Harper places CPC interests above Canada's and especially Canadian soldiers' lives
Remember a few months ago when Harper told us all that to even debate the Afghanistan mission in Parliament would be a sign of weakness and undercut troop morale, let alone having a vote which regardless of outcome would also somehow be a sign of weakness to the "enemy" and therefore could not be permitted? Then suddenly Harper decided that it was not going to damage troop morale nor show weakness to the "enemy" to have a debate, but it could not be one with a vote for that would still be a sign of weakness and harm troop morale. Suddenly though this week having a debate and a vote basically in one day would not be a sign of weakness to the "enemy". nor undercut troop morale. That is not flip-flopping on this issue, it is clearly having massive convulsions all over the place, and what more is that at no time was Harper ever required to explain why this was then so dangerous that first just a take note debate was too dangerous to troop morale and encouragement to the "enemy, then the take note debate was suddenly not dangerous but a vote was last month, and this week suddenly neither is dangerous to troop morale nor encouraging the "enemy". These changes in position on this matter did not come with an explanation why it was so bad three months ago to even have a take note debate let alone a vote yet this week was no problem at all.
However, what makes what we saw this week particularly dishonest, dishonourable, and without any respect to Parliament, the Canadian soldiers and to the Canadian public was the way he abused Parliament to try to eat his cake and then have it. You see, for those that do not know their history or how their government works, it has never been Parliament as a whole that makes deployment decisions but the executive alone, otherwise known as the Prime Minister, in this case Harper. What Harper did was something different, he had pledged to bring such decisions to Parliament for debate before taking these decisions and on the surface this appears to be a follow-through on this pledge. In reality though it is clearly anything but. You see, if Harper wants to be able to claim that this mission was endorsed by the majority of Parliament and not just his party alone he needed to let happen not a sham debate and vote but a real examination of the issues like any other serious issue debated and voted upon in Parliament.
Why should things like the gun registry, same sex marriage, tax cuts, child care and other issues get real debate time, committee hearings and testimonies from relevant witnesses/experts while placing our uniformed men and women in harms way for an additional two years get no similar treatment? Why are these issues worthy of real examination and debate prior to a vote being taken yet not the Afghanistan issue/mission extension of two years? Why are the views of constituents important enough to allow time to be heard by their MPs prior to voting on most issues being debated and voted on in Parliament like SSM and the other examples I gave yet on this issue their opinions were clearly not desired/deemed important enough to even be given the chance to weigh in? The problem with what Harper did is that he was essentially trying to force the opposition and especially the Liberals to give him an open/blank check on this issue by painting them as inconsistent/partisan on national defence and issues of war if they refused, banking on the ignorance/inattention of the general public from recognizing that Harper gave no time for any real examination of the particulars of this extension and not even enough time really for a proper debate while now claiming that he has the support of Parliament for this decision which he could take without any Parliamentary input. What really underscored what a farce this "debate and vote" was that Harper made clear that regardless of the vote the next year was going to be committed to by Harper automatically, so no matter whether the vote was against extending Harper has already decided on at least one of the two years. This rather makes the point that this was not a matter of urgency or actually being interested in following the "will of Parliament" but rather nothing more than the continual partisan political warfare being practiced by Harper and the CPC in search of a majority government and the destruction of the Liberals as a credible alternative to them.
Our military is heavily stretched right now, especially the ground forces components. By taking this decision we are effectively locked out of any other significant mission in the world requiring ground forces. We also have a recruitment problem as noted yet again by the AG report, the one CPCers praised for the gun registry ammo it gave them but somehow it escaped their attention that the military recruitment drives have not exactly been having much success as of late. We also have not even found out under whose authority this extension will be under, NATO or America. This is very much a pig in a poke deal, and Harper presented it with no need to do so, especially not in such a short order of time. Which is another point CPCers gloss over, why did this debate and vote on such a serious and important issue only rate under seven hours of debate, no committee hearings, no other input at all? What pressing urgency required Harper to have to move in such a drastic breakneck speed aside from the obvious partisan political angles this speed allowed him to exploit? To date I have seen NO credible/substantial basis for why this had to be rushed through so rapidly given the fact the extension doesn't start for another nine-ten months from this debate. I mean if Harper had given it even a week for examination then there would have been far less opposition, especially from the Liberal side, which appears unfortunately to be the main reason why it was not given this time/examination.
