Weekend Notes (Vol. 1, No. 16)

After the Globe reported this week that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were reaching out to members of the Taliban, Defence Minister Peter MacKay moved quickly to clarify for the nation that we were not, in actual fact, speaking with the evildoers. 

“We’re going to work with the Afghans in a democratic way, but we are not involved in any direct discussions with Taliban terrorists,” he told reporters after QP. “We don’t do that, we will not do that. We will work on national reconciliation, reconstruction development, all of those things with sovereign decisions made by the Afghanistan government.”

To that clarification, Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, offered this during Friday’s QP.

“Mr. Speaker, the decision to engage the Taliban was made by the government of Afghanistan. Canada does not interfere with what the government of Afghanistan does,” he said, later going just a touch further. “It is the responsibility and the prerogative of the Afghan government to negotiate with its citizens, including the members of the Taliban. Any reconciliation process that will bring peace to the region, they can count on Canada’s support.”

So. Canada is not currently communicating with the Taliban. But the Afghan government is pursuing such discussions. And we will do everything we can to support them in this matter. All clear?

And those troops who are talking to the Taliban?

“They certainly don’t speak for the government of Canada,” Peter MacKay clarified late this week.

The only question that remains: How come the Defence Minister doesn’t support our soldiers?

—The much-vaunted interrogator we’d been promised when Bob Rae re-arrived in Ottawa this spring hadn’t really distinguished himself this session. At least until Thursday. Then, with his second question of the day, the Liberal foreign affairs critic presented Maxime Bernier with this. “Mr. Speaker, the UN representative also confirmed that there would be elections in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. As we know, Elections Canada played an important role in the 2004 Afghan elections. Could the minister tell me whether Elections Canada still has the confidence of the government and the minister to do the necessary work in Afghanistan?” 

That said, Rae returned to his seat with a gleeful grin on his face.

—Random Sports Reference of the Week. John McCallum explains the income gap in Canada. “I think for various technological and globalizing reasons, we see a lot of big increases in income at the top. Look at the sports world, look at Tiger Woods. It just seems to be the way the world is. And I don’t think we should impose draconian taxes on high income people because I don’t think that would be good for Canada. But I do think, and we in the Liberal Party are committed to that, we should put in measure to help those at the lower end.”

—Entertaining Video of the Week. Mike Duffy v. Danny Williams. Having exhausted all of Newfoundland’s concerns, the Premier is now apparently coming to Dalton McGuinty’s aid.

—There was a rumour this week that the Winnipeg Free Press was working on something interesting to do with the in-and-out controversy. Here is the confirmation of that rumour.

—Interesting claim in this Globe story. “One of Clement’s cabinet colleagues says he and many of his fellow Tories don’t get ‘jacked up’ by meeting arts and cultural celebrities.” Really? The applause Eugene Levy and the Tragically Hip received in the House the other day was rather enthusiastic. And at least one cabinet minister spent most of Question Period gazing starry-eyed up at the celebrities in the gallery.

—A “communications consultant” takes the members to task for their attire in the House. “They look like a bunch of dealers in a flea market somewhere. They wear the most outrageous sports jackets, suits that are not appropriate, colours that are not appropriate and shirts that look like they’re worn to a football game.” Oh, come now. I, personally, thought Ted Menzies’ pink-tie-pink-shirt combo this week was tres chic.

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