The Commons: Transparent contradictions

If the government has been clear about one thing, it is just how easily it can change its mind


 

The Scene. The Liberal leader furrowed his brow. Michael Ignatieff had tried twice to gain some kind of clarity from the Foreign Affairs Minister and twice Lawrence Cannon, sticking to the script set out on the desk in front of him, had provided only the vaguest of notions.

“Mr. Speaker, these answers are genuinely absurd,” Mr. Ignatieff ventured with his third opportunity. “We are five days away from the Lisbon summit and the government is unable to stand in the House and tell us exactly what the post-2011 combat mission looks like.”

He gesticulated with both hands, putting on a surrealist puppet show to explain the confusion. “How can the government explain this silence,” he begged, “how can it explain its improvisation, how can it explain its secrecy, how can it explain its lack of transparency with the Canadian people?”

His eyebrows jumped toward the ceiling as he finished.

With that asked, Mr. Cannon stood here to make a daring claim to seriousness. “Mr. Speaker,” he said, “we have been repeatedly clear on this particular issue.”

Indeed. This government has consistently spoken quite resolutely. All along it has sought to express itself quite clearly and definitively in regards to this country’s engagement in Afghanistan. And for sure, looking back now on its various pronouncements, it is clear to see just how unabashedly this government has expressed entirely contradictory views on the most intensive military mission this country has embarked on since the Second World War. If it is transparency we most prize, this must count for something.

It was the Prime Minister himself who, quite clearly, told the troops in 2006 that “cutting and running” was “not the Canadian way.” Mr. Harper who told a military rally in 2007 that “we can’t set arbitrary deadlines and wish for the best.” Mr. Harper who, on the campaign trail in 2008, told a breakfast table of reporters that the military mission would end in 2011 because “you have to put an end date on these things.” And Mr. Harper who, in the spring of 2009, conceded that Western forces could not hope to entirely defeat an insurgency.

That concession was in response to a question about extending Canada’s mission past 2011. And on that end date, again, Mr. Harper was absolutely clear. “We will not be undertaking any kind of activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission,” the Prime Minister told interviewers eleven months ago. “We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy.”

In June, the Prime Minister expressed “some interest” in a Liberal proposal to keep troops past 2011, but said the government was following a parliamentary motion agreed upon in 2008. Indeed, when the Defence Minister confessed “great interest” in the Liberal suggestion, the Foreign Affairs Minister assured that “Peter might be open to the idea, but this doesn’t mean that the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada is open to the idea.”

So it was that last week, the Prime Minister admitted—beginning with the immortal words “Look, I’m not going to kid you”—that at some point recently he had changed his mind entirely. The Prime Minister and the Government of Canada were now open to the idea. Not because the Prime Minister wanted to, mind you, but because he felt he had to—or at least that he should.

And so it was that Mr. Cannon could say today that “in accordance with the parliamentary motion that was adopted here in the month of March 2008, Canada’s combat mission will end in 2011” and maintain some claim to clarity.

Not that the government is yet willing to explain whatever it has now decided.

“Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I could try again and ask a very specific question of the minister,” Bob Rae, the shadow foreign minister, offered after Mr. Ignatieff had his tries. “Could the minister tell us how long he expects the training mission to last, how many trainers he expects to be there and how much does he anticipate that this training mission will cost on an annual basis?”

Mr. Cannon stood and reported that the Prime Minister had said the new mission would last until 2014. Otherwise, the Foreign Affairs Minister was not prepared to say anything unequivocally. “As we speak,” he said, “we are still reviewing the role that Canada will play and when we have completed that, we will be able to inform the House.”

Jack Layton, positively delighting in the chance to lament for both the Liberal and Conservative positions, next honed in on the small matter of the House’s role in all of this.

“A Conservative government,” quite clearly reads the Conservative 2006 campaign platform, “will make Parliament responsible for exercising oversight over the conduct of Canadian foreign policy and the commitment of Canadian Forces to foreign operations.”

When the newly elected Prime Minister sought months later to extend the mission in Afghanistan, he was crystal clear in his remarks to the House. “If we made this promise,” he maintained, “it was because before we send diplomats, relief workers and soldiers on dangerous missions abroad, it is important to be able to tell them that Canada’s parliamentarians believe in their objectives and support what they are doing.”

By last week, though, Mr. Harper had identified a clear distinction he sought to clarify. “When we’re talking simply about technical or training missions,” he said, “I think that is something the executive can do on its own.”

