Dion, Stornoway and Laurier Club Liberals

Last night, members of the Liberal Party’s elite “Laurier Club” assembled at the residence of the Leader of the Official Opposition. The venue was the Stornoway mansion and the event was a garden party.

First, what is the Laurier Club?

The Laurier Club is a national organization made up of business executives, community leaders and those interested in sustaining the Liberal Party who also support the principles of parliamentary democracy and are interested in the public policy decisions affecting the lives of the citizens of Canada.

Individual membership contribution is $1000 and is in good standing for a period of twelve months starting on the sign up date. Membership does not include contributions made to local ridings, candidates, leadership and nomination contestants. Members can choose to make a one time gift or sign up for monthly contributions.

Laurier Club Members will:

* Receive invitations to Laurier Club functions with representatives of the Liberal Party of Canada;
* Attend Laurier Club functions in any region of the country;
* Attend any Party fundraising event at cost

Sounds like lots of fun for any Liberal, however, it was a Laurier Club event and to attend you must have been paid up to the Liberal Party of Canada to the tune of $1000 (if you’re under 30, you can get in for $500)

Stornoway is the property of the National Capital Commission (ie. the government). It’s not illegal to use government property in this way as a perk for top donors to a political party per se, but is it ethical?

The Prime Minister does not assemble top donors for parties or hold fundraisers for the Conservative Fund at 24 Sussex.

However, former Liberal leaders Bill Graham, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien have used Stornoway and 24 Sussex to fête top Liberal Party donors in the past.

Misfire on O’Connor

Lately, in the House of Commons, Defense Minister Gordon O’Connor has found himself facing attack from the opposition benches for something he assumed was true regarding reporting of the treatment of Afghan detainees by the Afghan government.

Minister O’Connor erroneously stated that the Canadian government would be updated as to the status of detainees by an overseeing body (the International Committee of the Red Cross) after transfer to the Afghani government.

The Minister has publicly corrected the record:

OTTAWA – I would like to respond to the article in the Globe & Mail of March 8 entitled “Red Cross contradicts Ottawa on detainees”

At the outset, I would like to clarify one point. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has indeed carried out several visits to detainees in temporary Canadian custody in Kandahar. This is consistent with Canada’s commitment to cooperate with the ICRC in fulfilling its mandated responsibilities under international humanitarian law to monitor conditions of detention.

On December 18, 2005, the previous Liberal government signed an arrangement with the Government of Afghanistan regarding the transfer of detainees from the Canadian Forces to the Afghan authorities. As per this arrangement, we continue to transfer all persons detained by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan to Afghan authorities, and to notify the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The article makes reference to comments that I made in the House of Commons last May. It was my understanding that the ICRC could share information concerning detainee treatment with Canada. I have recently learned that they would in fact provide this information to the detaining nation, in this case Afghanistan. …

It appears that the Minister received some bad information.

The Liberals have seized upon the mistake in a press release issued on their website:

…Earlier this month Mr. O’Connor was forced to admit his assertions that the International Committee of the Red Cross would notify Canada of any mistreatment of prisoners in Afghan custody were false. The Red Cross is not required to notify Canada concerning the treatment of detainees transferred to Afghan prisons, and unlike Britain and the Netherlands, Canada has not retained the right to verify that transferred detainees receive proper treatment. …

The Liberals are piling on O’Connor for his mistaken impression. The Liberals, if they had been in power would not have made the same mistake, would they? Perhaps they would have ignored the assertions of departmental officials and bureaucrats regarding the ICRC and Afghan detainees.

Consider a National Defence Joint Doctrine Manual on the topic of how to handle detainees in international operations. On page 133, in a section titled “The Transfer of Prisoners of War”, section 2c states:

Even after PW (prisoner of war) captured by Canada have been transferred to the custody of another nation, there is still a residual responsibility placed on Canada regarding their treatment. If the Government of Canada is notified by the Protecting Power, usually the ICRC, that the Detaining Power to whom the PW have been transferred is not complying with the provisions of the GCs (Geneva Conventions), Canada has a duty to correct the problem, or to take the PW back into Canadian custody.

