The Commons: If you don’t support MacKay, you don’t support the troops

The House of Commons comes tantalizingly close to debating peace negotiations in Afghanistan

by Aaron Wherry

The Scene. For a full 13 questions this afternoon, the opposition insisted on pressing the government about matters—the economy, trade, the separation of powers in a proper functioning democracy—unrelated to whether or not the Defence Minister should be ashamed or at least embarrassed.

Finally, the Speaker called on the NDP’s Tarik Brahmi, a francophone apparently of Algerian descent, who nonetheless looks to me like a tough English soccer fanatic.

“Mr. Speaker, according to a release by the Canadian Press, the Defence Minister was kept out of key decisions about Canada’s role in the Afghan war,” he said. “This was a top defence priority, yet the Prime Minister was calling all the shots. The Prime Minister could have used some advice. Most agree our efforts should have focused more on peace talks and diplomacy. Is he still making foreign policy and defence decisions on his own, or does he now let his cabinet in the room?”

Peter MacKay stood here not only to enthuse about how cooperatively the Harper government operates, but also to state his objections to talks with the Taliban.

“It is interesting to hear the honourable member now talk about somehow reaching out to the Taliban or improving coordinations inside Afghanistan,” Mr. MacKay mused aloud. “Even the Afghanistan government and the President himself have said that as a result of the assassination of Rabbani, it is back to business as usual. This, unfortunately, belies the fact that we can work with a terrorist organization that does not respect human rights, does not respect women and refuses to disarm. I will take no advice from the member opposite.”

Here, perhaps, were the makings of an interesting discussion about Canada’s position on peace negotiations as it relates to the positions of our NATO partners, most notably the United States. But that would have to wait for another day.

On this matter of what the Defence Minister was allowed to know, Mr. Brahmi had another go at Mr. MacKay. The latter duly took the opportunity to explain to the former how deeply the NDP had failed in regularly disagreeing with this government.

“I am very proud of the efforts that the Canadian Forces have put forward in Afghanistan in conjunction with our other government departments,” the Defence Minister enthused. “Of course, CIDA and Foreign Affairs have created an environment where there are now seven million Afghan girls going to school. We are immunizing children. We are working with all of our international partners and the Afghan government. However, the NDP party opposite has consistently voted against those efforts.”

Undaunted, the NDP’s Matthew Kellaway stood and wondered openly how the Prime Minister could publicly defend a Defence Minister he didn’t seem to consult in private. With the Prime Minister away from the House, Mr. MacKay rose and explained how the NDP’s lack of support for the government’s previous budgets has amounted to a lack of support for the troops.

So here we were again. Though Mr. Kellaway was apparently prepared. Indeed, if nothing else, this provocation of Mr. MacKay’s provided a nice segue to Mr. Kellaway’s supplementary—a direct rejoinder to the Prime Minister’s grand defence of Mr. MacKay last Thursday.

“Mr. Speaker, Conservatives using the repatriation of fallen Canadian soldiers to cover the Minister of Defence’s abuse of government jets is appalling,” he ventured. “Using fallen military men and women for political damage control tarnishes their sacrifice. It is an insult to the families of these soldiers. When will the minister take responsibility for his own decisions and stop using fallen soldiers as an excuse for his abuse of government jets?”

Members on the Conservative side were audibly outraged at this. “Sit down!” cried various voices. “Hope is better than fear!” called Heritage Minister James Moore, quoting the late Jack Layton and apparently thinking he had spotted irony.

When Mr. Kellaway had finished, Mr. MacKay stood all serious and solemn. “Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has it wrong. His feigned indignation once again brings shame to his party,” the Defence Minister lamented.

Not only was Mr. MacKay prepared to defend his standing behind the troops to defend his use of government aircraft, but he was willing to double-down and do it again.

“In my four and half years as Minister of National Defence, I have made every effort to be at every repatriation of any fallen soldier, to be there to support their families and all the men and women in uniform who stand in harm’s way on behalf of our country,” he declared. “I will continue to do that.”

That, you’ll understand, explains everything. And with that the House moved on to other matters.

