Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Jeff wonders if Harper really gets Canadians

With my one-day political blogging hiatus over, and my stomach full of turkey (although sadly no apple sauce this year) I was greeting this morning by the following headline:

Harper wonders if Canadians really get Afghanistan

The Canadian Press
December 26, 2007 at 12:50 PM

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is uncertain whether Canadians at large understand the importance of remaining involved in Afghanistan.

His observation in a recent year-end interview with The Canadian Press comes after almost two years of combat operations in Kandahar, the deaths of 73 soldiers and one diplomat, and bitter, often partisan debates back home.

Parliament will be asked by spring to vote on what kind of mission
Canada should undertake after the current mandate expires in February, 2009.

Asked whether he believes Canadians truly appreciate what is at stake in the decision, Mr. Harper said: “I don't know, the short answer is I don't know.”

You know, I wonder if Stephen Harper really gets Canadians, or if he’s just playing politics.

Anyway, a couple of points. Firstly, if Canadians don’t “really get” Afghanistan then Harper has no one to blame but himself, and maybe Gordon O’Connor and Peter McKay. Particularly once they decided to push through an extension of the mission for politically-motivated reasons, it has been the Harper government’s responsibility to explain to Canadians why the mission is important, necessary and worthy of support. Not only have they failed to do so, instead they’ve used the war to play political games.

From pushing through an extension solely to embarrass the Liberals, to the bungling of the detainee file, to the support the troops/with us or against us rhetoric, the Conservative focus has been politics, not consensus building, and indeed has served to only deepen the divisions.

Secondly, when Harper questions whether Canadians “get it” what he’s really lamenting is that we don’t agree with him. Canadians “get it” Mr. Harper. We understand what’s at stake in Afghanistan, we want to see democracy take hold and flourish in the region, we want to see rebuilding happen. But we don’t necessarily agree with Harper’s methods, and are turned-off by his rhetoric.

There’s something vaguely insulting about Harper’s comments here. If we don’t agree with him then we’re dumb, we just don’t get it… Clearly, if anyone doesn’t get it, it’s Harper.

My own views on Afghanistan have been fairly consistent. I supported us going there, and I support the mission. We should focus more on re-building, but I recognize stability is needed for that to happen. However, we can’t stay there forever. We aren’t a big enough country to support an open-ended mission. We’ve done our share, and when the current mission expires another NATO country needs to replace us in the combat role.

I think a lot more Canadians are totally opposed to the mission though then share my view, and it disappoints me that the government has failed to make a case for supporting it. Their political rhetoric only serves to further harden that opposition, and is counter-productive to their supposed goal. Which makes me wonder, does Harper really want to build support for this mission, or does he just want its failure as a political issue to appeal to a certain segment of the population?

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Kingston said...

On this one I totally agree, the communications on this has been totally inadequate and the govt has no one to blame but themselves.

RuralSandi said...

Typical Harper - he treats Canadians like their dumb and stupid and his communications are so blatantly partisan people just aren't sure they're being told the truth. When everything a PM does is strategy - what do the CPC expect.

And, I guess Harper thinks Canadians don't listen to other experts on the mission.

Rose21 said...

I think you are wrong about this" Harper purused an "extension of the mission for politically-motivated reasons." Quite frankly, war is a difficult sell in Canada and Harper would be doing better in the polls if he did not support the war. Having said that, I think his reasons are that he believes in the moral purpose of the mission. It is all very well to propose such things as "more of a rebuilding role", etc., but this type of thing is not necessrily doable at this point. It is also easy to suggest that "we have done our bit", but in doing so, it is essential to look at the consequences if we pull out of our current role. That's what Harper's committe (Manly, etc.)are supposed to do. I think this is a situation in which there are no easy answers. I don't think there is political gain for anyone. There is simply the stark question of what is the right thing to do -- for everyone, not just Canadians.

Mike said...


He surprised the opposition, giving them 3 days notice over a weekend (when most are away from Ottawa in their ridings) and then had limited and non binding debate. He then resorted to rhetoric filled nonsense rather than answering questions. Indeed, Gordon O'Connor refused to answer a question he posed to Bill Graham in 2005, when Jack Layton asked him the same question, verbatim, during the evening debate, instead claiming he was a Taliban sympathizer (and gave birth to the 'Taliban Jack' nonsense in the BT). He did it in order to embarrass and beat down the (at the time) rudderless liberals, and try to put them into their place.

If he truly "believes in the moral purpose of the mission" why did he rush through a vote that never actually explained that "moral purpose" and claims that anyone that is not supportive is a traitor or Taliban sympathizer? No, if he truly wanted to explain this, he would and have a full and proper debate in the House on it with a binding vote.

That he doesn't show, just as Jeff points out, that he doesn't know or care to know what Canadians thing...he's afraid he'll get voted down and embarrassed. He's afraid Canadians won't (and don't) share his views.

He's a mealy mouthed coward.

burlivespipe said...

But Steve (to ol George) was wondering whattzup with Canadians when they didn't join him in an angry chain mail to the Wall St Journal about Iraq, too...