News Highlights – 27 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1a)  House of Commons approves three month extension to mission – House debate transcript here and here (91 page PDF of debate and vote here), softball question in the House on Libya here, Government of Canada’s news release here, and media coverage here, here, here, here and here.
  • Libya Mission (1b)  NDP going back to their usual stance“The NDP drew its first solid line in the sand on foreign policy since taking on the role of official Opposition in Parliament on Monday, stepping away from a position adopted under Jack Layton. The party withdrew its support for Canada’s participation in the international military mission in Libya ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  One editorial“…. the New Democratic Party is using its role as the Official Opposition to argue against continued military involvement in Libya. The Conservative government is right to point out there is still fighting in Libya, right to argue that an end to conflict and a peaceful transition to a new government will require international support, in the security arena as well as the diplomatic. Now’s not the time to get squeamish.”
  • Libya Mission (3)  Something else Canada could do, according to our ambassador there“Getting guns out of the hands of young, heavily armed rebels is a way for Canada to help bring lasting peace to the new Libya, says Ottawa’s envoy to Tripoli. The possibility of Canada working to disarm the Libya’s rebel fighters who overthrew dictator Moammar Gadhafi was raised last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the United Nations. Canada’s ambassador to Libya, Sandra McCardell, says Libya has a strong economic base on which build a functioning democracy. Indeed, some two dozen Canadian companies have come forward to express interest in doing business in Libya. But the rebuilding will be much harder if Libya remains the heavily armed society it is today ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Questions in the House about translators not making it into CanadaMrs. Sadia Groguhé (Saint-Lambert, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, the government has broken a promise it made to the Afghans who risked their lives alongside the Canadian Forces. The special immigration program ended this month. It was a program that was supposed to allow Afghan interpreters to live in safety in Canada. Two out of every three applications were denied. Can the minister responsible explain why this program was not changed in order to achieve its objective?  Hon. Jason Kenney (Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is mistaken. Indeed, no commitment was made to the interpreters who worked with the Canadian Forces or with our international development agency in Kandahar. Three years ago we introduced a discretionary program, which included certain parameters to ensure that the applicants were qualified to come to Canada as permanent residents. The initial estimate was roughly 400 to 500 people and we will exceed that objective by welcoming more than 500 former Afghan interpreters to Canada.”
  • Afghanistan (2)  More debate on the extended mission in Afghanistan here (3 page PDF of exchange here).
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1)  “…. Mr. MacKay should have known the chopper episode would come back to bite him. While Canadians deserve to know who is blowing their money, and how, it is highly suspicious that all these explosive details stockpiled at DND have suddenly been turned into ammo. The timing coincides with the delivery of a major report to the government — itself leaked to the national media — which advocates reorganizing the Forces, chopping 11,000 personnel, most in the Ottawa bureaucracy, in order to realize savings of $1 billion a year. The real disservice to taxpayers would be if the government retreated and shelved this report simply to stop the high-level strafing.”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (2)  Interesting response from the Prime Minister’s Office regarding the Minister’s plane work:  ” “I don’t pay any attention to anonymous sources on Sunday morning chat shows. Especially ones who are wrong on every count,” Harper spokesman Andrew MacDougall told The Globe. “The Canadian government and the Canadian Armed Forces have a hard-working and dedicated minister – and his name is Peter MacKay.” ”  This, compared to the PM’s chosen words in the House of Commons about the CDS using a plane to join his family after being recalled to attend a repatriation ceremony:  “I have spoken to the Chief of the Defence Staff. He understands what those expectations are and is certainly prepared to live according to those rules. As members know, the Chief of the Defence Staff does fly very frequently on government business, but obviously where there are alternatives we will look into that usage.”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (3)  “…. Media, of course, feed on the scent of fear and particularly enjoy seeing senior officials pointing fingers or blame. Internally, the senior brass are blaming the media for a witch hunt while, at the same time, trying to figure out among themselves exactly who is the internal source behind what appears to be a smear campaign against Natynczyk ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (4)  Minister’s not the ONLY one getting rides in the choppers“Hon. Gerry Byrne (Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence continues to insist that his commandeering of a search and rescue helicopter for his personal fishing camp taxi was a logical opportunity for a training mission. Out of the 30-minute ride that was taken, what new information did the minister receive? Specifically, what was the objective of the mission? What equipment was used? Was there an actual practical demonstration of the technician/victim hoist within the 30-minute ride, which is a principal use of that platform? Could the minister confirm or deny that his use of this asset was originally turned down by ….  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Yes, Mr. Speaker, the demonstration did occur. Using the same calculations as the media and the member’s party have been using, I now know that the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor took a five-hour demonstration in a Cormorant. Using that calculation, that would be $160,000 of taxpayers’ money.”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (5)  Picking on the Minister during Question Period about public affairs officers leaving the Forces, alleged staff cuts in the Minister’s office showing the PM’s lack of confidence and, naturally, using military helicopters.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  “…. This Request for Proposal is for the procurement of thirty (30) ruggedized Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) for use by Nuclear Emergency Response (NER) teams of the Department of National Defence in CFB Esquimalt, British Columbia and CFB Halifax, Nova Scotia. The PDAs will provide the means to run existing NER software in various NER team survey assets to simulate nuclear emergency radiation levels during a NER exercise (NEREX) ….”  More details in Statement of Requirements (3 page PDF) here.
  • Almost a year after a commercial landing rights dispute between Canada and the United Arab Emirates eventually ended with the Canadian Forces being kicked off a military base there, Canada has still to launch its planned alternate location in Kuwait. The Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheik Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, revealed the news at a Sept. 26 appearance in the Centre Block of Parliament alongside Prime Minister Stephen Harper, when he expressed his desire that a new Canadian military staging ground in his country be up and running as soon as possible ….”
  • Campaigning Newfoundland Premier promises more for vets. “Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale is promising to do more to honour and remember Newfoundland and Labrador’s veterans. “We must always remember the individuals, both those serving now and those gone before us: the sons, the daughters, the brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers who have bequeathed to us peace and stability,” Dunderdale said at a campaign stop in Corner Brook on Monday. Speaking at the Royal Canadian Legion, Dunderdale pledged $4 million in initiatives to honour current and past military personnel. The plans include a Beaumont-Hamel interpretation site at Bowring Park and a bronze caribou statue to be built in Gallipoli ….”

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