Andrew Leslie on the Tory attacks that may come

The retired general talks to Maclean’s

Andrew Leslie in Kandahar in 2010 (Murray Brewster/CP)

Andrew Leslie in Kandahar in 2010 (Murray Brewster/CP)

It is widely assumed that when the next election is called, Andrew Leslie, the decorated former lieutenant-general, will be a Liberal candidate. If or when that comes to be the case, he will have to knock on doors and ask for his neighbours’ votes. And he will stand on doorsteps and explain who he is and what he stands for and why he should be deserving of a vote. And he will, one imagines, be asked about the $72,000 he received to move after retiring from the Canadian Forces.

So what would he say to the voter who says, “You got $72,000 to move, I don’t get $72,000 to move”?

“A rebuttal might be, I understand that, it’s part of our conditions of service. You didn’t have to move 18 or 19 times. You didn’t have to leave your family in a house in Canada while you were overseas, not for months, but for years and years and years,” Leslie says, sitting in a quiet conference room in Montreal at the end of his first difficult week as a political actor. “And so it’s actually in the guidance and regulations that the intent behind this is the compensation for all the difficulties and travails that you go through serving as either an RCMP or member of the armed forces.”

After addressing the Liberal convention this afternoon, and revealing that he had some kind of discussion with the Conservative party before joining the Liberals, Leslie sat down with Maclean’s for an exclusive one-on-one interview. In that conversation, he addressed the matter of the $72,000 expense claim, his decision to enter politics and what attacks may still come.

“I’ve had, as I mentioned, a 35-year career,” he says. “Don’t forget what it is I did, in terms of my occupation. I had responsibility for 55,000 people, for multiple billions dollars of worth of funding. I’ve made life and death decisions. I have made mistakes in some of those decisions, which are awful and that’s why I’m slightly passionate about the treatment of our veterans and those who haven’t made it all the way home yet. I’ve made decisions, literally, that resulted in people dying or people being killed or, more happily, people being saved or not killed. I’ve carried a rifle. I’ve been in personally unpleasant situations where people have paid the final price. So there’s all sorts of things, which if you want to bring up isolated incidents and spin them for political advantage, people can take advantage. On the other hand, I firmly believe that this issue and others like it, point to the tone and tenor and character of political debate in our country. And it’s something … I’m really worried about it.”

For more of our interview with Andrew Leslie, tune into Maclean’s on the Hill later this weekend.

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Andrew Leslie on the Tory attacks that may come

  1. Lost in the discussion; not just generals get their last move paid for.
    All ranks get it, including the lowly private.
    I find attacking a veteran’s benefit by the NDP AND the Conservatives extremely distasteful.
    So much so that I quit the NDP this week.

    • Right. So the sky is the limit. Once there is a right to claim expenses thou shall not question the amount?
      Odd, I didn’t see this argument being made for the Senators. Leslie racked up the most expenses ever. It must be nice to be a Liberal, and hence beyond question.

      • So what you’re saying is that the CPC is incompetent for not having put limits on these requests, which have been going on for almost a decade?

        And what should that limit be? Should it be higher or lower than the 58k expensed by the guy who’s not becoming a Liberal politician?

        • Less than 90,000

          Oh, wait…

      • Hi Biff!

        You know what else you did not see? You did not see this criticism being leveled at all those other generals who were funded for moving within the same city.

        You did not see the CPC change this provision after it was reviewed and brought to their attention.

        No, you did not see any of it. Not until this general rejected the CPC in favour of the LPC. That is when this became an issue.

        But those would be facts, and you have already proven you are adverse to facts.

        • Gayle, don’t be so hard on them – they’ve had their hands full shredding benefits to those that came home injured – physically and mentally. There are only so many hours in the day. And of course, they didn’t want to do anything that might reflect negatively on any Generals that they could have persuaded (as if) to join Harper’s ship.

      • You are equating military personnel that have served their country for 20 years to Senators?

      • You’re suggesting that Leslie got this benefit because he was a Liberal?

        Oops! Now, your boy Nicholson really has some ‘splainin’ to do.

    • They have to make it the Generals, not the 20 years of service, because it’s all part of the Liberal elite attack. I don’t think Jack Layton would have climbed aboard this tacky train.

  2. On the face the expense appears excessive. But then there is Global’s access to info request, which revealed that Leslie’s claim is the highest of its kind on record. On the list of highest such moving expenses by Generals, his is the most.
    Funny how those peddling the “smear” angle on behalf of Leslie in the media fail to omit that startling revelation.
    The largest expense claim of its kind shall be beyond question. When it’s Justin’s General that is.

    • And so the defenders quickly move the discussion to the ability of Generals to claim moving expenses generally, when the real issue is, and always has been, the apparently excessive amount.
      Let Leslie spend as much as he wants or else Generals everywhere will suffer? Got it.

