Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tory MP Backs Out of ME Trip

Tory MP Dean Del Mastro last week:

Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro, who has been charged in recent weeks with reaching out to Canada's Lebanese community on behalf of the government, is scheduled to go.

The government has been emphasizing its commitment to rebuilding the region once a ceasefire is firmly in place, in the face of criticism that its Mideast policy is not sensitive enough to the impact on civilians.

"It's an honour to be a government representative trying to make a contribution," Del Mastro said. "I'm looking forward to meeting government representatives who can provide a little more information and better perspective."

On the danger factor, Del Mastro said he couldn't turn down the opportunity while at the same time supporting the presence of Canadian troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"There's a risk there, but I don't think I can be a hypocrite on these things."

And, Tory MP Dean Del Mastro this week:

Tory MP Dean Del Mastro said he decided to pull out after consulting with the Department of Foreign Affairs and his family.

"Suffice to say, (Foreign Affairs officials) don't feel the timing is right," Del Mastro said Tuesday.

"They don't object to the trip, they don't object to the initiatives of the trip, they don't object to the agenda of the trip, it's just the timing of the trip.

"It's not the best time for that type of agenda I suppose. I'm going to respect their opinion."

However, Mazen Chouaib, executive director of the National Council of Canada-Arab Relations, said Del Mastro had a different story when he called to cancel Monday evening.

Chouaib said the MP told him the Prime Minister's Office had security concerns about the trip and asked him to withdraw.

Chouaib said he didn't buy that explanation.

And, what is 'that type of agenda'?

The idea of the trip is to get first-hand information about the regional situation in the Middle East from ministers, parliamentarians, academics, and representatives of civil society, particularly those in Lebanon.

"We want them to have the discussions with different players in Lebanon, a broader discussion, and see the broader impact of the conflict on Lebanon," Chouaib said.

So, when would be a good time for that type of trip, Del Mastro? Next year some time? Perhaps before the next election when the Conservatives can use it for a photo op to impress its supporters who agreed with Harper's evaluation that Israel's response was 'measured'? You do realize, Del Mastro, that by backing out of this trip, Canada's government will not have an official presence in the region, right? Or is that the problem? That visiting countries other than Israel may prove embarassing for Steve because their offcials will tell you exactly what they think of Israel's so-called 'measured' response?

Fess up, Del Mastro. What's really going on here?

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