discussion. Cannon was invited to the event by the Liberals but few people knew he was attending until he walked in. But his arrival got tongues wagging about a possible return to politics for Cannon or even a run, one day, for the leader’s job should Premier Jean Charest leave.
The veteran politician immediately moved to quash the speculation. “There’s no race in the Liberal Party of Quebec,” Cannon said. “Jean Charest is an exceptional man, probably the best politician of my generation at least. I am convinced Mr. Charest will be there to direct the troops in a future electoral victory.”
It’s perhaps mildly curious that Mr. Cannon didn’t mention Stephen Harper here and it’s unclear what he means by “my generation,” but it’s not unreasonable to say Jean Charest might be the “best” politician of what might be called the Post-Chretien Era.
For the sake of argument, we’ll generally limit this to Canadian politics since 2003 and those who’ve had their greatest successes in the last eight years. And we’ll also separate the politician (whose primary job is to win votes) from the premier or prime minister (whose primary job, at least in theory, is to effectively govern the province or country). If a politician’s primary task is to get elected and a party leader’s primary task is to lead his party to victory and if we generally accept that party leaders dominate our politics, there are probably a half dozen politicians in this conversation—Mr. Charest, Mr. Harper, Dalton McGuinty, Danny Williams, Gary Doer and Gordon Campbell*. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 11:45 AM - 0 Comments
The documents tabled today can be viewed in their entirety here. Herein, a series of posts on some of the noteworthy files and disclosures contained therein.
Included in yesterday’s release is a file marked DFAIT 10. Dated from November 2007, it is a memo to the Foreign Affairs Minister (Lawrence Cannon at the time) about the impending release of government documents as part of the legal case brought by Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties Association. Specifically, the memo attempts to address what will be disclosed as a result and what “communications considerations” should be undertaken.
The evidence contained in the documents was summarized for the minister as follows (the unredacted portion reprinted here in square brackets).
The material to be released is extensive. Cumulatively the documents leave one with the impression of [flawed Afghan judicial system and of detention facilities that fall well below UN standards]. In addition, the assembled material may seem to suggest that Government of Canada messaging on the detainees issues for the last twelve months has been out of sync with reporting from the field (DND, CSC and DFAIT). This will present significant political and communications challenges.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 27, 2011 at 12:02 PM - 25 Comments
“It could come from lack of knowledge of reality,” Vasiliev told The Canadian Press during a major conference on Canada-Norway-Russia Arctic co-operation at Ottawa’s Carleton University. ”I think that time and reality proves that this is all wrong.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 6:08 PM - 7 Comments
Around the same time Mr. Harper said publicly that the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan would be a “strictly civilian mission” that would not require “any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy,” he apparently indicated to the NATO secretary general privately that he was open to the possibility of a training mission.
NATO’s secretary general pressed Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay in a series of meetings in Ottawa in January 2010 to join its newly established training mission command in Kabul. Anders Fogh Rasmussen “sought Canadian commitment to a post-2011 role in training Afghan security forces as part of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan,” said a cable released by WikiLeaks on Thursday. The Jan. 20, 2010, summary of the discussion from the U.S. embassy in Ottawa noted that “Harper promised that the government would look at the possibility.”
Five months later, the Foreign Affairs Minister dismissed any interest in a post-2011 training mission.
Five months after that, the Prime Minister confirmed that Canada would be pursuing a post-2011 training mission.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 7:42 PM - 25 Comments
The foreign minister visited Egypt today and came bearing modest and probably useful gifts. I have hoped such a visit would happen, so good on Lawrence Cannon for going to the place where, arguably, a disproportionate share of Northern Africa’s hopes and dangers reside.
Cannon says he saw “a genuine and authentic push toward real democracy.” As his boss has sometimes noted, that can be messy. This Saturday Egyptians will vote on interim constittuional amendments on the way to legislative and Presidential elections and, it is hoped but not yet certain, the establishment of some kind of constituent assembly to write a new constitution. The amendments face a rough ride. I see no evidence that Cannon expressed a preferred outcome for Saturday’s vote. That’s the way it should be too. We can provide resources that help Egyptians make decisions, but they must be Egyptian decisions.
Today’s action by the minister wasn’t much, but in the middle of a crazy busy week, when Cannon could have concentrated on Libya to the exclusion of everything else — or cut ribbons in the Outaouais — he put Canada’s foot in the door as a modest ally for real change in Egypt.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 5:37 PM - 38 Comments
The Scene. To his credit, Pierre Poilievre, the fresh-faced and ambitious young parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister, does not take himself too seriously.
