I had fully intended on writing an April Fool’s article this morning; I had even managed to get as far as writing a few paragraphs when I realized my heart wasn’t in it. Perhaps it’s because so many of the headlines in recent days have been such that nothing I could have written could compete with reality for surrealism and inanity.
If I had written as dialogue some of the things that have come out of people’s mouths in recent days, I would have been laughed at for being so unrealistic, paranoid, or just plain crazy. Maybe these things aren’t funny in that sidesplitting way we like to associate with April Fool’s, more like funny in the, “holy, I can’t believe this is happening” kind of way.
Look at the Conservative Party of Canada for instance. They were elected on January 23rd, 2006, and they haven’t bothered to call Parliament to deal with two fairly important issues having to do with international relations. It seems they have discovered the secret of dealing with a minority government’s precarious position by the simple expedient of delaying a sitting of the House of Commons as long as possible.
One of the issues that Canadian politicians are not being given a say in is our increased military presence in Afghanistan. When Prime Minister Harper was questioned about a debate on the issue in the House, he claimed that a debate would only risk the lives of soldiers.
The very strange thing is that he has full party support for the Canadian Army in Afghanistan. What some are concerned about is our increasingly active role as aggressors instead of peacekeepers. Maybe what he is worried about is the fact that he doesn’t have much public support. A poll conducted last February found that 62% of Canadians were against sending troops to Afghanistan, and 73% were in favour of having Parliament voting on the issue.
While the Prime Minister wants people to believe this is a reaction to the increase in casualties that Canadian troops have experienced in the last month, the poll was taken in mid-February, before our soldiers were repositioned onto the front lines. Even better was the pollster’s remark, a former Conservative party advisor, that the results show that Canadians obviously don’t know enough to make an informed decision.
So on one hand you have the Prime Minister of Canada accusing his people of being cowardly, and on the other a Conservative party pundit saying the people are ignorant and don’t know how to make decisions. Is this some new strategy they have developed for wooing voters? Some sort of reverse psychology trick where they heap abuse on the people whose support they want for their policies? I can see why they don’t want to take the issue before Parliament. With an attitude like that they could alienate the opposition parties and be out on their ear after the first vote.
Canadian troops have been in Afghanistan for a long time now, and the public has had a lot of information about the situation there, and the role our troops are being asked to play. Canadians do not, as rule, feel comfortable with our troops in an aggressive role in a conflict. As the poll suggests, we are much happier when our troops are serving in the peacekeeping role that has earned them the respect of nations around the world.
It took us years to reclaim that respect after we agreed to be participants in the first Gulf War back in 1990. It was not until we made the choice not to join the Coalition in Iraq that people remembered we were more than just an extension of American foreign policy. No offence to any of my American friends reading this, but no country wants to be seen as someone who just apes their neighbour. (Anyway, the only way we could have participated in Iraq was by withdrawing our commitment from somewhere else in the world. We simply didn’t have the resources available; never mind that the majority of our population was against involvement.)
If you’re interested in a good source for information on Canada’s role in Afghanistan, including a military assessment from our Chief of Staff General Rick Hillier, The Globe and Mail newspaper has put together their version of a master post that provides links to almost everything that has been written in the last month, in their paper, on the subject.
The second major foreign policy decision that the Conservative government made without consulting Parliament was to cut aid to the Palestinian Authority. This makes Canada the first country after Israel to cut aid to the new Hamas led government.
Even the American government knows better than to do that. Without that threat to dangle over the heads of Hamas, what chance have any of the governments outside of the area of forcing Hamas’ hand when it comes to peace talks? Cut off all aid to them, and they will just say screw it, and not even bother to negotiate peace.
Once they get over the initial euphoria of having won the election, they are going to realize that they need Israel far more than Israel needs them. Where else are their people going to get employment? Who else has the technological expertise to help them set up farming communities in the desert?
Like Arafat before them, they will soon realize that angry rhetoric won’t provide jobs for their people, or put food on anyone’s table. It won’t open universities, build hospitals, or even public schools. Without peaceful relations with their neighbour they will not survive long. They will also soon learn that no one has patience for suicide bombers anymore, and that retaliatory raids from Israel can’t be used to generate sympathy except among the naïve and gullible.
Governments need to take a stick and carrot approach with Hamas, not just cut them off unilaterally in a vain attempt to woo the Jewish vote in the rich suburbs outside of Toronto who voted Liberal in the last election. This was an issue that should have been subject to an all-party debate.
When a government has a minority mandate, they should not be making unilateral moves in this manner on issues of importance. They didn’t receive the endorsement of the country to act on their own on any matter. The people of Canada elected a minority government because they did not trust any one party to rule the country by themselves. They expect in those situations for the House of Commons to play an active role in the decision making process.
Finally, from this past week, comes an all time low from a Conservative member of Parliament. As has been widely reported in the Canadian press, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made it perfectly clear he doesn’t want any members of his caucus talking to the press, or releasing statements to the press without getting them cleared by his office.
Much like in the election, he’s trying to make sure that his lunatic fringe is muzzled and doesn’t come out with any comments that might scare away moderate voters. Well, with Mr. Harper out of the country in Mexico meeting Presidents Bush and Fox, somebody got past the protective cordon.
On Thursday of this week Colin Mayes sent an article to his community’s newspaper which included this statement: “Maybe it is time that we hauled off in handcuffs reporters that fabricate stories, or twist information and even falsely accuse citizens.”
Interestingly enough, this statement was in reaction to people complaining about Mr. Harper limiting access to his cabinet ministers, and comparing those actions to those of a totalitarian state. It’s certainly the sign of a great thinker that he would counter such arguments with threatening to jail members of the press who say things like that. Nothing totalitarian about threatening to jail the press is there?
One could almost feel sorry for Mr. Harper. He’s tried so hard to keep the kooks in his party under wraps to make him and his people look statesmen like, and not scary to the moderates who might be wavering between him and the Liberal party. I would suggest muzzles and duct tape from now on, but that might not look good.
Perhaps an electrical buzzer implanted in a sensitive spot that is connected to the nervous system, or at least the parts that control speech. Whenever one of them opens their mouth to talk they will receive an electrical jolt to remind them to keep their mouth shut.
Like I said at the beginning, sometimes there is no need for April Fool’s articles. The world, especially the world of Canadian politics, is a strange enough place on its own.