Reductio ad americanum

I’ve always been a fan of the logical fallacy. When countering an argument from a political or ideological opponent, things are often made easier when one’s debating foe makes a point that has a blatant logical fallacy. Among the easiest to point out are ad hominem, non sequitur and the straw man.

Reductio ad hominem logical fallacies are so easy to pick out that even without an appreciation for logic in debate, one can easily determine that a point made with a loaded personal attack is obviously an argument that is weak. These logical fallacies attack “the man” instead of the point being made.

“Stephen Harper is a bad Prime Minister because he looks like he eats babies” is an obvious ad hominem attack and one that wouldn’t receive any positive consideration in any intelletual debate.

Unfortunately, many amateur debaters, and some that have mastered the practice, use a form of ad hominem that I call reductio ad americanum. In the ‘national debate’ that we have in the Tim Horton’s, the hockey rinks and even the Houses of Parliament across the land, ad americanum can be heard whenever one asserts that Canadians surely cannot implement a certain policy because it’s “American-style” be it “american-style healthcare”, “american-style tax cuts” or “american-style immigration”. In fact, one does not need to debate the finer points of any public policy so long as the Americans have done something similar because according to those who rely upon ad americanum attacks, those roughnecks south of the border have never done anything worthy of consideration in their 230 year history.

Here are a few recent examples of ad americanum:

“The controller-in-chief has affected Ottawa’s personal style as well. Sober is the new black. Navy blue suits are in, especially worn American style, waist-high with cuffs slightly short above glistening shoes (Mr. Harper’s most notable sartorial habit). The mantra you hear most often in Harperville these days is “get it done.”” (link)

“Policy planners are looking at American-style Senate elections, where voters would cast ballots for certain senators on one six-year cycle, and other senators on a second six-year cycle.” (link)

Canada should stay far away from American-style drug policies at all costs, according to an outspoken U.S. district attorney. (link)

But the optics of Stephen Harper’s first 100 days in office have left me with the distinct impression that Canada under the Tories has swiftly adopted an American-style stance toward armed conflicts and the so-called war on terrorism. (link)

“That’s what we do,” he said, adding the restaurants, which would be located at highway and high traffic locations, would provide healthy, authentic Atlantic Canadian fare as an alternative to unhealthy, American-style fast food road stops. (link)

Like right now, when American style militarism has become a Canadian political objective, under the guise of national security. (link)

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton warned Canada last night not to go down an American-style, privatized health-care road. (link)

“We know where the Reform Party stands. Reform would rip up the Canada Health Act, turn its back on public health care and opt for an American style model. We believe that health care is part of the fabric of this country.”
Alan Rock

“I part company with Reform, a party that wants to take us in the direction of American style politics.”Judy Wasylycia-Leis

The other thing about the Reform Party of Canada is that it supports Ralph Klein in a two tier American style health care vision for our country.Lorne Nystrom

We have heard all this constitutional revolution talk from across the way. We have heard the desire of at least two members opposite who talked about their version and imposing on our Parliament a 22nd amendment of fixed terms, limited terms. It is a remarkable admission of their republican tendencies that they wish to take this place and turn it into an American style government. It confirms in my mind what many people are saying, that this is not the party of Sir John A. Macdonald. This is the Reform Party under a different name.Roger Gallaway

Why is it that the reformed Alliance people always, and this member in particular, want to somehow connect American style guns with our justice system? It does not make sense. — Lynn Myers

” Mr. Speaker, it is one of those times that I am delighted to agree with virtually everything the member for Wild Rose has said. I have consistently said we do not want American style legislation because it does not work. That is why we have made this legislation rural friendly. That is why we have avoided the stick and talked about the carrot instead.”David Anderson

Conservative ‘C’lan

Kate at SDA received a tip today about Anna Maria Tremonti’s show on CBC Radio this morning in which Tremonti refers to the Conservative family as ‘The Clan’. Doesn’t this represent a poor choice of words for an impartial radio host given that Joe Volpe was tossing around similar language last year in reference to the Conservative Party?

