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Olympic ramifications

This story in the Globe talks about how after 4 days Canada has no medals yet at the Beijing Olympics, and there are already grumblings amongst Canadian athletes about how little support they get from the government with regards to funding as compared to other countries.

A few thoughts on this:

1) It’s still early in the Games – there is still a chance the medals will come and that the goal of 16 medals is met.

2) Corporate sponsorship in this country lags just as badly,  if not worse then government funding does, in my view.

I think obviously everyone wants our athletes to do well.. but if we do poorly at the end of these Olympics, it will be interesting to hear the Conservatives defence or explanation regarding current funding. I’ve read at Red Tory’s site from a commenter in his post on this that “this is the first year that  Canada is offering money for medals all the while cutting funding“, and he blames Harper’s and the Conservatives free market approach for this result.

I don’t know if that’s correct or not, but even if it is, I have my doubts anyone in Canada will vote against the Harper government  because of how they choose to spend funding on the Olympics.  If this Olympics turns out to be a disaster for us medal wise by the end of it however, it might bring pressure on the Harper government  to make sure we wouldn’t have a repeat of this in Vancouver (though we do better at winter sports anyhow).

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Semi-open thread: Do you care about the Olympics?

While watching all this rain and thunder and lightning occur (as Matthew over at Pample the Moose observed, I didn’t know Ontario had a monsoon season), I thought I’d ask if anyone’s interested or excited in watching the Olympics.

For myself personally, I don’t know if it’s the time zone difference, or the bad publicity surrounding the games (ie. Tibet, ridiculous air pollution, or China going back on its promises and stifling freedom to access sites they may not necessarily like politically), or getting depressed reading some Canadian sports journalists saying there should be low expectations for the Canadian team and its medal haul, but I’m really not into watching […]

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STAND Canada – action wanted on Darfur – a preview.

If you’re not aware of STAND Canada, they are an organization in Canada that is committed to mobilizing “a critical mass of Canadian students, citizens, and decision makers to end the crisis in Darfur, and respond to future threats of genocide.

They give a bit of background on how their organization formed here, what the situation is currently in Darfur here, where it also details what steps they feel the Canadian government could be taking to help contribute to ending the violence and bringing peace to Darfur.

Next week, I’ll probably be talking a bit more about Stand Canada after I get some more details from them on their efforts, […]

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Why Obama won’t visit here before the US Presidential Election

Bob Hepburn writes this morning in the Toronto Star asking Obama (figuratively) to come and visit Canada, arguing it would help him “hone his views” on Canada and policy towards us. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happenning. He doesn’t need to use Canada to practice his foreign diplomacy skills, as his tour to the Middle East shows he’s more then capable of handling that.   He also has little incentive to visit a country whose Conservative government tried to sabotage his presidential nomination run in Ohio with those “leaked” documents, in a clumsy attempt to either help defeat him in the Democratic primary or failing that, give the Republicans something to try and weaken him with.

That will change if he becomes President – but it will be interesting to see if Canada is the first foreign country he’ll pay a visit to if that were to occur. Traditionally this country has been a first stop for newly elected presidents. George W. Bush broke that trend when he was elected. Whether Obama follows suit may depend on whether the Conservative government is still in power or not. That’s not a reason to de-elect Harper – there are many better reasons to do so – but his government’s attempted hit on Obama won’t likely be forgotten.

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Now we know (in writing) the reason Conservatives don’t want Omar Khadr returned.

They’re being George W. Bush-Republican shills, or at least parroting what they say:

“Mr. Khadr could become a litmus test on Canada’s commitment to impeding global terrorism and the results of our actions today could result in consequences that are not in the long-term interest of the country,”

This was the reason given by the Conservatives in their minority dissenting opinion on a subcommittee report that calls for the Government of Canada to demand to the US that the military commission’s proceedings be halted, that Omar Khadr be repatriated, and that an investigation be commenced and if warranted, Khadr charged and prosecuted under Canadian law.

They couldn’t exactly give the standard line from this government that “Omar Khadr faces serious charges, and we are confident he is being treated humanely and being given due process”. The US Supreme Court ruling last week that habeas corpus applied to Guantanamo Bay detainees and that the Military Commissions were inadequate blew apart the 2nd part of that argument, so they had to give the real reason, which is apparently the global war on terror will collapse if Canada does this. Funny, it wasn’t a litmus test for all the rest of the Western countries that demanded repatriation for their citizens from Guantanamo. I also didn’t notice any collapse on the War on Terror either when those repatriations occurred.

I am fairly confident in saying that if the Conservatives had been in power when Maher Arar was illegally renditioned to Syria, he’d probably still be in detention over there, because if you look up Hansard from back then, he was getting called a terrorist by Stockwell Day and Harper amongst others over in that caucus before the facts of the case had even been heard, when they were slamming the Canadian government for trying to help Arar get released and get home. The only difference with him was he didn’t have a family that raised the ire of Canadians, thus causing the son to be punished for the sins of the family. What IS the same is that the C-CRAP party (an appropriate moniker, if there ever was one) was parroting and believing the George W Bush-Republican cool-aid.. er.. philosophy on this way back then, and has continued to parrot it in its current reincarnation as the Conservative Party.