Mr. Layton—sensing that something might be allowed to happen without him being allowed an opportunity to properly express his righteous indignation—was thus displeased. “If the government really believes what it often says, when it extols the virtues of parliamentary democracy, why is it allowing a mission costing billions and three more years of danger for our troops to go ahead without a vote?” he cried, pumping his fist and leaning forward.

Here, again, the Foreign Affairs Minister stood with a daring claim to seriousness. “Our recent deployment of military personnel to Haiti following the earthquake in the month of January is a perfect example,” he explained, “of deploying troops in a non-combat role without requiring a vote of the House of Commons.”

Here Mr. Cannon had bravely laid bare the government’s lingering confusion. Here the Foreign Affairs Minister, one of this nation’s foremost faces unto the world, confessed to seeing no distinction between sending Canadian soldiers—whatever the exact job description—into a war zone and sending Canadian soldiers to aid another country in its recovery from an earthquake. Thus, perhaps, does everything else make perfect sense.

The opposition parties had by then combined to register 12 questions on the matter of the mission in Afghanistan, none resulting in a revelation more substantive than this. Awhile later, Messrs Ignatieff and Rae would rise twice more each, those four attempts clarifying only what was already abundantly clear.

With his last answer, Mr. Cannon encouraged the Liberal leader to be patient. And for sure, this was good advice. For if we give this government another 24 hours, there’s no telling what new clear and resolute pronouncement it might make.

The Stats. Afghanistan, 16 questions. The G20, four questions. The environment, three questions. Veterans, the military, foreign investment, securities, credit cards, MP spending and aboriginal affairs, two questions each. Pakistan, the economy, infrastructure and homelessness, one question each.

Lawrence Cannon, 17 answers. Jim Flaherty, four answers. John Baird and Vic Toews, three answers each. Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Peter MacKay, Ed Komarnicki and Pierre Poilievre, two answers each. Bev Oda, Mike Lake, Rob Moore, John Duncan and Rona Ambrose, one answer each.


 

The Commons: Transparent contradictions

  1. After floating around with no policy to speak of, going this way or that on pretty much every issue of the day,

    Iggy seizing on a the muckiest of mucky quagmires,

    demanding that which no current or former government (in this country and the rest) can possibly find on this issue…..

    CLARITY.

    We all wait with baited breath how the consummate academic waffler will bring to the world, on this intractible issue.

    Clarity for us all.

    While we wait for his imminent solution, we must be content that he simply demands clarity from others.

  2. Whether Harper ate a communion wafer: now THAT was a complex issue deserving of much needed hand wringing.

    Getting out of a decades old war (begun when the Liberals were in power) without handing the keys to the country to barbarians who seek to destroy our way of life and use that country as a launchpad….

    Well that should be CLEAR.

  3. If we are ultimately back to what the Liberals initially proposed, it really pisses me off that Canadians were denied the opportunity for debate on the issue.

    It is absolutely inexcusable that this government is not even willing to tell its citizens what it is about to offer, before committing them to our NATO allies.

    Talk about taking the expression " it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission" to the extremes.

  4. "Here Mr. Cannon had bravely laid bare the government's lingering confusion. Here the Foreign Affairs Minister, one of this nation's foremost faces unto the world, confessed to seeing no distinction between sending Canadian soldiers—whatever the exact job description—into a war zone and sending Canadian soldiers to aid another country in its recovery from an earthquake. Thus, perhaps, does everything else make perfect sense"

    I was thinking this myslf, but no where near as pithily.

  5. Hey Chet, I'm not a consummate academic waffler. Is it OK if I ask for some clarity?

  6. Chet isnt interested in answering you.. just wants to get his PMO talking points out there.

  7. "…without handing the keys to the country to barbarians who seek to destroy our way of life and use that country as a launchpad….

    As a launchpad? How? Destroy our way of life? How? The taliban are bastards allright, but the wehrmacht they aint…get some perspective man!

  8. I hope that first picture wasn't one of our acquisitions.

  9. LOL well it's in Kabul.

    Think of it as a 'fixer-upper', or a 'handyman's special'.

  10. Unfortunately, responding to chet is akin to disturbing the bears at the local dump

  11. Tell that to the 3000 people who died on 9-11 at the hands of terrorists trained and exported from terrorist camps in Afghanistan.

  12. Actually they took flight training in the US

  13. A new scandal for the liberals to chase to their (again certain) victory:

    "lack of clarity on Afghan quagmire (gate)".

    I'm calling 30 ginned up posts by Wherry. He's already up to, what, three or four?