Judge for yourself…

CBC’s The Current talks about the Conservative ‘C’lan

I know that it’s likely that she didn’t mean it ‘that way’. But, since “clan” is such a loaded word in the modern lexicon (especially when it has been used as an immature ad hominem attack by the left against the right in the past), you’d think she’d be more mindful being a veteran of the media.

UPDATE: About half of you liked this post and half of you thought it was lame. I’m going to agree with the second half. This is indeed a lame post.

Fair time

The following is part of a note I received from a member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery. The original email that was sent to me sought to set the record straight from this scribe’s point of view. I’ve asked to reproduce it here on and my correspondent has agreed on the condition that I do not reveal his identity. I’m interested in presenting both sides of the argument (and both accounts) so that we can evaluate the current issue properly:

From Harper’s first media availability in the Commons foyer, reporters who wished to ask questions were asked to provide their names to Dimitris, who wrote them down. The first six questions that day went to TV stations, then a couple to wire services, then a couple to major daily newspapers. (I was keeping track for a sketch piece.) Harper made lots of news and everybody went away happy (no grumbling about having too much work to do – perhaps the most ridiculous assertion I’ve heard in this entire debate.) A couple more availabilities followed, with the list system being used, and reporters began to notice that the order of names called out by Dimitris bore no relationship to the order that he received them. Getting your name on his list first (or second, third or fourth) didn’t mean you’d get to ask a question, even if 15 names were called. There was no obvious pattern, other than a penchant for giving TV reporters most of the first several questions. This was not the issue.

But getting to ask questions matters to a lot of media, for a lot of different reasons. Some have exclusive stories they are pursuing that they know no one else will ask about. Some recognize particular angles of a story that have not been addressed and need fleshing out. Some reporters who are known to be pursuing very troublesome stories for a government (I’m thinking of Daniel LeBlanc and Campbell Clark’s work with the Globe on the early sponsorship revelations) will never get a response from a government minister in a free-wheeling scrum, where politicians have been known to turn stone cold deaf to troublesome media members. Some senior editors expect to see their reporter up asking questions, and the reporter may have to explain later why he or she failed to represent the media outlet. The tension over who gets to ask what, when, never goes away. But as long as we scrap it out amongst ourselves in the PPG, there is no perception of partisanship or political bias in who gets to ask the questions.

After several Harper availabilities in which the list was used — and against a backdrop of other measures by the PMO to control or deny access (to cabinet, to photo ops, to information on visiting heads of state, to a simple list of ministerial media contacts) – PPG media members collectively and rather informally decided the list idea was really unnecessary and potentially very problematic down the road.

The current proposal by the PPG is to have two microphones set up at the prime minister’s press availabilities. Reporters would line up on a first come, first served basis. No shouting. Exactly the same degree of decorum as under the list system. The PM’s list system is designed to give the PMO control over who is allowed to ask a question. That is the issue, plain and simple. Now, let the debate continue.

Elizabeth Thompson, an occasional PPG sparring partner of mine, posted this a few days ago in the comments section of a previous post:

This is not the first time the gallery has boycotted a prime ministerial event. It happened under Jean Chretien when his office tried to cut off the right of pool reporters from CP and Presse Canadienne to throw a question each into a photo op. When parliament isn’t sitting, photo ops are sometimes the only opportunity over the course of days, if not weeks, to ask the PM a question.

The gallery actually gave the new system a chance before refusing to cooperate. What bloggers and others saw on television was Dimitri Soudas calling out reporters in an orderly way to ask a question. What they didn;t see is that it quickly became clear that Dimitri was cherry picking reporters – passing over those who had scurried to be second or third on the list to give questions to his favorites. If you were a television reporter for a major outlet you were a shoe in. If you were a print reporter from the Maritimes or out West your chances were small if not nill. Entire areas of the country were being blocked from any chance of putting questions about their preoccupations to the prime minister. It then became apparent that those who had been critical of the PM or had asked a question the PMO didn’t like were getting passed over as well. We’ve got the benefit of the hindsight of our American colleagues who tell us about the chill factor that set in when it became clear that if you asked a tough question you would be passed over for a good long time. That’s the point at which the gallery decided to no longer cooperate. It’s not just about a list. Lot’s of press conferences are run with lists but they are generally first come, first served.