It appears that the Minister may have received bad advice from the department officials and one should conclude that the error is not reflective of the competence of Minister O’Connor.

How long has this incorrect, official government document been floating through the system?

Since August 1st, 2004. This is long before O’Connor took over as Minister of Defense. In fact, a Liberal Defense Minister (Bill Graham) was operating under an erroneous policy since the time this document was drafted (perhaps earlier).

It would seem that the fault on this issue lies with department bureaucrats rather than our Conservative and Liberal Defense Ministers.

UPDATE: In case you may be wondering, the Joint Doctrine Manual cited above is, to this date, the CF authority on PW and detainee handling. Of course, it is now known to contain false information which may lead current and future Defense Ministers down the wrong path.

Liberal meltdown

This week was the first week back after a break for Canada’s New Government. Climate change was expected to lead the agenda as it seems to be the sole issue on which the Liberals care to define themselves. Conservatives rose to power promising to clean up government after the most significant corruption scandal in Canadian history. The Liberals think that they’ll rise to power cleaning up… Carbon dioxide and water vapour? Canadians have perceived Harper delivering on the Federal Accountability Act while Canadians believe that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals will deliver on climate change.

In fact, I believe that this underlines a key weakness in Liberal messaging. While polling has shown that the environment is a top priority for Canadians, they’re not about to throw out the government on the issue when they actually go to the polls. If heathcare — an issue which actually has a direct effect on the life and death of Canadians — can be taken off the ballot of the electorate by a couple of weeks of warm weather in Toronto, it would seem that there aren’t any pressing issues that are really on the minds of Canadians. “Environment? Sure that sounds like something I should care about”

Unless a hurricane hits Toronto killing scores of people, the electorate is not about to uproot a government to install the old guard led by a sponsorship-era cabinet minister with no real record on the only issue on which he has chosen to define himself.

That’s why this week’s messaging was so puzzling. At the beginning of this week, a protester braved the freezing temperatures of downtown Ottawa to stretch out to play the part of a sunbathing polar bear. One wonders if the protester only had the suit rented for that day.

Liberals were sporting green ribbons in the House this week,
presumably to show that they care about the environment. Since Dion’s election as Liberal leader, the Liberal website has also incorporated a splash of green. Apparently this is to make it known that our Liberal friends care about the environment so long as the vehicle for their environmentalism is the Kyoto protocol. According to the popular narrative these days, one does not believe in saving the environment if one does not believe in a global, bureaucratic, statist wealth transfer agreement. In fact, one also does not believe in the science of climate change if one does not also believe in such a one world collectivist approach to saving the Earth from certain doom (according to our latest amended models). In fact, while Michael Ignatieff was lecturing the government to meet global Kyoto targets, the green ribbon-clad Ignatieff had his own words thrown back at him when environment minister John Baird quoted Ignatieff questioning Kyoto by saying “nobody knows what Kyoto is or what it commits us to”.

Thursday afternoon, Mark Holland, part of the new Liberal rat pack, had a meltdown (actually he didn’t flinch) when he said on Charles Adlers’ show that a Liberal government would control oil sands development in Alberta. Sacrificing the Canadian economy just because green has become fashionable will have Canadians thinking twice about the Liberal party. (The Liberal Party of Canada is already dead to Albertans).

Earlier on Thursday, Dion had a poor question period performance as he bizarrely stated that Harper was “paralyzing the world” when it came to Kyoto. Somebody ought to proofread Dion’s notes before QP, but I imagine this would be a difficult talk as I hear that Dion is very top-down in his approach and has no time for criticism from his staff.

All in all, a bit of a bizarre week for the Liberals on their climate communications. We heard some whispers about an old Harper letter calling Kyoto a “socialist scheme”, but the Liberals didn’t seem to get any mileage on it.

Why would the Liberals spend this frigid week lecturing the Conservatives on the global warming file (one on which they themselves have a dismal record). Is there really nothing else to talk about? Did the Liberals really spend the week telling Canadians “We got nothing”?

BONUS BAD MESSAGING: Bill Graham demanded Conservative action on Guantanamo Bay, a bizarre request given that Graham was foreign affairs minister in the years after 9/11.

Also, Dion called Harper fat?