Justin Trudeau's partisan brain trust on foreign affairs

 Za'atri Refugee Camp in Jordan
Your correspondent meets Syrian child refugees at Za’atri Refugee Camp in Jordan while covering Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit there earlier this year. Harper’s approach to the Middle East — aligning Canada much more strongly with Israel than previous Liberal prime ministers, for example — would be one of the defining characteristics of his foreign policy. Liberals recently opposed the combat mission against ISIL in Iraq.  (Look closely to find PostMedia’s Mark Kennedy among the kids there).

Today, the Liberal Party of Canada has announced a council  of “non-partisan” experts to provide advice and be a sounding board for leader Justin Trudeau on international affairs issues, from military procurement to international aid to global security threats.  The professional qualifications and accomplishments of the members of this council are impressive but it cannot be accurate to brand this group as “non-partisan”.

Indeed,  this council is made up of 14 individuals, 11 of whom are Liberals MPs, current or former Liberal candidates, or Liberal donors.  No one should be confused: This council does not believe that the way Stephen Harper has positioned Canada on the world stage is a good thing. And eight of them – the current or hope-to-be Liberal MPs — would have voted with their leader against the current combat mission against ISIL in Iraq. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s avoid the marketing sheen of “non-partisan.” Continue reading Justin Trudeau's partisan brain trust on foreign affairs

Transcript: LPC hopeful Andrew Leslie quizzed on Israel-Hamas — by CPC staffer?

Legion event 1
In this picture, provided by the federal Liberal Party, Lt Gen (ret’d) Andrew Leslie, hopeful of winning the Liberal nomination in Ottawa-Orleans, speaks about the Israel-Hamas conflict with a woman who the Liberals say is a Conservative Parliament Hill staffer, Alexandra Constantinidis

Late last week, a recording was forwarded through a third party to the Ottawa Sun and and to my newsroom in Sun Media’s parliamentary bureau. The recording, about five minutes long, contained a conversation from Aug. 19 between Lt. Gen (Ret’d) Andrew Leslie and, at the time we received it, an unidentified woman. In the process of verifying that circumstances and content of this conversation we contacted Leslie and the office of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Leslie also made a recording of this same conversation and, on Tuesday, provided us with his transcript of conversation. His transcript matches the transcript we made from the first recording we received. The Liberals also identified the woman having the conversation with Leslie as the Parliament Hill assistant to Calgary West Conservative MP Rob Anders, Alexandra Constantinidis. Attempts to reach Constantinidis Tuesday to confirm she is the other participant in this conversation were unsuccessful. (Constantinidis’ Facebook page indicates she is a student at Mount Royal University and may well have returned to Calgary to start classes this fall there.)

The circumstances of this rather odd conversation? A public discussion that occurred at the end of a roundtable Leslie held on veterans affairs at a Royal Canadian Legion in his riding of Ottawa-Orleans on Aug. 19. Leslie, who was appointed by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to co-chair the Liberal Party’s Council of International Affairs Advisors, is seeking the Liberal nomination in Ottawa-Orleans. The conversation was recorded by both parties. Continue reading Transcript: LPC hopeful Andrew Leslie quizzed on Israel-Hamas — by CPC staffer?

Baird to UN: Are you kidding me?

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird
OTTAWA – Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird speaks about the failed ceasefire between Israel and Hamas during a news conference in Ottawa July 15, 2014. (REUTERS/Blair Gable)

The Times of Israel reported this week:

A United Nations agency that last week found rockets in a Gaza school operating under its auspices has handed that weaponry over to Hamas, Israeli officials said Sunday, accusing the organization of actively helping the terrorist organization potentially attack Israeli civilians. Continue reading Baird to UN: Are you kidding me?

Article: Are U.S. Reform Conservatives Serious? (and why Canadian conservatives should care)

A long but rewarding read from E.J. Dionne [first published in the journal Democracy but re-published by The Atlantic on the intellectual state-of-the-nation of U.S. conservatives. Notable from Canadian eyes in this sense: The “reformicons” Dionne described as “heretics” in the U.S. Republican movement — people like like David Frum, Bruce Bartlett and Ross Douthat — appear to be advocating for a conservativism in the U.S. that, to my eyes, rather resembles the conservatism of the Conservative Party of Canada. And so, just as the Conservative Party of Canada may serve as a possible inspiration for the Republicans, so too could today’s Republican Party serve as a king of warning for Canadian Conservatives should it fail lower- and middle-income households [a recent report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer noted that under the Harper government’s tax cuts  have helped “Low and middle income earners [benefit] more, in relative terms, than higher income earners.”) have been and be seen as ignoring the problem of economic inequality in our society. 

Some excerpts from the Dionne piece: Continue reading Article: Are U.S. Reform Conservatives Serious? (and why Canadian conservatives should care)

Canada names partisan as new Israel ambassador

Vivian Bercovici, Canada's Ambassador to Israel

On the eve of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s first-ever visit to Israel, Canada has named a new ambassador to that country whose appointment is sure to please Harper’s hosts.

The new ambassador to Israel, Toronto lawyer Vivian Bercovici (above), has had a monthly column in The Toronto Star that would please most small-c conservatives anywhere when it comes to her positions on Israel and the Middle East.

“My interest in Israel and the region goes back a long way,” Bercovici told reporters. Bercovici, who is Jewish, studied at York University and at the University of Toronto but she also spent two years at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the early 1980s. “Now is a very important time in the region, as important as ever and I’m very honoured to be appointed to take on this role. I know that this government’s principled stands on various fronts is warmly welcomed and appreciated by both the Israeli government and the Israeli people. ” Continue reading Canada names partisan as new Israel ambassador

Harper returns to St. Petersburg older but is he wiser?

Harper in the back of the plane
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks to reporters on his plane en route to the 2006 G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia (DAVID AKIN)

Stephen Harper had hardly every stepped outside of his native Canada when, in the first few months as Canada’s prime minister, he found himself flying to St. Petersburg for his first G8 summit.  This week, Harper will return to St. Petersburg for the annual summit of G20 leaders.

I was among the reporters covering his 2006 trip and I will be among the press pack covering this 2013 G20 summit. Continue reading Harper returns to St. Petersburg older but is he wiser?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech to the UK Parliament

The text of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s speech to be delivered at 1200 GMT in the Robing Room at the Palace of Westminster to members of the UK Parliament (pardon the formatting hiccups. That’s my fault, not anyone else’s, as I rushed to get this online) . The speech is 3,320 words long:

Lord Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Monsieur le premier ministre, Prime Minister, Lords and Members of the House of Commons: For anyone who fully understands and truly cherishes the free and democratic nature of our institutions and the long history upon which they rest
there is no honour to compare with an invitation to stand here at the very cradle of our political system and to address the Members of the Parliament of Westminster. Continue reading Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech to the UK Parliament