In his seat, Conservative backbencher Jeff Watson was still struggling to come to grips with the profound sadness of the official opposition’s suggestion.

“So much for choosing civility,” he muttered, apparently free of irony.

The Stats. The economy, 11 questions. The environment, four questions. The Defence Minister and the G8 Legacy Fund, three questions each. Afghanistan, abortion, human rights, search-and-rescue and taxation, two questions each. Trade, the judiciary, John Baird’s business cards, the border, labour, Insite, seniors, religion and flooding in Quebec, one question each.

Shelly Glover and Peter MacKay, seven answers each. John Baird, six answers. Christian Paradis and Peter Kent, four answers each. Peter Van Loan, three answers. Diane Finley, Dean Del Mastro, Candice Hoeppner, Lisa Raitt, Leona Aglukkaq, Alice Wong and Denis Lebel, one answer each.




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The Commons: If you don’t support MacKay, you don’t support the troops

  1. “Hope is better than fear!” called Heritage Minister James Moore, quoting the late Jack Layton and apparently thinking he had spotted irony.
    “So much for choosing civility,” [Jeff Watson] muttered, apparently free of irony.”

    For old times’ sake, I’m going to tilt at Wherry.  I respectfully submit that Wherry’s irony detection skills are no more or less trustworthy than those of the honourable members whom he covers in his Beyond the Commons sketches.

    BTC would be a more absorbing read if Wherry would occasionally admit that at least some Opposition charges are bullsh*t,  instead of predictably falling back on the implicit assumption that the opposition’s charges are always valid and the government’s defence is always craven and false.

    Wherry has already coyly hinted that fussing over who has flown where and on what is of little importance in the grand sweep of national governance.  Nonetheless, he appears to delight in these BS questions about official air travel protocol, because some members on the government side were guilty of similar BS when they sat on the opposition side.

    • Wherry’s job is to report on the Commons and the players therein….and that’s what he does.

      • You got to be joking. Wherry writes his blog based on the opposition having all the credibility and the government having none. I know you agree with him. So no need for a smarmy response Emily.

        • Well since you’re such a delicate flower, I won’t laugh at you…but Wherry reports what he sees and hears.

          If even you…the devout Con… interpret that as the govt having no credibility…then perhaps they don’t.

          • Of course anybody who bashes Conservatives and the PM in particular are always right in your eyes. Must be tough going through life with such hatred.

          • Here’s a fact for you….when Cons are in govt they’re going to be criticized, and criticized heavily.  That’s how the system works. 

            This is a free country…a democracy…and people have the right to criticize a govt if they don’t agree with it.

            So stow the nonsense about ‘hatred’ and every other myth you hide behind.  You’re just wasting everyone’s time.

          • Have you ever heard of the word balance Emily. It means two sides…not one side. That’s the problem with Wherry and the rest of the leftist crowd. There is no balance. It is only one way.

            Emily it is you who are wasting everyones time. We know what your response is to every shiny bauble that the left throw out.

    • not to mention the fact that he was pointing out that McKay keeps on using the troops even when it makes no sense to the question asked.

      I mean come on, McKay is saying that he was basically inconvenienced into attending all of these repatriation cerimonies, as if it were some big sacrifice on his part.

      The real sacrifice is the families of the soldiers.

      • I mean come on, McKay is saying that he was basically inconvenienced into attending all of these repatriation cerimonies, as if it were some big sacrifice on his part.

        That’s not what he’s saying at all, and you should know better.

    • If he did not do what you suggest he would not have a column. The lefties would ignore him.

    • Nothing new here – one only has to remember what the opposition and media did over a $1.29 receipt for a pack of gum for which a reimbursement was never claimed.  In fact, I would say that fussing over who has flown where is considerably more important than a $1.29 receipt for a pack of gum for which a reimbusement was never claimed.

      • Dingwall’s gum is a good example, and here’s another one: remember Wafergate?

        • I remember Wafergate, but I don’t remember that it produced a special committee enquiry or a a half million dollars settlement from the public purse.

