11.15.2010 09:45 AM

Bob Rae twittered that it’ll be an “interesting” week

…and he’s right.  It will be.

A quick recap:

  • The Conservative caucus is wholly in favour of keeping the war going in Afghanistan.  If given the chance, they’d all vote that way.
  • The NDP and the Bloc are opposed, and want Parliament to stick by its resolution to get Canadian troops out by July 2011.  If given the chance, they’d all vote against continuing the war.
  • The Liberals are split.  Their leader and their foreign affairs critic have inexplicably decided to side with the government, and said so without consulting with caucus.  Meanwhile, a majority of Grit partisans and an indeterminate number of MPs – if my inbox is any indication – seem to feel as the NDP and the Bloc do.
  • Stephen Harper – who is most happy when Liberals are in disarray – never, ever misses a chance to embarrass them.  So why isn’t he embarrassing them?
  • Well, it could be because Harper knows that if there’s a vote, he might lose it, and he’ll look plenty foolish in front of his NATO colleagues.
  • Embarrass the Liberals, but lose the vote.  Or, avoid a vote, but in so doing, avoid international embarrassment.

Interesting, yes.  That’s accurate.

It would also be accurate to say it’s pathetic, too.

33 Comments

  1. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    This is make or break time for Michael’s leadership. It’s as simple as that.

  2. Ted says:

    I dunno, Warren.

    Seems to me that Ignatieff laid out his view of our soldiers providing training a long time ago and that Harper’s flip flop and broken promise has brought him foursquare in line with already announced Liberal policy on this.

    It also seems to me that training Afghan soldiers doesn’t extend any war but hastens its end.

    It also seems to me that training soldiers is something we’ve been doing as part of our peacekeeping role since the days of Pearson.

    I get the NDP view that one must oppose anything involving guns at all times. I even get the attraction of many to the political proverb “Thou Shalt Oppose Everything The Government Proposes Automatically When In Opposition”.

    I just think Canada is taking its natural liberal/Liberal spot in the world with this: helping troubled nations help themselves.

    • Michael says:

      I’m with you Ted.

      I am also concerned about leaving a void in Afghanistan. We went in and destabilized their country, with the best of intentions. How could we in good conscience leave them the keys without teaching them how to drive?

      In fact, it may be difficult to leave a combat role at all, not that I’m advocating for a combat extension…not in the slightest. But I am concerned that leaving has always been predicated on someone else taking our place, and while the Americans would have the biggest role in attracting our replacements, Canada would play a strong leadership role in drafting in other NATO nations to fill our vacuum too. Given our poor international standing right now, I’m not sure how well we’d do in our efforts to draft our replacements. That U.N. slap in the face still stings, and shows us where we stand in the eyes of our international brethren, despite our Afghan sacrifices.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Michael,

        We did positively everything short of begging on our knees to line up a replacement in Khandahar and surprise, surprise, there were absolutely no takers. And that was before the UN debacle. That’s why the Americans have had no choice but to come in en masse to fill the gap and they will have to do so once again when Canadian combat operations cease this summer or fall.

  3. jon evan says:

    Listening to Jack right now I find it sad not interesting. Sad because Jack sounds like my teenage kids: oh! it’s not my turn any more: I did my share… it’s someone else’s turn… blah blah blah. What about leadership jack? What about Canada showing the world how it’s done. What it means to be Canadian — finishing the job instead of whining that it’s somebody else’s turn! We certainly need a majority gov’t here: either a left one or a right one. Maybe what’s interesting is this might turn into some sort of coalition toward one end or the other and finally a majority gov’t to show the world what Canada is really about. Hoping! But, it would be sad if Jack was the defence minister in a left coalition!!

    It is entirely the prerogative of the executive to mobilise the Canadian Forces; His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D., the Commander-in-Chief in and over Canada, commands the Canadian Forces on the advice of Her Majesty’s Government for Canada. The Parliament of Canada has no involvement in relation to the Canadian Forces, other than to approve the annual budget.

  4. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Only problem Ted, and said with respect for your view, is that Afghanistan is not by any stretch of the imagination a “troubled nation”. It is in fact a failed nation-state waiting for eventual surrender by Karzai to the Taliban.

    • terence says:

      roanld,And therefore, in your opinion, we should just let it become another Somalia. Afghanistan was not a failed state until thye killed the king back in the 70’s. The Russians emaciated the place and the Taliban did things that are both disgusting and demeaning to almost all human beings under the name of religion. it was really about control of the poppy business and that is still part of the issue.

