Apropos of nothing

by Aaron Wherry

Excluding those born outside Canada, the following Conservative MPs have lived, studied or worked outside the country.

Jim Flaherty, Lisa Raitt, Brian Jean, Russ Hiebert, Jason Kenney, Maurice Vellacott, Mike Allen, Ray Boughen, Barry Devolin, Garry Breitkreuz, Ed Holder, Randy Kamp, Pierre Lemieux, Ben Lobb, Phil McColeman, Cathy McLeod, Scott Reid, Greg Rickford, Andrew Saxton and John Weston.

Apropos of nothing

  1. Yes, but they did not come back to run for the leadership of any party and then have the temerity to challenge TheStrategist ™.

    Come to think of it — the snowbirds who move to Florida for the winter are also disqualified for high public office.

    Conrad Black, who is more of a jailbird than a snowbird, obviously is.

  2. Hey there!

    If you add all the years that those Conservative MPs worked or studied outside of Canada together, is the total greater or less than 34 years?

    Just wondering….

    • Yes, clearly the cutoff is…hmmm…let’s say….how about….33 years? Yes, that sounds fair.

      Nope, none of these folks can ever become CPC leader. Sorry Jimbo. And I heard Lisa Raitt was a real up and comer too. It’s a shame.

  3. Question for Aaron: Is this original research or was it provided to you by someone else?

    I looked up Garry Breikreutz at random and found this:

    “Garry taught for twenty-four years, including three years teaching math and chemistry at a college in Cameroon, West Africa; two years as principal on an Indian Reserve in northern Saskatchewan; and eighteen months teaching math and sciences in the Solomon Islands. The remainder of his teaching experience was spent teaching various subjects and grades in and around Yorkton. Seven of those years, Garry also spent farming.”

    I don’t know why the Liberals are getting into debating this with the Tories. 34 years, or whatever it really is, is a hell of a long time. If enough people in the right places care about that, Ignatieff has serious problems that can’t be fixed by pointing out that Garry Breikreutz spent 4.5 years out of a 24 year teaching career teaching abroad. There’s simply no realistic comparison to be made between that and coming back to Canada to run as an MP and all that they’re doing is drawing attention to an unfavourable comparison. If they don’t care, he’s fine.

    It seems to me that their attention would be better spent on convincing (to the extent that people need to be convinced of this) that his time outside the country doesn’t affect his capacity to govern the country rather than pointing to people who did something that’s not really the same thing.

    • I agree. Never allow yourself to become the issue. There is plenty the CPC has to answer for.

    • Original, tedious, time-consuming research of my own volition.

      • I applaud you, Aaron!

        • I don’t. This is totally meaningless propaganda. Aaron’s title “apropos of nothing” is unintentionally apt.

          • you think it is easy to make meaningless propaganda?

          • Yes, Bazoo, I do. It’s time consuming, but ridiculously easy. Aaron should devote his time to value-added content instead of tripe like this.

            Aaron Wherry is an intelligent guy, so I assume he’s aware that he’s being disingenuous, rather than clever, when he posts a list of “Conservative MPs who have lived, studied or worked outside the country.”

    • “There’s simply no realistic comparison to be made between that and coming back to Canada to run as an MP … ”

      So if you’ve had a long, successful run in your profession that has taken you around the world, it’s NOT OKAY to return to your home country to run for public office or otherwise serve your fellow citizens?

      Soon we’ll all be governed by folks who’ve never left the farm and can’t compete internationally.

      Great!

      • I think that you’re overstating things a little bit. There are tons of bright people who’ve had long, successful runs in their profession and spent at least some recent part of those runs in Canada. Rightly or wrongly, given the timing of the whole thing, it looks like Ignatieff came back to Canada purely to run the place and otherwise doesn’t have much interest in living and working here. I don’t think that you can say the same of very many other Parliamentarians.

        • That would have been an interesting — and still debatable — point to raise in 2005 when Iggy first indicated he might run. But he’s been through two general elections and a leadership convention since then.

          Anything new-ish to add?

          PS: It is “wrongly”.

          • Being through two general elections and a leadership convention in 3.5 years doesn’t exactly dispel the idea that he had no interest in anything but coming back here to govern. It probably buys him a little more understanding of the country.

            I generally avoid commenting here because the comments here tend to be ridiculously partisan, a sort of House of Commons for the unelected. I’m not expressing an opinion either way on what Ignatieff’s motives were in coming back to Canada. The only point that I’m driving at is that for large swaths of the country, the 30+ years is an issue that has to be addressed and pointing to Tories who spent time outside the country like AW has done won’t do it. It’s ludicrous to say that someone doing their undergrad at Princeton, followed by law school in Canada, twenty years practicing law in Canada, serving in government in Ontario and then serving federally, like Jim Flaherty, is in any way the same thing.