I have supported the Afghanistan mission from the outset. I have made this clear many times and that my support for finishing the Afghanistan mission is as strong as my opposition for joining the Iraq invasion was and still is. I do not see this as an issue of political affiliations/partisanships but rather of the national interest and international obligations as a result of 9/11/01 and the invocation of article five of NATO. I do not want to see this mission continuing to lose support in the public mind, yet the actions of Harper on this issue since being sworn in as PM have been to polarize and politicize this mission to wring as much partisan advantage as can be obtained from this file regardless of the damage it will do to keeping strong support in the public. Instead of continuing to sell the reasons why this is a proper use of our forces Harper has instead turned it into a political billyclub to whack his opposition with. Instead of doing all he can to make the support for this mission as broad as possible he has chosen to do what will narrow that support base. In other words instead of working to maintain as broad a support as possible for this mission the actions of Harper and the CPC since becoming government has been to decrease such support by turning it into a partisan issue first instead of the non-partisan (well as non-partisan as possible given that by definition all political issues have some inherent partisanship surrounding them) issue this had been beforehand. Harper is creating the opposition he claims to be so opposed to, and for someone that claims to be so supportive of the troops, the mission, and the need for Canada and Canadians to maintain strong support for this mission this is something which cannot be ignored. It also speaks very poorly of his integrity and speaks volumes as to his willingness to place his and the CPC's partisan political interests/goals ahead of any and all other considerations including this according the Harper and the CPC themselves vital mission for Canada.
I do not like Harper, never have, and never made a secret of it. I do not trust the CPC either, again no secret. However, contrary to the twisted thinking of many CPC supporters that does not automatically make a person a Liberal or a Liberal supporter/partisan. One of my main reasons for opposing him so was his apparent willingness to use any and all tools to gain and hold power regardless of their potential negative consequences to the national interest. Well this week illustrated better than anything else just how well founded those fears/concerns were. Harper placed his and his party's interests above the national interest, the interests of those in uniform and the interests of Canada's Parliament by showing such naked and blatant contempt to it. If he wants Parliament's legitimate (as opposed to this fraud he perpetrated yesterday) blessings on such an important issue he has to allow Parliament to work as it is set up to, namely allow hearings in committee, gather expert relevant information, debate that information and hopefully getting input from constituents and then coming to a vote. This was a horror and a travesty of the first order, and any CPCers that are principled would acknowledge that in this matter. This is not Harper playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, this is Harper playing games with public support and commitment to a military mission that is supposedly the most important foreign affairs/defence issue currently in Canada. This is Harper showing rather conclusively that all his high and mighty talk about not being the partisan politician but rather the statesman while his opposition are the only ones allowing their partisanship to rule over their duties to protect the interests of the country first especially where supporting the troops is concerned is so much nonsense. Indeed one can make a good case for this being projection by Harper and his party rather than anything actually backed up by reality.
Harper is a disgrace and a contemptuous petty partisan politician that places his and his party's lust for power above the value of our soldier's lives, the support of the public for their mission, and demonstrated yet again his contempt for Parliament by using them as a rubber stamp for a decision he clearly had already made for at least one of the two years under "debate" yesterday. This was a very dark day in our politics and an even worse one regarding who matters more to Harper, his power and party or the lives and safety of the Canadian military. For a party and a party leader that ran off at the mouth for their appreciation, support, unwillingness to play petty partisan politics with and respect for the troops/military their actions have shown a remarkable contempt for that same military by showing that the considerations for a CPC majority government are more important that considerations of their mission, what it involves, and the eventual costs in lives as well as money.