    No doubt this will resonate with Canadians just as the preposterous notion of daring to try to shorten a FORTY page census questionaire…now that was pure scandal!!

  14. You can update your software you know….that way you can get the latest talking points and polls instead of having to make do with old complaints.

  15. Well, chet, I think we actually agree on something: the opposition asking questions about the Afghanistan mission is a waste of time. Of course, you think so because you believe the opposition has no legitimate questions to ask. I, however, believe it doesn't matter what the government says, since the Conservatives have shown that they'll cast aside principles and supposedly intractable positions at the drop of a hat, their answers can't be believed.

  16. Pot meet kettle.

  17. Fabulous view – and it's always changing, depending on the bombing.

  18. LOL Thumb-monkeys don't like Tory David Cameron.

  19. Liberals handed Conservatives a full blown war in Southern Afghanistan in 2006 and the Conservatives agreed with that.
    Conservatives thought that the Afghanistan Mission should continue until 2011 and the Liberals agreed.
    Conservatives thought the method of securing Taliban detainees should be improved and I think Liberals approved of that.
    Liberals thought Canada`s role as a training mission in Afghanistan should be continued past 2011 and the Conservatives agreed with that.
    So Iggy furrows his brow
    Wherry spellbounds us with 23 paragraphs of repetitious fluff
    And I`m just bored with it all.

  20. Harper leaves for Lisbon on Thursday. I guess we'll have to wait until he comes back to find out what he's committed us to. Meanwhile, I wish Cannon would just shut up.

  21. You write with a lisp ?

  22. Okay, we'll see you later.

  23. Now that we all know that the PM had various positions on the Afghan mission perhaps now we could talk about the validity of keeping troops in the country for training purposes.
    This issue of what Harper has said on various occasions really serves little purpose. We should be discussing what he has now said and what is the strategy going forward.
    I know there will be those that say I want to give Harper a pass. Not at all. However, what purpose does it serve other than for some partisan advantage. Canadians know what the PM said over the years.

  24. Okay…..that cracked me up! LOL

  25. Its called being pragmatic. Making decisions based on new information or circumstances rather than rigid ideology.
    Why not ask the Libs why they support an extension of the mission for training purposes. The Libs are lucky that Harper is not calling for a vote in the House. Ignatieff would once again be shown to not have control of his caucus.

  26. "Canadians know what the PM said over the years."

    I doubt it. Which is lucky for him really.

  27. At least he's off adscam for the moment…it must have taken meds to get him off that obsession.

  28. "http://www.cbc.ca/checkup/main-blog/2010/11/14/is-canadas-job-in-afghanistan-finished/"

    I thought Terry Glavin had some sensible things to say about he extended mission. As important as giving the Afghan govt a chance to stand on its feet or at least negotiate from a position of strength with the Taliban[ their choice] will be our continued investment in the instruments/architecture of democracy in their country. They face a twin menace – the taliban and the endemic corruption of their government. It's not at all about just defeating the Taliban. I was never an enthusiatic supporter of this war, but neither do i think it makes sense to just walk away now. That would truly be a betrayal of Afganistan and our troops.

  29. And the most successful terrorist attack in the history of terrorist attacks came how close to "destroying our way of life" again?

  30. Hey Aaron,

    Just wanted to point out the great job you do as our Parliamentary decorum watchdog.

    By the way, did Marlene Jennings say anything worthy of mention today?

    Keep up the good work Aaron. You're right on top of this decorum stuff.

  31. Seriously? "New information or circumstances"?

    So, the Afghan army looked totally good to go in 2008, and still did every single day since then, and suddenly, the weekend before last, we discovered that, OMG, they still need more training!!!

    Come on.

  32. This issue of what Harper has said on various occasions really serves little purpose.

    Well, I agree with that, but only because I've now almost completely stopped taking anything the Prime Minister says at face value.

  33. I highly doubt Scott has PMO talking points.

  34. Ah, see.. the problem is that you think hollinm is suggesting they're making decisions based on new information or circumstances that are related to that decision. He never said anything like that.

    Obviously in this case the new circumstances he's speaking of are the recent election of more republicans in the US, and the new information was from a tarot reading from his psychic hair-dresser.

  35. Fair enough, I trust that means that you are now apologizing for calling Martin "Mr. Dithers", and that we can rest assured that you will never again consider any politician to be a flip-flopper?

  36. Jeez chet, try to get over the communion wafer. Almost none of us work for the Halifax Herald or whoever wrote up that silliness. I can't even remember whose religion we were offending or whether it was a good thing. Is there a relationship between communion wafers and Afghanistan that I can't comprehend?

