Tuesday, July 19, 2005

And plenty of security

Sounds okay, but there's room for improvement: WASHINGTON -- A Conservative government in Canada would move aggressively to step up efforts in the war on international terrorism and create a single office to oversee Canada's spy and security forces, Opposition Leader Stephen Harper promised yesterday in a speech to right-wing fellow travellers gathered in Washington. "In particular, Canada can play a stronger role in the war on terrorism," Mr. Harper told a receptive audience of representatives of centrist and conservative parties from more than 60 nations attending the triennial International Democrat Union meeting. A Tory government would also create "an office of the commissioner of national security whose job it will be to begin co-ordination of Canada's security agencies." Not to quibble, but we already have one of those, sort of. And I'm not sure that creating a larger bureaucratic clusterfarg by moving CSIS and CSE under that department, or vice versa, would necessarily be in aid of anything. Growing the size of the federal government and its attendant bureaucracy is an awfully Canadian solution, though, so I suppose it might get a thumbs-up from PSAC. The still-evolving plan echoes the U.S. decision to consolidate all security agencies under a single czar. Mr. Harper also said his party is continuing to look at the issue of a national identity card, although he said no policy decision had been made. Want me to start seriously considering the Libertarians as something beyond a one-off protest vote? Do that. I dare you. Instituting a national ID card will have little to no effect on those seeking to circumvent it, while at the same time adding another layer of arbitrary government control to the everyday lives of law-abiding citizens, ripe for abuse. Has the gun registry debacle not taught us that, at least? Mr. Harper vowed that a Conservative government would boost military spending in Canada. "We will reverse the record of successive Liberal governments under which Canada's military, peacekeeping and foreign-aid contributions have long been shrinking." Sigh. This is what tends to disappoint me; even abroad, talking to foreign policy hawks from around the world, Harper can't stop reciting the same old platitudes about peacekeeping. Although he made no specific commitment to adopt a policy of reversing the Liberal government's rejection of ballistic missile defence -- a cornerstone of the Bush administration's defence strategy -- Mr. Harper made it clear that if he were prime minister, Canada would shoulder a greater share of continental defence. Better, but still vague. Take a stand, damn it; say that missile defence is a good thing, and explain why. Take the argument to the people. That's a worthy issue to go down fighting on. "A new Conservative government will do significantly more to contribute to [Canada's] own national security, to continental security in alliance with the United States and to global security in concert with all free nations," Mr. Harper said. That will gladden Republicans in the United States, many of whom regard the Canadian government as soft on terrorism, and an unreliable ally that deserted Americans in Iraq and over missile defence. Tougher Canadian domestic efforts to combat terrorism would also please Americans on both sides of the partisan divide, some of whom regard Canada's immigration and domestic-security policies as inadequate to stop terrorists from infiltrating the United States across the border. Like the Bush administration, which has vowed to help spread democracy throughout the world and reverse the decades-long pattern of supporting authoritarian regimes if they backed Washington, Mr. Harper called fighting terrorism a battle of ideas. And, of course, here's the pièce de résistance: The Globe & Mail's standard booga-booga-booga line about Republicans, coupled with stirring up anti-American resentment on as many points as possible. Shameless, but expected. But what does this do to the actual policy intent? I don't think it hurts it as much as they think. Even for all my complaints, this is a strong and decisive plan, comparatively, which I could (mostly) support. I know "American-style" is assumed by the Canadian media to be the most damning of epithets, but we could certainly do worse than to improve security to American levels, and it's not clear - recent display of backbone aside - that the Liberals are even capable of such a feat, let alone willing to try it.

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