Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Splitsville in Harperland

You don't really have to say that much at all these days: "UAE rift exposes division in Harper caucus." The headache that the UAE situation presents to the military is causing dissension in the Conservative caucus. Word continues to leak out that the decision to play hardball with the UAE on landing rights that has caused us to be evicted from our military base there, the one that would have been instrumental in the Afghan exit, is a product of Harper's "pique" but with an assist from the uber partisan former Transport Minister John Baird. Baird gained the ear of the PM on this one, it is said, with his "forceful arguments." (Baird, as noted yesterday, was lobbied by the Air Canada president in April.)

You have to question the wisdom of Harper here, however, in favouring hard line commercial positioning over what is principally a military and foreign affairs issue. Particularly since, as the report notes, Harper had previously decided to indulge the UAE on the landing rights:
The move was a repudiation, a senior Tory MP says, of Mr. Harper’s decision several months ago to allow the UAE more landing slots in recognition of previous negotiations that acknowledged Canada had been a guest in the UAE since 2001.
So all this standing up for Canada stuff is not so relevant if what we're being told is that it was just a question of how many rights/landing slots were going to be given to the UAE.

The big political development here is that some unknown "senior Conservative MP" is dishing in frustration now about cabinet and National Defence HQ disgruntlement. That's big news in typically unified Harperland:
The loss of the base has left some cabinet members frustrated and angry at how Mr. Harper handled it.

“[It’s] all gone because of a fit of pique and a hard [core] position that is truculent and unreasonable against Canada’s short- and long-term interests,” the MP said.
With roughly three weeks to leave the United Arab Emirates, the Canadian Forces are preparing to relocate their logistics base for Afghanistan-bound soldiers to somewhere such as Cyprus.

The move – even as the Forces are preparing for a 2011 withdrawal from Afghanistan – is a headache for the military.

The Tory MP said the senior hierarchy at the Department of National Defence is disappointed with how Mr. Harper has handled the dispute – given the initial efforts to reach a settlement as well as the enormous cost and logistical challenges of relocating.
To think of what's going on here with relocating an entire military base in three weeks is mind boggling. The faces of resilience and dutiful contingency plan lines we've been hearing are lipstick on this pig of a situation. It's no wonder the voices are starting to speak up. The message, Harper and his diplomatic crew need to fix this debacle, if they can. It shouldn't be too late to fix this, if someone isn't too stubborn that is.