  37. Oh pith off

    ;-)

  38. Good luck with that breath stuff …. with the proper bait you should catch something.
    But with good oral hygiene it shouldn't be a problem … despite the obvious effort it
    takes to work around that foot you seem to have placed there most times.

  39. Are you guys taking the pith out of me?

  40. Hey chet, you know what I like about Wherry? He occasionally replies when questions are directly asked to him in a public discussion forum.

  41. {quiet chuckle]

  42. "Mr. Layton—sensing that something might be allowed to happen without him being allowed an opportunity to properly express his righteous indignation—was thus displeased" – LOL! that's him exactly!

  43. Anyone can "ask questions".

    That's what pundits and academics do for a living.

    Iggy wants to (though he certainly isn't acting like it) take Harper's job.

    What Iggy dares not do is PROVIDE SOLUTIONS – say what he would do if he were in power.

    Much easier to chirp from the sidelines, cheaply, on the most difficult of difficult issues.

    And thereby solidifyin his eternal place in opposition, rather than as a future leader of our government.

    Let the partisan liberals here enjoy the political candy of Iggy's pompous meaningless partisan squawking, while, as ever, Harper carries on with the hard slogging of running this country.

  44. Blue, for you to now suggest that the Conservatives agreed that "a training mission in Afghanistan should be continued past 2011" is absurd.

    When not silent on the issue, the Conservatives have consistently dismissed it.

    SInce the September 2008 vote on extending the Khandahar mission, Harper and his ministers have answered every inquiry about a post 2011 strategy with, "We're outta there." Harper went as far as saying there would be no greater military commitment post 2011 than that needed to protect our embassy and development projects.

    Since September 2008, the opposition has called for a discussion and debate about a post 2011 role for Canada. All summer and into the fall, Harper ignored and played down the Liberal training proposal. Now we see a stunning reversal by Harper.

    Why are Harper's supporters (in and out of government) co comfortable with lying?

  45. "What Iggy dares not do is PROVIDE SOLUTIONS – say what he would do if he were in power. "

    You clearly missed when Harper suddenly announced that Iggy's SOLUTION is the way to go post 2011 Afghanistan. Of course it's being handled in a secretive, ham-fisted way, as is the Conservative's preferred method. Kind of like when Harper was forced to acknowledge a massive recession and adopt Iggy's SOLUTION of stimulus spending, but then managed to not distribute 75% of the funds for more than a year.

    You missed this, or you might be comfortable with lying in support of your party.

  46. This is one issue I can't be help but feel on par with the government.

    They can't be straight because a lot of people oppose the mission because, from my understanding, they simply believe that armed conflicts are bad and if you ignore them they will go away. Or that we're not supposed to be going into another country and tell them that we won't stand by idly while their totaletarian government sponsors terrorists that cause harm.

  47. Ordinarily I don't like to respond to things like this, but wow. Just… wow. Now, while I am tempted to pick this simple-minded, uber-partisan, and shockingly dense post to pieces, I realize that will do nothing. It has been done before to no avail. Instead, I point you to a quick internet life lesson that illustrates your behavior and the inanity of it.

    If this doesn't help you, I hope it helps some others here to prevent further feedings.

  48. The PM's policy and position reversals speak to a credibility issue that is larger than just the Afghan issue, and it suggests the PM is either incompetent or untrustworthy, or a combination of the two. But, fine, let's assume the PM is merely being pragmatic. Let's talk about strategy going forward. The opposition asked questions that, I'd think, most Canadians would want answers to. By the horrible standards of Question Period, I thought these questions were relatively reasonable. Do you know why our armed forces are staying in Afghanistan? Do you know what kind of training is going to be happening? Do you know how much this is going to cost? Do you know how firm the 2014 exit date is? I think we'd all be better served if the government was much more transparent on this file than they have been to date.

  49. An' another thing… what are the goals of the soldiers we're going to leave in Afghanistan? As we've seen, it's all fine and good to come up with a date for departure, but it's also important to know what we hope to achieve while we're there… because if we don't meet those goals, we could be there for longer. And how reliable is the statement that our combat role is ending? Is that subject to change, too? The government says no… but we both know how much that's worth (there's that pesky credibility issue again).