The gallery has proposed a system under which nobody can cherry pick – the PMO or the gallery. We have suggested reporters simply line up at a mike and are recognized in turn. The PMO refuses to even consider it.

Whatever system results from this dispute will be the one the Conservatives will have to live with some day down the line should they once again return to opposition. Would people be happy if Liberals cherry picked to get softball questions? What if Jacques Parizeau or Lucien Bouchard had tried to do it when I covered them in Quebec City and during the run up to the referendum? What if Andre Boisclair gets in with the promise of another referendum. Would you want him to adopt the current PMO’s strategy of cherry picking the questioners?

Paul Wells suggests that the following thoughts of his are relevant to this issue:

We have become a ridiculous bunch. For the past five years it was hard to find 200 words, in even the Globe and Mail, on the contents or ramifications of any bill before the Commons. In fact, for months at a time, the people whose job it is to cover Parliament would claim there was nothing going on in Parliament. Oddly enough, when a session was suspended or prorogued, or Chrétien dropped the writ for an election, we would read long, long lists of important-sounding legislation that would now never be passed. How come we never heard about a bill until it died on the order paper? One of life’s little mysteries.

I have taken you through this grim landscape to demonstrate something you probably have already noticed: the stuff you devote your lives to — quality, well-designed delivery of services to Canadian citizens — has vanished from the Press Gallery’s priority list.

I spent half my life reading the Globe to find out what was going on. Now all it tells me is who’s popular.

UPDATE: From a PPG contact:

I get the impression from many of these posts that when people talk about the 300-whatever members of the gallery, they are really talking about three or four TV pundits. That’s frustrating. We’re not one big happy family. We’re competitors and have strong opinions about the quality of each other’s reporting. … [however] there is a remarkable degree of solidarity on this list issue

UPDATE: Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday:

“I think frankly it’s all inside Ottawa stuff … I don’t ask to control the editorial policies of newspapers but we do set up our own press conferences … I think history would indicate that we’re very open to anyone who wants to ask a question. We keep a very complete list of all who request.

UPDATE: PPG writer Mark Bourrie weighs in:

“The Press Gallery of 1945, with its fifty or so members, was important. Its coverage was the only way people got the news from Ottawa, and, in those days, this news was very important. The gallery of today is not the gatekeeper of anything. Want the best coverage of Question Period? Tune into CPAC from 2:15 to 3:00 Monday to Thursday, 11:15 to noon Friday (and at rebroadcast times) and see it yourself. Want coverage of debates, written up the old fashioned way? Go to www.parl.gc.ca and look over the electronic Hansards. At least someone will be reading them. Reporters aren’t.”

You barely need to be here to cover Parliament. Quite possibly, you could so a good job witha phone, a computer and a TV in Flin Flon. In fact, most reporters never go into the Commons. They watch Question Period on TV, then hike over to collect quotes in the post-Question period scrums. The TVs go off, the handful of reporters in the galleries leave the Commons along with 95% of the MPs, and debate on real laws goes on, with a handful of people talking about bills and no reporter covering what they have to say. Small wonder so many MPs are frustrated.

What’s covered — the reaction stories, the speculation, the coverage of political party politics — is the cheapest, most easy-to-find stuff around. It is available on any news web site. Quite literally, anyone of average intelligence, nice clothes and basic hygene can collect it. Unless you are an absolute junkie dependent on knowing every poll, every possible twitch and turn of the PM and his government, you are getting all the political news you need.
The handful of investigative reporters on the Hill don’t need scrums and cabinet outs. They need real Access to Information rules. In fact, the more the government tries to hide, the better stories they get. And if the Opposition comes up with a real scandal, Harper’s rules won’t affect coverage.

UPDATE: David Akin:

The PMO communications staff prefers to canvas reporters ahead of the press conference, note the names of the reporters who wish to ask a question and then, once the Prime Minister arrives, a PMO official calls out a reporter’s name based on the list. It is not a first-come, first-serve sort of thing. Generally, the names called out alternate between reporters for the French-language outlets and reporters for English-language papers. Some print reporters complain that electronic media seem to get more questions than print reporters.

