The Bernier-Couillard Affair, Day 104
Or maybe it just feels that way…
“The only fruitful line of inquiry” for a Commons committee investigation, the Ottawa Citizen‘s Susan Riley opines, “would involve Couillard’s role, if any, in helping her former biker pals apply for a security contract at Montreal airport in 2005, presumably to facilitate their drug trafficking.” As for the whole leave-behind affair itself, she can’t imagine what Couillard could have done with the information to threaten national security. “Sell it to the Taliban? Pass it to her geo-politically astute former biker pals?” And besides, Riley quite trenchantly notes, we’ll never know what those documents contained anyway—either because the information really was that sensitive or, more likely, “because it would give rise to awkward questions about why they were declared confidential in the first place” and imperil the “‘national security’ dodge” that keeps so much in Ottawa needlessly under wraps.
John Robson, writing in the Citizen, “shed[s] no tears for Mr. Bernier,” and if Couillard is “a babe in the woods,” he says “the bears better look out.” His goal today is simply to expose the hypocrisy of Canadian politicians to “maximum ridicule.” By saying the matter has nothing to do with “the minister’s private life,” he argues, Stephen Harper is suggesting the same fracas would have erupted had he “been married to her for 15 years”—which is laughable. The claim that Bernier only found out about the bikers when the press got wind of it is “as useless as it is implausible because it tacitly admits he would have worried if he had known.” And Michael Ignatieff, meanwhile, says it’s all about the possible “link between organized crime and airport security in Montreal” and that he doesn’t care about Couillard’s past. “But the possible link with organized crime is her ‘past,’ ” Robson counters.
The government’s continuing insistence that Bernier’s private life is “sacrosanct” just casts more doubt on Harper’s judgment, the Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe argues, given Couillard’s “seriously problematic” background. Indeed, she suggests the misplaced documents constituted “the least salacious and the least controversial misplay that Bernier’s resignation could be attributed to.” The fact he was allowed to commit the Kandahar governor gaffe, the President of Haiti gaffe, the C-17 gaffe and the $22,000 airfare gaffe without sanction, in other words, should be far more important concerns.
Rumours that a major Cabinet overhaul is not in the works are most unfortunate, Chantal Hébert argues in the Toronto Star, because it desperately needs to be “rebalance[d] … to favour substance over raw politics.” Her suggestions: Senator Hugh Segal to foreign affairs, on his own merits and because there’s nobody else who’s both qualified and “minimally bilingual”; Jim Prentice to finance, to get Jim Flaherty out of Dalton McGuinty’s hair if nothing else; Michael Fortier to something “more challenging”; and James Moore subbing in to Cabinet, somewhere, for the departed Bernier.
Just as Hébert says there’s no need to placate Quebeckers with ministers from Quebec (so long as the tête carrée in question speaks adequate French, naturally), the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin laments Harper’s damaging obsession with regional balance. Moore, Albertan Kevin Sorensen and B.C.’s Russ Hiebert “clearly rate a shot at bigger things,” he argues, and the “continuing … second-string status of Calgary’s Diane Ablonczy” is inexcusable. “Every name raised as ripe for replacement comes from Ontario or Quebec,” says Martin, while “every name worthy of elevation to bigger and better duties comes from Alberta or B.C.” But it won’t happen. Not a recipe for a strong Cabinet.
The Germans—not a warlike people
Since the commander of German troops in Balkh province was “too busy with VIP visits” to talk to the Star‘s Rosie DiManno about Afghanistan, she instead talks to the deputy governor of Balkh about the Germans. “I think they should stay to help us more in the field of reconstruction,” he says. “But if they do leave, it really makes no difference to us.” DiManno’s attempts to be even-handed about the risks German troops face in the relatively tranquil north of the country cannot mask—not that it should be masked—the overall impression that they spent most of their time on beer-and-sausage patrol.
In a separate piece, DiManno recounts the night in 2001 she declined to join a group of reporters heading out with Northern Alliance fighters to interview some Taliban prisoners. The group was ambushed, and three of the journalists were killed. Eleven more have died in Afghanistan since, she notes.
Colby Cosh, writing in the National Post, excoriates NDP defence critic Dawn Black for questioning the need for a Canadian HUMINT (human intelligence) unit in Afghanistan—as disclosed this week in a “fascinating coup” by CBC News. The “scary acronym … is, in truth, nothing more that mil-speak for any relevant knowledge gathered by an army directly from human sources,” he writes, and it’s helped a lot of good guys win a lot of battles, from Normandy to Kandahar. Having “a ‘debate’ on whether a fighting force abroad should have a HUMINT apparatus,” as Black had suggested, “would be exactly like debating whether it should carry ammunition.”
The Globe‘s Lawrence Martin provides his thoughts upon the occasion of Joe Clark’s official portrait-hanging ceremony, noting that even “Peter MacKay, who promised not to merge the [Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance] parties but had gone ahead and done so, had the fortitude to come and pay his respects” to one of Canada’s “great fighters.” Red Toryism may well rise again, Martin assures the self-described political “orphan,” citing a (naturally unnamed) Tory MP.
Lorne Gunter, writing in the Edmonton Journal, outlines the considerable obstacles Canadian law puts in the way of prospective handgun owners, notes how rare it is for a handgun crime to be committed by its registered owner, and declares Toronto mayor David Miller’s campaign for a nationwide ban on handguns—and a city-wide ban on activities as innocent as rifle ranges—completely bonkers. We pretty much agree, but it’s a bit much to completely gloss over the potential for legally-owned handguns to be stolen and subsequently used in crime.
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford reports on the controversial secondment of Ontario Crown prosecutor Owen Young to the Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where he’ll serve as lead counsel. Young is the prosecutor who “urged a judge to impose ‘a financial penalty that hurts’ on the so-called KI-6 native protesters,” she notes—harsh language that some say is incompatible with the spirit of reconciliation. It seems to us that past instances of demanding punishment for malfeasance by aboriginal Canadians would disqualify just about any prosecutor with “impeccable credentials,” such as Young’s, on native issues. That is, after all, a prosecutor’s job.
“Sharon Stone may be a flake and a dilettante,” the Citizen‘s Dan Gardner writes, and “she may even be the public enemy of all mankind,” as the Chinese government has suggested, “but she’s not unintelligent.” She is, Gardner believes, perfectly capable of considering an idea such as the Chinese earthquake being some sort of karmic punishment for all the Party’s human rights violations—which she suggested at Cannes, and later apologized for—and determining that it’s irretrievably stupid. Everyone’s capable of “scrutinizing [their] thoughts,” says Gardner—even Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell—and coming off a whole lot smarter in the process.