Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Afghanistan: Let the Finger-Wagging Begin

Well, now that Stephen Harper has indicated that he wants "consensus" prior to a further extension of our mission in Afghanistan, opinions have been flying about what this actually means.

Some, like the Star's Thomas Walkom, feel that Harper's words are a tacit admission on his part that the mission is unpopular, generally unsuccessful, and that he will be unable to garner support to extend it beyond 2009. But a few have taken a different stance.

Take Andrew Coyne, for example. In his column in the National Post, he instead offers this interpretation of the PM's comments:
Read the last part of the Prime Minister's remarks: "I don't want to send people into a mission if the opposition is going to, at home, undercut the dangerous work that they are doing in the field." Translated: that's exactly what's happening now.
"The Taliban", Coyne informs us "read the Western press". Maybe so, but I doubt even the Taliban are depraved enough to read the fish-wrapping we call the National Post. In any case, we are told that the Prime Minister has offered the opposition parties the chance to "grow up". Or at the very least, to explain their rationale for desiring troop withdrawal at the end of the current mandate in 2009. Coyne himself is at a loss to understand troop withdrawal:
And for what purpose? To whose benefit? The Afghans? No, it is quite clear they want us there. The troops? No, they are equally adamant, in every interview I have ever seen: they want to be there. Our NATO partners? Obviously not. The only agenda served by the opposition's demands is ? the opposition's.
In his rambling list, he curiously leaves out one important group. Canadians. According to a Decima Research poll released on June 10th:
Only one in four (26%) Canadians feel that “Canada should be willing to extend our mission in Afghanistan beyond February 2009 if that is necessary to complete our goals there.” Fully 67% felt that “we need to do our best to accomplish progress in Afghanistan but that we must stick to that deadline and get our troops out.” This is the majority view in every region, among men and women, urban and rural voters, all income and every age group.

But hey, we're just the voting public. Why should Coyne or Harper care what we think?

Meanwhile over at that other journalistic wasteland, the Sun, Jordan Michael Smith at least takes the time to acknowledge that most Canadians want out of Afghanistan in 2009. But his advice to nearly 70% of his fellow citizens is to be "honest" with themselves, and admit that they are not "internationalists" but rather "isolationists". What the hell "internationalist" means is anyone's guess, but Smith assures us that it is the more noble of the two options. "Isolationists", you see, have no real interests in humanitarian causes. They seek only what is good for Canadians, and thus are "uncomfortable taking casualties in a foreign country with slow, hard-to-measure progress". (Presumably therefore humane "internationalists" such as Smith are A-OK with Canadian soldiers dying for immeasurably small gains). And so, in that time-honoured CPC tradition, he admonishes those who oppose him, accusing them of wanting only "to look after themselves" and of condemning Afghanistan to a "medieval theocracy" (as opposed to the beacon of democracy it's well on its way to becoming).

It's a pity that such drivel finds its way to print.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Conservatives Didn't Heed Warnings...

Better get used to hearing stories like this...

The Tories didn't heed warnings from senior federal officials that their planned firesale of federally owned buildings to the private sector could cost Ottawa up to $600 million dollars over 25 years. The government was advised by the Finance Department and the Privy Council Office to undertake a full risk analysis. But, in typical fashion, Canada's "new" government has decided that caution is for losers. Garth Turner has recently blogged about this:

For the record, Public Works minister Michael Fortier, who answers to no voters since he was appointed by Stephen Harper, wants to dispose of many of the 350 buildings taxpayers own across Canada. To do this, he hired two banks – Montreal and RBC – to do a feasibility study on the potential sale of 40 of them. For this, each bank was paid $100,000. The study concluded (not surprisingly) that buildings should be privatized, and the banks picked nine of the best office towers to market as a pilot project. These buildings are currently used to house federal civil servants, plus rent to some other tenants, and the suggestion was that they be leased back for terms of up to 25 years...
...Ultimately, Fortier accepted the banks’ recommendation, and triggered a second contract which gave these same banks the right to market the buildings. The banks will be paid out of the proceeds, expected to be $1.5 billion, on a commission basis. The amount of the commission is unknown. The terms of the potential lease-back are unknown. The amount of money the purchaser will make in profit is unknown, as are the new owner’s obligations in terms of leasehold improvements. In fact, it is impossible to know if this is an advantageous deal for the Canadian taxpayer, or a sweetheart deal for the buyer, or a kiss-off deal for the banks.

Transparency? Anyone? Bueller?