  50. Listen, I`m not interested in getting into a pithing match with you over this. I hate that it will soon be 10 years that we have troops stuck over in Afghanistan. And I wish there had never been a 911. And forget about all that baloney about us being there so little girls get to go to school. We are there and have been there since Day 1 for one reason:
    To not allow the remains of the Taliban to gather there again, massacre defenseless Afghans, plan and carry out a massive terrorist mission, similar to 911 and then rejoice with the results.
    Western leaders including Clinton and Senior Bush are still trying to forgive themselves for indirectly allowing 911 to happen and present leaders like Obama, Harper, and even Ignatieff are determined that they will not be singled out as the one who was somehow indirectly responsible for allowing a future terrorist tragedy to happen.
    Get used to it—-Afghanistan will not be handed over to the bad guys.

  51. Your point goes back to what I said in my earlier posting. Lets talk about the extension versus this other thing. Incompetent or untrustworthy? You are talking about every politician that has held high office. They all for one reason or another change their position on some issues. There is plenty of evidence to support this contention so holding this PM to a higher standard is disingenuous and smacks of partisanship.

    However, having said this I fully agree with your comments. I have complained to my MP and on some of these boards that the communication strategy of the government stinks. On this issue there should have been an announcement by the PM where all the details were laid out including all things Ignatieff and you raised. However, for some reason the government insists on keeping information close to their chests. It is annoying and aggravating to put it mildly.

    Do you know how firm the 2014 exit date is? We thought the 2011 exit date was firm. Circumstances change and so like all things in life there is no guarantee no matter what may be said in 2010.

  52. thwim….lets not get carried away. So you do acknowledge that every politician holding high office at some point reverses his position for whatever reason. So lets not get too high and mighty.

    However, maybe I didn't express myself clear enough. By focusing on the fact that Harper changed his mind there is no real discussion about how the change in position affects Canada and the troops. Obviously the PM has changed his mind and therefore instead of focusing on the change lets focus on what is going to happen in the future in Afghanistan. There are plenty of questions that I have and many others. By writing about the "flip flop" Harper and the government are getting off the hook and not having to explain the "new" mission.

  53. Some of our questions might be answered today… the gov't is going to hold a news conference with some of the mission details.

    Even if we view the government's actions on this file in the most positive light, they've created a credibility problem for themselves. They're holding this news conference today. How much of what they are going to say is something we can take to the bank? We both know how definitive the Tories have been on the Afghan mission — they have given themselves no wiggle room whatsoever. Are we going to hear more 'definitive' statements today that will change a year from now? Hell, they've said that our combat role will end in 2011, but can we even realistically believe that? I hope for their sake they define this mission with clear goals, and a clear method by which those goals will be achieved, and provide a halfway realistic timeline. Even if we accept the pragmatism excuse, they're running out of chances on this thing. It's a lot of blood and a lot of money.

  54. Good…..that is your right. You must be awfully disappointed with every politician who has tried to govern this country over the last 50 years. Feel free to vote NDP. They never change their position and in fact still operate with the same policies grounded in the 1950's.

  55. That's awesome! Excuse me why I puke in my mouth.

  56. you can't have it both ways. You want them to talk and when they talk then you question their credibility and the information they will provide. There is nobody on this earth that can meet that level of expectation. No wonder nothing serious gets done in this country with people like you judging every nuance and every word uttered and God help them if they change their minds.

  57. Oh get off the pot. You do know they were fighting in Southern Afghanistan and were taking casualties for their efforts eh. It has only been laterally that they have been helping with the training. You do know that we are not the lead in Afghanistan and that it is a Nato mission and we only have 2500 troops there? Most of the focus for most of the troops has been fighting the Taliban with not enough troops until the recent surge.

    I think Harper wanted to get out on the timeline he indicated but the international pressure has been significant. He can place caveats, like other countries, on what our troops can and cannot do during the extension.

  58. Don't get any of it on you.

  59. As far as the incompetent or untrustworthy statement… why would the PM and the gov't REPEATEDLY say that our departure date was firm over the past several months, only to change their minds suddenly? Why would they be so firm in that statement, time and time and time again, when it was obvious that the situation might change? I get that politicians will have to change positions to meet changing circumstances… but if the PM and government knew the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, they'd know the firm date wasn't realistic. The end result is a serious credibility problem. People understand pragmatism, but you can't keep going to that well, because people are just going to stop believing anything you have to say — either because they don't believe you anymore, or they don't think you know what you're doing. And I'm certainly not saying the Liberals are any better. I'm just saying there is a credibility problem, and it's getting bigger.

  60. But if our mission goals and outcomes are nebulous and completely open-ended, and our deadlines meaningless, we'd better be asking what we're doing there in the first place. Otherwise, this is going to go on forever.

  61. You made some revisionist (to put it lightly) assertions about the Conservative's position about a post-2011 Canadian mission in Afghanistan. Nothing pithy about it: You were selling smoke.