            Ignatieff might not have an explanation other than “I saw a good opportunity in Canada to pursue a career in politics, I’ve always been interested and attached to Canada and was intrigued by the chance to put some of the ideas I’ve spent a lifetime developing into practice.” That explanation may well be enough and it sounds awfully reasonable to me. Personally, I think that what little we’ve seen so far of his brand of Liberalism has some nice aspects to it – I’m particularly hopeful that we’ll see an end to the anti-Americanism that seems to have been what they’ve run on for ten years. Of course, I live in a large city, know lots of people who work outside of Canada and know people who’ve come back. I’m not going to be the toughest sell and there are a lot more rural and 905ish voters who don’t know people like that who will have to be convinced that the time outside Canada doesn’t matter.

        • “Run the place”…? He is not running for the job of “President”, he came back as a member of Parliament, and then as appointed as leader of the LPC. Are you aware of the distinction? If it so happens that the LPC forms government, then he has the right to be Prime Minister. There are no guarantees.

          The way you guys go on, no Canadian University, no Canadian business has the right to hire an expat that has lived his/her life outside the country establishing themselves in the international arena to try to bring said institution to a world-class level. God forbid that is allowed, eh?

          This is utterly preposterous and I think suggests a deeper insecurity of those who have not been blessed with these kinds of opportunities (and dare I say intelligence) for them to question the “competence” to lead a Canadian institution and even Canada itself.

          Mediocrity likes to celebrate equal opportunity pursuits, and nothing serves mediocrity better than to serve the lowest common denominator so that it is accessible to everyone, so that even back-water Canadians with zero life skills beyond snivelling kow-tow-ers can be considered in the same class of “competence”.

          • I hate mediocrity in our political leaders. I love the fact that Iggy has an exceptional resume. But having a great resume is not a sufficient to become Prime Minister. The verdict is still out on whether he deserves the honour of leading our beloved Canada.

            The way you guys go on, no Canadian University, no Canadian business has the right to hire an expat that has lived his/her life outside the country establishing themselves in the international arena to try to bring said institution to a world-class level. God forbid that is allowed, eh?

            Oh, for crying out loud.

            This is utterly preposterous and I think suggests a deeper insecurity

            It’s “utterly preposterous” because it’s a straw man argument. Not only is it utterly preposterous, it’s intentionally preposterous.

        • Weirdly, you can’t reply to a reply here — so look up!

          Anonymous, your recent post was far more well articulated. Thank you.

          • I agree—–very well put Anonymous.
            If Aaron has more time on his hands a more appropriate piece of research would be to determine if any individual attempted to become leader of Canada after spending 75% of his adult life outside of the country. If there was any let us know how they did in the following Election.

      • Soon we’ll all be governed by folks who’ve never left the farm and can’t compete internationally.

        Isn’t that what we have now?

        • :-D

    • So how many years is too many for the Conservatives then? And who do they think they are that they get to decide? That is up to Canadians to weigh in an election, not for Conservative to decree like some dark overlord.

  4. Some others – I’m not saying that this is the totality of their experience outside the country but it would seem to indicate that it’s pretty slim, nowhere near Ignatieff and not really the same thing anyway:

    “[Jim Flaherty] graduated from Princeton University cum laude and Osgoode Hall Law School. He was called to the Bar in Ontario with honours and practised law for more than twenty years before being elected to public office.”

    “[Lisa] Raitt graduated from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia with a Bachelor’s of Science degree. She went on to do a Masters degree in Chemistry specializing in environmental biochemical toxicology from the University of Guelph. Raitt possesses an LL.B from Osgoode Hall Law School, and was called to the Ontario bar in 1998. That year, she was granted a Dr. Harold G. Fox Scholarship.[2] As a result, she trained with barristers of the Middle Temple in London, United Kingdom, who specialized in international trade, commerce, transportation and arbitration.”

    I can’t tell how long she was in London for but appears to have been back by 2002 at the lastest. So at most, four years of her life appear to have been spent abroad.

    Brian Jean appears to have just gone to law school in Australia – his website characterizes him as a life long Fort McMurrayite.

    Russ Hiebert – looks like school in the US and then working at the Canadian embassy in Washington.

    Jason Kenney – looks like school in the US. In his case, he’s been an MP since he was like 29 or so and before that was a Reform party guy IIRC. I don’t know, with school and his work, where he found much time to be abroad.

