The Conservative Party of Canada, accustomed to being hated by many, if not most Canadians, is still reeling from the discovery that this widespread hatred can occasionally translate into electoral defeat, even in a democracy as flawed as ours. Now, they are turning news that Canada will be excluded from a meeting of defense ministers from nations fighting ISIS into fodder for criticism, rather than accepting the news as the logical outcome of changes to Canadian foreign policy under a new government, who was elected only two months ago on a platform promising to pull Canadian bombers out of the war on ISIS.
We can expect this level of commentary from the Queen’s Loyal Opposition for years to come. After the attack in Paris, the party renewed its calls for Trudeau to reverse his election promise as if the promise to pull out Canadian CF-18’s was premised on the belief that there would never again be another terrorist strike somewhere in the Western world. In response to the latest news, the Conservative Defence Critic said on Twitter, “Due to the Liberal’s incoherent policy on
#ISIS Canada is not back, we lost our seat at the table,” a sentiment echoed in his official statements.
Well, fine. There is indeed incoherence in Trudeau’s foreign policy. There are legitimate questions to ask; how much longer will the pullout be delayed; what role will our special forces continue to play in the conflict; is the government merely going to pretend to not participate in a war, even as it continues to do so, like the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien? Skepticism is healthy, and governments should never be trusted, but every now and then, once in a while, they do exactly what they said they’d do when stumping for votes, and that’s pretty much the most one could ever hope for from a government. It still remains to be seen if the Trudeau will deliver on his promise, but the critique from the right seems to be premised on the outrageous notion that he will. But then, the CPC has long had a shaky grasp on the concept of democracy. Which is a shame, because as the official opposition the party could do the nation a service by holding the government to account for its actions. To do so, however, they would need to be asking the right questions.
It would be unfair to not mention that the Liberal government’s own explanation for why they are not attending the meeting, is equally, if not more disingenuous than the Conservative critique:
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s statement that there are “lots of meetings” to the assembled scrum is a cheap dodge. He may be right in trying to downplay the significance of Canada getting snubbed, but the question was why it had happened in the first place. He could have at least paraphrased his statement in a less deceptive, but more honest way: “There are lots of answers to questions. Questions get answered all of the time. I answered some questions last week, and I’m really looking forward to answering some question in the future.”