          • It wasn’t the gum that led to that settlement.  It was  the Liberal government’s “highly coercive” refusal to defend him during a public relations firestorm that forced Dingwall’s hand, according to the judge who wrote the report.

            The report found that the Martinites essentially forced out Dingwall, a member of the Jean Chretien tribe within the Liberal Party.

            http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20060412/dingwall_report_060412/

          • Well I disagree.  It was the gum that led to this. No gum, no scandal.  And scandal is not always based on misconduct – the Munsinger scandal being one perfect example, Dingwall another.  The scandal was not that there was a settlement. To this day people remember Dingwall as the man the guy who charged the government for his gum. Gum sticks – and so does the use of government jets.

          • THIS is what I mean by ‘it sticks’:

            “Dingwalling” is being used in the House of Commons to describe the haughty actions of certain front-bench government MPs who think that because they are cabinet ministers they are entitled to planes, to gold-embossed business cards and to use government funds as a treasure trove of largesse for their own ridings.”

            Now tell me Crit_Reasoning how did Dingwall Dingwall taxpayers and abusing ’taxpayers’ money while at the Mint?  What did the auditors who looked into this conclude? 

            http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/will-dingwalling-taxpayers-come-back-to-haunt-entitled-tories/article2191791/

    • Not that the official opposition has the kind of responsibility to honesty you think they have, but when they are out of line, and when Wherry calls them out on it, you’re not so quick to congratulate him.

      • I’m not suggesting that the official opposition has a “responsibility to honesty”, but I do think that it’s the media’s job to hold *all* of the honourable members to account, not just those sitting on the government side.

        when Wherry calls them out on it, you’re not so quick to congratulate him.

        If Wherry has done so recently, I probably just missed it.  Can you point to an example?

  2. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2011/09/29/pol-mckay-jets-costs.html

    Mackay is a joke. Contrary to CR’s assertion it does matter, no matter the libs abused the system more - even if it makes them a bunch of hypocrites .It’s their job now to point this out; it’s how the system works. It’s astonishing that the govt never seems to be able to take responsibility for anything …it is the govt now…a majority even…whining the libs did it first and worst is pathetic at this stage of the game. By all means point out the previous govts sins, but for godsake admit yours and take your lumps like a man PM!
    The Tofino story is my fav. Why wouldn’t the DM be aware of a ceremony coming up and plan accordingly? Or does Harper not even trust him with that? Is he so out of the loop?Does Peter’s pager just go of and he heads to the nearest runway like one of Pavlov’s dogs?
    Meanwhile i wonder who’ll crack first. Will the media bother to follow up and see if Mackay changes his ways[ why would he if he's in the right?] or will they get bored and move on? Silly question really.

    • My thoughts keep returning to, “If you’re going to do everything the Liberals did, why did we bother electing you guys? At least they were able to balance a budget and knew what the word ‘contingency’ meant.”

      • Unfortunately we are all suffering for the liberal’s hubris…they could do most of what this govt does and more standing on their heads…but the cons are like no govt we’ver ever had as far as staying on message and controlling the agenda goes. And of course they’re even more shameless than the liberals ever were.

        • Get use to it. You and Thiwm have four years of suffering. More shameless than the Liberals ever were? You’ve got to be joking. Nothing compares to adscam. They stole taxpyer money outright. Cash in brown envelopes in restaurants. Its more like the mafia than a political party.

          You are right about one thing. Canadians are sick to death of Liberal hubris and they showed their disgust on May 2nd.

          • That has to be the funniest thing you’ve ever written, hollinm. 

          • It may be funny to you but Canadians didn’t think it was that funny.

            As a result the Libs have been virtually wiped out in Quebec, the West and much of Ontario. Their only real support is in some parts of Ontario and in the Maritimes.

            So laugh away. Its going to be a long four years with much knashing of teeth and vitriolic comments by the likes of you on the MacLeans blog.