    Seriously Aaron – this is what you think is the same thing?

    • Where did he say it was the same thing?

      Seems to me the title is “apropos of nothing”.

      It raises the question: how much time abroad is too much time abroad for Conservatives?

      • None of those ministers is trying to become our next Prime Minister, so I don’t really care how much time they spent abroad. Maybe if you added up the collective time spent abroad by the entire Conservative Cabinet, you would come close to Iggy’s 34 years.

        • They may not be trying to become our next PM, but maybe some of them had aspirations for the future. But, I guess they are disqualified now.

          What a silly game.

          This whole argument is ludicrous.

          Clearly, residency will play some part in some people’s minds. However, intellect, experience, passion, and a whole lot of all factors will carry more weight, hopefully.

          • They may not be trying to become our next PM, but maybe some of them had aspirations for the future. But, I guess they are disqualified now.

            Nobody is disqualified from anything. It’s just that his residency is a factor that is worth considering when assessing his suitability to lead this country. The residency of the MPs listed above is also worthy of consideration, though I’m sure many of those were outside of the country for a few dozen weeks instead of a few thousand weeks.

            However, intellect, experience, passion, and a whole lot of all factors will carry more weight.

            I think experience is very important. That’s why I’m concerned that Iggy didn’t experience this country first-hand for three quarters of his adult life.

          • Okay, CR, I take your point that it is a factor worth considering. I can even agree with that. I mean, it could, in some circumstances, be akin to parachuting a candidate into a riding from which he/she does not hail.

            So let us look at this particular circumstance. Michael Ignatieff is a historian of Canada, in other words he has paid attention to how we got to where we are. Right there I think that proves his commitment to the country, but further proof can be found in his losing the leadership bid in 2006 and STAYING HERE, staying in politics–not running away as he is accused of being wont to do.

            In this country, understanding how we got to where we are now is a big part of understanding who we are, I think. That may not be the case for all countries, but I really think truly understanding all the regional differences and diversities can only be done by examining their historical context. For example, he realized what he was teaching the kids at UBC about Canadian history was meaningless–because the text didn’t touch on BC at all. And how can it be your history if you aren’t in it?

            Michael Ignatieff has spent a lot of time thinking and writing about who he is as a person. He’s got that down now. In other words, he’s not likely to suddenly scrap the few ideals he holds, although the only ideals he holds are of the fundamental variety. That will make it easier, I grant you. It will also make it easier to open ideas to the issues at hand, not constricted by ideals that box one in in the face of changing circumstances.

            Finally, and I think most importantly, Michael Ignatieff is from Toronto. But he isn’t *of* Toronto, he is of the world. I highly doubt at any point in his day, does he think of Toronto as the Centre of the Universe. Yet he knows Toronto, knows that perception exists and is a subtle thread weaving through Toroonto life. He can just see beyond it, and he can see beyond any one region or any one life parameter. His experiences embrace big cities, small towns, rural farms. He is both an immigrant and a member of the elite establishment. He is the most uniquely qualified person to lead all of Canada I think we have ever had. Because he can lead all of Canada, not just one region or diversity.

            Oh yeah, there’s also the stuff about being comfortable in, and already respected by, the rest of the world, but I don’t think that’s the issue of the moment.

        • “None of those ministers is trying to become our next Prime Minister”

          What is it with the Sacred Kingship that our Prime Ministership is in some people’s minds? The PM is not the representative of the country, he’s an elected official. If somebody is morally qualified to sit in Cabinet or frankly in the House of Commons, he or she is morally qualified to become PM. That is the gist of Aaron’s post, assuming anybody cares anymore.

          • I’m not talking about moral qualifications. Iggy is certainly morally qualified to be Prime Minister.

    • Anonymous is right. The implied comparison is insultingly stupid.

  5. Good grief, Aaron. There’s a hell of a difference between someone who emigrates to Canada when they’re four, or goes overseas to study for a university degree, and a guy who, as an adult, elects to pursue his entire professional career – thirty years! – away from this country.

    I’m not going to comment on the strategic wisdom of making Iggy’s self-imposed exile the central criterion by which the Tories want to have his fitness for PM judged. But can anyone seriously tell me that in any other context a thirty-year absence constituting virtually all of a candidate’s adult life wouldn’t be at least of some concern? I mean, rather than just “returning”, suppose Iggy had emigrated here three years ago for the first time. Wouldn’t the first question most people would ask be: and how, sir, can you claim to understand this country? You haven’t lived it. You’ve read about it. That doesn’t necessarily mean you “can’t” be PM. But it sure is legitimate to raise doubts about his grasp of a country he’s chosen to be away from for so long.

