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2nd Reading Shennanigans

Occasionally, circumstances conspire so as to reveal that there are still Members of Parliament (MPs) whom do not realize that Committee meetings are taped and televised, and that it can therefor be rather embarrassing to engage in certain behaviours.

Such an occasion came to the fore on August 1st of 2006, when the House Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs convened to consider the issue of Canada's official foreign policy (FP) position vis-a-vis the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, and the ensuing invasion of Lebanon that resulted. Typically, FP statements of the Canadian government are highly nuanced things, being as they must balance Canada's treaty obligations and alliances with its official position as a diplomatic party of good-offices, and the bullish position of the citizenry on matters of human-rights and international law. Thus, as a matter of course, it is unusual for a Canadian government or Prime-Minister to issue statements staking a clear, unequivical position in support of any party in an active conflict except in the most agregious cases (i.e. World War II, or the Korean War).

Thus, it caused a bit of a miff when current PM Stephen Harper made statements of unequivical support for Israel, but they were largely put off as being the result of an inexperienced PM with too little knowledge of Canada's traditional roles in the international community; but then the Standing Committee met. The first order of business, however, was not the discussion of the issue at hand (the invasion of Lebenon), but rather the heated exchange of a series of procedural points-of-order meant to castigate the Conservative chairman for loading the witness list with parties friendly to the Conservative position without the consultation of the Oppostion - a clear breach of protocol and "gentlemanly behaviour". Worse yet, the Clerk's office had been employed in the attempt to stack the debate, and that the witnesses were scheduled to testify before the Committee that very day - without the prior knowledge or preperation of Opposition members.

At that point, it seems to have become apparent that the PM's comments had not simply been off-the-cuff or in bad taste, but that the minority Government of the Conservatives was staking-out a clear policy position for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that was scrubbed-clean of non-Conservative input. In effect, it seems that Canadian convention would be set aside by the Harper administration in favour of a neo-Conservative, pro-Israeli, and Government-sponsered policy - no matter if such a policy reflects Canada's political culture.

One would hope that the Honourable Members of Her Majesty's Conservative Party would have the good sense to be embarrassed by the publicly-revealved machinations of the ideologues within their party, but if such thinking truly reflects the world-view of the party ranks, then any hope placed in their sense of shame might be misplaced.

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