In any event, so far as I’m aware, there have not yet been any accusations that some reporter or organization is getting frozen out because the PMO doesn’t like someone’s reporting. That said, the concern that this could happen is reason enough, the Parliamentary Press Gallery believes, that a representative of the PMO ought not to be the one deciding who gets to ask the questions. The Press Gallery stands ready to maintain its own list — as has always been the practice for any press conference at the National Press Theatre — and moderate a press conference in a professional and dignified manner. When that happens, the outcome is the same — a politicians answers questions put to him or her by a reporter and the reporter gets a chance to ask the question once he or she is recognized by another journalist who acts as the moderator of the press conference.

During the last election campaign, incidentally, the Prime Minister Paul Martin’s communications staff kept a list of reporters who wanted to ask questions and then they would call out a reporter from that list — just like the current PM is doing. During the week I was with him, covering the Martin for CTV News, I got all of two questions. We learned later that Martin’s team was very unhappy with our coverage of his campaign. Mind you, we weren’t as bad apparently in Martin’s eyes as The Toronto Star. During the week I was on the campaign with Martin, the Toronto Star reporter that week, Sean Gordon, got precisely zero chances to put a question to the Liberal candidate.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne:

I don’t want to shock you, but I’m told these leaks go disproportionately to reporters considered “friendly.” (Perhaps the gallery should take charge of the leaking process, too.) And what gets a reporter counted as friendly? In part ideology, either that of the reporter or his news organization. And in part a dedicated and sustained campaign of flattery, including sympathetic coverage: what’s known in the business as “cultivating your source.”

Were they not fed such a consistent diet [of leaks] by their political and government sources, many of these reporters would be out of work. And indeed, the “independence” they are asserting now is mostly a demand that the government keep them supplied with clips and quotes in the usual way. It is the independence of the junkie from his pusher.

Well, fair enough. The press has interests like any other trade, and is entitled to defend them. What we’re not entitled to do, however, is to dress up our complaints as some sort of constitutional crisis. It is not the responsibility of the government to make our jobs easier. And it is not our job to serve as the Opposition.

The task of holding the government to account, in a parliamentary democracy, is assigned to Members of Parliament. Were the government to presume to decide who could ask questions in Question Period, or in what order, that would be an outrage. This is a lovers’ quarrel.

At a conference of the National Association of Journalists in Halifax a few weeks ago, PMO Communications Director Sandra Buckler told the attendees that there would be no leaks from the government to friendly sources. She noted that under previous Liberal governments, the Globe and Mail and CBC would receive the majority of the leaks.

I’d like to invite those that are stakeholders in this current squabble between the PPG and the PMO to use this blog post and the comments link that you’ll find below to vent, debate and perhaps find common ground. Regular commentary from other readers is encouraged as well.

The relevance of the PPG

For those that follow the soap opera in Ottawa as a sideshow to the governance of Canada, this week has seen a couple of new developments in the war between the PMO and the PPG.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery refused to play to the tune of the Prime Minister’s Office by ordering themselves on a list for the purposes of order in press conferences. While PPG scribes insist that they desire order too (they’ve suggested using the National Press Theatre on Wellington), the issue of the list seems to be the impasse.

As I’ve noted before, the press gallery has evolved past its primary role of reporting the news to dictating how the Prime Minister should disseminate information via reporters to the electorate. The Prime Minister refuses to relinquish control over his communications strategy to an unelected and unaccountable body which he has now deemed biased and frankly, that’s his prerogative.

Since the PMO and PPG are battling over format and since the argument has extended beyond reportage and into a bitter he-said-she-said squabble with predicted (by Don Martin) ‘come-uppance’ during elections or when polls are low, the press gallery has arguably become politicized and a partisan group that stands opposed to the Prime Minister and his party in favour of its own agenda. The PM ostensibly has one too and thus we see two parties opposed.

Some talk about history and the attitudes of previous Prime Ministers regarding the Parliamentary Press Gallery. The relationship between the PMO and the PPG has been one that has evolved since Confederation. In fact, at one time, members of the PPG were overtly partisan and actually sat on opposing sides of the House of Commons according to the allegiance between a reporter’s paper and the broadsheet’s preferred party.