  5. MississaugaPeter says:

    Karzai and his government is corrupt. Elections that would have removed Karzai were made void by Karzai. No new elections are planned. And we are going to train soldiers of a corrupt government and leader? No thank you Ted.

    Enough Canadian blood has already been spilled propping up a corrupt government and their leader. Enough Canadian dollars, many of which will be repaid by our children, have been spent propping up a corrupt government and their leader.

    • Ted says:

      And that hasn’t been pretty much the case in every single peacekeeping mission we’ve ever undertaken?

      So you would propose we adopt some new purity test before we dole out any financial or peacekeeping or development or training assistance to the developing world? Or if you are so worried about any risk of losing a soldiers life, then we should not undertake any peacekeeping for there will always be that risk and our volunteer soldiers, the one’s taking the risk, are fully aware of that.

      I’m too much of a liberal and progressive to abandon the developing world as you suggest.

      • MississaugaPeter says:

        Ted, can you please tell me in which peacekeeping mission did Canada train soldiers? I suggest you come out to a free event tonight which will focus on a prime ministrer who understood peacekeeping (and made Canada proud and received a Peace Prize for it)!

        http://kennedyandfriends.ca/officiallaunch.shtml

        There is a difference between helping the people of a nation and sending money and spilling blood for a dictator. Training the soldiers of VERY CORRUPT, undemocratic and abusive regime is not peacekeeping.

        • Ted says:

          The democratic nature and purity of the government has never been a factor in peacekeeping.

          Training was a big part of UN/Canadian peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo and Haiti and even in some for in peacekeeping efforts in Belgian Congo, and elsewhere.

          But that is not going nearly as far as other UN/Canadian peacekeeping operations which have, “temporarily”, taken over government itself after a regime collapse or to provide full-on “nation building” like in Somalia, Cambodia, etc. (Although admittedly this started more in the 1990s than from inception.)

          The only real discernible difference is that, while operating this not-unique training mission, there is at the same time a UN sanctioned military war ongoing.

          Really, it is just the timing of this training that is different: before any ceasefire or formal talks, rather than after.

  6. Brammer says:

    “Thou Shalt Oppose Everything The Government Proposes Automatically When In Opposition”. Funny, but before the Harper era, that was in fact expected of HML opposition, sprinkled with some righteous indignation to boot.

    As for the week ahead, Rae already set the tone (where was Iggy?). If it is in fact the Liberal position to continue training, he could have said “The LPOC is happy to see that the R-C party has come around to our way of thinking” but he didn’t. Why?

    I am growing tired of watching Canada disintegrate under these partisan games. Evidently, a growing number of MPs feel the same way. A Federal party willing to propose proportional representation may just get my vote and donations next election.

    • Ted says:

      Why evidently? I haven’t read of one leak from caucus. What issue has ever had unanimous consensus within caucus? If there was real division, we’d be hearing about it from Jane “The Gossip Queen” Taber.

  7. Sean says:

    I’ve got a great idea! Lets have quarterly report cards on the mission that are also confidence motions! uhhhh… On second thought, lets have a Thinkers’ Conference about the mission! hmmmmm Actually, lets do a bus ride and announce no positions on anything! uh oh….

  8. LorneinCollingwood says:

    I listened to Bob Rae being interviewed by Craig Oliver last evening and I thought he was superb in rising above the raw politics of the situation. I see nothing craven about arguing in favour of Canada taking on some training and other responsibilities, especially given that it’s part of NATO and the UN. If it happens that both the Government and the Opposition happen to agree on doing the right thing, so what. That doesn’t make it the wrong thing.

    I’m not sure what implications, if any, this issue should have for Ignatieff’s leadership. In fact, I’d increase my respect for him if he took the same basic approach as Bob and said that we should just do what should be done. If Harper tried to make hay out of that, I think he would be fully justified in calling him out for sheer pettiness.

  9. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Another point: we are no more “safe” from terrorism whether we happen to be in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Terrorist groups operate out of a number of failed states — they simply move from one to another. Who can forget Somalia and increasingly Yemen.

    That’s why I prefer an emphasis on continental defense in matters of national security. Arab and other intelligence agencies in the region are responsible for the so-called victories in recent weeks. We should be propping them up rather than pretending that Karzai is anything but ineffectual.

