Monday, January 10, 2011

The Post Doctrine: Silly Liberals, free speech is for Conservatives

I often disagree with my friends at the National Post editorial board, and they have it wrong again today. It's a given they're a little misguided (after all, they do occasionally publish my ramblings online, which doesn't speak well of their judgement) but they're particularly off base with this most recent editorial offering.

Apparently, the learned minds at the Post believe it's un-Canadian to disagree with Conservative foreign policy. At least that seems to be their thesis, because they present an extremely muddled and confusing argument in support of it.
When outside Canada, MPs of all stripes are expected to defer to the policies of the government of the day, at least in public. But since the summer, both Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and his party’s foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, have sought to score political points back home by taking digs at the Tories while on foreign soil.
They start with "on foreign soil" as where they draw the line (if phoning reporters back in Canada on your flight home, consult the moving map to make sure you're in international airspace before you dial). That would be disagreeable enough, but they confuse the issue by providing an example of unacceptable foreign policy disagreement that was made on Canadian soil: Ignatieff's comments on the government's UN security council bid.

So it would seem that, whether on foreign soil or our own Canadian terra firma, any criticism of Conservative foreign policy means "forgetting you're Canadians first" and is, therefore, not permissible. Presumably, though, it's still ok to disagree with our minority government on non-foreign policy issues, as long as you're within our borders.

Of course, The Post Doctrine must be new, because I don't recall them being outraged when then opposition leader Stephen Harper went on Fox News and other U.S. media outlets in the lead-up to the Iraq War and publicly attacked the Liberal government. He even wrote an op/ed for the Wall Street Journal taking his country's duly elected government to task. The Journal, by the way, is distributed on foreign soil:
Canadians Stand With You
Wall Street Journal | 3/28/03 |


Today, the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet Prime Minister Jean Chretien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations.

This is a serious mistake. For the first time in history, the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need. The Canadian Alliance — the official opposition in parliament — supports the American and British position because we share their concerns, their worries about the future if Iraq is left unattended to, and their fundamental vision of civilization and human values. Disarming Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of the world, and for the collective interests of our key historic allies and therefore manifestly in the national interest of Canada. Make no mistake, as our allies work to end the reign of Saddam and the brutality and aggression that are the foundations of his regime, Canada’s largest opposition party, the Canadian Alliance will not be neutral. In our hearts and minds, we will be with our allies and friends. And Canadians will be overwhelmingly with us.

But we will not be with the Canadian government.

Modern Canada was forged in large part by war — not because it was easy but because it was right. In the great wars of the last century — against authoritarianism, fascism, and communism — Canada did not merely stand with the Americans, more often than not we led the way. We did so for freedom, for democracy, for civilization itself. These values continue to be embodied in our allies and their leaders, and scorned by the forces of evil, including Saddam Hussein and the perpetrators of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That is why we will stand — and I believe most Canadians will stand with us — for these higher values which shaped our past, and which we will need in an uncertain future.

Messrs. Harper and Day are the leader and shadow foreign minister, respectively, of the Canadian Alliance.
Of course, the Post didn't take great umbrage at Harper's lack of Canadianess. They, and most of the media elites, were too busy cheerleading for Canada to get into a war Canadians didn't want, and that Jean Chretien's government wisely steered clear of.

How about Harper's habit, as Prime Minister, of regularly using overseas press conferences (with foreign media present) to launch unprompted attacks on his political opponents? Apparently that's still Canadian, even though Harper does it so often he's had to apologize for making crap up:
L'AQUILA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper was forced to apologize publicly for attacking his political rival Michael Ignatieff at the G8 over a quote that was wrongly attributed to the Opposition leader by a senior Harper aide.

At a closing news conference here today, in French and in English, Harper was defending the relevance of the G8, when he launched into a stinging rebuke of Ignatieff.
So, if you're following at home, The Post Doctrine seems to boil down to this: Liberals shouldn't say anything bad about the Conservatives on foreign policy issues ever, particularly when overseas but sometimes in Canada too; Conservatives go to town.

The blatant hypocrisy aside, their entire thesis is laughable, and the Post's desire to place limits on speech is a bizarre position for a publication usually so opposed to any such limits (see controversial cartoons, human rights commissions, and so on) to take. Or any media outlet to take, for that matter.

First of all, I think people overseas know that opposition parties likely disagree with the government on any number of things. Maybe in the time when ambassadors traveled by sailing ship they may have been in the dark, but with Google that ship has pretty well sailed. Whatever timezone someone makes a comment in, it travels the world in seconds anyway. Just who are we trying to fool here anyway?

Would we be surprised if John Boehner or another prominent Republican visited Canada and didn't offer a full-throated endorsement of President Obama? Would we be scandalized if he disagreed with Obama on trade policy? Would we be surprised? Would we care?

Any democracy has healthy debate; the only countries that would be surprised by this are the dictatorships of the world, and I'm not concerned about offending their sensibilities. You know what's a pretty important Canadian value: free speech. It's a shame the Post's editors forgot they're Canadians first too. I support their right to be wrong though, whatever the time zone.

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CanadianSense said...

Actually he did not make crap up, the comments attributed to Ignatieff were made in error, but the comments he was highly critical were made by a person at the same event.

I agree the Post should not condemn the bad taste of the Liberals for trying to score cheap points at home or abroad. I am a fan of the Liberals attacking us for failing to win the UN seat, for not voting in favour of the Liberal amendment to maternal health.

After all I do remember our Government coming to the defence of Bob Rae against the Sri Lanka refusal to allow Bob enter.

Voters will have an opportunity to thank the Liberals at the next general election for their rhetoric.

Kirk said...

When outside Canada, MPs of all stripes are expected to defer to the policies of the government of the day, at least in public.

Here Harper on US TV doing exactly what the Post says Liberals must never do:

CanadianSense said...

Kirk that is a great clip.

Opposition leader praises U.S. best ally(check)

Refers to support outside QC for action against Iraq (check)

Liberals secretly brag to US they are helping with (see hypocrisy) with navy, our top General gets a medal during conflict.

vs landing rights for UAE.

Is this really a good comparison in importance and damage to bilateral relations?

Is the US comparable to UAE?