Thursday, October 29, 2009

Score one more for minority government

Pogge had one score on that front this morning, the detainee handling and what officials knew about torture allegations in Afghanistan will in fact be investigated by a parliamentary committee. Favourite quote from the CP story:
"We can subpoena (witnesses) and if the government wants to quiet them down ... and tell them to shut up, then we're going to fight. We're going to have a good fight with the government," said Bloc defence critic Claude Bachand.
Good. That's an issue that warrants a very good fight.

There was also a trace of the impact of our minority government status as subtext in a big story today from Star reporter Michelle Sheppard on Omar Khadr: "Omar Khadr 'innocent' in death of U.S. soldier." Sheppard has obtained classified photos and information that undercuts the case against Khadr by questioning his physical capabilities during that Afghan battle:
Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr was buried face down under rubble, blinded by shrapnel and crippled, at the time the Pentagon alleges he threw a grenade that fatally wounded a U.S. soldier, according to classified photographs and defence documents obtained by the Star.
You have to note the interesting timing on this leak of information. This revelation comes just a few weeks before the U.S. is to announce their intentions with Khadr, whether that be transferring him to the U.S. for a criminal trial or keeping him mired in the Guantanamo military commission process. Exculpatory evidence leaking out could ratchet up pressure on the Obama justice officials as they're making that decision.

But back to the minority government point. Sheppard also has some detail of what's being represented to that Obama task force that's reviewing Khadr's case in advance of their decision. For example, this item, demonstrating that Canada's minority parliament status as reflected in the Commons' committees may have a bit of influence. At least, one could hope:
Khadr's lawyers argued to the task force that Khadr is a perfect candidate for rehabilitation, and they note that an Ottawa parliamentary committee has already approved a plan for him that would integrate mental, spiritual and social programs – and place legal restrictions on his freedom and access to family members.
A flag being flown to the Americans that there is a contrary view here in Canada, rehabilitation and repatriation could be accomplished and a parliamentary committee has done some legwork. Such work clearly would not have been undertaken by a Conservative majority. They're too busy spending our dollars fighting in the courts to ensure that a Canadian with child soldier status be the first child soldier tried since the 1940s.

Despite the settling in that we're seeing in national polls, it's still not clear that the Conservatives are poised for majority territory. In fact, the national numbers are hovering around the results from the 2008 election. Clearly, that's nothing to crow about for Liberals, or any of the parties, for that matter, but it's a bit of perspective. Apparently it takes billions of taxpayer dollars and unprecedented promotion of the Conservative party to move those numbers upwards, maybe 1 or 2 points from the last election. It's still proving to be a tough sell.