    While I agree with you that there should never have been a doubt that, once into this dirty war, we'd be there for a very long time, it would have been decent and helpful for the Prime Minister to acknowledge this fact sometime during the past two years. Harper has not.

    Now he suddenly asserts that Canada's military involvement will continue — on the eve of a NATO meeting in Lisbon. And this is also where I depart with your analysis of non-US involvement in Afghanistan: The future of that country (bleak by any measure) is not the core reason Canada or our allies (other than the US) are there. Rather, we are trying to keep NATO from falling apart. Afghanistan may be a costly and ultimately failed attempt at invasion followed by nation-building, but it is not the main game for Canada. The future of NATO is: hence Harper suddenly finding religion on this file on his way to Lisbon (standing in for Damascus).

  62. Under Jack Layton, the NDP changes its positions regularly: to whichever is the opposite of the Liberal position.

  63. So, wait a second, it IS a problem that Michael Ignatieff is not presenting the details of HIS plan for what our training program in Afghanistan should look like, but it's NOT a problem that the Prime Minister isn't presenting the details of the government's plan for what our training program in Afghanistan will actually look like?

    As you say, anyone can ask questions. It's avoiding ever giving any answers that takes real skill.

    I never tire of people holding the Leader of the Opposition to a higher standard than they hold the Prime Minister of Canada though.

  64. they can't be straight because a lot of people oppose the mission

    Ahhhh. So, they're reversing policy but remaining vague and non committal on the details FOR OUR OWN GOOD. Well, OK then. It's different if a politician isn't straight with me because they think I can't handle the truth.

    That's totally acceptable then.

  65. definitely one of the funniest examples of wherry's open bias. he doesn't even try to hide it any more.

  66. The more desperate and inane the response, the more obvious the transgression being defended

  67. Yes of course, b/c Jenning's ridiculous behavior should get equal mention to the 17 questions that were asked to the government about our country's continued involvement in an international conflict.

    Canadians were informed just last week, by the PMO's press secretary that the government has done a 180 on our policy as it relates to the mission – but you are more concerned with making sure that there is mention of a boneheaded comment by a member of the opposition.

    Who the f*&k cares what the hothead had to say – let's demand some answers as to what our troops will be doing past the 2011 end to the combat mission.

    But you are right – this is another example of a "left-wing" media bias.

  68. This is about as useful a comment as all the times people demand that Paul Wells should quit Macleans because the magazine contained an article that they disagree with.

    Or, maybe you're right. Perhaps Marlene Jennings (it's MARLENE JENNINGS for Pete's sake!) calling someone "slime" deserves equal treatment to the fact that basically the entire federal cabinet is refusing to provide any concrete details about the three year Afghanistan mission they're apparently planning to commit our troops to after two years of vociferously arguing that the troops wouldn't be involved at all in Afghanistan after 2011.

    Thankfully, Wherry's now added a post about the Jennings incident, so we can all go back to ignoring the fact that the government just reversed policy on a dime on an international security issue, and yet is refusing to confirm any details to the public about the reversal. So, I know EXACTLY how many times Marlene Jennings used the word slime yesterday, and I have a broad but completely unconfirmed sense of how many troops we're going to have in Afghhanistan after 2011 (turns out – probably more than a couple of embassy guards).

  69. yah, 'cause wherry never ever spends time calling out (conservative) incivility in the house or summarizing the idiotic things (conservative) parliamentarians say. he's always focused on the most important issues of the day.

  70. I'm not interested in that. I simply want to know if you're a hypocrite.. or rather, to be accurate, if you're aware that you're a hypocrite. Because by "let's not get carried away" I assume you're saying, "No, Liberals flip-flopping is still bad, but Harper flip-flopping isn't anything we need to be concerned about, because he's my guy."

  71. Again.. I think this comes back to some of the incredible vitriol we see from Conservative supporters. They still seem to have it in their heads that it's supposed to be opposition governing and coming up with the plans, while the government.. uh.. I'm not sure what they think their representatives are capable of.. clearly governing isn't one of those things.

    That said, if they want the opposition to govern so badly, I'm fine with that

  72. ………and the future of NATO is doomed if we allow another 911-like attack on any of us.

  73. And you know.. sometimes the guys at Starbucks actually have to serve coffee.

    You seem to have fallen under the impression that an MPs job is to get elected. Not that you're entirely to blame, it seems most of the MPs and certainly this government have come to that conclusion as well.

