Canada Foreign Policy
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
 

Stealth

When I write about conspiracy theories, and that’s seldom, I do so strictly, only, for the purposes of entertainment. Unfortunately in the past I’ve had some people take me a little too seriously when I’ve slipped into that mode. So to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings, I need to make clear from the outset that my intent here is to, mainly, entertain. I stress ‘mainly’ since no conspiracy theory is entirely devoid of factual content; they’re just mostly suffering from its lack, which results in entirely too much creativity when analysis is attempted.

There are two separate issues I want to address. First, what happened in Ottawa over the past week or so and, second, the very important and perhaps somehow related implications that that has on Canadian foreign policy.

Now I don’t recall the source, but I seem to remember some years ago at least one writer/analyst referring to Canada as a “post-modern” state. I did not and still do not have a clear idea what that means, but there may just be a connection with the concept of post-modern performance art. I say this because of how recent events over the past 5-6 weeks, culminating in a no confidence vote, have been variously described. Some have opted to say events represented a clear break with tradition, something altogether new. Others, less charitable, have dubbed Ottawa affairs a circus, a farce, a comic-opera, while still others have used a whole host of unflattering terms.

So it may well be that Canadians are truly living in a post-modern political climate. How we got here isn’t really all that certain. But what happened is all too established. It seems to have hinged on Tory rage and moral indignation at what corruption and wrongdoing the Gomery Commission was uncovering. At some stage, Tory leader Stephen Harper decided this was simply all too much, and that the Liberals had lost the moral authority to govern. Linking morality and politics would be Harper’s undoing, and he should have seen that. In any event, the sovereigntist Bloc agreed it was time for the Liberals to go. The fact the Bloc appears likely to sweep Quebec if an election were called right now really explains Gilles Duceppe’s eagerness to face the electorate. The other social democratic party, Jack Layton’s New Democrats, sided with the Liberals. Layton did profess his disgust with what was being unearthed by Gomery, but concluded the timing for an election was off. Big labour’s lack of preparedness to face the polls ensured the NDP would lobby for changes to the budget legislation, and the gamble worked. In order to secure Layton’s backing, PM Martin succumbed, and amendments amounting to an opening wide of the purse strings were included.

But things looked tense for a while. The outcome of any confidence vote would depend on a handful of independents. For days, the contest seemed too close to call. And then came the bombshell. On 17 May 2005, high-profile Tory MP and novice parliamentarian Belinda Stronach crossed the floor, joined the Liberal Party. Her reward, becoming the newest Minister of Human Resources. She defended her actions by stating she did it all for the country. The Tories, out of control, had made an alliance with the Bloc that threatened national unity. It was the case that “The country must come first…I cannot exaggerate how hard this was for me, but the political crisis affecting Canada is too risky and dangerous for blind partisanship,” said Stronach [cited in “Conservative Stronach Joins Liberals,” CBC News, 18 May 2005. Posted at http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/05/17/stronach-liberals050517.html].

There were two key motions before the House on 19 May 2005. The first, dealing with the original budget, passed without any problem. The second, dealing with the amendments, resulted in a tie, broken only after the Speaker kept with tradition and sided with the government. Stronach’s vote, along with that of independent Chuck Cadman, proved indispensable. But even more importantly, Stronach’s behaviour demonstrated that Harper could not rule his caucus. Stephen Harper, it is suggested by some, dictates with an iron fist. Not a problem, if one remembers to wrap the iron fist in a velvet glove, if only every so often. It appears Harper may still be asking what a velvet glove is. Instead of continuing to dwell on alleged Liberal improprieties, could Harper not have done the obvious political thing? If the Liberals had lured Stronach, what’s to keep the Tories from welcoming two defectors from Liberal or NDP ranks? Impossible? What am I missing? Are Tories unable to welcome outsiders just because of philosophical differences, or is there an awareness and wariness of Harper’s style of forging caucus consensus?