    And another thing — get cracking on screening cargo before it leaves Middle Eastern hubs. Next time, we might not be so lucky. They’d like to deliver us something all right and chances are a bomb is not what they have in mind. Either the UPS or FedEx plane’s flight plan took it right over Canada when zero hour was reached. Time to wake from our slumber and help industry get the job done right at cargo terminals of DEPARTURE.

  10. Tim Alin says:

    Why don’t Bob and Iggy join Conservatives party and leave us (Liberals) alone

  11. Brian says:

    Stupid question: has some genius political wonk designed the “instant consultation with caucus” iPhone app yet?

  12. kirbycairo says:

    What is so “interesting” about an opposition party, the leadership of which, is so uniformly in agreement with the prevailing government that there seems to be little reason to run a House of Commons other than trying to score occasional political points for the enviable scandals that are sure to ensue during the run of any government? The Conservative/Liberal coalition goes merrily on while democracy burns.

  13. Michael Behiels says:

    Bob Rae opened the door to Harper last Spring when he announced (without the prior approval of the Liberal caucus) while on tour in Afghanistan that the Liberals would support an extension of the Afghanistan mission post July 2011. Canadian troops would remain in the Afghan war zone by putting on their ‘virtual’ Blue Berets to undertake training of the Afghan National Army.
    Rumours are that retired General Romeo Dallaire advised Ignatieff and Rae on just such a ridiculous policy.
    The Canadian Armed Forces leadership vowed, after the debacle in Bosnia, that Canadian soldiers would never again don the UN Blue Beret ( virtual or real) in a war zone. Why? Because in doing so it put soldiers lives at stake.
    Indeed, back in the early 90s when this decision was taken Harper’s hawkish Reformatories were fully supportive of this long overdue decision. Harper remains firmly convinced that this is and should remain government policy. And yet, PM Harper is how telling Canadians that Canada’s Armed Forces personnel stationed in Afghanistan with be wearing ‘virtual’ Blue Berets while a civil war wages on around them.
    How and why was the most Hawkish of Canadian Prime Ministers since Robert Borden, PM Harper agreed to such a stupid and dangerous policy.
    In order for Harper to keep Canadian troops in the Afghan theatre of war, he must gain the support of the pro-Afghan mission members of the deeply divided Liberal caucus.
    Ignatieff and Rae, not wanting another embarrassing vote on the extension of the Canadian mission in Afganistan decided last spring without the full support of caucus to negotiate, behind closed doors in an old-boys, accommodation-of-elites scenario, to work out a deal with Harper’s hawkish government.
    Harper’s government, backed by a silly and misguided Ignatieff, would pretend that Canada’s Armed Forces personnel would perform a non-combat role in a theatre of war. In short, Canada would behave like several other member states of NATO who have sat behind the wire thinking they could avoid casualties. We all know they suffered casualties.
    Canadian troops according to Harper, Ignatieff and Rae will be able to huddle behind the wire and wile away their time in a foreign and hostile land, training Afghanistan would-be-soldiers to take up the cause of fending off the rebellious Taliban who control two-thirds of their country. Many Afghan national army recruits will gratefully take the training and then go over to the Taliban side in this longstanding civil war.
    Ignatieff has abandoned his role as Official Leader of the Opposition. It is up to PM Harper to propose and to dispose. Ignatieff’s role is not that of a putative PM but rather one of keeping the Harper government accountable to the Canadian electorate.
    Ignatieff has no right to agree with Harper’s absurd claim that the Prime alone has the unrestrained power to make the momentous decision of sending troops abroad to participate in a civil war however his government wants to define that role. Harper is not Canada’s Commander-in-Chief. Governor General Johnson should have his day in this momentous decision.
    As Mackenzie King made it very clear: “Only Parliament can decide to send a Canadian Expeditionary Force abroad to fight on behalf of Canada and Canadians.”
    For Harper and Ignatieff that this would not be a real Canadian Expeditionary Force participating in a theatre of war in Afghanistan is patently absurd and a violation of Canada’s Constitutional Democracy. Under the Constitution Act, 1982 the Constitution is Supreme. The executive, the legislators, and the courts are the guarantors of the Constitution and all three branches of government must abide by its provisions or be ruled in contempt of Canada’s Constitution.
    Canadian democracy is at stake. It is time for Canadians to wake up and defend their democracy or it will soon be lost.