Broadcast journalists were admitted to the Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1959 and the evolution of the institution took a notable new direction according to then deputy Prime Minister Erik Nielson:

the ethical standards of journalists in 1958, when I first came into contact with the parliamentary press gallery, and the standards that prevail today in that same press gallery have, with rare exceptions, altered radically. Perhaps the main reason is the advent of technology, and the increasingly intense competition that the new technology creates between the electronic media and the written media. (Governing from the Centre: The Concentration of Power in Canadian Politics, Donald J. Savoie. p. 95)

In mulling over this latest fight between the PMO and the PPG, one begins to consider the original and now present purpose of the gallery.

Ostensibly, the gallery was originally established to more effectively disseminate the news to a widely dispersed population. As technology evolved, bringing closer our widely dispersed population, the need for an elite centralized class of Parliamentary reporters has arguably diminished.

With the advent of blogging, average people with varied backgrounds are uncovering fact, crafting opinion and reaching their fellow citizens on a truly international scale that extends beyond newsprint and the subscriber firewall. On an average day, Blogging Tories is read on six continents by thousands upon thousands of people (Antarctica requires more outreach).

The PPG is but one class of the press. The Prime Minister has declared that he will bypass the Ottawa gang in favour of local media outlets. Does the merit of the existence of the current Parliamentary Press Gallery in its present form extend much beyond its founding, and now former, traditions? In this modern world of the 24 hour news cycle, via satellite dissemination, and the ubiquitous bloggers, is the PPG as critical as it once was when it was the only link between the federal government and the electorate?

Press Gallery walks out

I’ve received word that the Parliamentary Press Gallery walked out of an announcement by the Prime Minister today regarding aid for Sudan. The PM was to announce $20 million in humanitarian aid for the country and $20 million for implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement.

I’ve heard that a handful of journalists snubbed the PM by walking out on him during the announcement because they are mad about the issue of the ‘media list’.

Before press conferences, the PMO invites journalists to order themselves on a list for the purposes of running a smooth Q&A. However, journalists are complaining that this deviates from the practice of yelling out questions over their colleagues on occasion and controlling the meetings themselves on the bulk of the other pressers. They also fear that they may not be called upon if they aren’t favoured by the PMO. However, I’ve heard that the PM has exhausted the media list every time there is one and no reporter has yet complained that they weren’t called upon when they’ve put themselves on the list. UPDATE: An email from a reporter in the PPG asserts that these last couple of points are untrue. According to my source, reporters have been passed over and the list hasn’t always been exhausted. According to another PPG source, this isn’t to punish reporters but it is likely done to focus the message to the appropriate media outlets (e.g. Vancouver or Quebec or to the multicultural press).

UPDATE: One of my PPG sources said that the list is likely going to be the make-or-break, do-or-die, die-on-this-hill issue between the PMO and the PPG. I’ve heard that the walkout wasn’t planned before-hand and that only a few reporters remained (including CTV’s Bob Fife and the Star’s Graham Fraser).

One of my PPG friends argued that what the PMO is doing is philosophically wrong by controlling access to the Prime Minister and that the walkout had nothing to do with the ease of doing one’s job. To that I responded that if the reporters were walking out on principle, the PPG has essentially become a political group and not an unbiased observer of events.

Further, the crux of the PPG argument seems to be based upon the fact that since the old method was used in the past, that it is the correct method for the present. Again, the PMO has a communications strategy and it seems that they have determined the fulcrum point of their relationship with the PPG. Now the PPG has adjusted the balance and we’ll see if the PMO responds.

However, it may only stay as the stuff of insider baseball as the Conservatives are now at 43% and the rest of Canada (those outside the PPG) don’t seem to care.

UPDATE: The reporters that stayed for the press conference shuffled off to the sides out of the view of the cameras so that they wouldn’t serve as “Harper props”. This is getting somewhat childish…

The language of defeat

This week, MPs voted by a bitterly narrow margin on whether the government should extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan by two years. While NDP, BQ and some Liberal members opposed the extension (after supporting extension days earlier), Conservatives unanimously supported the motion and Canada will now continue in Afghanistan until at least February 2009.

During the national discussion on Afghanistan, a couple of terms keep coming up from both the media and members of the opposition. These terms are politically designed for maximum impact to dissuade Canadians from the mission.

