Way to Go, Conservatives! (Said Twice, the Second Time With Irony)

Yeah, I’m as surprised as the rest of you, but I feel strongly that when people in government get it right, especially when the government is held by a party you often find yourself at odds with, you should give them credit. I’ve engaged in my share of Stockbashing, but anybody who can raise the ire of the American ambassador on the Maher Arar affair (and the fact Mr. Arar is still on the American no-fly list despite being exhonerated by a Canadian inquiry) is doing something right.

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins on Wednesday criticized Ottawa’s efforts to have Maher Arar removed from a United States security watch list, saying the U.S. alone will decide who to let into the country.

Speaking in Edmonton after meeting with new Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach, Wilkins warned Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day to back off, because a U.S. review determined Arar should remain on the watch list.

“It’s a little presumptuous for him [Day] to say who the United States can and cannot allow into our country,” Wilkins told reporters Wednesday.

The ambassador reiterated that the U.S. found its own reasons to keep Arar on the watch list.

Day said in a visit last week to Washington that he has seen the information and found nothing new to suggest Arar is a safety risk.

(link — hat tip to Pogge)

Wilkins is ultimately right: the United States has a right to control who it lets into the country and who it keeps out and we have little recourse but to complain. However, Maher Arar is still a Canadian citizen, and the Canadian government has an obligation to speak up if it feels that any Canadian citizen is receiving unjust treatment anywhere the world. Certainly Americans everywhere would expect their government to act the same way if any Americans were similarly unjustly treated, so kudos to Stockwell Day for doing his job well enough to get under Wilkins’ skin. The one who should really be backing off here is Wilkins.

Now, I was all prepared to end the post here, but then came news that blackened the moment somewhat. During the news conference called to make the Canadian government’s apology to Maher Arar official, our Prime Minister found that he could not stand above petty politics enough to refrain from this cheap shot:

“Although these events occurred under the last government, please rest assured that this government will do everything in its power to ensure…”

Now, it’s true that Maher Arar was shipped to Syria under the Liberal government’s watch, and they rightly deserve to be tarnished over this. But it is a little rich for Stephen Harper to try and put the blame solely on the Liberals when it was Conservative opposition members, including Stephen Harper, Diane Ablonczy and Stockwell Day himself that harranged the Liberals for granting Maher Arar Canadian citizenship despite the man’s “obvious terrorist ties” found by the Americans. This is a blame shared by the Conservatives, speaking at the news conference, I think.

In the latest Bloggers Hotstove, Greg Staples responds by saying that the Conservatives weren’t in power at the time; the Liberals had a majority government, so all culpability rests with them. But I disagree. The opposition is a key part of the government. It is their job to hold the government’s feet to the fire, to encourage and cajole them to do the right thing, to make them dance at question period. If the opposition gets it wrong, if it pushes the government to do the wrong thing, then they certainly share responsibility in my opinion. Certainly, their opponents have every right and ability to look back on their speeches in Hansard and pull up plenty of embarrassing comments to trip them up on. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.

It would have been nice if Stephen Harper had acknowledged his party’s own statements and apologized for them. This could have been done with little or no political harm. You could cite a lack of information at the time, but whatever the case, if Harper had come clean now, he would have had my complete respect on this issue for doing the right thing. As it stands, Harper’s apology makes the Conservatives look like the small kid that encouraged the Liberals to throw a stone through a window, and looking surprised when the owners inside come storming out, angry at both individuals.

Mike at Rational Reasons says much the same thing, only more eloquently.

Latest Hotstove Now Up

Go check it out as Greg Staples expertly fends off heated points made by Mike Park, Scott Tribe and myself in an hour where we discuss the out-of-place Conservative attack ads, Kyoto, the Arar apology and more. I think my own joke about sports ads being out of place on a political program sort of fell flat, but there’s plenty of other interesting things to listen to, so check it out.

Tonight’s Doctor Who Episode a Repeat

Finally, it should be noted that, rather than the regularly scheduled Fear Her, the CBC will be repeating the second season premier, New Earth in today’s Doctor Who timeslot. This is because the station is running a live event beforehand (retiring Ken Dryden’s number, I hear), and figures that a repeat would be a safer thing to show in case the live event runs over. Fear Her will run next Monday instead, with the two-part season finale over the two weeks after that.

Oh, well. Gives me time to watch my copy of the latest Battlestar Galactica, and tomorrow’s House is new.

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