This is the clean cut Conservative that was going to usher in a new age of honest, accountable, transparent government, and a government that would always place the interests of the nation and the military above petty partisan politics?!? I never though I would miss the Mulroney days but this man (Harper) is making that possible. What a disturbing and frightening feeling that is, at least Mulroney did some things I agreed with like fighting Apartheid and dealing with the acid rain issue as effectively as he did. Harper has yet to do anything I can see as something I can see in a similar light while he has already worked his way to the partisan/political corruption (as opposed to financial although I expect that in the not too distant future at this rate and the placement of Fortier in the patronage and pork ministry where he is unaccountable to any elected officials not of his party leadership) and arrogance of the Mulroney days faster than I would have believed possible, especially in a minority government scenario.
Harper has made a mockery of this issue and is almost certain to increase opposition to the mission in Afghanistan. The more Canadians feel this is being turned into just another partisan political issue the more they will only support it if their party does and tune the noise out if they are not partisans of one party or another. That will further reduce support, and it will not be because of the left in this country but because the right and its current leader and our PM chose to exploit it for partisan political purposes rather than as an issue that reached beyond basic party lines in this country. Harper is creating in Canadian oppositional defiance behaviour patterns in this issue from what I see, and the more he waxes on with his hard rhetoric on this issue the worse that effect will get I fear. Harper is not working to strengthen support for the Afghanistan mission, he is doing the opposite and all for partisan political purposes. Hardly leadership, indeed anything but. For a man that (thanks to Steve V at Far and Wide for this bit) sniped at Duceppe yesterday about following polls more than principles on issues like this one and Kyoto proving a lack of leadership credibility/credentials/capability his actions here show a degree of hypocrisy and sheer chutzpah remarkable even for him in the eyes of many of his opposition in this country like myself in making this statement during this Afghanistan debate farce.
Sorry about the length, but this is important and while not as in depth as this could be I think I managed to hit all the main points I wanted to regarding how this matter was handled. This is a problem, and this time it is not primarily motivated by my dislike/distrust of Harper but my very real concerns for the damage this partisan brinkmanship of Harper's on this issue will do to public support. I have too many friends in my life that either wear the uniform today or did so in the past for me to look at it in any other light first. I would like to think he is unaware of these consequences of his actions but I do not believe him to be either that stupid in general to begin with and especially not where political strategy is concerned. While I oppose his methods and many of his aims I have never made the mistake of underestimating his ability and intelligence nor his ruthlessness in applying them to maximum advantage. His entire political history illustrates this, indeed the Harper of the last election campaign was the fictional overlay put upon this very consistent, very clearly defined and very clear cut image/nature of the man.
To be successful in politics does take a certain degree of ruthlessness, especially to lead a federal party and/or be a PM. The thing is though to be a good Canadian PM (for that matter a leader generally, at least one that leads by example and convictions and not by fear and anger.hatred anyways) it is also important to have real empathy for the citizenry in general and not just limited to one's core base. Harper has too much ruthlessness and far too little empathy or for that matter ability to percieve his political opponents as good people, especially the Liberals but again not limited to them. That he is playing these kind of partisan games on this issue and in this particular manner may be smart political manuevering against the Liberals but it is horrible policy and a very ugly use (some would say it is clearly abuse, I am not at this time more out of charity than belief) of the tools of government to play partisan politics against one's opposition. That the military was used is bad enough, that it was over keeping our soldiers in a combat zone for an additional two years where we are experiencing more combat deaths than we have seen in decades is what makes this truly beyond the pale IMHO.
P.S. Thanks to those that gave their well wishes to me in the prior thread, I really appreciated reading them, especially the clear understanding of family taking priority over things like blogging, especially political commentary blogging, at least for me. I might be back once or twice in the next few days but I doubt I will be around much until Monday next week thanks to other committments in the real world the next few days. That is the other reason this is a long posting, I had much to say on this topic/issue and only this evening to really do so. So have a nice weekend everyone.