As I wrote last week Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre is staging his own fact-finding trip to Afghanistan after the Conservative government, playing politics, refused to extend to the defence critic of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition the privilege of an official trip. He leaves Pakistan for Afghanistan today on a UN flight.
Mr. Coderre told CTV NewsNet in an interview Saturday he's been asking for months to go, but repeated calls to the defence minister asking for permission were ignored or rejected.There were two interesting developments on this front this week.
So he said he decided unilaterally to go on the fact-finding trip and report back to Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion in preparation for his own future trip to the war-torn country.
“I took my responsibility. I have a duty, I have a job to do. I am the critic for... the official Opposition,” he said. It's important, I would say, to make sure that we fully participate and contribute to the debate. So I'm gonna let them play their petty politics and I'll do my job.”
Firstly, while the Conservatives continually ignored Coderre’s requests through official channels for official visit, a visit the Cons have continually attacked Liberals for not taking, they sent ministers Maxime Bernier and Bed Oda over to Afghanistan this week for a visit. It would seem this is Harper’s personal war, and while government photo-ops are a-ok, factfinding visits by opposition politicians are verboten. Mustn’t mess with the government narrative, after all.
One of the cabinet ministers visiting Afghanistan to meet with that country's leadership and Canadian troops says that roadside and suicide bombings in Kabul indicate that the situation is improving in the country.
Umm, yeah. I’ve not since being surprised by Conservative hypocrisy and classlessness, so it’s hard to be to be too surprised by their willingness to play politics with the war in Afghanistan. To send Bernier and Oda just after stories about they’re blocking Coderre’s trip does display a surprising level of both arrogance and political tone deafness, however.
The second development this week was more surprising, and at the same time not. But it would seem NDP leader Jack Layton has sided with the Conservatives on this issue:
In Toronto, federal NDP Leader Jack Layton had criticism for Mr. Coderre's solo trek.I’m sure our military leadership would be surprised to learn Layton feels we should respect their judgment. I won’t bother expanding on the obvious hypocrisy of that statement. I know I’m surprised to hear Layton parroting Blogging Tory talking points.
“Involving individual MPs in a sort of ‘stunt-like' visit does pose risks.... I'm not on the ground to assess that. But you have to respect the judgement of our military leadership,” Mr. Layton told CTV NewsNet.
And like them, he’s wrong. The blocking of Coderre was not a military decision. It was a political decision made by the Conservative defence minister and, more likely, Stephen Harper’s office. That’s who you’re providing political cover to here Jack. Are you that desperate to score points against the Liberals you're getting in bed with the Conservatives on an issue where they're obviously full of crap?
No matter how petty the Conservatives and NDP may be back in Canada, I’m certain our military leadership in Afghanistan will respect Coderre’s position and his purpose and let him see what’s happening on the ground. I look forward to his report.
UPDATE: Steve is on the same page. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers