Thursday, February 07, 2008

Conservatives Behaving Badly

A roundup - because they're just behaving so badly this week.

First up: Tories threaten election over crime bill. Nothing like trying to bully your way into an election and blaming the senate for it at the same time. The Liberals are reportedly poised to bring down the government over the budget instead of being conned by Harper's "cute trick" (as Ralph Goodale put it to CBC's Don Newman) of doing the government's bidding on the crime bill.

Now, let's see if I can figure out what the Harper gov't is up to re: the Afghanistan war.

- Harper says he wants 1,000 more troops in Kandahar and has called for a debate on the fate of the mission in late March - after the budget (when the gov't might fall) and after the March 1 deadline he's given the senate to pass the crime bill, or else, and before the NATO meeting in April.

- When asked in parliament yesterday why he has dragged his feet, this was his response:

Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke—Lakeshore, Lib.):

Mr. Speaker, for two years, there has been mounting criticism of the Prime Minister's failure to lead in Afghanistan.

This week we learned the Prime Minister has finally, at the eleventh hour, begun to call NATO countries to ask for much needed assistance for our troops. He should have made those calls last year, and we said so.

Why did it take a year, with the deadline fast approaching, for the Prime Minister to realize the urgency of the situation and take responsibility—

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, during the last two years, while the Liberal Party completely reversed itself and decided we should suddenly pull out of Afghanistan, the government was working with our allies to strengthen that mission.

We have seen important contributions from many countries, including an additional contribution from Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. These contributions are very important.

We will continue to press for additional contributions from NATO because we think those are important. However, we do not think there is cause, if NATO is willing to give us what we need, to abandon our commitments to the Afghan people.

In other words, don't blame me. Who needed phone calls? It's not like I'm the prime minister or anything...

Remember when Harper promised to govern with "transparency, honesty, and accountability"?


Anyway, if an election is forced before the Afghanistan war debate or as a matter of non-confidence over that motion, the Harperites can then ride into their campaign proclaiming that the opposition parties chose to abandon Afghanistan. They're far too predictable. At the same time, of course, that would let Harper off the hook (he thinks) for not dealing with the deadline to our commitment next February. In the meantime, the fate of Canada's soldiers in Afghanistan will stall while he plays more political games. How does that even begin to make sense to him or his party - except for the fact that, as several Liberal MPs repeated in question period on Wednesday, they are "vindictive, dishonest and incompetent"?

No kidding.

Next: John Baird (bully extraordinaire) will be investigate by a commons committee over allegations of political interference in Ottawa's election. He will no doubt use the excuse "The Liberals made me do it" to defend himself.

News on the isotope front: A rep of MDS Nordion (which came under attack in the CMA earlier this week testified to a commons committee investigating the Chalk River isotopes fiasco, that natural resources minister Gary Lunn was informed of the urgency of the situation 12 days before Lunn has publicly admitted he knew what was going on. (no link on that yet)

The Mulroney/Schreiber affair: Mulroney either a) had really clueless advisors or b) has people who have no qualms about lying for him.

The only time between the spring of 2000 and February 2008 that Lavoie said he ever brought up the payments with Mulroney was in a phone call the evening before Mulroney testified before the committee.

Lavoie served as assistant chief of staff to Mulroney during his time in office and was later hired as his public relations consultant.

He suddenly stepped down as Mulroney's spokesman in late November after years in the post, saying he was too busy with his job as vice-president of media giant Quebecor Inc.


Meanwhile, on Thursday, Schreiber accused Mulroney of lying to the committee when he testified:

The German-Canadian arms dealer says he paid the former prime minister to lobby the Canadian government, not foreign governments as Mulroney told the ethics committee in December.

The difference is critical because it would be improper for an MP to accept money to lobby the government while in office.
Mulroney explained that he didn't declare the money on his taxes for six years because he spent it all on travel to places like Russia, France, and China while working for Schreiber.

But Schreiber said that's impossible. He said strict rules on arms exports in Canada and Germany would have made it illegal to ship to what he described as "communist" countries like China and Russia.

Thus ends this episode of conservatives behaving badly.

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