Conservative Criticism of Foreign Policy Uninformed by News of Last Year’s Election

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.

James Bezan

Conservative MP James bEzan rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Monday February 2, 2015 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Adrian Wyld

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.

 

Update:

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:

http://www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=2682210494

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.”

 

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Why Canada’s Electoral Systems Need to Change

The second of my two-part critique of Canadian democracy is up at Provocative Penguin.  The first can be found here.  This one deals with the misguided reforms proposed in the Fair Elections Act earlier this year, and the need to implement proportional representation to ensure that every vote counts.

Something strange always happens on an election night. In the weeks building up to it a barrage of stump speeches, photo-ops, and debates are accompanied by a series of polls which are meant to indicate who is winning, who is losing, and what the electorate is thinking.

But when voters come home from the polling stations and turn to their television sets to watch the live election coverage, the polls have become irrelevant. The rules have changed. The relative success of each party’s campaign performance is no longer measured by the overall amount of voters who support them, but by which ridings their supporters are concentrated in.

Occasionally, the popular vote will be displayed onscreen, but only when there is no new data to report, and the anchors get bored.

Read more.

The Supreme Court Acted While Elected MP’s Couldn’t

Head on over to Provocative Penguin, where the first of my two-part critique of Canadian democracy:

…when the Harper government introduced two controversial bills this year–C-13, the cyberbullying bill; and S-4, the Digital Privacy Act–opposition MPs were able to do little more than join the chorus of privacy experts, commissioners, and the media in decrying the legislation.

By chance, the Supreme Court made a ruling last month in R. v Spencer, a child pornography case, which undermined the government’s legal argument behind sharing personal data of internet subscribers, a practice which would likely have become more prevalent under both bills before the ruling.

While the court satisfied Harper’s critics, it remains an indictment of the electoral system when we must rely on unelected levers to check the power of a party most Canadians did not vote for.

Read the rest at Provocative Penguin.

The PQ wants their own country, even if that country sucks.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Polls in Quebec show the provincial Liberals rising in popularity since media tycoon Pierre Karl Péladeau was recruited into the Parti Québécois and turned election talk away from the economy, toward the largely unpopular prospect of another referendum on Quebec sovereignty.  One has to wonder if Péladeau’s talk of separatism, which accompanied his announced debut in politics, was part of a misguided party strategy, or a gaffe on the part of the inexperienced politician.

In any event, Quebec voters aren’t having any of it, it seems, with most believing (polls show) that a PQ win would not give them a mandate to hold a referendum on sovereignty, but that a majority PQ government would most likely hold one anyways (and lose, according to some of the same polls).   PQ leader Pauline Marois may be wiser to steer talk back to the economy, but with the anti-labour pedigree of Péladeau, who now presumptively occupies the party’s number 2 slot, it remains an open question as to how their economic platform will appeal to their labour base.  Péladeau, owner of the right-wing Sun Media empire among other media assets, is a crude fit for the left-of-centre separatist party, and his inclusion seems to send a very clear message as to the character of the new country the PQ hopes to create.

Right-left divides and political principles are, to this party of misfits and moguls, of secondary importance to the cause of nationalism.  Recruiting an oligarch like Péladeau makes perfect sense for a party mired in a 19th century conception of nationhood that the rest of the world is slowly growing too old for.  Péladeau and Marois share the same anachronistic worldview and irrationality of Vladimir Putin, though they lack his nuclear arsenal and brutality.  But their vision of an independent nation is not too dissimilar from a dysfunctional state such as Russia: a country ruled by a close collaboration of the state and captains of industry, intolerant of immigrants who do not assimilate quickly enough, and a media unambiguously in service to the state.  A nation united, if not in a shared vision of political or economic ideals, then by a common hatred and envy for that which lies west, which in Quebec’s case is Ottawa and all things English.

Elizabeth May’s Call for Cooperation Against the Conservatives

250px-Labrador-RegionElizabeth May has declared that the Green Party will sit out a Labrador byelection and is calling for the NDP to do the same in order to help Liberal candidate Todd Russell, who lost to the departing Pena Penashue of the Conservatives by 79 votes in 2011.

Liberal leadership hopeful Joyce Murray is taking credit for the call to cooperation, and if successful could raise her profile in a leadership race that most expect Justin Trudeau to win based on his expert haircut and accomplished last name.  Murray has been the only candidate to endorse proportional representation, despite the fact that the Liberals use instant run-off voting to elect their own leader.  The Green Party and the NDP platforms both support proportional representation.

Should the gambit work, it could demonstrate the efficacy of tripartisan efforts and create a germ of hope for electoral reform in Canada.  Alternatively, Canadians can keep allowing for a minority of voters to elect a majority of MP’s.  In 2011, the Tories won 53.9% of seats in parliament with 39..6% of the popular vote.