Hidden Agenda redux!

Good times are here again! The Liberals have released an attack YouTube (not an ad, just earned media bait — full irony understood here). The video implies Canada is acting like a third world country:

“Cover-up: a description far more familiar to other countries, until now.”

Cover-ups. Where have we heard this before?

[It] shocked the Canadian public and brought to light internal problems in the Canadian [Forces]. Military leadership came into sharp rebuke after a CBC reporter received altered documents, leading to allegations of a cover up. Eventually a public inquiry was called. [It was] controversially cut short by the government…

Is this today’s story of alleged (yes alleged) torture in of Afghans in Afghanistan by Afghans? No. This was about Somalia. This was about Canadians. This was about a cover-up by a Liberal government.

Today, Afghan detainees, one allegedly beaten with a shoe by an Afghan prison guard, is (allegedly!) throwing the country into madness. This is not Canada’s Abu Ghraib as some Liberal strategists have regrettably suggested.

Get the scandal playbook! Look up Chapter 3: What did you know and when did you know it?

The Liberal ad continues:

“When questions arose about what he and his government knew about torture in Afghanistan, Stephen Harper shut down Parliament.”

Flashback to Michael Ignatieff in a New York Times magazine op-ed piece, May 2, 2004:

“To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war.”

And for full context, we know that Michael Ignatieff has since climbed down on the Iraq war, and called it a mistake. And torture? Well, that was intellectual pretzel making, his defenders will say. He has, afterall, grappled with the issue and has come around to the fact that torture is wrong. We think.

Kady O’Malley, then at Macleans got the federal party leaders’ current positions on torture before this latest resurgence of this old story,

Michael Ignatieff:

“His current view is the same view he held as a renowned human rights expert who helped author the Responsibility to Protect: he is opposed.”

Case closed? Seems good enough for some reporters.

And Stephen Harper?

“The Prime Minister unequivocally condemns torture in all its forms. Canada is a signatory to both the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

Good enough for others?

And the prorogation of Parliament? Was this to “cover-up torture” in Afghanistan? The Liberal line is a classic political attack from days gone by: “we don’t know, he just won’t say”.

Much has been said of prorogations and their history. Shutting down Parliament at the apparent whim of a Prime Minister should perhaps open up a broader debate about the use of this power, and those that prorogue may incur the political cost that goes along with it whether large or small. But while we’re on the topic of Parliament and the apparent upset that prorogation has caused some Canadians, surely the dissolution of Parliament at a Prime Minister’s whim should be much worse shouldn’t it?

Flashback to 2000, Jean Chretien in a comfortable majority not only padlocked parliament, shut it down, cast aside committees and put up a chain link fence, but he also fired all MPs from their job and made them reapply, just because Stockwell Day was weak and ready to be slaughtered (he was).

And to 2008 when Stephen Harper, despite his own fixed election date law, called an election citing the log jammed committees in Parliament. Granted, the law allowed for an early election to be called if Parliament could not proceed smoothly, but despite this subjective test for maneuvering within the law and straight into an election, opponents called it crass opportunism because Stephen Harper perceived Stephane Dion to be weak and ready to be slaughetered (he was).

So, does prorogation cause anger and if so, does it amount to a high political price to be paid by whomever invokes it? And yet, dissolution is in effect, Prorogation Plus. Prime Ministers have been accused of political opportunism in the past and will be accused of political opportunism in the future. And if opportunism is the currency of politics, who knew that in Canadian politics we’d see… politics?

The question remains. Is this an unusual time in Canadian politics? Does prorogation cause more upset than dissolution? Are we in a place where down is up and black is white in Canadian politics? If so, does Michael Ignatieff perceive the Prime Minister to be weak and ready to be slaughtered in an election?

I have my doubts.

And Michael Ignatieff? He has his own.

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