Thursday, November 18, 2010


I just can't get my head around the slew of columns, praising the "bi-partisan", "above politics" result on the Afghan file. There seems the most serious error in logic, as well as a fundamental betrayal of the word "bi-partisan".

Both the Conservatives and several Liberals are saying that the government of the day doesn't need Parliamentary approval to extend this mission, so long as it is not military in nature. If you take this defence for the lack of a formal debate and vote, then you have effectively neutered this notion of politicians from both sides putting aside partisanship and working in "bi-partisan" fashion. If the government doesn't need Parliament's approval, then why the hell do they need to get the Liberals on board?? If the government is well within its mandate, as argued by Liberals themselves, then there is no need to cobble together a multi-party approval, right? All these accolades, people rising above the fray, is pure bull, because there is no "bi-partisan" effort.

I'm arguing a fine line here, because I don't approve of the leaks, at least those that name names. However, what is clear and NOT surprising, the Liberals are anything but "bi-partisan" on this issue. In fact, it would appear the Liberals are horribly divided on this Afghan issue, so to claim that we have some real mutual agreement only stands if you toss out democracy, and instead focus on what amounts to a few people coming to a meeting of the minds. "Bi-partisan" is a complete and utter mirage, and it's sad that people praise this horribly flawed description.

I can understand why this issue is blowing up in the Liberals face, because it looks like MP's weren't consulted, at least not in a way our DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED representatives deserve. The after the fact "oh by the way" flavour to this whole story is disturbing. Once again, we see evidence of a top down approach, which snubs core tenets.

There is something anti-democratic, backroom, end around, to this whole affair. No matter the rationalizations, the stench is there and it is very, very real. It has become even more bizarre now, that we have people lauding this process and bastardizing the word "bi-partisan". Frankly, it's a joke at this point to say the Liberals support this Afghanistan extension. As a matter of fact, it looks like most Liberal MP's don't, which explains the detour tactics employed (I actually do, in general, but that is completely irrelevant to the notion of democratic accountability). Just don't insult everyone with these nonsensical characterizations, and misguided praise that fails basic logic.


Kirk said...

Externally, for Canada in it's international relations, the decision to stay on as trainers will be a good one.

Internally and politically it is a bad decision.

That the Liberal leadership decided to "do the right thing" which as a govt would might have been all noble of them but as an Opposition party's policy it is a dumb move. That the caucus isn't on side with it as well is just asking for trouble.

I'm as tired of the people who endlessly rant against the Afghan mission, who pretend that there was NO real reason for it in the first place and falsely claim Canadians never supported the mission when for the longest time the majority of Canadians did as I'm tired of those who trot out the same tired reasons for the mission which the reality of Afghanistan have shown to hold no water.

For the Harper govt, which has no international clout, to decide to stay to prevent sinker further in the eyes of our allies I can understand, as an act of real-politic.

For the Liberals to get all "noble" about extending the mission was just a bad move when the "real-politic" move for them given public and caucus opinion was the obvious one, opposing it.

nicky10013 said...

The notion that the caucus wasn't notified, I'm sorry, is an absurd one. The support extension of a non-combat mission in Afghanistan has been talked about for months. When the international relations platform was released in June. It's right there in the document. During the early summer policy tour, in a room with a few MPs and sitting maybe 10 feet from me, I heard it straight from the horses mouth. Support of an extension he was calling for shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. It isn't undemocratic because the caucus has know about it since the document came out. Where was the outcry then? Both politically and for international relations this is the right move. Politically speaking, considering it's such a widely known fact where the party stood prior to the announcement of the extension, it would've been incredibly poor politics as instead of looking a principled objection to a bad policy, everyone would see right through it. It would've been percieved as a sleazy flip-flop to take advantage of people's feelings. Which it is.

Steve V said...

"The notion that the caucus wasn't notified, I'm sorry, is an absurd one"

Judging by the reaction, I'd argue it's absurd to think they were.

nicky10013 said...

The caucus reaction is more about politics than anything else. They had an issue with which Canadians, according to the polls, a majority are against the side of the government. They figured if they pick up the ball and attacked the government on the extension they could win political points. The problem is that ignores the track record of the party on the issue. Attacking Harper for something Ignatieff has wanted for a sustained period of time is political stupidity.

Like I said, this has been a documented position of the party since (give or take) June when this policy document came out.

For heaven's sake it's on the first page. Yet, no one has had an issue with that until now? Either they approved of it before Harper got on board or they didn't read a critical piece of policy which is even more inexcusable since it's been one of the only detailed policy statements released thus far. Either way, there should be no excuse. As I said before, if they had such a problem with it, why now?

Steve V said...

That's just crap to be frank. Why is it politics if you don't support the mission?? I support this extension, but to belittle the other side as "politics" is nonsense.

If you can point to me ONE instance where this notion of not going through Parliament was floated to MP's, I'll retract. You can't because this is a new development, DESPITE our stated policy prior. That's why people are upset, that some can't recognize what is staring them in the face, well I'll leave them to the partisan delusion...

nicky10013 said...

It's politics because if people were opposed to being in Afghanistan to begin with, they would've brought it up earlier. They didn't, which is my entire point. This isn't exactly a principled response by people generally opposed by the mission. If it is, they're not reading the memos. Either way, they shouldn't be speaking out of turn. In any office, if you have a problem with the boss, you bring it up with your boss and don't go blabbing to the entire office. It's unprofessional. It's even more important in politics but apparently our caucus members don't realize that.

As for not going through parliament, what would be worse? Letting a few MPs whine or to fight an election (if it went to a vote, as always, it would be a confidence motion) when your party that you can't whip over this issue votes down something the leader supports? Going into a campaign disorganized with a caucus that stabbed it's leader in the back? You might as well hold the vote the next day. It's a deathblow. It would be over before it even began.

Steve V said...

I note you have no response to my request to find the no voting provision in the link you gave or any other public commentary by Liberals who were supposedly consulted.

Here's the deal. I could tell the minute I heard Rae that this thing was going to blow up in our faces. To get upset at the inevitable, when it was your own doing, strikes me as bizarre. Don't blame the dissenters (blame the RAT sure), blame the process that has caused such angst. People didn't know, that's obvious...

Mark Dowling said...

Every deployment or retention beyond previous commitment of armed Canadian personnel in a foreign country in any role (excepting JTF2 or similar operations which are necessarily both short-lived and arising at short notice) should be subject to a vote.

Steve V said...

Hey Mark, long time no comment :)

I agree entirely. I would add, this precedent defence is a bit lame in this case, given previous promises as well as the government's own actions in trying to secure Lib support.

nicky10013 said...

How could people not know, though? In the end what Harper proposed was incredibly similar so to assume Ignatieff would oppose it is just plain stupidity. If it is about being informed, well, that's something to discuss with Ignatieff and not with the press. Along those lines, there's something to be said about the fact that the CPC sprung it on the opposition as a whole at the last minute. If it's about a vote in parliament, it just goes to show why those individuals are not leading the party.

You claim I didn't answer your question but the question in itself is irrelevant. If Ignatieff introduced it as PM, of course the party would support it and they'd take it to a vote because in the end the vote would pass. However, like I've said, this is about politics and having something to attack the government with. Even if Harper wouldn't make a potential vote a confidence motion (the horrible consequences of which I've already laid out), losing the vote in the house would only be embarrassing to the CPC in terms of international relations (which they've shown they don't care about already vis-a-vis the UN) and much more damaging to the Liberals. As a leader, having your party vote against you on a key international policy would lead to cries of backstabbing, infighting, disorganization everywhere. Harper would have a field day and would be able to, true or not, hammer the Liberals on being really bad with security issues as the party wouldn't be able to make up it's mind. Which, if that were allowed to happen, would actually be the truth.

I'm just so sick of the constant airing of dirty laundry. Disciplined parties win elections.

Steve V said...

"You claim I didn't answer your question but the question in itself is irrelevant"

Actually, it goes to the heart of your argument that MP's knew. They didn't!!

As for airing laundry, I agree completely.

Anonymous said...

Confused indeed. Regardless of one's opinions of the Afghanistan mission, we need to at least have a democratic vote on something so important.

Or else:

Steve V said...

Good post.

CK said...

If the government doesn't need Parliament's approval, then why the hell do they need to get the Liberals on board??

Well, since there is not going to be a vote in the HoC, given that parliamentary law is in Harper's favour on this one:

the Harpercons actually don't need the Liberals on board with them. The Liberals just happen to support an extension is all and always have for as long as I can remember.

I've also known forever that Harper wanted to stay past the deadline. MacKay talked about way back in October, 2009,

So, why is this all a surprise? This is really nothing new on the part of either the Liberals or the Harpercons.

Another thing to remember, this war, like all wars is big business. big money for corporations; With that come serious lobbying; here's your answer.

big jobs programs for both military and non military, too:

I'm sure it's no different in Canada.

Demosthenes said...

So let me get this straight. According to "nicky", there, caucus should let this slide because "there's no way they couldn't have known"?

That's it? They should not be allowed to have a say over a decision because "they shoulda known better"? That's ridiculous. Even if they shoulda known, they are still representatives of their constituents, and should still have the right to vote on behalf of said constituents. It's said constituents that have to foot the bill, after all.

Yes, it's quite possible that they went along with this because the party leadership had assured them that Harper wasn't going to change his mind. They may have been assured that flanking Harper on the right—which is ridiculous on its face to begin with—wouldn't blow back in their faces. And that may have been a mistake.

But a mistake like that is no reason to lose your seat to the Conservatives because your progressive voters all fled in disgust to the NDP, Greens and Bloc. Because it wasn't your mistake, it was the leadership's mistake. And this back-door nonsense is just compounding it.

Demosthenes said...

Also, nicky, considering the lack of popularity that the Afghanistan mission suffers in Canada, I truly doubt that the blowback for the Liberals would come from not supporting this mission.

A disciplined party is one that recognizes what the political landscape actually looks like, and acts accordingly.