The Canadian public however is starting to see that for whatever distaste they might have for the Khadr family, the Khadr son’s treatment is neither morally right nor legally right – something the Conservatives on the Committee recognize because of their whining about the opposition and specifically the Liberals just reacting to a “sway in public opinion” – meaning they recognize they’re starting to lose the argument with the public over why Khadr should be kept at an illegal site with little rights being afforded him.

The process in Guantanamo is illegal. Khadr was a child soldier who was probably brainwashed by his father into going to Afghanistan. His US captors and Canadian officials are on record as saying he can be rehabilitated with proper treatment. He has been held without habeas corpus rights for 6 years since his capture and held without charge – something the US Supreme Court has just deemed in violation of the US Constitution. Bring him home and if you have evidence, charge him with something and give him a fair trial in a proper court with the rule of law. And, whether he’s found guilty or not, make sure he gets treatment and rehabilitation as international protocols on child solders demand (which Canada is a signatory to).

H/T Impolitical

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Do you think the Canadian Conservative government will approve of this?

Somehow,  I doubt it:

A United Nations committee has reprimanded the U.S. for trying Omar Khadr for war crimes and detaining hundreds of children in Iraq and Afghanistan, when international law requires that they be rehabilitated..“The Committee is seriously concerned that children who were recruited or used in armed conflict, rather than being considered primarily as victims, are classified as ‘unlawful enemy combatants,’ and have been charged with war crimes and subjected to prosecution by military tribunals,” the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stated in a report released Friday.

It is more likely the Conservative government will either mumble again about US assurances of a “fair trial” and “Khadr is being treated humanely” at Guantanamo, or else they’ll trash the UN through “anonymous Conservative officials”.

Like the Republicans, The Harperite Conservatives  aren’t exactly that keen to follow international law either, or think much of international institutions – even belittling them.  If it’s not ok with Bush and the Repubs, it’s not ok with the Harperite Neo-Cons either.

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Harper leans toward Dion’s and Liberal position on Afghanistan

Well, this is noteworthy and dare I say it, encouraging, from a Prime Minister who hasn’t exactly been known to be the master of compromise:

Mr. Harper said his government will seriously consider the Liberal proposals, which include an end to combat operations in 2009 and full troop withdrawal from Kandahar in February 2011. Mr. Harper said the Liberal commitment to a continued military presence in the country post-2009 is “really very close to the government’s position” and he raised the possibility the Conservatives would introduce a new motion on the matter

Knb said over at her blog it will be interesting to see how the Cons. and the supporters spin this sudden flip-flop on accepting the Liberals position (if they do indeed accept them), which as you note, does contain a definitive end-date. I agree with her that it will be interesting to watch the reaction, particularly when their position has been to argue you can’t set an end-date on combats (such as noted conservative cheerleader Aaron in my comments section in the prior blog-entry saying apparently we should stay there till we win – a la John McCain wanting to stay in Iraq 100 years if necessary. That ought to be a big winner in 2008 down south.. cough… but I digress)

So, if Harper accepts this as part of the Liberal amendments, does that mean Aaron and folks like him all of a sudden think end-dates are good, merely because Harper said it was ok to like them, or will he and his neocon friends skewer Harper for betraying their principles? On another note, I also agree with Jay from the Sleveen Institute, who said over at Knb’s site that Dion has shown real leadership on the Afghanistan issue.

Update: Aaron has clarified at Far and Wide in comments that he still opposes the fixed date of ending the mission. At least he’s being consistent. It will be amusing to see the reaction of him and other Blogging Tories imploding if Harper actually accepts this amendment.

UPDATE 2: One Liberal MP anonymously says in that Globe article this will all be a moot point anyway, as the Liberals will probably bring down the Harper government on the Budget before the Afghanistan motion is brought to the House to vote on. True, but showing in greater detail what you proposed for the mission and showing you were willing to work with the Harper government rather then oppose for the sake of opposing will count for a lot on the campaign hustings.

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The Liberals purported Afghanistan amendments look reasonable.

I just was reading the Star, and these are apparently the Liberal amendments that Dion will propose to the Conservative government motion to extend the Afghanistan mission to 2011:

In addition to the February 2009 end date for the combat mission and the full withdrawal by 2011, sources said the Liberal amendment will demand a freer flow of information about the mission. It will call on the government to submit quarterly progress reports to Parliament and for cabinet ministers to make monthly appearances before a new Commons committee on Afghanistan. As well, the amendment will call for the appointment of a special envoy to oversee the treatment of Afghan […]

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My particular reasons for voting no to the Cons motion on Afghanistan

Garth Turner has posted the Conservative motion on extending the mission in Afghanistan to 2011 at his blogsite and asked for comments on whether his readers would vote Yea or Nay, and why.