“We are building the country,” he sighed in response to a Liberal question this afternoon about the in-and-out affair, “rather than tearing people down.”
Now so long as you have paid even a little attention—or watched even a little television—these last five years, you will understand this to be a hilarious statement. Indeed, so long as you do not believe Mr. Poilievre to be completely delusional, you must regard this statement as an attempt by Mr. Poilievre to make a joke—a knowing wink, a cheeky taunt.
Mind you, the punchline here is not merely that the government side hardly lives up to the genteel principles of respect and manners invoked by Mr. Poilievre. Rather, the joke here is that it’s all a joke. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 1 Comment
In an effort to correct a historical oversight, the portrait of the ninth Prime…
In an effort to correct a historical oversight, the portrait of the ninth Prime Minister, Arthur Meighen, was officially hung. While the portrait has been up in Centre Block for decades, Meighen never got an official dedication ceremony, an oversight discovered by historian Arthur Milnes, while he was working on a revised book of Meighen speeches, Unrevised and Unrepented II. Below, former PM Joe Clark (left) and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon in front of the portrait.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 7, 2011 at 6:23 PM - 46 Comments
The Scene. From the vantage point of the press gallery, perched several feet over the Speaker’s right shoulder, it is impossible to see whether Ralph Goodale actually underlines the words he wishes to emphasize when he writes out his questions for QP, or whether he improvises on the spot as the mood strikes him. Lecturing the House in his particular way, an affected baritone rising up out of a broad-chested, square-shouldered man, he lands with a certain thud on just about every fifth word, drawing our various pronouns, adverbs and adjectives so as to be sure he has our attention. Here one hears a man who has spent some time thinking about how he will be heard.
His particular concern this day was the government’s late admission of negotiations with the United States toward reimagining the 49th parallel.
“We need to ask,” Mr. Goodale asked, “what is the Prime Minister prepared to bargain away? For example, with respect to the admissibility of visitors, immigrants and refugees, will Canada apply its own standards, which many Canadians believe are better than American standards, or will a Republican Tea Party congress make the rules?”
For sure, if we owe the Americans anything in these discussions, it is surely for the endless number of cartoonish villains they have supplied for the sake of our fear and ridicule these many years. For the sake of Michele Bachmann alone we should perhaps consider sending them Don Cherry and a few cartons of Cold-FX.
So challenged, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon was apparently compelled to acknowledge that for which the government had previously pleaded ignorance. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 30 Comments
Hunches and goose chases at Rights and Democracy have cost taxpayers $1 million
From 2005 to 2008, Rights and Democracy, the Montreal-based arm’s-length agency created by an act of Parliament in 1988, counted a man named Saad Eddin Ibrahim among its board members. Today we will compare Ibrahim to his successors to measure how completely Rights and Democracy, and with it the human-rights credibility of Stephen Harper’s government, have collapsed.
For most of his career Ibrahim was a sociologist at the American University in Cairo. A long-time critic of Anwar Sadat, he paused to praise Sadat for his peace with Israel. He became, in Christopher Hitchens’s words, “the best of the Egyptian ‘civil society’ dissidents by taking Hosni Mubarak’s sham elections at face value.
Sometimes he ran as a candidate. Other times he polled public opinion or instructed Egyptians in the legal exercise of their voting rights. For his troubles, Ibrahim spent three years in Mubarak’s jails, winning every appeal until George W. Bush secured his release. He has lived in the United States since then.
Last year in the Washington Post, Ibrahim criticized Barack Obama as an inadequate steward of Bush’s pro-democracy record in the Arab world. “Reform activists in Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and elsewhere felt empowered to press for greater freedoms during the Bush years. Unfortunately, Bush’s strong support for democracy contrasts sharply with President Obama’s retreat on this critical issue.” On substance, Ibrahim would fit right in with our government’s foreign policy.
But conservatism does not seem to be the quality Harper is looking for. What he is looking for is chaos. So in 2008, the year Ibrahim could have been reappointed to the Rights and Democracy board, the Harper government appointed several others including Elliot Tepper and Jacques Gauthier.
Last week, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon wrote to the opposition parties telling them he intends to reappoint Gauthier and Tepper for another three-year term. Let’s see what it takes to become a two-term Harper government appointee.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 11:59 AM - 74 Comments
Lawrence Cannon’s office has issued a statement on yesterday’s shootings in Arizona.
