Is This Your Canada?: More Aid For $2m, More Bombs for $60m

The discredited Minister of International Development, Bev Oda, announced yesterday that Canada would increase its aid to Libya with another $2m. Last Thursday, Defense Minister Peter Mackay sought another $60m to extend the combat mission in Libya.

Your taxpayer dollars are being used to deliver democracy to Libya from the payload of a bomber. Is that your Canada?

And just so we remind ourselves of this government's commitment to democracy at home: the extension of the bombing missions in Libya to September 2011 would sustain the per-vote subsidy to political parties in Canada until September 2013 ($27m per year).

I am relieved Peter Mackay resisted the temptation to 'assist' Egyptians' fledgling steps toward democracy.


Republican Health Plan Haiku

On tonight's Colbert Report:

Blood in the urine
A tingling down the left arm
Walk it off grandma

US Embassy: Can Harper Deliver on Military?

A recent cable leak describes Prime Minister Stephen Harper as unable to deliver on his "Canada First Defence Strategy." The Afghanistan mission left Canadian Forces so overextended that a "short operational break" will be necessary to allow the Forces and funding commitments to recover.

Harper's goal, the cable continues, is to transform the Canadian military "into the kind of expeditionary force that the government had described in the 'Canada First Defence Strategy,' seeking to evolve Canada's 'medium weight' army into a force capable of conducting both major combat and counterinsurgency operations against traditional or asymmetric threats nearby or far afield, as well as in rural, urban, and littoral domains."

According to the cable, authoured March 2009, because Harper has struggled to increase defence spending in the context of trying to restore fiscal balance, he has failed to meet his commitment to spend 2% of the budget on defence.

Well, not anymore. In the latest Treasury Board 2011-12 Main Estimates, National Defence will be taken care of quite nicely, thank you. While the Departments of the Environment and Agriculture--just to name a couple--are experiencing cuts of 20%, National Defence is enjoying unprecedented spending. Harper will finally achieve his target of 2% of budget in 2011-12:

A net increase of $191.8 million is due to an increase in operating costs of $368.9 million, a decrease in capital costs of $191.0 million, and an increase in grants, contributions and other transfer payments of $13.9 million. The major changes are:

• $281.4 million for Budget 2008 commitment to allow the automatic
annual increase on defence spending to 2% from the current 1.5% beginning in 2011–12;
• $221.7 million net increase in the spending profile for infrastructure projects;
• $120.3 million increase for Canada First Defence Strategy and to support Canada’s domestic and international security operations and challenges;

• $321.8 million net decrease in the spending profile for Major Capital Projects; and

• $102.3 million decrease due to cost containment measures to reduce the rate of growth in operating expenditures announced in Budget 2010.
This is Harper's vision for Canada. Slash billions from government except from the military and healthcare. His platform for healthcare spoke only of pouring money into the system at 6% a year for another decade--not exactly a nuanced, policy-driven approach from government with a whole Ministry at its disposal.

Even when the country is tens of billions of dollars in the hole, and Harper refuses to replace public servants shed from the payroll through attrition in nearly every government department, shedding government capacity right along with them, Harper is expanding the military, enabling it to embroil Canada in more missions like the one in Libya, a nation that poses no direct threat to Canadians. No one believes his numbers on the cost of the stealth fighter program. And once he expands the military to his target of 70,000 regular and 30,000 in reserve forces, he'll create a massive long-term payroll liability--soldiers and officers are public servants, too--over our 2009 levels of 20,000 regulars and 19,000 reservists.

We saw what happened during the G8/G20 summits when security forces are over-resourced for their mission: they go looking for problems to solve even when none exist. When police were handed a billion-dollar hammer, every protester started looking like a nail. I hope we won't see similar unintended consequences from more than doubling our military.

Welcome to your Secure, Stable, Prosperous Future.

ADDENDUM: From the Manning Centre's 2011 Barometer
Canadians are not convinced that a strong military is a pre-condition for promoting Canada's national interest, and the level of support for "patriotism and a strong military" has fallen by 30%.


The Truth: Harper Calls For Mideast Peace Deal Based on Israel’s Pre-1967 Borders

I've had a little fun mocking our Prime Minister's supposedly staunch defense of Israel at the G8. But here's the truth: he agrees with Obama's speech. He agrees with UN Resolution 242. He agrees that the 1967 borders should be the starting point for negotiation with mutually agreed land swaps as outlined by Obama, and endorsed in the G8 statement that he co-signed.

To contend otherwise plays into Harper's spin machine.


US Embassy: Rae "Forceful, Eloquent, Better Read, More Substantive" Than Ignatieff

A cable released by wikileaks on May 27, 2011 describes a luncheon between the US Ambassador and "Liberal Party Leadership" Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae that occurred October 23, 2009.

The cable relates that Rae's only remaining stated political ambition is to be Foreign Minister. The account of the dynamic between Ignatieff and Rae is notable:

"The dynamics between one-time friends and later rivals Ignatieff and Rae remain clearly tense, with Rae arriving late and then immediately dominating the conversation, while Ignatieff sat back almost meekly. Rae was by far the more forceful and eloquent of the two and showed little deference to his party chief, without at any time displaying any rudeness or personal animosity. He came across as better read and more substantive than Ignatieff, who stuck mostly to pleasantries and generalities."