Monday, May 14, 2007

Pushing Back

Ignatieff posed a question today in parliament, on behalf of the entire opposition, which cuts through Harper's divisive politics, as it relates to support for the troops. Last week, I made the following comment after Harper's Support The Troops rally speech, wherein he tried to deflect his government's incompetence into a question of patriotism:
In our parliamentary system, they don't call it the "opposition" for nothing. The role of the opposition is to scrutinize and question government actions, hold them accountable and bring to light problems. If the opposition didn't pursue the government over its mis-handling of the entire situation, then I view that as dereliction of duty. Surely, Stephen Harper, then Leader of the Opposition, would have agreed.

Ignatieff, in what I hope becomes a theme:
"No government has the right to hide behind our troops when the government is subjected to scrutiny in the House and that's what happened in Petawawa on Friday. Why does the Prime Minister persist in believing, that when the opposition does its job, which democracy requires, we are and I quote "tarnishing the reputation of our troops"?

I hope all the opposition parties rally around this talking point, because Harper is acting as though any line of questioning is unpatriotic. We can't allow Harper to frame this issue in such divisive terms, it distracts from serious debate and it forces the opposition to defend something that should be a given. Forget defending, it's a trap, go on the offensive, show pride in our democratic role, and in the process make Harper look petty and unnecessarily political.


A BCer in Toronto said...

Bill Graham really ate his cornflakes before QP today too, I thought.

Steve V said...

I missed that.

Gayle said...

"No government has the right to hide behind our troops ..."

Great line. It says so much.

Steve V said...


Doesn't it? It embraces the troops, and exposes the cowardice and shameless posturing.

knb said...

bcer, I agree. It was great to see and hear him again.

Olaf said...


Well, regarding your latest comment, I think it would be hard to accuse anyone of not "posturing" with regards to Afghanistan. Dion has changed his own personal opinion on 3 or 4 occasions, right? Layton's opinion is generally accepted as being logically bankrupt (I won't mention myself, but by countless media columnists, and also, in particular, by Dave of TGB, a military man himself who is no fan of Harper to put it mildly.)

Now, which party position exhibits cowardice is up for debate.

That aside, your and Ignatieff's comments are fair. It's always bothered me how Harper has attempted to stifle debate of the mission based on patriotism, as if the mission in Afghanistan was so obviously patriotic that no dissent was valid.

Personally, I've always thought that based on Canadian values and priorities (at least those that I endorse, and hope others do as well), this mission (unlike Iraq) is both morally and practically justifiable, even noble. However, when I defend the mission, I have never attempted to paint those who oppose it or express reservations (such as yourself) as unpatriotic - democracies debate decisions, even in war.

Christ, I've even defended Layton (I can't find the post, but I would never forget such a traumatic experience) when people attempted to suggest that he was unpatriotic or "against the troops", even though I think his position is the most politically motivated and intellectually indefensible of the lot.

Layton, Harper, Dion and even Duceppe are Canadians (even if Duceppe's in denial), and I refuse to believe that any of them are in any way willing to sacrifice the troops lives for political gain (although I might believe that some policies, more than others, are more likely to produce this outcome). Maybe I'm being naive, but I cling to such a belief like grim death, because it's such a belief of common humanity that allows me to put up with the constant bullshit. They all fundamentally disagree on the best place for Canada in the conflict, which can be debated. Their dedication to the well being of Canadian troops cannot, in my opinion.

Anyways, I seem to have gone on a rant there that was altogether removed from my initial intention: to simply ask why Dion didn't ask this pointed question? I remember a column by Don Martin, that gave Dion tips to become more popular, and one was 'take the best questions, don't give them to Ignatieff, you're the leader, you get first pick'. What's the deal?

A BCer in Toronto said...

Dion, like Harper, wasn't in QP today Olaf.

Olaf said...


Well that explains it, I guess.