    And if it’s fair game to rake Stephen Harper over the coals (as the Liberals did, time and again) for past comments about Canada, and asked Canadians to judge the man by those comments, I don’t see how the Iggy backers think their guy should get a free pass just because Iggy made some flippant and careless remarks about Canada at a time long before he ever dreamt about coming back.

    • “there is a hell of a difference” or so the Conservatives keep saying.

      Could you define the AMOUNT of the difference? How many years is just right Goldilocks, and how many is too much?

      I am starting to wonder if this is just bluster to avoid scrutiny of a Prime Minister who not only got his first passport when he became Prime Minister, but billed the taxpayer for the privilege of getting one (and his wife’s).

      • How about this difference: in all the cases Aaron cites above, they are clear temporary stays abroad constituting a few years at most. In Michael Ignatieff’s case, it’s *his entire adult life* and he demonstrated no intent to ever return until he had visions of sugarplums planted in his head by Ian Davey.

        Michael Ignatieff is a great public intellectual, highly distinguished and no doubt far more competent about a wide range of subjects than 99% of the population. None of that says anything about his understanding of a country he’s spent next to zero time in since he hit puberty.

        • ALW I asked for the amount of time that’s allowable. If you couldn’t provide it, then just say so.

    • I’ve read the same argument in French, on the Quebec blogs, regarding Marc Garneau, astronaut, now a member a parliament. Some Québécois will claim that Garneau has spent too much time in the ‘English’ world, in the Canadian Army; he studied in the UK; he worked for NASA – hell he was in space more than once. He therefore is not an ‘ordinary’ Québécois – how can he understand the ‘ordinary’ Québécois?

      How does one become an astronaut if one never leaves St-André de Kamouraska?

      How does one become a professor in the most reputable universities in the world if one never leaves Flin Flon?

      Why do we let politicians belittle success and education?

      It certainly matters not to me that Garneau has spent most of his life in the ‘English’ world or Ignatieff his in the best universities of the world – except that it demonstrates that these are smart, capable persons.

      Conservatives should get out of gutter politics and move in to the 21st century.

      • Marc Garneau is an astronaut. He needs to understand space, engineering etc. His understanding of Quebecois culture has nothing to do with the job he’s seeking.

        Michael Ignatieff wants to be leader of a country: Canada. A country he’s been absent from since he was a teenager. A country he’s as familiar with as any foreign academic who has studied Canada from afar.

        I think Michael Ignatieff would be a great candidate for a professor at any prestigious Canadian university. Or maybe to chair a task force on foreign policy. But none of his qualifications make him qualified to be the leader of a country that’s essentially foreign to him.

      • Personally, I think Garneau has spent too much time off-planet. Kidding!

        Nobody is questioning the legitimacy of Iggy’s decision to pursue his career objectives outside of Canada. They are questioning the legitimacy of Ignatieff’s claim that he has what it takes to lead this country after such an incredibly long absence.

        If Iggy wants to prove that he has what it takes, he will have to work harder to demonstrate his sincerity to Canadians like me. He will also have to provide more clarity on his positions, ideas, and policies.

        As I’ve said before, there is much to like about Iggy, but he has a long way to go to make the case to Canadians that he is the right guy for the job.

    • ALW nails it.

      • CR, your handle is a misnomer if you regard this line of reasoning as relevant…

        • You’ll have to be more specific. What part of ALW’s line of reasoning is irrelevant? Support your assertions.

      • CR, does it occur to you that Marc Garneau is representing the constituents of Westmount-Ville-Marie, many of whom you may be surprised to learn are Quebecois? How can you represent Quebecois if you have turned to the English?

        Of course the answer is he can do it by understanding space, engineering, science, the culture of French AND the culture of English.

        But hey, if Garneau’s “understanding of Quebecois culture has nothing to do with the job he’s seeking.” means ALW nails it, I think you have to go back to explaining again why it is that Ignatieff is disqualified from the job of Prime Minister.

        • Jen, when I said “ALW nails it”, I was referring to his original comment, not the comment he posted after mine where he mentions M. Garneau. I don’t agree with that one.

          • Oh! Well that clears that up then.

  6. Another interesting approach to this so-called “issue” would be to look at how many Order of Canada members have worked extensively outside of Canada, for long periods of time. I’m sure you would find more than a few… but apparently they aren’t Canadian enough either, using the Conservatives “logic”.

    • The electability of the average Order of Canada recipient is somewhere close to zero, outside of certain downtown Toronto and Montreal ridings. Try again.

