Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reformer Larry Miller May Not Care About the Geneva Convention But we Do!

Bruce-Grey-Owen-Sound's Reform-Conservative MP Larry Miller, agrees with his boss that Canadians are far too self involved to care about what happens to human beings.

And we are far too self-involved to care about our reputation, and what a possible war-crimes trial will do to it.

But Larry Miller is wrong, and so is his boss, because we very much do care.

Sorry Larry. You lose!

Prorogue is indefensible no matter who is selling it
January 9, 2010

Bruce-Grey-Owen-Sound's Larry Miller says Canadians don't care about the Afghan detainee issue. And he strongly supports Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to shut down Parliament for the second year in a row, this time until March.

Perhaps, to be kind to Miller, he's not free to speak his mind. Or perhaps he really is speaking his mind.

Either way, he has done himself no credit here. His blank-brush wash of the Prime Minister's actions is not what we expected from the MP from this region.

What became of the Bruce-Grey tradition of independence? And what happened to standing up for the rights and voices of ordinary people?

Let's go through this one more time, just so the issues are crystal-clear.

The Afghan detainee question at its root is not about the detainees themselves. Suicide bombers and Taliban terrorists are not on our birthday-party list. We don't much care for them, as a matter of fact. Take that as a given.

It's not about them.

It's about whether the government and senior figures in the military lied to the people and to Parliament about what they knew.

It's about how the government tried to personally smear a senior Canadian diplomat, Richard Colvin, who did nothing more than offer sworn testimony, as he was required to do, before a Parliamentary committee.

It's about how this government, with its brazen school-yard-bully tactics, and its insistence on never acknowledging any fault, put Canadian soldiers in moral jeopardy.

How, moral jeopardy? Here's how.

Good soldiers follow orders. Our soldiers are professional, well-trained, idealistic and honest. If they did indeed turn prisoners over to the Afghans, and if those prisoners were indeed later tortured, thereby putting Canada in contravention of international law, it was a policy mistake -made by their bosses.

It was the senior brass and the men who run the Defence Department who were responsible. Not the guys on the ground, taking the risks.

So in avoiding and deflecting blame for a bad policy, the government is not-so-subtly casting future blame away from itself to -guess who? -the ordinary Canadian soldier.

That's why it is so incredibly disingenuous, insulting even, for Conservative politicians to cast this debate as though they're defending the honour of our soldiers. Our soldiers' honour is not in question here. Theirs is.

And there's another issue, overriding all the others: That is, very simply, cowardice.

Prime Minister Harper prorogued Parliament last winter to get himself out of a serious political jam of his own making. Now he's done the same thing again, and for the same reason.

It's actually about "recalibrating" the government and reforming the Senate, the government spin tells us. That's a crock, and everyone in Ottawa knows it.

Harper was taking serious fire on the detainee issue, and he was beginning to find it uncomfortable. The mess in Copenhagen didn't help. He didn't want to come back to more controversy. So he closed the doors, hoping the Olympics would take our minds off the workings of government.

He had an opportunity to rebut Richard Colvin's points about detainee handling. Instead he fled and sent Parliament home. He ran away, rather than face his critics in a stand-up, public debate.

Conservative apologists for this have been saying, as has become their habit: What's the big deal? Jean Chretien prorogued a few times too. It's routine.

Except it's not routine in a minority Parliament. It's not routine when you have dozens of bills on the table and work left undone. And it's not routine to do it two years in a row, and in both cases when you're under intense political pressure from the opposition.

The newest line, now that the PMO realizes the prorogue is not going over quite as he'd hoped, is to say it's merely intended to help the government bring about Senate reform, which will begin with the appointment of five new Conservative Senators. Good luck selling that. Maybe it's just us. But a move that will give yet more power to this minority government, further reducing Parliamentary checks on its authority? Hmm. Not sure that's going to fly.

This prorogue is indefensible. Larry Miller's support for it is also indefensible.

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