In effect, what the Canadian political elite did, our Illuminati, was to suggest they would rather tolerate a Belinda Stronach crossing the floor than allowing Stephen Harper to bring down the government at this time. Is there any more direct way of saying that Harper’s political leadership is unwelcome in the circles that matter? Would the same have happened if in fact Harper were adept at managing diverging opinions and ideas that do not readily accord with his own? Would the result have been the same if the Tories were capable of making a distinction between politics and morality? I’ve been asked and have asked why the Conservatives fail to employ even the most basic strategies that might improve their electoral fortunes. For instance, why doesn’t Harper spend much more time in Atlantic Canada and Quebec, where he’s unknown? And why doesn’t Deputy Leader Peter MacKay spend much more time in the West and British Columbia, where he remains an unknown commodity? Maybe MacKay has just figured these things out. Is he, in fact, waging his own stealth campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party? When Stronach walked across the floor, she tossed not only the Tories, but also her personal relationship with MacKay. For his part, the Maritime Tory handled the whole affair with all the new age sensitivity and brooding befitting a post-modern leader. At one point he mentioned he would wish his former colleague well, and said he would retreat to his property back home to pet the family dog, a being that truly understands the meaning of loyalty. MacKay, seemingly only one sack of granola, a pair of sandals, and a T-Shirt declaring SAVE THE RAINFOREST short of broad appeal on the West coast, may indeed have launched his own stealth campaign last week, whether or not that was the intent.

None of the above should even suggest that recent Liberal successes are viewed uncritically by the Illuminati. It’s unlikely they regard Prime Minister Martin as a political genius, without whom our confederation is doomed. Should liberalism face another crisis, should that ideology fall on hard times, it’s impossible to imagine the Illuminati interrupting a working crisis-management meeting until Martin can make the time to attend. Nevertheless, his dithering is proving useful. While he and the Liberals continue to talk about foreign policy, reiterating Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping, the real task of getting involved in world conflicts can plough ahead unimpeded, by stealth. With any luck, the public at large is diverted and soothed by rhetoric of peacekeeping and declarations of a world teetering on democratization, while the real work gets done.

In the 25 April 2005 issue of the National Post there appears Chris Wattie’s Afghanistan piece, “Avoiding ‘the Big Bad Americans.’” Wattie says, quoting unnamed military sources, “Hundreds of Canadian soldiers [are] preparing to deploy to restive southern Afghanistan this summer [and] will likely be housed at a significant distance from a large, well-protected U.S. base ‘for reasons of optics.’” Canadians are, to be sure, already in Afghanistan. But Wattie writes about the southern part of the country. And could that be just about peacekeeping? According to the Post description of the place, areas just outside of the city of Kandahar are where "the security situation remains tenuous at best.” Defence Minister Bill Graham is cited, as he had “speculated last February that in addition to the PRT Canada could send a battle group -- between 700 and 1,200 troops -- to the Kandahar region early next year to join Task Force Bronco in combat operations.”

Finally there’s the case of Africa’s war-torn Darfur region. Only a few short weeks ago Ottawa said Canada was prepared to spend some $170 million in assistance and to deploy at least 100 military intelligence officers. In very short order, the message sent back was thanks, but NO thank you. According to reports that surfaced around the middle of the month, Martin’s old friend Moammar Gadhafi could instead go ahead with his mediation efforts. According to one source, “Seven African leaders meeting in the Libyan capital have rejected any intervention by non-African countries in Sudan's western Darfur region, and have authorized Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to carry on trying to get conflicting parties to reach a settlement” [cited in CP, 17 May 2005]. Now, did the PM’s old friend Gadhafi really have to tell Martin that Canada’s resources could be put to a different, perhaps better, use?

Stan Markotich
Send comments to stanmarkotich@yahoo.com

 
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A discussion of geopolitics and Canada's role in the world. A series of essays to examine the components of Canadian foreign policy making. Psychological, sociological, historical, and cultural variables impacting Canada's perceptions of the world.

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