“Canada stands with the people of the United States, our valued friend and neighbour, in this time of grief. Regardless of where they occur, attacks against democratically elected officials affect and undermine the safety of us all.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 7:48 PM - 13 Comments
For the fourth consecutive day, Lawrence Cannon was pressed during QP to say how many children have been detained and transferred by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. For the fourth consecutive day, this did not result in an answer.
Afterward I emailed Mr. Cannon’s office with the following.
According to the Canadian Forces records released in September, 439 individuals were detained by the CF in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2008. Two-hundred and eighty-three of those individuals were transferred. Two questions: How many of those detained were juveniles? How many of those transferred were juveniles?
That was eventually forwarded to the Department of National Defence, which responds as follows. I’ve bolded the portion that seems most particularly applicable to the questions at hand. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 11:38 AM - 16 Comments
The first soldiers I met in Afghanistan were teenagers who had been fighting since they were 15 or 16 years old. There were three of them. They manned a machinegun nest on a lonely hill a kilometre or two from where the Taliban were dug in a short horse ride away. This was in October 2001. The kids belonged to the Northern Alliance militia, which had been fighting the Taliban for years and were on the verge of defeat when the Taliban’s al-Qaeda guests bombed America and changed the course of the war.
Now it is that teenagers’ allies who ostensibly run the government in Kabul. I have no doubt that their ranks continue to include minors, as do those of the Taliban. Children fight and kill and die violently in Afghanistan. The world would be a better place were this not the case, but it is. And in the course of battling the Taliban Canadian soldiers encounter and capture such minors, and must figure out what to do with them.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 29, 2010 at 6:39 PM - 16 Comments
The Scene. It is entirely possible that when all has been, said, done, investigated and disclosed that Canadian officials will be found to have done a largely admirable job of handling, seizing, transferring and monitoring those individuals detained during this country’s mission in Afghanistan—and that that conclusion will do very little to redeem this government’s various cabinet ministers for the various things they have said about the matter these last four and a half years. To understand why is to get at perhaps the central paradox of so much about this place and these times: the serious, complex nature of modern problems set against the increasingly simplistic, largely evasive way we seem compelled to talk about those problems.
The latest cause for incoherence is a report from the CBC, based on a secret government briefing note, that Canada has been transferring children to Afghan authorities. For sure, this sort of news raises all sorts of complicated questions about law, human rights, war and foreign affairs. For sure, none of these complicated questions will ever properly be addressed here.
Here though stood Thomas Mulcair, the first to state for the benefit of the House a series of varyingly inflammatory questions—”Why is Canada transferring children to the Afghan torturers, NDS? How many children have been arrested? How many children have been transferred? How many children have been tortured?”—to which he couldn’t possibly have expected to receive answers. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 26, 2010 at 1:09 PM - 6 Comments
Debate concerning the Bloc’s motion on the Afghan mission begins here and, after a break for Question Period, resumes here. Notable speeches include those of the Foreign Affairs Minister, the Defence Minister, Bob Rae, Jack Harris, Claude Bachand and the incomparable Ken Dryden.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, November 24, 2010 at 8:21 AM - 61 Comments
The very last exchange in Tuesday’s Question Period. There are a lot of ways to read Minister Cannon’s remarks (and therefore a few different ways to read my title for this post) but for now I’ll just get it on the record and wait, with limited patience, to see what happens next:
Ms. Johanne Deschamps (Laurentides—Labelle, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the board of Rights & Democracy is accountable to Parliament for its management. As parliamentarians, we have the right to know what is going on in that organization. Yet the board of Rights & Democracy still has not released the Deloitte & Touche audit report. Talk about a lack of transparency.Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs continue to put up with such questionable conduct?
Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I will remind the House very briefly that this is an arm’s-length organization funded by the government. However, I see that instead of taking action, the opposition has decided to ask questions. At the first opportunity, my parliamentary assistant will ask the board of Rights & Democracy to come and table the report. We will do the job the opposition does not want to do.
UPDATE: In the original French, Cannon referred to his “adjoint parlementaire” as the person who’ll be doing the asking on his behalf. In Quebec’s National Assembly, where he spent much of his career, “adjoint parlementaire” means parliamentary secretary, an MP and caucus colleague assigned to assist a minister. (In Ottawa the term is secretaire parlementaire.) Cannon seemed to be referring to Deepak Obhrai, his new parliamentary secretary. I’ll follow up with the minister’s staff. -pw
By Paul Wells - Monday, November 22, 2010 at 12:32 PM - 81 Comments
Over at the CBC,
ourtheir Kady O’Malley points out that Parliamentary privilege being what it is — powerful — “none” of the exemptions claimed by the industrious board of Rights and Democracy “are remotely relevant” to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s request for the Deloitte forensic audit.
