Afghanistan Changed Canadians: Trudeau Must Understand This.
Mr. Trudeau and his Liberal government are going to learn the hard way that civil-military relations do matter in Canada, and that they matter to Canadians of all political stripe.
The Trudeau government came to power on the promise of doing things differently in Ottawa. Usually, governments try in the first year or so, to live up to their key election campaign promises, but not this one. The government came to power on greater transparency, and to illustrate the narrative, publicly issued ministers’ mandate letters so Canadians could ‘hold the Government’s feet to the fire.’ Then, we have not seen one follow-up letter between the Prime Minister and his Minister’s since even though there have been changes in government policy, electoral reform being one. Anyone who has been in government knows that the follow-up letters between the Prime Minister and his Ministers on policy changes or add-ons form a part of their mandate.
Then there is the issue of ethics, the Prime Minister set his own ethics code to strengthen the existing process, and then promptly reportedly held cash for access fund raisers, secret meetings with foreign investors, and accepted huge hospitality from foreign leaders for family vacations. In fact, the view of the government is that both the lobbying and the ethics legislation does not apply to activities outside of Canada. The Liberals were going to let the Canadian Public Service run the government, were going to be respectful of their professionalism and knowledge, and then side-lined, and oust the Clerk of the Privy Council, and brought in Deputy Ministers from outside the Public Service. The Liberals were going to banish the ‘little boys and girls in short pants’ of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) only for Canadians to find that key PMO staffers had charged the Canadian people hundreds of thousands of dollars to move here from Toronto even though they sold their homes at a profit. They were joined in a similar orgy of feeding at the public trough by their colleagues in Ministers’ offices who were entitled to their entitlements. The Trudeau government was going to abandon the politics of division and wedge politics that they successfully branded the former Harper government with, only to find that Liberal Ministers and Parliamentarians are telling Muslim Canadians that the Quebec Mosque massacre was directly caused by the Conservative Party and the Parti Quebecois. Last, but not least, because I could go on, the Liberals reaped the benefits in the last general election when veterans group ran “Anyone-But- Conservatives” campaigns to defeat the Harper government over perceived and otherwise inequalities in the treatment of veterans. Then the government walked away from Canadian veterans as fast as their legs could carry them.
On the civil-military relations front, with the Canadian military, their families, and veterans, as a whole, the government has been disingenuous, dismissive and arrogant. First going back to my previous point, they had promised a fix to veterans’ issues and then promptly exited the discussions. The Trudeau Liberals manufactured a so-called ‘fighter gap’ to justify the back-door, directed-purchase of the F-18 Super Hornet fighter aircraft through a national security exemption that they bristled over when the previous government was in power. They have asked for the resignation of an Honorary Colonel and well-respected, Privy Councilor, who was a distinguished Canadian fighter pilot, in Laurie Hawn, for saying that the F-18 Super Hornet could not do the job, and that the Royal Canadian Air Force needs F-35 fighter-aircraft because it is the very best. They have cut soldiers’ combat pay that are supporting operations against the Islamic State. There are unconfirmed rumors that Canadian military personnel have been exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq, and that those stories have been suppressed by the government. They have placed the Canadian Forces under a gag order. There is also the issue of recognition, in that the government abandoned plans to recognize Canadians’ service on the 150th Anniversary of Confederation and have turned their nose up to other forms of recognition for the Canadian Forces and veterans because that is a ‘Conservative thing.’ The Trudeau liberals have side-lined and removed the Vice Chief of Defence Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Norman, known for his unimpeachable integrity and professionalism, for reasons unknown. But the rumor mill in the town says that it was likely because Mark Norman challenged the slow pace off ship-building, the government’s policy changes, and defended the interests of the Royal Canadian Navy. Then there is the unprecedented letter by 13 former Commanders of the Royal Canadian Air Force and a former much-loved and respected Chief of Defence Staff, telling the government that there purchase of the F-18 Super Hornets was wrong-headed, and would compromise the country’s long term security. As challenging as things were in the former government, we never saw a letter signed off by 13 General Officers saying that the Harper government was heading down the wrong path to national disaster and we were fighting a war.
Here is the rub. The War in Afghanistan changed Canadians and it changed the country for at least the next several generations. Political advisers from the former McGuinty-Wynne liberal government in Ontario and consumed by green energy, ideology, ‘bleeding taxpayers white,’ mired in corruption, and that are now running the show in Ottawa have likely missed this renewed affectionate, respectful attachment of Canadians to their adored military. Upwards of 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan. You cannot find a family that was not touched by the conflict and that is not justifiable proud of sons, daughters, husbands, wives, nephews, nieces, cousins or just plain family friends who served their country in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Southwest Asia, and the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea during that period from 2001 until today. Now when people see you military men and women in uniform, they stop them and say thank you, they offer to buy their meal, or a drink, and they ask where they served. When our fallen came home from Afghanistan their whole chain of command was on the tarmac in Trenton, with thousands of Canadians, of all walks of life, lining the bridges, over passes, and sidelines of highways, to pay their respects on the Highway of Heroes to a fallen Canadian service person and their family.
It is worth repeating for the Trudeau government one more time, Afghanistan changed Canadians and Canada and we respect our warriors and our veterans. It is not the military and veteran community that Trudeau Liberals has to fear at the ballot box. It is ordinary every day Canadians themselves, that will cast their vote against the government, if they view it as having neglected, ignored, unfairly tampered with and dismissed the greater Canadian military and veteran community. We are all sons and daughters of Canada.