PM tells Dion join military or don't
[PoliticsWatch updated 4:30 p.m. May 31, 2007]
The Canadian House of Commons resembled an American election campaign on
Thursday as questions were raised about the military service of the prime
minister and the leader of the opposition.
"This was a very sad day in the House of Commons," NDP
Leader Jack Layton told reporters after question period.
"It simply denigrates our democracy and the prime minister should be ashamed."
The whole uproar occurred during question period when Liberal Leader
Stephane Dion repeatedly demanded that Defence Minister Gordon
O'Connor resign over the latest controversy involving the
Canadian mission in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared to have had enough of
Dion's line of questioning about the competence of O'Connor, who had
served previously as a general in Canada's military.
"The minister of National Defence is a veteran of the Canadian
Forces," Harper said. "He has served this country courageously in uniform for 32 years and when the leader of the opposition is able to stand in uniform and serve his country then I'll care about his opinion."
Harper's stunning comment was greeted by cheers from his MPs while
the Liberals jeered the prime minister.
Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff rose to ask the next question
and pointed out that Harper had spent his entire adult life in
academia or politics.
"Mr. Speaker, I can't remember the prime minister's service record,"
That prompted the prime minister to go on the attack against
Ignatieff, a writer and academic who spent most of the previous 30
years living outside of Canada before returning to seek the Liberal
"It's true I've never served in the armed forces," the PM
admitted. "I consider that an experience in my life that I've missed. But I can say, Mr. Speaker, that I've always worked and lived and paid my taxes in my country."
Ignatieff then rose to rebut Harper as Tory MPs shouted him down by
heckling "Harvard. Harvard."
Thursday's attacks in question period are yet another sign that MPs
are in for a rough ride if they plan to sit for the remaining three
weeks on the Parliamentary calendar before the summer recess.
After question period, Dion accused Harper of "losing his
temper" because he can no longer justifying keeping O'Connor as
his defence minister.
"We have a prime minister who is saying that we are not allowed
in Canada to criticize the defence minister unless you have served
in the military and you spent all your life in Canada," he told
"This absurd and against the basic democratic rules of equality
Harper's attacks on Dion and Ignatieff are the just the latest
comments that the Liberals consider over the top.
When the Liberals raised questions about the make up of judicial
selection committees and the Tory decision to include law
enforcement representatives, the prime minister accused Dion of not
liking the police.
Harper also attracted headlines earlier this spring when he accused
the Liberals of caring more about the Taliban than Canadian soldiers
in Afghanistan because of the opposition party's repeated questions
about the treatment of Afghan detainees.
While the Liberals are quick to blame Harper for creating a divisive
atmosphere in the Commons, Dion has shown an unusual eagerness for
an opposition leader to directly accuse a sitting prime minister of
being a liar.
On Thursday morning, Dion called Harper a liar again in an interview
that appeared in the Globe and Mail.
"With (Harper), it's clear that he is able to lie, as he did again and again, in order to go where he wants to go,"
Dion told the Globe.
Dion provided an example from question period this week of what
considered a Harper lie in his interview and later his staff sent
the Globe more examples for the paper's article.
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