You know what’s kind of cool? What’s kind of cool is that, nearly a year into my coverage of the mess at R&D, there are thousands of people in this country who actually understand what I’m talking about in the first paragraph above. For those who need a refresher, start with my next-most-recent post and then start at the beginning by clicking the “Rights and Democracy” tag at the bottom of this post.
Anyway. What this means is (a) the committee has asked for the audit; (b) the R&D board has made an elaborate show of voting to release the audit to the committee — subject to a comically elaborate list of conditions — contractual confidentiality, solicitor-client privilege, privacy concerns, the Official Secrets Act — which are (c) perfectly irrelevant to any serious consideration of whether the audit can be released, for reasons Kady explains. Well, one item on the list would be relevant if it were germane: “Confidences of the Privy Council.” The problem is that the Deloitte audit is an investigation into the ordinary financial transactions of a quasi-NGO during a period, the years 2005 to 2009, when it was not the subject of any public controversy. There can be no Privy Council confidences in such transactions.
So the confidentiality emperor is, to mix up a metaphor, buck naked. Rights and Democracy must release the audit.
Now here’s the interesting thing. Nobody on earth claims to want to keep the audit from being released. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 11:08 AM - 19 Comments
Lawrence Cannon assures that Canada will withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.
“We might be pressured obviously, but I think the prime minister has made this perfectly clear. March of 2014 is when we will be leaving,” Cannon said at a news conference.
Given the precedent in this regard, this almost certainly means we’ll be there until 2017.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 7:07 PM - 51 Comments
The Scene. Last week, the Foreign Affairs Minister called the Liberal foreign affairs critic to discuss the future of this country’s mission in Afghanistan. Yesterday, after an extension to that mission had been announced, the Prime Minister noted that “the decisions we have taken are very close to what the Liberal Party in fact recommended, so I am glad that we actually agree on this particular matter.”
And so it was today that the Prime Minister stood and identified the Liberals as enemies of the state. “The opposition is simply playing politics with the lives of Air Force members,” Mr. Harper cried this afternoon when Michael Ignatieff dared persist in asking him to justify the multi-billion-dollar purchase of new warplanes.
That the Prime Minister would, even indirectly, cooperate with anyone so treasonous as to show callous disregard for the lives of Canadian servicemen and women seems preposterous. Even that he would be comfortable finding himself in agreement with such scoundrels on something as important as the deployment of Canadian troops into a war zone seems beyond the realm of belief. So perhaps the Prime Minister is simply better than most of us at maintaining contradictory feelings for others. Perhaps he, possessing a generous understanding of others, believes that the Liberal side is capable of both making a responsible decision about the deployment of our military and being flippant about the lives of our soldiers. Perhaps there is no contradiction or disconnect between what this government did in one case and what Mr. Harper has said here.
Or perhaps the lesson here—the moral of this story, the message of this week, the theme of these last five years—is that it is counterproductive to place much more than passing importance on the words that come from the mouths of this government. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 7:00 PM - 63 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister leaned on his left elbow and chatted happily with the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Environment Minister. He seemed entirely undaunted by the prospect of what was surely about to happen, unmoved by the gravity one might have applied to the moment at hand.
A short while later, the Liberal leader stood and asked the Prime Minister en français to assure the House that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan will not be involved in combat after July 2011. The Speaker then turned the floor over to the Right Honourable Prime Minister. And Mr. Harper here stood and, acknowledging for the first time on Canadian soil a complete and total reversal of his most recent position on this country’s involvement in a nine-year-old war, confirmed as much.
With his second opportunity, Michael Ignatieff, switching to English, sought not only a confirmation, but a guarantee. “Mr. Speaker, 20,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan since 2001, 153 brave soldiers did not survive and their sacrifices must not be in vain. We need to be clear about this new engagement of Canada after 2011,” he said, putting his hands together in front of his face as if in open prayer. “Can the Prime Minister guarantee that this is not going to involve combat, that it is going to be out of Kandahar and that the training will occur in safe conditions in Kabul?”
“The answer,” Mr. Harper responded, “is yes to all of those questions. As the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and others have said, we are looking at a non-combat mission that will occur. It will be a training mission that will occur in classrooms behind the wire in bases. The government has been very clear and we do think this is a way of ensuring we consolidate the gains that we have made and honour the sacrifices of Canadians who have served in Afghanistan.”
Here then is how Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed Canadian military forces for another three years to the defining international conflict of this generation—a thousand people in all, at a total cost to the nation of something like $1.5-billion. Continue…