          • Nothing compares to the scandal generated over a $1.29 receipt for a pack of gum that was never submitted for reimbursement – it yielded weeks of QP, a committee hearing, a chase of Dingwall’s daughter through Ottawa by the Ottawa Citizens, etc..  What hubris.  Harper is way more arrogant than Pierre Trudeau ever was.  Trudeau was a very approachable fellow. I met him a number of times on the street.  I giggle every time someone, like Tony recently, refers to Trudeau’s Just watch me comment to a journalist outside the Commons.  Never would Harper be caught outside the HoC in this way.  Journalists are selected and timed; citizens cannot approach the PM even during elections time without getting a full background check.  Oh, the arrogance. 

          • This ain’t the 60′s or 70′s. Try and grow up. We are now in the 21st century Trudeau is long dead and we have a new reality. A moribund, bankrupt, leaderless Liberal Party being lead by a former failed NDP Premier from Ontario. The party was convicted of stealing money from the hard working taxpayers of Canada.
            You may not like the PM but he is the best on offer today. When and if the Liberals decide they will really reform their party and elect a credible leader with credible policies then maybe Canadians will give them a try again. However, it still looks like the same old sleazy party talking about ”golden showers” in the House of Commons. 

          • Hollinm – The LPC was convicted of no such thing. That’s probably a libelous statement, but not at all surprising coming from you.

          • Adscam went to an inquiry…pray tell when if ever we;ll get one that might implicate Harper? What ever happened to the detainee issue…oh dear, we have a majority now…nothing to see here; and all the potential critics are conveniently silenced.

          • The detainee issue was a red herring and you know it. What the anti war crowd was really saying is that our soldiers particpated in the torture of detainees. That was a crock and Canadians never bought it. To suggest that Harper was somehow conducting war operations from Ottawa is foolish. Don’t be a blooter.

            We had a process agreed to by the parties except the santimonious NDP. Despite having read thousands of documents there was no smoking gun. If there was then the Libs and the Bloc would have been screaming bloody murder. Having milked that cow for all it was worth it was time to move on.

            Could there be another scandal like adscam? Probably. That is a consequence of arrogance and hubris which the Libs have in abundance. The Conservatives will have to guard against it as there majority mandate proceeds.

          • I know no such thing – speak for yourself bud.That is part of your problem - you’re always claiming to speak for everybody else. Colvin raised the issue if you care to remember, it had nothing to do with the anti-war crowd; he was actually bound to report to parliament once he had made his claims.
             Blooter yourself[ whatever the hell that means] i never suggested any such thing.

            Whether you like it or not we have obligations under international law not to knowingly turn detainees over to known tortures[ NDS]. It is why the govt fought so hard against the allegations. Noone but numbskulls like you thought the allegation was about Canadian troops actually participating in any sort of torture thenselves. 

            Yes we had a process and the libs look like fools now for even participating in it. Whatever evidence they have seen be it positive or negative is now secret. That is the reason the libs are not yelling; that and the fact the evidence probably implicated them as much as Harper. Why the Bloc said nothing is a complete mystery to me – perhaps the evidence just isn’t conclusive enough.

          • Now you are reduced to name calling. Get stuffed.

          • holinm

            You like handing out the rough stuff so suck it up buttercup.

    • The government is going to sell the Challenger fleet and hitch rides with the Americans and the Russians where necessary.

      Of course the opposition will accuse him of being vindictive and petty because if they ever get the chance to govern how will they get around the country.

      We are a petty lot when we argue about when a government official should use an aircraft when they are doing the business of the country. No one condones people using the aircraft for personal purposes but lets get real here. The planes are costing us money whether they are flying or sitting on the ground. Its not as if they stop depreciating when they are not flying.

      • Which is why I wonder why we have such a large Challenger fleet.  The government has an opportunity to review the fleet’s usage, and possibly scale back on the number of planes they own (and crew), if indeed the “flying to keep the crews certified” line is the truth.  Considering that every government department is supposed to find ~10% cuts in their budgets, this seems like a prudent exercise for the government to engage in.

        • What do you mean, briguyhfx, when you say the government could “scale back the crew” used for the Challenger fleet.  I might be mistaken but I do believe that ALL of the crew are military personnel who are on contract for a certain number of years in the military and posted to bases with their families.  They work the shifts whether the planes fly or not.  You cannot lay these people off and you can only post them elsewhere if there are spots for them.