    In actual fact, their job is to govern. And part of governing is making sure that those who are governed have the facts so that they can properly prepare for what's coming.

  74. speaking of incredible vitriol: "I hope your constituents finally realize you for the c*ck-phlegm you are Tony, and I include your wife and family among those constituents." -thwim

    i don't think you should be criticizing, hypocrite.

  75. under Layton, he will take a position where he will get votes…

  76. You should read the papers from other countries … there have been terror attacks against our allies.

    Maybe you missed the transit bombings in the UK?

    And how exactly would a terror attack by a non-state actor rip apart NATO?

  77. You refuse to understand that the attack on Sept. 11, 2001 changed completely how we live with each other on this planet.
    Now I know that there have been terrorist attacks in other countries since 911, however there have been no " 911-like attacks ".
    It is vital that there be no repeat of 911 on any member of an organization like NATO whose main purpose is to protect each other from attack.
    If you cannot understand this then you will be left behind.

  78. I think you can safely assume that if a thwim can get so excitedly profane and insulting about a census form, then there is little point in paying attention to what he might have to say about more serious issues.

  79. "You refuse to understand that the attack on Sept. 11, 2001 changed completely how we live with each other on this planet. "

    Such is the drivel being spouted these days. Politicians who want more power and control would have you believe that 3 planes and 3,000 deaths are the greatest threat the US and, therefore, the entire world have ever faced. We know this is not true. We know that labour riots and anarchist bombs, Pearl Harbor, the Chinese entry into the Korean conflict, race riots, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Lebanon, the bombing of abortion clinics and tax offices, the first WTC attack in 1993, attacks on US embassies and military personnel, and all of the other threats that have arisen, been overcome and been replaced with new threats DO NOT CHANGE EVERYTHING. The biggest threat to our way of life has always been our tendency to tear apart our own rights and laws … doing more self-inflicted damage than any enemy ever could … until we come to our senses.

    Don't misunderstand me: I worked for many years in a defence and national security field and am not Pollyanna about the scope and scale of the threats we face. But hyperbole begets hyperbole. We need pragmatism to win long, unconventional wars. We even have to define when winning isn't the best outcome, if the costs are too high or if the end result is actually a greater threat than the initial problem.

    "If you cannot understand this then you will be left behind."

    If intentional, your end-of-days terminology is telling and scary. If accidental, it's just funny.

  80. Well, this drivel you speak off has provoked 2 wars in the past 9 years and the billions of dollars needed for them plus probably another billions needed for security at airports or any gathering spot, not to mention the unwarranted suspicion of a whole group of people not to mention the time everyone wastes protecting each other, never knowing when the next attack will come and it will come. Yeah, I think 911 has changed our lives.

    By the way, can you give me some concrete examples of how this " tearing apart of our own rights and laws " has changed our lives ? Don`t bother with the Gospel according to The Human Rights Commission.

    …..nothing sinister about the " left behind " phrase…..it just means that the world has changed since your time at defence during the Korean conflict. and Pearl Harbour, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is a new ruthless enemy we face with absolutely no respect for human life. If you choose to overlook that threat, good luck to you,—-just don`t expect the rest of us to spout on about imaginary infringements on our rights and laws.

  81. Fair enough I suppose, but still, I think it's a bit silly to complain in the comments to a column with some substance to it that said column doesn't also include a completely in-substantive point as well. To my mind, it's just makes more sense to complain about Wherry nitpicking about some inanity or another when he focuses on such than it is to complain that Wherry's NOT nitpicking about some other inanity in what is essentially a more substantive piece.

    I also tend to have no problem with someone holding the government and government members to a higher standard than the opposition and opposition members, but that does seem to be a foreign concept to some (like all of the people who were complaining that Ignatieff's post-2011 Afghanistan training mission policy was short on details, but who simultaneously had no problem whatsoever with the dearth of details initially surrounding the post-2011 Afghanistan training policy of the ACTUAL GOVERNMENT OF CANADA).

    I'd also point out that Wherry DID call out Jennings, just not as quickly as some people seem to think he should have. My opinion is simply that if he was late to this particular game, it's just that he was focused on another more important topic first.

  82. But that's Tony Clement!

    He may not be Marlene Jennings, but I'd still put Clement in the same group of Canadian politicians that we should all feel free to mock mercilessly, on any point, and to ridiculous lengths of hyperbole, pretty much free of consequence or censure. We should publish a list/guide to said pols of all parties!

    I mean, it's TONY FREAKIN' CLEMENT!!!