  14. Michael Behiels says:

    Corrected Version – please scrub the above version.
    Bob Rae opened the door to Harper last Spring when he announced (without the prior approval of the Liberal caucus) while on tour in Afghanistan that the Liberals would support an extension of the Afghanistan mission post July 2011. Canadian troops would remain in the Afghan war zone by putting on their ‘virtual’ Blue Berets to undertake training of the Afghan National Army.
    Rumours are that retired General Romeo Dallaire advised Ignatieff and Rae on just such a ridiculous policy.
    The Canadian Armed Forces leadership vowed, after the debacle in Bosnia, that Canadian soldiers would never again don the UN Blue Beret (virtual or real) in a war zone. Why? Because in doing so it put Canadian soldiers lives at stake and led to constant humiliation of Canada and its valiant soldiers.
    Indeed, back in the early 90s when this decision was taken Harper’s hawkish Reformatories were fully supportive of this long-overdue decision. Harper remains firmly convinced that this is, and should remain, government policy.
    And yet, PM Harper is how telling Canadians that Canada’s Armed Forces personnel stationed in Afghanistan with be wearing ‘virtual’ Blue Berets while a civil war wages on around them.
    How and why has PM Harper, the most hawkish of Canadian Prime Ministers since Robert Borden, agreed to such a stupid and dangerous policy.
    In order for Harper to keep Canadian troops in the Afghan theatre of war, he must gain the support of the pro-Afghan mission members of the deeply divided Liberal caucus.
    Ignatieff and Rae, not wanting another embarrassing vote on the extension of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, decided last spring without the full support of caucus to negotiate, behind closed doors in an old-boys, accommodation-of-elites scenario, to work out a deal with Harper’s hawkish government.
    Harper’s government, backed by a silly and misguided Ignatieff, would pretend that Canada’s Armed Forces personnel would perform a non-combat role in a theatre of war.
    In short, Canada would behave like several other member states of NATO who have sat behind the wire thinking they could avoid casualties. We all know they suffered casualties.
    Canadian troops according to Harper, Ignatieff and Rae will be able to huddle behind the wire and wile away their time in a foreign and hostile land, training Afghanistan would-be-soldiers to take up the cause of fending off the rebellious Taliban who control two-thirds of their country. Many Afghan national army recruits will gratefully take the training and then go over to the Taliban side in this longstanding civil war.
    Ignatieff has abandoned his role as Official Leader of the Opposition. It is up to PM Harper to propose and to dispose. Ignatieff’s role is not that of a putative PM but rather one of keeping the Harper government accountable to the Canadian electorate.
    Ignatieff has no right to agree with Harper’s absurd claim that the Prime alone has the unrestrained power to make the momentous decision of sending troops abroad to participate in a civil war however his government wants to define that role.
    Harper is not Canada’s Commander-in-Chief. Governor General Johnson should have his say in this momentous decision.
    As Mackenzie King made it very clear: “Only Parliament can decide to send a Canadian Expeditionary Force abroad to fight on behalf of Canada and Canadians.”
    For Harper and Ignatieff to maintain that this would not be a real Canadian Expeditionary Force participating in a theatre of war in Afghanistan is patently absurd and a violation of Canada’s Constitutional Democracy.
    Under the Constitution Act, 1982 the Constitution is Supreme. The executive, the legislators, and the courts are the guarantors of the Constitution and all three branches of government must abide by its provisions or be ruled in contempt of Canada’s Constitution.
    Canadian democracy is at stake. It is time for Canadians to wake up and defend their democracy or it will soon be lost.

    • Namesake says:

      re: it being “a violation of Canada’s Constitutional Democracy,”

      Could you please square that with the following contradictory opinion, taken from the aforementioned Parliamentary Library backgrounder (“INTERNATIONAL DEPLOYMENT OF CANADIAN FORCES: PARLIAMENT’S ROLE”) http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/prb0006-e.htm

      which draws on a _different_ Political Scientist’s opinion and an earlier Parliamentary Library report linked below:

      “As a matter of Canadian constitutional law, the situation is clear. The federal Cabinet can, without parliamentary approval or consultation, commit Canadian Forces to action abroad, whether in the form of a specific current operation or future contingencies resulting from international treaty obligations.

      Under the Canadian Constitution (Constitution Act, 1867, sections 15 and 19), command of the armed forces – like other traditional executive powers – is vested in the Queen and exercised in her name by the federal Cabinet acting under the leadership of the Prime Minister. As far as the Constitution is concerned, Parliament has little direct role in such matters.