This is what I left over there, and what I will re-post here:

I’m an obvious no to this motion. We’ve already had 1 extension of this (3 years) and the Cons. propose to have another. If they were still (God forbid) in power then, what would stop them from extending it further when 2011 rolled around, short of a total victory, which even the NATO commander over there says wouldn’t be possible without 400 000 troops? (and that amount of troops isn’t going to happen).

The Cons. motion is a recipe for indefinite endless war, and endless casualties. We’ve done our tour of duty, and we’ve done it honourably. It’s time for all those other NATO countries who give lip-service to how important Afghanistan is but then supply no troops or keep them out of harm’s way to step up to the plate. And when I say, step up, I don’t mean supplying the token 1000 troops that the Manley Report calls for and which the Harperites have seized upon. I’m talking the principle of rotation, where a country will rotate their troops in, while we rotate our troops out.

If the NATO countries refuse to do it, the consequences will be on their and NATO’s heads, not Canada’s. I say no to the Cons. motion – pull them out of combat operations on schedule in 2009.

Further to that, if the Liberals want to articulate their policy better to the public on what their position is (since some Con. cabinet ministers are going around either distorting the Liberal position or claiming they don’t have one, or saying it’s changing all the time) they could do worse then use the points that the Toronto Star’s Haroon Sidddiqui put forth at his op-ed today:

The Liberal way forward, therefore, is clear: Support a limited extension of the mission on specific conditions (along the lines of what British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is already pursuing).

A concomitant push on aid and development in the safer areas where such work hasn’t been done due to a lack of co-ordination between Ottawa and the field offices, and between Afghanistan and NATO. Insist on the appointment of a UN co-ordinator.
A major push for a political settlement in Afghanistan — opening negotiations with elements of the Taliban, and a separate concerted campaign to increase civilian Pushtun representation in Kabul. Iraq’s turnaround has been achieved by a troop surge and, mainly, by bringing the Sunnis/Baathists into the fold. If doing deals with them is good, why is trying something similar with the spurned Afghans bad?
A co-ordinated effort with Pakistan, even while insisting that President Pervez Musharraf move toward a transparent democracy.

Such a comprehensive approach, clearly spelled out, would give Stéphane Dion the confidence to take on Harper, even on the election trail, and let Canadians decide.

I think Dion and the Liberals should be taking those and spreading them far and wide across the land. If their position needs clarifying, stating as listed above will certainly do that.

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Perceptions on the Hill over the Afghanistan positions.

So I was chatting with one of my acquaintances up on the Hill who observes the Parliamentary goings-on for a living, and I asked that person what they made of the Conservatives issuing a press release last evening on Bill C-3 (dealing with the new revised security certificates that the Supreme Court struck down last year), which more or less said the Liberals would be weak on Canadians public safety if they don’t pass the Conservatives version of that bill.  I said it seemed a rather silly move by the PMO to make going after the Liberals when Harper was supposed to be meeting Dion today to try and persuade him to follow his stance on Afghanistan and the Manley Report; I didn’t think it would exactly ease chilly relations with that type of a release.

The response I got from this person was interesting: the opinion given back was that it was that person’s belief that Harper really doesn’t want Dion to agree with him – that he wants to be able to blame Dion and the Liberals for “forcing” him to end the combat mission in Afghanistan, and thus try to neutralize it as an election issue for him.

I said I found that interesting, because of Layton’s press conference yesterday and some NDP bloggers basically now saying to everyone who would listen that Dion was moving closer to Harper’s position (and Layton was being silly I opined, because everyone has predicted, including me, that Dion and the Liberals would never agree to pulling troops out immediately, and that’s been their position for a while).

The reply to that from the observer was equally interesting:  In their opinion, Layton, like Harper  is also playing politics with this issue; the NDP is following their policy of trying to destroy the Liberals in advance of the next election than in — well, pretty much anything else. The opinion ended with the observation that Layton probably would have been horrified if Dion *had* agreed with him.

Take it for what it’s worth, but as I said, it’s from an observer on the Hill… and it means Dion and the Liberals will have to tread very carefully. If the NDP want to end the combat portion of the mission, they will have to quit playing politics (if that is indeed what they’re up to) acknowledge that they and the Liberals have differences on when the combat portion ends, and then ask the Liberals to help defeat the Cons version of wanting to stay.

As for Harper, I don’t trust him more then I can throw him. Dion has made his position clear that the combat portion of this mission will end in 2009 if the Liberals have their way, so I don’t see what Harper will offer to Dion to get him to agree to an extension. If Harper comes out of his meeting with guns ablazing about how the Liberals and Dion are being inflexible or won’t support a Liberal-led panel recommendation, I suspect my observer friend’s opinions on this will be proven right.

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