  83. It's universal though:

    "Stephen Harper's Tories can run $56-billion deficits, raise spending to all-time record levels, and grease every Conservative riding with layers of pork; they can abandon Afghanistan, coddle Quebec, and adopt the NDP approach to foreign investment; and still there exists in people's minds another Conservative party, somewhere, for whom these policies are anathema."

  84. Well, this drivel you speak off has provoked 2 wars in the past 9 years and the billions of dollars needed for them plus probably another billions needed for security at airports or any gathering spot, not to mention the unwarranted suspicion of a whole group of people not to mention the time everyone wastes protecting each other, never knowing when the next attack will come and it will come.

    I do think there's an argument to be made that, in retrospect, the above constitutes a pretty astonishing overreaction to 9/11 (as horrible as 9/11 was, and as understandable as that reaction may have been). In that context, I think your argument could be construed as suggesting "Look, we probably overreacted to 9/11, but if we don't CONTINUE to overreact, we're all doomed!!!"

  85. Now you`re talking—this has been a complete over reaction.
    Cancel those full body scanners.
    Forget the full body searches.
    Show up at the airport 5 minutes before your flight—everybody flies naked.
    Everybody out of Afghanistan—we`re comin home. It`s all yours . Good luck.

  86. Agree 100%! I just don't like Layton anymore, lost ALL respect I had for him.

  87. Tell me, did I criticize conservatives for their vitriol? Or did I merely observe that it's there? Observation is when I point out that you obviously don't have a working understanding of the difference between the two. Criticism is when I call you a lazy moron for not figuring that out before your post.

    Now, it would be hypocrisy if I said such vitriol was a bad thing. Personally though, it doesn't bother me either way, as my own post you quote — or hell.. probably most of my posting history — points out. To me, harsh words are an indication of depth of feeling. The only real problem with them is sometimes they get tiresome if not done creatively.

  88. observation of vitriol goes like this: "we see vitriol from conservatives".
    criticism of vitriol goes like this: "we see incredible vitriol from conservatives", since "incredible" means "hard to believe" and thus implies "inappropriate". unless of course you meant that it's hard to believe conservatives are engaging in vitriol since they're normally much classier than you, which i admit is a very reasonable position but which i doubt you're capable of seeing without professional assistance.

    to me, vitriol gets tiresome when its most fetid purveyor tries to suggest that he holds the moral high ground. the wearisome aspects are enlivened, however, when he then makes a transparently dishonest and comically clumsy attempt to back away from the moral high ground after being confronted with his own squalor.

    so to review: observation is "there is vitriol". criticism is "there is incredible vitriol". ineptitude is "i wasn't actually criticizing it, i like vitriol, and you're a lazy stupid-head so there". creativity is none of the above.

  89. LOL. Christ, with a reach like that I trust you play tennis.

    Seriously, you're arguing that adding an adjective to an observation makes it criticism? Well.. I suppose if you live in a world where everything is black and white, there's no room for different levels, is there? One of the things I must admit I hate about you pricks, it's your constant semantic games. You're so sensitive if the word isn't the exact right meaning that you assign it. Perhaps in this case, you should consider that incredible also has the connotation of extreme, without any "hard to believe" about it.

    Of course, I'd really like it if you stop trying to assign positions to me I've never claimed. I mean, I understand it's harder to build those scarecrows you guys like to burn down so often if you stick to the truth, but you might consider it on occasion. For instance, I've never claimed to hold the moral high ground. That presupposes some sort of belief in an objective morality, which I've flatly denied on a few occasions around here.

    At best, I've laid claim to a logical high-ground, though I'll admit that even that can be in doubt at times.. such as now when I wonder why I bothered responding here rather than to a brick wall, because the brick wall would learn the same amount but be less likely to respond with something completely idiotic.

    Oh.. and yes.. that was criticism.

  90. it's like arguing with a six-year old, but vastly more repulsive.

    yah, seriously, like, totally, i'm arguing that adding ad adjective to an observation can make it criticism. exhibit a: "you are a commenter" = an observation. "you are a noxious commenter" = a criticism (and also an observation). see how that works?

    you've never claimed the moral high ground. well that's good to know because i was beginning to think that all these admonitions to the "pricks" not to play "semantic games" and burn down "straw men" rather than "sticking to the truth" was something of the sort. luckily you've set me straight.

    if there's something worse than a mephitic commenter, it's a mephitic commenter who also manages to combine complete arrogance with the utter inability to remain consistent from one comment to the next. keep up the good work though – i'm sure everyone who reads your nauseating muck is well and truly turned off from the positions you espouse.