      • What’s an acceptable amount Charles?

        For a general….and in the capital?

        And why is he any different than anyone else in the military or RCMP?

        • Except he is different. He’s claimed the most ever.
          The important thing is, the highest ever of such amount expensed shall not be questioned. He is, after all, Justin’s General. He’s entitled, and entitled without question.

          • Doesn’t matter how much it comes to….it’s part of his compensation package.

          • Who paid him?? The CPC government paid him. A government that was told years before by the Attorney General that this benefit needed changes. The CPC agreed with the recommendations but did nothing for years. Until they found a way to use it: to smear a Canadian serviceman.

            CEOs get millions in severance. The leaders of our troops, which I would hope you support, gets 72K and you are outraged? Give me a break

          • I guess the conservative Senators’ 15 dollar glass of wine etc. are OK. Because there are high paid CEO’s?
            Or, could it be that conservatives are not entitled, so their $15 dollar expenditure should be the subject of public ridicule, but if its a Liberal, $72,000 is beyond question?
            I can tell you, after the drone of attacks over wine and other such expenses, the Liberals dire defense of $72,000 must be music to the CPC’s ears.
            Liberals might as well be yelling from the rooftops that they are “entitled to their entitlements”.

          • I can see your Conservative blinders are firmly in place

          • Your increasing desperation to turn this (yet another Con screw-up) into a partisan attack on a decorated veteran is unbecoming and, franlky, pathetic.

      • Given the high price of real estate in Ottawa and its quick climb, the next one is likely to be higher.

        Think of it like movies. New box office records get set pretty frequently.

    • Hi Biff!

      You know what else if funny?

      It is funny how that “liberal biased” media never looked into these expenses until this general joined the liberals.

      But that goes totally against your little paranoid conspiracy theory so no doubt you will ignore it.

      PS – no one cares that his costs were higher. They really don’t.

    • Here’s an interesting question for you, then. Would the Conservatives be making as much of a production out of this if he had joined the Conservative party? Would Harper have expelled him over the apparently exorbitant moving expense claim? Instead, maybe they would just have asked Nigel Wright to write another cheque, out of the goodness of his heart, to cover the expenses, so that tax payers were not on the hook.

  3. Why are statements of fact considered attacks? General has a guilty conscience and he doesn’t like scrutiny of his dodgy behaviour. The General forgot to mention that he made considerable amount of money on his home, and he has deluxe pension, so maybe he doesn’t need to loot treasury as much as he thinks he does. Liberals are the party of entitled to entitlements.

    • I don’t see facts as attacks, but I do see language like “dodgy behaviour” as attacks.

    • Calling something “grossly excessive” is not a statement of fact, it’s an opinion.

      • Ya but in conservative land, opinions ARE facts!

    • Been there, done that, Hester. Every time I was moved, I had to sell my home. If I made a buck, it was mine to keep; if I took a loss, it reduced my net worth. As for the pension: he paid for it, including the extra percentage points which pay for the indexing. Don’t forget, the Liberals took 28 billion dollars out of our pension plan.

      So, I didn’t hear it very well: tell me again, what is your point?

      • If it’s of any relief, sir, the Cons took 57 million $, out of the workers EI insurance account

        • Fair enough comment, but to look down one’s nose and refer to a ‘gold-plated pension’, which plan had enough surplus to remove 28 billion is rather disingenuous.

  4. All that killing and fightin and savin took place in a country that has never attacked Canada and that we had no business being in.

    But orders are orders right?

    • I didn’t send him there. The government did. This is between the government, the contractor of the services, and the service provider.

      • I guess he should now be questioned about why he followed orders in Afghanistan – is that the next slam? I think I see where this is going.

        • I can’t see Stephen Harper’s CPC® condemning someone for following orders. It really would put all those CPC muppets, er, MP’s in a really bad light.

    • There’s a strong argument it was a dumb war and the argument gets even stronger in hindsight. But the generals of the military, (fortunately) weren’t the ones who decided to fight it. There’s no reason to believe this particular soldier didn’t do his job with discipline and determination. And for that, after being moved to different locations for over two decades, we cover all the expenses of the last move. that seems pretty reasonable – as does the notion that one of the highest ranks, living in a city that experienced a spike in housing prices, would net higher fees.

    • What is that supposed to mean?

      • It means I have little admiration for those who will kill whoever they are told whenever they are told.

        I know, we are supposed to be like the Yanks. We must love and support the troops for “protecting” us, even when they are making us less safe by actually creating terrorists.

        Following orders is NOT a defence.

        How many Canadians died in Afghanistan and for what? Perhaps more importantly, how many people did they kill?