Members of the media that would have Canada abandon its international obligations to our allies and to the people of Afghanistan have been using the term ‘body bags’ to describe the return of deceased Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan.

As the CBC’s special coverage of ‘ramp ceremonies’ (a term now part of our lexicon) has taught us, our fallen Canadian heroes do not return home in “body bags” but in proper coffins. Body bags are used in a disaster, in a chaotic and unorganized situation. Indeed, they are used as a temporary and efficient way of dealing with the deceased. In a massive third-world earthquake, body bags are used to collect the scores of dead, and in the context of Afghanistan, the term is used to paint an image of indiscriminate death and disorder (and quagmire). Canadians soldiers are not ‘returning home in body bags’ as the anti-war members of the media would have us believe. On the (thankfully) infrequent occasion when a Canadian soldier is tragically killed, however, he or she makes the sad flight home in a flag-adorned coffin. The term ‘body bag’ is pessimistic and not even honest.

In fact, Liberal MP Andrew Telegdi makes himself useful and illustrates my point:

“President Clinton stated, and it was his policy, that he could not stand to have any of the soldiers coming back in body bags the way that tens of thousands of body bags came back from Vietnam. It made it necessary that they could accept great losses on the ground but they could not accept significant losses of the military.” — Andrew Telegdi, Liberal MP

So, “body bags” = disastrous military quagmire

The media has been using the politically loaded and dishonest term to argue against the military mission in Afghanistan.

For an example of news stories that use the term, click here.

The other politically loaded term that is being used by the opponents of the Afghanistan mission is “exit strategy”.

“Exit strategy” is currently a widely used talking point in the US and it is used in the context of the increasingly unpopular American war in Iraq. Many in the American media and on the American left have compared the conflict to Vietnam and frame it as a military disaster. Regardless of the veracity of this comparison (perhaps a debate for another day), critics of the Iraq war want American troop withdrawal and an “exit strategy” before what they envision as a rooftop helicopter evacuation of Americans from the embassy in Baghdad akin to what happened in Saigon.

The term “exit strategy” is parlance for a war that is lost. What was the allied “exit strategy” against the Germans in World War II? It’s quite an absurd question if you think about it. The exit strategy then was nothing short of victory and the allies were in Europe until after the last shot was fired. Can one imagine a televised British parliamentary debate on troop withdrawal from France? The members of the opposition that decry the mission in Afghanistan likely don’t believe that we are losing this ‘war’, but they do want Canada out of Afghanistan. Therefore, when they use the term “exit strategy”, they are being somewhat dishonest as they conjure up images of the military’s worst case scenario for that central asian country.

When I was growing up trying to learn proper English grammar, I learned the literary technique of euphemism by example of the casket. Apparently, the term, as it is associated with death, became so unpleasant that the casket became re-termed euphemistically as the “coffin”. My teacher at the time mused that eventually we may have to re-invent the term again and call the wooden boxes “demise chests”. I’m not sure that there is an antonym for euphemism, but I believe that the left has done so for “coffin” and “casket” with “body bag” and have instead of finding the same for the word “victory” they have dishonestly labeled Afghanistan as a defeat and have termed it “exit strategy”.

Will these MPs flip flop?

Here are a few quotes from NDP and Liberal MPs regarding the Canadian mission in Afghanistan:

NDP MP Peter Stoffer:

“Mr. Chair, I want to answer the question the Conservatives have been asking all day. The answer is yes, I support the mission and the troops in Afghanistan and so does my party

UPDATE: Voted against the motion

Liberal MP Dan McTeague

“While we talk a great deal about what needs to be done and the purposes for which we are there, ultimately there has to be a solution and, one would presume, a political solution.”

UPDATE: Voted against the motion

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler

“I supported the human security protection mandate with regard to Afghanistan as early as January 28, 2002, in this House. I mentioned it at that time then, have summarized some of it now and I continue and reaffirm that human security protection mandate with respect to Afghanistan this evening.” (April 10th)

UPDATE: Didn’t show up for the vote

Liberal MP Robert Thibault:

“I believe that we have an important role to play in Afghanistan and I fully support our ongoing presence in this region. Make no mistake, we have a responsibility to finish the job that we started.”

