Loose lips or loose zippers: Politics on TV, Nov. 12 edition - Macleans.ca

Loose lips or loose zippers: Politics on TV, Nov. 12 edition

Talking about the Syrian conflict, tomorrow’s fiscal update, and David Petraeus’ resignation


Message of the day

“Senior officials need to be held to a higher standard when there are security clearances involved.”

Questions not answered

  • Will Correctional Services Canada actually cooperate with the coroner’s inquest into Ashley Smith’s death?


With the first clash between Syria and Israel earlier today, as well as another Syrian bombing run near the Turkish border, and a unity deal between Syrian opposition groups raising questions about the West sending them arms, Power & Politics summoned an MP panel of Deepak Obhrai, Hélène Laverdière, and John McKay to discuss the issue. Obhrai said that Canada’s first choice is to give humanitarian assistance, and the second to maintain sanctions, and that the unity deal was good news because it takes more players into account. Laverdière said she wasn’t sure that bringing more arms into the country was the answer, but that Canada should do more on the humanitarian side, especially with refugees in Turkey and Jordan. She noted that NATO and Turkey were showing restraint by not retaliating. John McKay said that it was naïve to not think that NATO isn’t making military plans which probably includes shipping arms because of the Article 5 obligations with Turkey, which means that Canada will be drawn in directly or indirectly.

Fiscal update:

With news that Jim Flaherty will deliver his fall economic update tomorrow, Power & Politics heard from the CBC’s James Fitz-Morris that the economic outlook would likely talk about how lower commodity prices will mean lower projected growth, but that the deficit reduction plan will likely remain on target.

Power Play spoke to Patrick Leblond from the University of Ottawa to get his prediction. Leblond said that Flaherty has been quite pragmatic, but with the US “fiscal cliff” still up in the air, it would be best for Flaherty to keep his plans steady for the time being, but be ready to intervene quickly if cooler heads don’t prevail and the US goes into recession. Leblond also said that he would always worry more about the US than Europe, especially when the president and Congress can’t see eye-to-eye.

Social finance:

Evan Solomon spoke with entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den denizen Brett Wilson about his new book, as well as the government’s consultations on getting businesses and non-profits more involved in the delivery of social services through things like corporate philanthropy. Wilson said that he was asked for his input a year-and-a-half ago, and how he wanted the idea of creatively allowing the entrepreneurial spirit of a charity to come through. Wilson said he likes the model of an outcomes-based approach, where organisations who put up money are rewarded if their programs prove effective and can save the government money. Wilson doesn’t see this as leading to offloading, but looking for more effective means of delivery.

Harper’s Asia trip:

Power Play’s strategists panel of Goldy Hyer, Robin Sears and Jean Lapierre looked at the results of Harper’s trip to India, the Philippines and Hong Kong. Lapierre said that what little coverage there was sounded positive, and that the armoured cars were an Ottawa story. Hyer said nuclear deal means we’re taken seriously, and that it opens the door to a FIPA and a free trade agreement. Sears credited Harper for observing Remembrance Day in Hong Kong, where Canadians played a big part in the disastrous defence during the war.

Ashley Smith inquiry:

With the coroner’s inquest into the death of Ashley Smith resuming tomorrow, and the government now promising cooperation, Don Martin spoke with Julian Falconer, the lawyer for the family of Ashley Smith, by phone. Falconer said that they had limited success in getting any information when Corrections was stonewalling for years, but that he doesn’t know how the promise of cooperation will play out. Falconer said he will need proof positive that all videos will be turned over, and that all witnesses will cooperate, as Corrections is an institution unaccustomed to transparency or accountability.

David Petraeus:

After the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus over revelations of an extramarital affair, Solomon got some perspective on the situation from former Assistant Director of Intelligence at CSIS, Ray Boisvert. Boisvert said that Petraeus did the right thing, as it’s important that institutions don’t get caught up in these kinds of distracting personal situations. Boisvert said that those in positions of serious responsibility have to be held to a different standard, as their subordinates would be dismissed for similar lapses. He said that the element of a security clearance can’t be ignored – if a person in that situation stonewalls or lies about it, their clearances is taken away, and their career is over. Asked about the speculation that the resignation had to do with the Benghazi affair, Boisvert said he doesn’t buy the link, as the same information would move forward, regardless of who heads the CIA.

P&P’s Power Panel weighted in, where Marie Vastel said that affairs are a security issue, and that intelligence officers can’t have skeletons in their closet because of the possibility of blackmail. Tim Powers noted popular presidents who’ve had affairs, but that this incident was more likely about loose lips than “loose zippers.” Anne McGrath said that this story felt like something out of a movie, but noted that timing was an issue so as not to influence the election. Rob Silver called out Powers’ presidential analogy as a false one, as politicians are ultimately accountable to voters, unlike senior officials. He said that this situation would have been little different if Petraeus had gambling debts.

When Power Play’s journalists panel of John Ibbitson and Susan Delacourt were asked about it, Ibbitson said that in Canada, if the RCMP investigated a cabinet minister, it would be public interest. He said that affairs go on and we don’t report it because it’s private life, but when it crosses into public interest we do. Delacourt said that female politicians tend to be under more scrutiny, like when Belinda Stronach was named in a divorce suit, but that in Canada, journalists are a little more reluctant to drag families into it and creating collateral damage.

Liberal leadership:

P&P’s Power Panel gave their thoughts on the number of candidates now growing in the federal leadership candidates. Silver said that Trudeau can’t decide who else runs, and that Martha Hall Findlay will bring a lot to the race, including Stephen Carter of Alison Redford and Naheed Nenshi’s campaigns. Vastel said that Hall Findlay could stir things up as she has a lot of strong opinions about the party, while Trudeau is criticized for not having any ideas. Powers said the race is Trudeau’s to lose, but Hall Findlay doesn’t have the same profile. With seven-plus candidates now declared, Powers likened it to paying a big cover charge for a lot of people to get in, only to be standing alone by the bar at the end of the night. McGrath noted that the Liberals have had a series of coronations of saviours, so one more would be really bad for the party.

Power Play’s journalists panel also weighed in, where Ibbitson spoke about the “über-primary” type of leadership campaign the Liberals have brought about with their new “supporter” category, which will allow someone like Trudeau to build a new base for the party. Delacourt said that the “supporter” category will help build a database to rival the Conservatives’. She also noted that Hall Findlay has been spending a lot of time in Calgary on a senior fellowship, and is looking to position herself as a more western-friendly, pro-business candidate with Stephen Carter onboard.

The “Soup Guy”:

Martin spoke with Ottawa chef Claudio Fracassi, about his political soups. Fracassi noted that his Obama soup sold “like crazy” in all of the American election madness. While he has a Mulcair and Harper soup on his menu, he is currently contemplating a Justin Trudeau soup, and he notes that their respective soups’ sales take off when they’re in the media spotlight. Martin also made a bit of a cheesy plug for the soup that bears his name.

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