Dispatches from Halifax: Politics on TV, Nov. 18 edition

Talking with General Lawson, US Senator John McCain and Alison Redford from the Halifax security forum

Message of the day

“The Canadian Forces will be in a period of restrained growth.”

Hot Topics

  1. An interview with CDS General Tom Lawson
  2. The Halifax International Security Forum
  3. The Liberal leadership

Questions not answered

  • Is Canada seriously looking at any new fighters other than the F-35s?

General Tom Lawson:

Question Period had the first network interview with new Chief of Defence Staff, General Tom Lawson, where Lawson’s take on the Petraeus affair is that those in leadership roles need to act with the greatest of integrity, and that they should step aside if their conduct puts them into conflict. Lawson said that it is a bit of a luxury to be out of combat right now, and that the Canadian Forces are getting trained back up for whatever comes next. Lawson said they have already started achieving savings by consolidating headquarters, reducing their public service numbers, and that they are reducing the number of reservists to pre-Afghanistan levels, while other savings require more thought. He also revealed that his old fighter pilot call sign, “Shadow,” was in part because of his five o’clock shadow.

Halifax International Security Forum:

From the deck of HMCS St. John’s in Halifax, The West Block began with a “security briefing” around the situation in Syria, Gaza, and energy security, in advance of an interview with US Senator John McCain. With regards to the situation in Gaza, McCain said that the Western response should be to prevent an escalation, but that he’s not sure how Egypt is going to behave in this scenario when they used to be a leavening influence. Regarding the attack in Benghazi, McCain surmised that the president took out the terror references in order to maintain the narrative of getting Bin Laden. McCain also said that with regards to the CNOOC-Nexen deal that there needs to be an awareness of just how big of an impact this company would have in the economy, and he thinks there should be parliamentary hearings. The extended interview is here:

McCain was also on Question Period, where he said the US will give Israel the funding they need for three more anti-missile batteries as part of their Iron Dome system, because it’s a defensive system. McCain said that Senator John Kerry would get a lot of support for the position of Secretary of State, and that shifting demographics means that the Republican Party needs to change and get on board with immigration reform, and start paying attention to young women.

Tom Clark spoke with Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who was attending the conference, in part because of the reports that America achieving energy self-sufficiency would change their foreign policy. Redford said that there will still be exports as we send crude to the refineries in the US that have capacity, but the changing market will make a significant difference in how much is consumed. Redford said they are looking to the reversal of pipelines to refine and export oil from New Brunswick, but the trans-mountain pipeline to west coast remains a priority. Redford said that she is still discussing the issue with BC Premier Christie Clark, and that she sees more discussion in that province as they get closer to an election.

Clark spoke next with retired Brigadier General Shlomo Brom of the Israeli Defence Force about the situation in Gaza. Brom said that it’s not possible to trace and destroy the sources of all of Hamas’ rocket fire, but that a military campaign would destroy those weapons systems that have the range and sophistication to pose the biggest threat, while also acting as a deterrence to Hamas, which puts pressure on them to enter into negotiations.

Kevin Newman spoke with Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who said that the government is engaging in “constructive dialogue” in Halifax, and getting those who have contacts with Hamas to press for restraint. While any Canadian role is speculation at this point, MacKay noted that the Canadian Forces has experience to rely upon in the region, and that they are gathering intelligence and working with their allies right now. With regards to the F-35s, MacKay said that the Fighter Jet Procurement Secretariat is looking in detail at Canada’s needs, but didn’t really offer more than that.

Clark also spoke with McKay, who added that our Memorandum of Understanding with Israel regarding defence matters is a marker that everyone accepts that Israel has a right to exist. MacKay noted that a number of major procurements are now underway, including ships, tanks, LAVs, and helicopters, but that the different operational tempo and softened economy means slower growth but growth nevertheless.

Liberal leadership:

Question Period spoke to a panel of Liberal insiders made up of Sheila Copps, Ray Heard, and Patrick Gossage, about the state of the leadership race so far. Gossage outlined the rated preferential ballot system being used, which will negate the popularity contest aspect because the votes are apportioned by ridings, giving smaller ridings as much importance as larger ones, meaning the trick becomes getting your supporters to put you at number one on their ballots. There is also no second round of voting – all votes are apportioned from the single ballot. Copps said the field of candidates is healthy, but it remains to be seen how many will have enough money to see it through, and how the “supporter category” dynamic will play out, especially with the social media dimension. Heard said that while he hopes that Garneau will enter the race, it’s too late already as he believes Trudeau has already won based on his Twitter followers, though the question of Trudeau’s gravitas remains the issue. Gossage said that Hall Findlay has more gravitas than Trudeau, and that her populist play against supply management is an interesting move.

CTV QP’s The Scrum weighed in, where Craig Oliver said that Martha Hall Findlay’s credibility aside, the race is all about Trudeau going around the country delivering platitudes, while the others are mostly in it for screen time and won’t be there by December 15. John Ivison said that with the weighted ballot, Hall Findlay’s Calgary launch was a calculated bid because those smaller ridings will have equal weight. Tonda MacCharles said that Trudeau should be grateful that others are stepping up because a number of other high-profile people haven’t, while Gloria Galloway wondered where some of the “also-rans” would raise their cash.

Worth Noting:

  • CTV’s Middle East Bureau Chief Martin Seemungal said that a ground assault would put Israeli’s forces into direct contact with Hamas militants and opens them to the threats of kidnapping, and that while Benjamin Netanyahu currently enjoys popular support, he would lose that support if something went wrong.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesperson Mark Regev said that they’re taking the decision to send in troops seriously, but that they need to stop the rocket attacks that have been happening for months.
  • Gloria Galloway said that the government is in deficit because of their own policies – GST cuts, childcare benefits and more people in prisons. She added that there is chaos at HRSDC as they try to go to an automated system, but because they had to make cutbacks in other areas, people aren’t getting service.
  • John Ivison said that revenues are likely to go even lower with the glut of American oil and gas production, which will mean that the government will keep revising their deficit targets.
  • Tonda MacCharles found it astonishing that the finance minister’s budget document, with all the consultation that went into it, was immediately overturned by Harper, who then insisted they would be keeping their election promises.



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Dispatches from Halifax: Politics on TV, Nov. 18 edition

  1. Well, ol’ Crash McCain had to miss his regular talking points seat
    on the US Sunday shows so it’s good that the Canadian talking points
    shows were able to accommodate him with a slight fix. Not the same but …

  2. Nothing points to the irrelevence of a “Security Forum” more than to promote Sen. John McCain as an expert.

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