          • So?  The military is supposed to be mission-based.  If there’s no mission (besides remaining certified on an under-utilized aircraft), they can be reposted to missions that need them.  It’s called efficiency, one of the banners that right-wingers supposedly run under.

          • I think I already addressed that when I said “they are posted to bases with their families” and further that they cannot get reposted unless there are positions for them.  You are not just talking about pilots but about radio/radar techs; aircraft maintenance crews, etc.  Everytime they are posted to a new base, “we”, the taxpayers, guarantee the sale of their home (if they purchased one in their community; move all their items; and give them a big moving allowance (to buy new drapes, etc.)  Now…how many airforce bases do you think there are in Canada?  All of these personnel have been recruited for 20 years to start with.   So, if you don’t have spots to send them into, you are looking at some pretty big payouts.  Whether they go on a “mission’ for 6 months or not, they all need a home base for themselves and their families.

      • First off there’s at least circumstantial evidence PM was not always doing the countries business; secondly tell me why without some warning PM could not have made other arrangements to get from Tofino to the ramp ceremony, or even delayed his holiday - it wasn’t like they couldn’t have given him some warning – doesn’t he have an office that sets his itinerary? Do you honestly believe the planes cost as much sitting on the ground as tripping out to the west coast and back to pick up a holidaying DM? On the face of it it looks like Mackay thinks they’re his personal on call taxi service. 

        • Given that the military supplies the pilots and all of the crew, including the maintenance crew.  They all get paid whether the plane flies or not.  The planes depreciate, whether they fly or sit in the hangar.  The only real costs are for gasoline & oil, etc.  I don’t know why this concept is difficult for people to understand.
          As for Harper using the planes for “private business”….that is possible, given that the RCMP won’t allow him to fly commercial.  Do you think he should drive from Ottawa to Calgary where his home is?
          I won’t comment on McKay.  I guess you know for certain that he didn’t attend a re-patriation ceremony when he took the plane after the fishing trip.

          • Sorry but you’re all over the shop on this – some of it is my fault; PM in this instance was always meant to stand for Peter Mackay, not PM Harper, who as you say has to fly challenger.
            I’m no expert but i hope you’re not suggesting the planes depreciate at the same rate whether they are flying or not – that would seem to be illogical. I didn’t suggest Mackay did not attend repatriation ceremonies, just not as often as he and the PM suggest[ 50%]. Someone checked [cbc] and found that to be bumpf. If the govt had merely pointed out that the libs mis?used the planes 70 or 80% more[ someone should check that figure given how the govt's already been mildly untruthful so far] that might have been fine. But as always with this govt they have to spin it, telling untruths about how and why Mackay used the plane that are easily checkable.It is the lies that do you in. This could have been a good news story for the govt – instead they have egg on their faces once again. They should simply get rid of half the bloody things – times are hard ,right!  

          • Say what????  The car you bought depreciates whether you park it in your garage or you drive it around….check the black book price if you don’t believe me on that one.  As a matter of fact, when you are in a business, you write off so much of the price of a vehicle or airplane each year for depreciation.
            I think maybe you are talking about something else…..the wear and tear on a vehicle…if you use it less, it would stay in better shape?  That might be true to some extent, however, the pilots have to log a certain amount of flying hours on a regular basis to maintain their expertise and the plane would need to be flown and given regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly so how would that be best achieved if the pilots had no one to fly around? 
            Okay…we coud sell them…to who?  And then what do the pilots and the maintenance crew do..they are military people on contract?
            Then do we rent private jets for the PM (prime minister) and the cabinet ministers as needed (available at $3,500/hr – not including fuel or crew).?

          • hcinsider –

            My bad. Depreciate might not be the right term although i believe it can also apply to wear and tear. If it is true[ source please] that the planes have to be flown anyway then that would obviously take the steam out of this story – but is that true or just more govt spin? it is so hard to know these days.
            I didn’t suggest we sell them all, merely reduce the number if it makes sense.

