by: Obert Madondo
Last week’s “Canadian delegation” to Ukraine wasn’t a Canadian delegation. It was an all-Conservative outfit. The opposition was completely shut out.
The shut out reminds me of how Third World tyrants do politics. How they exploit global crises to score cheap domestic political points. The shut out makes a mockery of our multi-party liberal democracy. And the idea of by-partisanship that comes with it.
But shut-out is mostly part of the Conservatives’ campaign to retain power in 2015. It’s part of the effort to woo the ethnic vote, something the Conservatives would have to do on a scale much larger than the one we witnessed during the 2011 federal election. In the Conservatives’ cross-hairs are more than a million Ukrainian-Canadians.
The Conservatives’ opportunism knows no bounds. Consider the Conservatives’ justification for the opposition shut out.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s careless and insensitive comments cost the Liberals their place in the delegation. Trudeau suggested that the Ukraine crisis was only more worrying because Russia had “lost in hockey” during the Sochi winter games and “they will be in a bad mood.”
The Liberal leader was right to predict “a Russian intervention in Ukraine.” But, he trivialized a crisis that had already cost lives.
But this quintessentially Canadian political faux pas was enough for the Conservatives to try and score cheap political points. This is how Jason MacDonald, Harper’s communications director, justified the shutout:
“Mr. Trudeau’s comments about Russia and Ukraine were neither helpful nor did they contribute positively to Canada’s efforts to assist the Ukrainian people, and a result there’s no role for the Liberals in this government mission.”
Did the whole Liberal Party of Canada and the Canadian liberal worldview have to be punished for that? For this bad hockey joke? No.
Besides, Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, demanded an apology. And Trudeau apologized.
Frankly, I’d have been delighted if the Conservatives had said, hey, we just want to impose a Conservative worldview on the emerging democratic (hopefully!) situation in Ukraine. Just as they have done everything possible to impose a Conservative worldview on Canada.
On paper, the Conservatives’ reasons for shutting out the Official Opposition are ludicrous. In practical terms, however, the reasons betray the Harper Government’s insatiable desire to insert itself into the centre of global affairs. To recoup the global standing Canada has progressively lost since the Conservatives came to power. Our biggest fall was Canada failure to win a temporary seat on the UN Security Council in 2010. The first time in the history of the respected institution.
MacDonald said the NDP was excluded because the party “wouldn’t pick a side” in the Ukrainian conflict. Translation: the NDP wouldn’t be as impartial as the Conservatives. Wouldn’t stalk tensions instead of building bridges between worlds.
Last Saturday, a few hours after the Ukrainians claimed to have been “invaded” by Russia, the Conservatives withdrew the Canadian ambassador to Russia. Foreign Minister John Baird, who led the Conservative delegation to Kyiv, threatened to expel the Russian ambassador to Canada. That was extreme, especially when you consider that real global players were still keen to follow the path of diplomacy.
Then, in the past two days, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has uttered some real tough but highly inflammatory words. For example, he likened Russian’s military incursions into the Crimea to “Third Reich aggression.”
In a statement released earlier today, the prime minister wants us to believe that his government’s actions and divisive rhetoric are “further examples of our support for Ukraine and our goal of stabilizing the tense situation in Crimea.” Really.
It’s the empty barking of a toothless bulldog. I love my country but I don’t see us unilaterally going to war with Russia, currently ranked number two in the world, to our number 16.
Although US President Barack Obama has said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “on the wrong side of history”, he’s exercised the restraint that comes with a global power actually capable of taking on Russia militarily. Obama’s approach has largely remained “deliberate, careful and pragmatic.”
In the end, diplomacy seems to have won the day. The world is talking to Russia.
Here’s another example of how the Conservatives are exploiting international issues or personalities to cultivate domestic political capital.
Also last week, the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims, addressed a joint session of Parliament. Then the Conservatives shut the opposition out of his gig at the Massey Hall in Toronto.
Both events were available for online viewing, but only through stephenharper.ca, a Conservative website. Only after viewers had entered their name and email address. The Harper Conservatives used the events to harvest Canadian’s email addresses.