UPDATE: Voted for the motion

BQ MP Paul Crête:

“We very clearly support the Canadian Forces, that is the soldiers in Afghanistan. We hope they will accomplish their mission without too many casualties.”

UPDATE: Voted against the motion

Liberal MP Keith Martin:

This intervention is fully backed by the Liberal Party. We sent our troops in there. We are deeply honoured and respectful, and grateful for the incredible work that they do. I hope, at the end of the debate, that we will see all party support, fulsome 110% support, for our troops and the work that they are doing over there, not only for the benefit of the Afghani people but also for the benefit of Canadians.”

UPDATE: Voted against the motion

NDP MP Alexa McDonough:

“It’s not a question of should we be in Afghanistan. Yes, we should, we need to be, we need to be in in the long haul.” (CTV, Question Period, May 14, 2006)

UPDATE: Voted against the motion

BQ MP Claude Bachand:

“Imagine how soldiers would feel tomorrow if we could tell them that 270 of 308 members of Parliament voted in favour of this mission. I believe that this would show our support.”

UPDATE: Voted against the motion

These MPs all seem to not only support the troops, but also the mission. We’ll see how they vote tonight.

UPDATE: The only MP on this this that didn’t flip flop was Robert Thibault. Shame on Keith Martin, Alexa McDonough and Claude Bachand especially. Paul Martin didn’t even show up to vote on this issue.

Preston Manning

Just received this press release from Manning’s people:

Calgary, Alberta – Preston Manning today announced that he has decided to continue development of the Manning Centre for Building Democracy rather than enter the leadership race to succeed Alberta Premier Ralph Klein.

Manning thanked the many Albertans who have urged him to enter the race and said it was these expressions of interest and support which caused him to give long and serious consideration to becoming a candidate.

“This has been a most difficult decision,” Manning said. “There is no province for whose people I have greater affection than the people of Alberta and no provincial government with a greater opportunity and responsibility for leadership than the Alberta government.”

“But in the final analysis I believe that I can better serve Albertans and the country by continuing my efforts to strengthen democratic conservatism through supporting the generation of better policy ideas, providing better training for political activists, and improving conservative communications capabilities – the purposes for which the Manning Centre was established.”

“Sandra and I also believe that our career involvements should not override our commitments to each other, to family, and to friends. I want to practice this principle more diligently in the future than I have in the past, and believe that I will be better able to do so as the President and CEO of the Manning Centre than as a candidate for the Alberta PC leadership.”

Manning urged those unfamiliar with the work of the Manning Centre to visit its website at www.manningcentre.ca and to support its activities. He also assured Albertans that he would have more to say in future about the defining issues facing the province and its responsibility to play a prominent role on the national stage.

Preston Manning will continue to benefit Canadian democracy no matter his role. It would have been interesting to see him in the race (and as Premier), but I know that he’ll continue to do excellent work building the democratic infrastructure of Canada.

Flap Jack

Jack Layton, in his own words:

Given that our obligations in Afghanistan will end in 10 months, Parliament should soon debate and vote on a new deployment. Can the Prime Minister tell us when the government will inform the House of its intentions concerning our troops in Afghanistan after February 2007? What is the timetable? (link)

I will ask the Prime Minister a simple question. Will he keep his promise to Canadians to ensure that there will be a vote on any further deployments, following February 2007, in Afghanistan? (link)

Will he now agree that there shall be a debate and vote in the House regarding any future troop deployment beyond February 7 in Afghanistan? (link) (on May 9th)

A vote should be held in this House on whether or not our troops should be deployed. There are questions about our role in Afghanistan, and there should be a vote on this, as we have been requesting for weeks. (link) (May 10th)

and here’s NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough:

There are increasing numbers of Afghans who are being killed, and I think we need to have a full debate and a vote on how we can best ensure that our troops have an achievable mission and that the people of Afghanistan are best served by the contribution we make. (link)

Stephen Harper, faced with calls for a debate and vote on an extension of the Afghan mission, said this today:

Members of this house have had five years to decide what their position is on this mission. We want to be sure that our troops have the support of this Parliament going forward.

