Jack and Gilles
If you thought Canada’s military is overstretched, under funded, and barely capable of making its commitments in places like Afghanistan, you’d be wrong. At least, that could be what NDP leader Jack Layton might have you believe. Layton, who used to advocate that Ottawa needs to send peacekeepers to Darfur, has accessed “an internal government document obtained through access to information laws that he said shows that Canada has military capacity to spare.” Good news for Darfur? Well, not necessarily, as Layton now argues Ottawa could dispatch up to 1,200 peacekeepers to help enforce the Lebanon ceasefire. “We have the capacity, but the prime minister hasn't said so…We have asked the Harper government to, first of all, tell the truth.” According to Harper, Canadians are demanding that peacekeeping role in the Middle East: “It's an important objective for Canadians…They want Canada to be concerned with peacekeeping” [CP, 28 August 2006. Story posted at CTV News at http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060828/lebanon_troops_060828/20060828?hub=Canada].
Before this July, chances were that no parliamentary leader would think too seriously of turning his attention to foreign affairs as way of lifting party fortunes at the Tories’ expense. But Layton isn’t the only one to come to the conclusion that exploiting foreign policy issues may help at the polls.
Leader of the Bloc Quebecois, Gilles Duceppe, now says the honeymoon with the Conservatives is over. And, he insists, the Tories have no one to blame but themselves and their “amateurism.” In fact, Duceppe suggests Tory ineptitude will prompt Quebec voters to re-examine their support for the Harper government, and when the next election is called Conservatives should not be surprised if their base in La Belle Province were to evaporate.
This time, it isn’t only social policy that might sink Harper. According to Duceppe, Harper is making critical errors in foreign policy, mistakes which promise only to alienate the PM from the average Quebec voter. “He’s [Harper’s] aligning himself more and more with (U.S. President George) Bush and that goes against Quebec’s values,” says Duceppe. It is the cocktail, the combination of social and foreign policies that may prove lethal: “Duceppe cited as examples the war in Afghanistan, Harper’s rejection of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, the idea of making 10-year-olds criminally responsible and the unresolved problem of the so-called fiscal gap between the federal government and the provinces. ..The Bloc leader also said the war in Lebanon shows the gulf between Quebecers and Harper, who showed strong support for Israel at the start of the month-long war” [cited from ‘Honeymoon Over, Duceppe Tells Harper,’ CP, 28 August 2006. Story reprinted by The Toronto Star
and posted at http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&pubid=968163964505&cid=1156758429034&col=968705899037&call_page=TS_News&call_pageid=968332188492&call_pagepath=News/News].
But just how well would Duceppe fare in a foreign policy debate? Undoubtedly he would not be without his critics. Already his appearance in Montreal on 6 August 2006 at what has been dubbed a “pro-Hezbollah” demonstration has attracted attention and drawn fire. Alan Baker, Israel’s ambassador to Canada, upbraided the Bloc leader for his participation in the rally, sending a letter noting “shock and disappointment” and saying “I find it inconceivable that the leader of a major Canadian political party lends support and associates his name and that of his party, to a demonstration that glorifies a terror organization that has been outlawed in Canada and that shamelessly seeks the elimination of the state of Israel” [quoted in John Ward’s ‘Israeli Ambassador Blasts Bloc Leader for Joining Hezbollah March,’ CP, 15 August 2006. Story reprinted in The National Post
and posted at http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=cab5bb68-304d-454d-ba46-e38893829eec&k=46662
Posted by Stan Markotich
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