Mistreating veterans and the effects of partisan politics

Mistreating veterans and the effects of partisan politics
Posted on February 23, 2014 | Bob Barrigar | Written on February 23, 2014
Letter type:

Presumably there are two sides to this story, or rather set of stories.  Yet what is clear is that Her Majesty’s Canadian Government has handled recent vets’ problems high-handedly and badly.  The closing of Veterans Affairs Canada offices has received ample publicity, partly because of the snubbing of veterans by Minister Fantino.  Less prominently publicized in the media have been the politically motivated propaganda and pressure directed by the Government against retired General Andrew Leslie, who spent 35 years in the Canadian Forces, who was Commander of the Canadian Army, who served in Afghanistan, Cyprus, Croatia and other dangerous places, and who has won a string of decorations and commendations in a brilliant career. The full story appears, among other places, at: http://www.timescolonist.com/andrew-cohen-the-revealing-attack-on-a-retired-general-1.859095

Apparently retired veterans are OK if they are Conservative supporters, but otherwise, they had better watch out.
There is a pattern here, and depressingly, it more and more resembles what has been happening in countries like Turkey that are in the process of becoming increasingly autocratic, corrupt and opaque.  Read, for example, Canada’s Budget – Something doesn’t add up, in the current issue of the Economist, and appearing at http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21596531-process-approving-budget-broken-something-doesnt-add-up, outlining the increasing power of the PMO and the corresponding decline of the opportunity for Parliamentary approval of Government spending and other initiatives, of which the recent arbitrary closing of scientific libraries and preventable loss of scientific data have been particularly egregious examples.
Once upon a time, there was a Parliament in this country that had the respect of the Government, all political parties, and virtually all MPs.  I well remember it in part because I first began to observe Parliament in action as early as about age 9.  At that time and for several years later, Angus MacInnis, CCF Member of Parliament for Vancouver Kingsway, in company with his wife Grace MacInnis, daughter of CCF founder J.S. Woodsworth, was a tenant in my aunt’s Ottawa apartment during Parliamentary sessions.  Whenever I visited my aunt, he arranged to provide me with a pass to the Members’ Gallery in the House of Commons, removing the need for me to stand in line for admission to the Public Gallery.  In those days, Question Period was not a series of barbed shouts and insults across the aisle but rather comprised penetrating but largely polite exchanges between political adversaries (“Hear, hear” was about the loudest noise in the House).  MP MacInnis was a credit to the House and to his party. 

Upon his death, his widow succeeded him as MP for the riding.  She and subsequent CCF and NDP MPs, notably M. J. Coldwell, Stanley Knowles, Andrew Brewin, David Lewis (and his son Stephen provincially) continued to act as role models for exemplary Parliamentary conduct.  And even mavericks in the party, such as Eugene Forsey, who eventually became a Senator and converted to serving in the Liberal Party, were individuals of high principle.  And were respected by other parties – for example, Progressive Conservative PM Diefenbaker appointed Mr Forsey to the Board of Broadcast Governors, and Stephen Lewis was appointed as Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations by Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. 

Present MPs could do worse than read or re-read Mr Forsey’s acclaimed publication How Canadians Govern Themselves (see pdf link below this letter).  I am no socialist and have never voted CCF or NDP, but I do applaud those who bring integrity and respect for others to the workings of Parliament and government.  MPs such as those mentioned in this paragraph taught me that politics can be and should be an honourable vocation, and that neither the efficacy nor the public image of Parliament is helped by extreme partisan conduct.
So much for ancient history.

About The Author

Bob Barrigar's picture

retired patent attorney