             If the planes have to be flown as you say, then why bother reducing their usage by 70-80% over the liberal’s useage? That wouldn’t make alot of sense, unless it is yet another empty political ploy of Harpers. I think you may?? have been spun there?

          • kcm2 – I could not reply to you below - I did find source about “condition” – wear & tear of an airplane (airmag.com – March, 2008).  It is apparently measured by how often the plane is pressurized and depressurized….take-offs & landings stress the plane….so the more fuel the plane can hold and the longer the trip – the better for the plane (as apposed to lots of pit stops)As for flying the plane to keep it in good running order, I will consult someone I know who was a tech on the F18 Fighter Jets and now works at the NATO pilot training centre.  He will likely be able to tell me also how often the military pilots have to be up in the air to maintain their certification.
            As for the promise to reduce the useage by 70%…I think that is a no-brainer….better to have the pilots take up empty planes than have the people be going crazy over $10K/hr plane costs.    Never mind that the costs are pretty much fixed anyway.  It is just like a hospital bed – whether the bed is empty or full, the taxpayer is still paying $1000k per day because the nurses; the doctors; the lab staff; the cleaning staff…all come to work and have to be paid even if no one is admitted. 

          •  kcm2 – I found out more information about whether or not it is okay for a plane to sit around in the hangar.  According to my friend who is an expert (20 yrs military – 10 yrs Bombardier);
            It is okay for the planes to not fly – even for years but you have to put them up on jacks; remove the landing gear, etc and quite often the fluids in them start to leak out. Meanwhile, the maintenance crew continues to do monthly inspections on the planes that are grounded.
            It is the preference of the maintenance crew to keep as many of the planes in flying condition as possible ESPECIALLY if they don’t have that many planes and that is because the airplane industry is very tightly regulated and planes have to undergo quite a few inspections, some of which are major and can take a plane out of commission for several days.  With multiple planes, they can stagger the inspections and also don’t have to worry as much if a plane has problems and is grounded.
            It is also true that the military pilots have to fly a certain number of hours per week to maintain their qualifications. 

        • First of all it seems you are confused. Is it the PM you are complaining about or the Minister of Defence. Either one has the right to maximize his time and use the aircraft provided for that specific purpose for the PM and cabinet Ministers.

          Yes they do cost as much. The planes are flown all the time with people or empty for the military personnel to maintain their proficiency. The planes have to be maintained when they are on the ground. The plans depreciate in value when they are sitting on the ground as much as they do when flying. The costs per hour quoted in the media throw everything into the mix.

          You know when the parliament of Canada and of course the Harper haters are talking about ministers on flying on aircraft then the country must be in pretty good shape. It sounds so petty.

          Can you imagine if like Obama Harper was flying from city to city making campaign speeches what people like you would say. That’s abuse but you hear little in the press or critics talking about that in the States.

          Noone condones the PM or the cabine Ministers using the planes for personal reasons.

          • Talk about red herrings brother…the point is, unless you missed it is that Mackay may have used the planes frivolously, like a taxi service…not legitimate usage.

          • He did a search and research exercise and then was taken to a lobster venue in his riding. Its part of his job. Would I suggest the plane be used for that purpose no but I suspect Mr. MacKay has learned a lesson. Watch out for the leaks out of the defence department. They know he is gunning to reduce the HQ staffing in National Defence so he better watch his p’s and q’s.

            All I can say if this is all you guys caught its pretty pathetic.

  3. If the NDP thinks these kind of questions are going to win friends among the public at large they will be in for a great shock in four years. The Liberals tried it for almost five years and it got them  a much reduced caucus and a leader who had to resign. So the NDP should chase the headlines just like the Libs and see what that gets them.

  4. Question period is a waste of time as the ministers don’t answer the questions. Their salary should be docked $1000 bucks each time they don’t answer the question.

    • I think you are on to something….but let’s not stop there.  Let’s start fining MLA’s that ask ridiculous, rude and obnoxious questions too.  Also, what about the guys that don’t show up for work at all – Jack Layton took Michael Ignatieff to task for that.

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