What is the motion that MPs will be voting upon?

“that this House support the government’s two-year extension of Canada’s diplomatic, development, civilian police and military personnel in Afghanistan and the provision of funding and equipment for this extension.”

and the NDP response?

Appearing on CBC, Ms. McDonough called the move “premature” and said scheduling a vote immediately on the matter was “almost unprecedented.”

“This is a kind of Rambo-style approach to what is a deadly serious issue, and I think not respectful either of Canadians wanting to be engaged in this debate because they’re struggling with it … It’s certainly not respectful of our troops and others who are in harm’s way in Kandahar.” — Alexa McDonough

The Conservative move took the members of the Opposition off guard this week. Canada’s current mission in Afghanistan is scheduled to end in February, 2007. If the motion passes, that will be extended to February, 2009.

The NDP demanded a vote and now they’re getting one. Before, they demanded a take note debate and they got one. If a vote on extending the Afghan mission was so critical to Flap-Jack et al., then why are they so upset now?

The motion is clearly worded and the NDP has been asking for a vote for a while. Now they’re calling the move “not respectful of our troops”?

It’s time for the NDP to show their cards. Are they supportive of the work that is ongoing in Afghanistan? Will they vote to “bring home the troops” as some of their constituents demand?

The Conservative Party has been unambiguous in their support for the troops and their support of the mission in Afghanistan. Now Stephen Harper is giving the NDP what they wanted (regarding a vote). Was their interest in a vote merely a method to frame the PM as undemocratic on the issue of troop deployment? Now that the Conservatives are giving Parliament a chance to be counted on the issue, the NDP is angry that Harper has done so. Is the NDP being disingenuous?

UPDATE: Staples has more

100 days

Today marks the 100th day since Canadians voted for change on January 23rd. A friend asked me the other day whether Canadians voted to remove the Liberals or were they enticed to elect a new government. I pondered this question for a short time and found that the answer is a healthy mix of both. The Liberals under former Prime Minister Paul Martin had a shameful record while in government and during their first 100 days in power the Conservatives have provided Canadians with reassurance that the correct decision was made on that pivotal day in late January.

Let’s contrast the first 100 days of Conservative government (February 6th, 2006 – May 16th, 2006) with the first 100 days of the Liberal government under Paul Martin (December 12th, 2003 – March 21st, 2004):

In the first 100 days, the Conservative government can check off the following accomplishments.

When the Liberals were elected, the PMO under Paul Martin promised “100 days of action”. Unfortunately, they didn’t even live up to this promise.

  • Martin promised to address the ‘democratic deficit’. After only six days in office, his government invoked closure to cut off debate in the House of Commons and subsequently used time allocation in the Senate to force through the bill to allow for electoral re-distribution, to allow for an early election.
  • Of the legislation introduced by Martin’s government in the first 100 days, 21 one of the bills were exact duplicates of bills introduced by Chretien, just re-introductions of Chretien legacy legislation. The only ‘new’ legislation was a customs tariff bill and a bill on MP health benefits. The legislation had to be re-introduced after the Liberals prorogued Parliament, because Jean Chretien and Paul Martin couldn’t sit in the House together.
  • Martin’s Throne Speech commitments included promises that dated back to 1993 – such as replacing the Sea Kings or appointing an independent Ethics Commissioner. Similarly, the Martin Throne Speech reiterated many commitments made by the Chretien government – such as the Stryker purchase or the $2 billion for health care. In all, at least 39 promises outlined in Martin’s Throne Speech repeated, fully or in part, promises made in the 2002 Throne Speech.
  • Martin promised to increase Western representation, but had one fewer Western minister in his cabinet than Jean Chretien had.
  • Martin and his team spent their first 100 days in office continuing their war with their fellow Liberals, working to push out Liberal MPs who did not support Martin in the leadership race.
  • Martin was forced to call the Gomery Inquiry into Liberal corruption in the fallout from the sponsorship scandal
  • Martin’s advisors promised 100 days of action (National Post, October 20, 2003) and decision as they criticized the drift of the Chretien era. Instead, they delivered 100 days of scandal, 100 days of indecision, 100 days of spin and damage control, and 100 days of broken promises.