Thursday, April 17, 2008

Maxime Bernier's competence in question

Maxime Bernier's gaffe in Afghanistan this past week has now led to calls for his resignation. Bob Rae is in full gear, highlighting that his House counterpart is just not up to the job:
Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier's diplomatic gaffe in Afghanistan suggests he doesn't have the capacity to handle the portfolio and should be replaced, Liberal critic Bob Rae said Thursday.

Rae, the party's foreign affairs critic, held a news conference in Ottawa to denounce Bernier's blunder and question his record as minister.

"To make a mistake of this character at this stage of the proceedings in Afghanistan after we've been there so long … is a very big mistake indeed," said Rae.

"I think it poses questions about Mr. Bernier's capacity to do what needs to be done."
But Rae, who grilled Bernier Wednesday during question period, said he believed Bernier's comments have damaged Canada's and NATO's efforts in Afghanistan.

"What he has said has had a negative effect on our efforts in Afghanistan. The deed is done and that's the problem that we have," he said.

Rae acknowledged there are "serious issues with respect to governance and … with the governor of Kandahar," but that the issue could be raised through diplomatic channels.

"Bernier's way to carrying on has been ineffective," he said.
This follows an intense exchange between Rae and Bernier in the House on Wednesday, where Rae put the problem in a nutshell:
I have a very simple question for the minister. Does he not realize that there were diplomatic efforts to deal with the question of the governor of Kandahar? He himself had a private conversation with President Karzai about the governor of Kandahar.

Does the minister not realize that, in fact, he is making the fight against corruption, the fight against the mistreatment of prisoners more difficult by babbling in front of the media and putting public pressure on the government of Afghanistan and putting them in an impossible position? Does he not even understand what he has done? He does not.
We don't need a Foreign Affairs Minister who is a deer in the headlights.

His stance on Omar Khadr's continued detention at Guantanamo Bay, characterized by cheerful obsequiousness to Condi Rice and the U.S. position, has been an absolute embarrassment.

He dithered over recognition of Kosovo.

He wrongly apologized for Foreign Affairs training materials that actually told the truth, that the U.S. does torture in this era and Canadian Foreign Affairs staff should be aware of that when interviewing Canadian citizens detained by the U.S. Instead, Maxime demanded a re-write of reality.

And then there are the overall questions about Bernier's competence, of course, given the extensive use of the written statement on his behalf when Canada needs a Foreign Affairs Minister who can stand on his own two feet and think and speak forcefully on our behalf. This has been our tradition. But nope, Maxime can't fill those shoes. This latest mistake in Afghanistan proves it.

Hands up anyone who would prefer Bob Rae to be Foreign Affairs Minister?