Inconsistency, like Canada’s government, knows no borders

Two developments that make a mockery of the Harper government’s hotly-defended positions on two emotional debates this year:

• Bev Oda’s blogging from Mozambique! She’s blogging about what makes good policy in some of the poorest parts of the world. She’s blogging about how to ensure the very finest in maternal and child health. She’s learned so much about how important it is to avoid unwanted pregnancies. She’s careful to share her discoveries with readers:

“…one realizes very quickly that, in addition to facilities and equipment, maternal, nutrition and, family planning education programs are also crucial.”

Say, what’s that part about family planning? Perhaps she was only talking about “family planning education,” although she does list that, whatever it means, along with “facilities and equipment.” It’s a bit vague. So Elizabeth Payne from the Ottawa Citizen gave the minister a call.

Oda said the governments of Mozambique and Mali are both highly supportive of family planning, including abortion in some cases, and they like working with Canada, because it is considered very flexible. “We are not seen as having stipulated certain paradigms … or having any particular direction. We say ‘How can we help? What is the most effective way?'”

Oda said the controversy around Canada’s G8 initiative and abortion was largely limited to Canada and is not an issue in either Mali or Mozambique.

Abortion is legal in both countries, when a woman’s life is considered to be at risk, which, effectively, means that most women don’t have access to abortion.

Still, Oda said Canada would support abortion infrastructure if asked. “As long as it is legal within the country and it’s a legal procedure … if we were asked to help in that way, we would do that.”

That last bit is helpful, because in April, after months of heated questioning across the Commons aisle, Oda was still trying to peddle a distinction between “family planning,” which the government would fund, and abortion, which it wouldn’t. But now that the Harper government’s constant cheerleaders are looking somewhere else, Oda has gone back to the Michael Ignatieff-approved maternal health initiative of 40 years’ standing, which includes abortion.

As the inimitable Chris Selley put it, “Attention social conservatives: You’ve been had. Again.” But of course, social conservatives like being had and, now that they’ve been informed they’ve been had, will get mad at the Citizen and probably Selley and me for pointing it out. Not at the prime minister of Canada for playing them like a cheap fiddle.


• Peter Kent’s off to the Middle East! He’s going to drop in on Shimon Peres and Avigdor Lieberman and… and… wait, this can’t be right.

Minister of State Kent will also visit the West Bank, where he will meet Riad Malki, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Canada is implementing a five-year, $300 million package of assistance to the Palestinian Authority, focusing on support in the areas of security and justice.

Riad Malki? Surely that’s not the same Riyad al-Maliki who used to be the chief West Bank spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine?! (And indeed, orthographic differences aside, it is. It checks out six ways to Sunday.)

But… but the PFLP is a listed terrorist organization in Canada. I know this because my excellent friend Aurel Braun and his allies on the Rights and Democracy board got extremely upset when that agency gave a group called al-Haq $10,000 two years ago:

Al Haq’s general director, Shawan Jabarin, has been denied exit visas by Israel and Jordan because of his ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP is a listed terrorist organization in Canada. In 2007, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected Mr. Jabarin’s petition to have his travel ban lifted because “he is an activist in a terrorist organization.” It should come as no surprise that the board reacted with shock when it found Mr. Jabarin’s own signature on the paperwork accepting this grant from Rights & Democracy.

So here we have a member of the Harper government cavorting with a known PFLP associate, as Max Bernier did two years ago, and giving this known PFLP associate thirty thousand times as much money as R&D gave al-Haq in 2008.

Whatever will my excellent friend Aurel Braun think?

In October Andrew Coyne and I will be in Vancouver for one of our occasional CPAC town hall events. The subject we’ll discuss is the Harper government as it nears five years in power. One of the questions we’ll bat around is whether the prime minister has a strategy he is pursuing or whether his political career has been reduced essentially to high-priced performance art. Nobody who reads us will be surprised to learn that Andrew will take the latter position, while I had hoped to argue that Harper has a strategy and a reason for being in public life. The prime minister is not making my side of the argument any easier to defend.

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