        • I understand your distaste for killing. Afghanistan was wrong. Canada was once renowned for a military used for peace.

          Still, the Last Move is a benefit contracted decades ago, earned by soldiers according to the law of the nation. It was all handled by third parties which Leslie did not direct. His employer did, however, and that employer had many opportunities to alter the agreement.

    • That has to be the most absurd contribution to this discussion yet, on so many levels.

      • “and what attacks may come.” I could care less about his feeding at the trough as this absolute right as a member of the anointed class.

        It’s the baby killing that bothers me. In our name, and then the worship, which I find disgusting.

        • How noble. But you’re on the wrong comment board.

          Whatever their faults, Leslie and his peers in the military don’t make foreign policy or get to pick their conflicts. Countries where the military assume authority to make those kinds of policy decisions tend not to be well-governed. Like Egypt.

          Take your sanctimony elsewhere.

          • no

          • S’OK, then. There’s room for all kinds here, including the self-righteous.

          • So I can stay then? Thank-you, thank-you!

          • OK, but you’re on probation ;)

          • It’s always fascinating to see someone on the imagine that he has the power, or the moral authority — to order someone to shutup. The irony is that this never ever works.

            I suppose that somehow, someway, in the deeply shuttered and closed regions of your mind I have reminded you that the supporters of murderers are no better than the murderers themselves — less actually as at least Leslie had the courage to act, whereas you have only the courage to anonmousely press some keys.

          • Your smug sense of moral superiority is obviously more refined than your literacy.

          • +1

      • Hold it – can we say ‘maybe the most absurd’ – it’s only ten o’clock on the west coast.

  5. Would this article be more balanced if there was a picture of Nicholson pointing his finger too?

  6. As a retired military bloke, I would think the narrative to his Personnel Evaluation Report for his performance today should read, in part: “his performance did not reflect the leadership standards expected of an officer of his experience and responsibilities” (culled from the DND statement on the recall of Lacroix from Haiti in 1997). I suspect he is learning through a baptism of fire that military life and political life complete with media are two very different things. He probably should have had more preparation before launching into this evolution, something which the party handlers should have had in hand. This leads to a second possible statement on his evaluation narrative: “this officer does not hesitate to charge into unfamiliar situations without adequate preparation and planning”.

    I really feel for you, Andy, and wish you ‘que de bonnes choses’ in your new incarnation.

    • Yes, one should fear the wrath of the weasel eyed Nicholson and his batman Poilievre. The Taliban have nothing on these two

      • My comment was not intended to be political; though not a liberal supporter, I really feel for the way he was hung out to dry: the party handlers didn’t prep him, and he demonstrated poor judgment in going out there without adequate prep.

        I owe you an apology, JanBC: had no intention of causing a flare up in your political angst. But then again, I have always considered that those who need to resort to name calling are either immature or lacking the intellectual capacity to better express themselves.

        • I am a firm believer in dealing in the real world and it’s pretty nasty out there – especially the last ten years. Trust me, the :Libs knew they would go after Leslie – this is what they do .Next up is going to be the guy from the C.D. Howe Institute.
          Remember the Dion and Ignatieff offences – this will be worse because they fear more than ever Trudeau can defeat them. As the Brits say – Stand and deliver’ – this is no time to back down.

        • Well said Sir, thank you.

    • Also, “fails to take evasive action when ambushed by his own superiors.”

      • Agree, somewhat. Probably just didn’t see it coming.

  7. Terrible answer, he won’t get elected. Has ZERO credibility with average voter.

    • Reslly – what’s your authority – Harper Calgary cheerleader?

    • Well, then, no need for elections. We’ll just ask you.

    • LOL.. I’d love to see a poll done comparing the credibility with the average voter between the General and Mr. Harper.

  8. This is just another political ploy (game) that the boys who are bored are creating. If the Harperites think that this has traction then how about Wm.Elliott, 1st civilian to head the RCMP appointed by HARPER complete failure. Mounties wanted him gone so the deal is that they (RCMP) pay Elliott’s expenses out of their budget while he now works(?) for Interpol in N.Y. City. Monthly cost to taxpayers $8,000 for living expenses on top of his salary somewhere between $230k to $250k plus. Living expenses total $96,000 alone thus Lelie’s ONE TIME moving costs are less than Elliott’s nnual living expenses. No Leslie should probably not remitted ALL his expenses but look at CBC’s director, Sentors & bet you there are hundreds more all in the name of “entitlement”.

  9. Jenni and Dimitri are happy in their work , Welcome to the jungle , Andy .

  10. One can well understand the Conservative concern over this matter. After all, for a mere $18000 more, they could have had a senator.

  11. So his defense is “I’m entitled to my entitlements”. Great, that’ll go over gangbusters with voters!