Con­ser­va­tive hypocrisy

Rem­pel, Kent do about-face on trash-talk­ing in U.S.

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - TIM HARPER Tim Harper writes on na­tional af­fairs for Torstar news­pa­pers. tjharper77@gmail.com, Twit­ter: @nut­graf1

Let’s cast back a few years, to a long-for­got­ten episode in the life of the last Stephen Harper gov­ern­ment.

Tom Mul­cair, then the coun­try’s Op­po­si­tion leader, landed in Wash­ing­ton for meet­ings, and in the course of his visit he out­lined the NDP view of the Key­stone XL pipe­line.

He told an Amer­i­can au­di­ence that his pri­or­ity for Cana­dian en­ergy was an east-west pipe­line, that Key­stone would ex­port Cana­dian jobs and the NDP would do a bet­ter job than Harper in build­ing sup­port for pipe­lines.

The Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment of the day re­acted as if Mul­cair should be shipped back north of the bor­der in leg irons and shack­les.

A se­nior min­is­ter of the day, John Baird, ac­cused Mul­cair of “trash talk­ing” and “bad­mouthing” Canada. An­other for­mer min­is­ter, Joe Oliver, marched to the mi­cro­phones in the Com­mons foyer to de­nounce Mul­cair for not leav­ing pol­i­tics at the bor­der. He also took to the key­board for the Globe and Mail to tell the coun­try “a re­spon­si­ble politi­cian would not travel to a for­eign cap­i­tal to score cheap po­lit­i­cal points.”

Baird and Oliver are gone, but Michelle Rem­pel and Peter Kent were part of that gov­ern­ment. It ap­pears they missed Oliver’s op-ed.

The Con­ser­va­tives un­der An­drew Scheer are cer­tainly en­ti­tled to op­pose the Justin Trudeau gov­ern­ment’s $10.5 mil­lion pay­out to Omar Khadr.

The party be­lieves it has a wedge is­sue here, some­thing that will bring last­ing dam­age to the Trudeau gov­ern­ment. Much of their out­rage is prob­a­bly real.

So they will milk it for ev­ery­thing it is worth. That’s how pol­i­tics is played.

But Rem­pel didn’t need to fly to the U.S. to tell Tucker Carl­son on Fox that Cana­di­ans were out­raged. Kent didn’t need to write an op-ed in the Wall Street Jour­nal to be, as he said, “hon­est” with our al­lies and in­form them.

Yes, this is the same Kent who, as Harper’s en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter, at­tacked two NDP MPs, Me­gan Les­lie and Claude Grav­elle, for speak­ing about Key­stone in Wash­ing­ton.

Ac­cord­ing to Kent, they were tak­ing “the treach­er­ous course of leav­ing the do­mes­tic de­bate and head­ing abroad to at­tack a le­git­i­mate Cana­dian re­source which is be­ing re­spon­si­bly de­vel­oped and reg­u­lated.”

Maybe the duo was just try­ing to be “hon­est” with our al­lies and try­ing to in­form them.

Both Kent and Rem­pel have ig­nored an old, time-hon­oured dic­tum which has now been re­peat­edly dis­cred­ited — you stash your par­ti­san pol­i­tics on this side of the bor­der.

For years, Cana­dian prime min­is­ters did not take par­ti­san shots at op­po­nents back home while trav­el­ling abroad be­cause they were rep­re­sent­ing Canada, not the Lib­er­als or the Con­ser­va­tives.

This is even more cher­ished in the U.S., where pres­i­dents do not travel abroad as Repub­li­cans or Democrats, but as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the United States of Amer­ica.

It was Harper who most ag­gres­sively moved away from this tra­di­tion.

As leader of the Cana­dian Al­liance, he and Stock­well Day took to the pages of the Wall Street Jour­nal in 2003 to as­sure Amer­i­cans Jean Chré­tien had made a mis­take in stay­ing out of George W. Bush’s “coali­tion of the will­ing” in­vad­ing Iraq.

When he rep­re­sented Canada at the fu­neral of Mar­garet Thatcher, Harper couldn’t wait un­til his plane landed in Canada to take a poke at Trudeau over the then squeaky new Lib­eral leader’s com­ments about “root causes” of ter­ror­ism in the af­ter­math of the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing in 2013.

No one in the press pack asked him about Trudeau’s com­ments. Harper raised them un­so­licited.

The fact of the mat­ter is the Trudeau gov­ern­ment gave a heads-up on the Khadr pay­out to the rel­e­vant de­part­ments in the Don­ald Trump gov­ern­ment, and Trump never raised the mat­ter with Trudeau at the G20.

Rem­pel and Kent got a tem­po­rary spike in U.S. at­ten­tion af­ter their in­ter­ven­tions. But they sure got a lot of pub­lic­ity at home over the past week, and that may have been a large part of their cal­cu­la­tion.

One can dis­agree with the Con­ser­va­tive mes­sage on Khadr, but they cer­tainly have the right to ex­press it. At home.

Much more trou­bling than the mes­sage is the hypocrisy of a party which, while in gov­ern­ment, all but ac­cused op­po­nents of high trea­son for do­ing just what they did last week.

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