      Of course, Parliament, especially the House of Commons, plays an indispensable though indirect role by voting or withholding funds and by retaining or withdrawing confidence in the government of the day. Moreover, short of an actual vote, there are other mechanisms that enable parliamentarians to hold the government accountable for its decisions and to register their own views. These include questions to ministers, debates on the Estimates, and take‑note debates.(2)(3)

      Although Parliament has a specific statutory role in some national emergencies under the Emergencies Act and with respect to the active status of the Canadian Forces under the National Defence Act, Cabinet is required to seek parliamentary approval only in the event of conscription or specific states of emergency. Without consulting Parliament, Cabinet can deploy troops by an order in council.(4)

      (2) Nossal (1999), p. 3.
      (3) Ibid., and Rossignol (1992), p. 2.
      (4) Nossal (1999), p. 3. ”

      Kim Richard Nossal (Department of Political Science, McMaster University), “‘Parliament will decide’ revisited: legislative involvement in the deployment of Canadian Forces overseas,” Brief to the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ottawa, 8 June 1999

      Michel Rossignol, International Conflicts: Parliament, the National Defence Act, and the Decision to Participate, Background Paper BP-303, Parliamentary Research Branch, Library of Parliament, Ottawa, August 1992, pp. 14-21.
      (which is online at http://dsp-psd.pwgsc.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/bp303-e.htm

      and from which this related note is drawn:
      “R.S.C. 1985, c. N-5. Section 31(1) of the National Defence Act enables the Governor in Council to place the Canadian Forces, or any element thereof, on active service whenever “it appears advisable to do so” by reason of an emergency or for the defence of Canada, or “in consequence of any action taken by Canada under the United Nations Charter, the North Atlantic Treaty or any other similar instrument for collective defence that may be entered into by Canada.”

      • Michael Behiels says:

        The current academic views on this matter are rather outdated. Most academics fail to understand the revolutionary nature of the Constitution Act, 1982, a constitutional development that made Canada a constitutional democracy, one that is beholden to the electorate far more so than in the past. Full sovereignty resides in the people not in the elites to do as they please. Check out Section 52.

        The documents you quote are in dire need of amendment. Perhaps this imbroglio will educate Canadians as to what needs to be done.

        Secondly, I agree that a Prime Minister can use the traditional prerogatives of Prime Ministers to do as they please in the areas of foreign and defence policies and decisions. But if a Prime Minister’s decisions concerning foreign and defence policies run against the majority position of a majority of Canadians, and if our representatives in the House of Commons are denied their right to debate and vote on such high level matters of state, then we no longer have a viable and legitimate democracy.

        Prime Ministers may possess a legal right, in a very narrow technical sense, to call out the Armed Forces, especially in an emergency situation. Everyone understands and accepts this.

        The decision whether to renew Canada’s Armed Forces mission in Afghanistan is not an emergency situation. And there have been several votes on the matter already. Why, should these precedents be set aside simply because both Harper and Ignatieff fear divisions within their respective caucuses and parties.

        Hawkish Conservatives want a robust mandate and for the troops to continue to do what they have been doing these past many years, fighting the good fight. Peace keeping Liberals want the Troops to stay but on condition that they do not fight the good fight but put on Blue Berets and stand between the waring factions. In short, the Canadian Armed Forces, if they remain as peace keepers and trainers, would not be able to carry out the mandate assigned to NATO by the UN. They will be in jeopardy and easy targets for the Taliban insurgents.

        At the end of the day Canadians will have to decide if Harper’s decision is politically legitimate. If they conclude that Harper has abused his powers then the voters will turf him out. Unfortunately, they will not be able to turn to Ignatieff and the Liberal Party since these folks failed to protect their democratic rights to proper and full representation.

    • Namesake says:

      p.s., I haven’t found his ’99 Senate submission, yet, but Prof. Nossal is at Queen’s now
      http://post.queensu.ca/~nossalk/#contact
      and gave a talk on this very topic a couple weeks ago:
      http://www2.carleton.ca/polisci/events/parliament-will-decide-revisited-the-politics-of-the-afghanistan-mission/

  15. Cath says:

    No need for Harper to embarrass the Ignatieff led Liberals Warren they’re doing a pretty good job all by themselves. Why mess with perfection:-)

  16. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Right on, Bryon Wilfert! My compliments on your position regarding a Commons vote.

  17. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Wow, it just keeps getting better and better — lucky us: combat until December 2011 followed by two years of behind the wire training. And, of course, as soon as we get to 2014, Karzai will rethink things and ask for another extension! I can’t wait.

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