      • Ever looked at a list of hometowns/residences for members of the Order of Canada? Many are from all over this great land of ours, including small burgs in every province and territory, not just from downtown Montreal and Toronto. Nice ridiculous, con-bot response though dude…

  7. You forgot Rob Anders, who worked as a professional heckler (seriously) for Republican Jim Inhofe during one of his senate campaigns.

    • Eventually, Rob Anders will be dislodged by his riding association, and I look forward to dancing on the grave of his political career.

  8. Eventually, Rob Anders will be dislodged by his riding association…

    …not if Harper and his clique have their way. But, if and when it ever does happen, I shall gladly join you in that graveyard hornpipe.

  9. Hmmm….I don’t recall anyone bitching and moaning and groaning because Lester Pearson spent a lot of time out of Canada. And, for that matter, Pierre Trudeau was a rather worldly fellow.

    Must be hard on Harper to be a Canadian who never went anywhere but had such US envy.

    • You should get your facts right, Sandi. Except for his time at Oxford, Pearson’s years outside of Canada were mostly in the service of his country – first in the military, later as an Ambassador.

      It’s hardly comparable to Ignatieff’s situation, and I’m sure you realize this.

      • The Conservatives offer this attack based on Ignatieff’s out of country residency. For every counter example of a ‘Canadian’ who resided outside of the country CR says it just ain’t the same case so it doesn’t apply. Not once do you provide a fixed target where a counter argument would apply, except to say; well, they aren’t intending to be Prime Minister.

        Fallacy: Special Pleading, Moving the Target.

        *No* Critical Reasoning there.

        Kindly put, there will never be a precedent case for this argument. to be resolved, and the Junta of Burma solved the problem.

        • Doug, I don’t care how much time random Canadians spend outside of the country. Frankly it’s not important, unless of course they are trying to become Canada’s next Head of Government. That’s when it becomes a legitimate, relevant topic of discussion.

          There is no “precedent case” for this argument, because the Ignatieff situation is completely unprecedented. That’s why it requires special attention and scrutiny by Canadians. We need to figure out if Iggy is the right guy for the job. Let’s stop trying to pretend that the fact that Iggy spent most of his adult life outside of Canada is irrelevant to the discussion of whether he is the right guy to lead Canada.

          • Then Wayne Gretzky is not qualified to coach the Canadian Olympic Hockey team.

          • I don’t think “much time random Canadians spend outside of the country” not relevant to the topic… The question is how much, and in what quantity does it suddenly become a disqualification?

            Once again: The Junta in Burma put a clause in the constitution barring anyone “who enjoys the rights and privileges of a foreign citizen” from running for office …

            This argument from the Conservatives is the same kind of Nationalism.

          • CR You are doing yeoman’s work trying to distinguish between average person who spends time abroad and someone who wants to be PM. I know it’s not east being green but keep up the good work.

  10. Any of them out of the country for 34 years?

  11. I hope that none of you are are getting sucked into what you think is an intellectual debate about loyalty but what is really just a dirty street fight between a gang of thugs over the tremendous pile of loot which is available to anyone who can control a majority of the votes in federal parliament.

    If you live in Ontario, would someone who spent most of his life 2000 miles away in Alberta have a better claim over the control over your paycheque and many other parts of your life than someone who lived 600 miles away in Boston? If you live in BC do you really need a Quebecker who was a lifelong political hack and/or corporate flack to take away half your money, arrange for your job to be subsidized, and put on games and spectacles for you?

    I doubt that *any* of these outsiders be as faithful and as conscientious in the management of your life – telling you where you can work, where you can invest, what you can watch on TV, how to raise your children – as you would be if you yourself took personal responsibility for these things. And I don’t think that if someone living 3000 miles away from you in Inuvik decides that they want outsiders to do everything for them and plan everything for them, and then this person in Inuvik helps one of them win a majority of federal seats, that it means that the best thing for you is also to be ruled by their chosen leader in nearly all matters professional and private.

    Stop thinking big, and stop looking for outside talent to do what you need to do yourself.

    • But Al! Ottawa is crucial in our lives! Remember, Paul Martin fixed wait times for a generation!!! And lo, the wait times have been fixed from coast to coast to co– what’s that? Oh, never mind…

  12. Meh. If Stephen Harper had spent 34 years out of the country, the Conservatives would be using his international experience as a selling point.

    The Conservatives are just looking for a stick to beat Ignatieff over the head with, and this is the best one that they could find.

    (Like others, I am curious: what is the maximum amount of time a future Prime Minister should be allowed to spend outside of the country?)

  13. How sad the list is so short.

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