Tagged: Jason Fekete Millions spent on upgrades for refugees

The National Post and Justin Trudeau

The extended honeymoon of the new Liberal government is nowhere more evident than in the pages of the National Post. Notwithstanding the divergence of their political perspective, the Post is having a hard time being critical.

First, there was Trudeau’s state visit to Washington and the obvious bromance between our Prime Minister and President Obama. Even the Post had to agree: “What’s not to like about him?” They may both be left-wing progressive politicians, but the pall which has over-shadowed Canada-US relations for the past decade has lifted and that has to be a good thing. Since Trudeau’s father graced the cover of the Economist decades ago, Americans have not be so smitten with a Canadian politician. Good relations between Canada and the United States is good for business. If the Keystone XL oil pipeline is not a go, TransCanada Co’s recent acquisition of Columbia’s gas transport infrastructure in the US shows signs of alternative business energy and investment.

Then, there was his sortie to United Nations Headquarters just last week. There may be all sorts of problems with the United Nations in this day and age, but it is the only game on the planet, and Canada does have a historic track record of bipartisan support for, and success with, the agency. Prime Minister Lester Pearson won a Nobel Peace Prize for initiating the concept of UN Peacekeepers. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney installed Stephen Lewis as the Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations. Both won world acclaim for their early support of Nelson Mandela, and the work towards an end to apartheid in South Africa. Canadian General Roméo Dallaire exposed the UN’s failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and Stephen Lewis has led UN efforts against AIDS in Africa.

On Thursday, page four of the National Post featured a Canadian Press photo of a thoughtful Trudeau above an article by Alexander Panetta proclaiming, “Trudeau pulls crowds amid bid for UN seat.” The page is headed by a quote from a UN staffer on the appeal of Justin Trudeau: “It’s like Beatlemania. It’s a huge deal.” One day it is the PM promoting Canada’s renewed campaign for a Security Council seat. The next day, speaking to a forum on women’s rights, he is mobbed for his enthusiastic support for women and the novelty of his proudly unabashedly calling himself a feminist.

On the same page, there is another National Post headline to this effect: “PM Says Senate ‘On Right Track.’” Ian McLeod’s following background article discusses the course of the Senate expenses scandal and quotes Trudeau as saying that the Supreme Court has made it clear that “it is not in the cards for us to simply wish the Senate away.” All this lays the groundwork for the extensive coverage, the next day, of the first group of the Liberal government’s non-partisan new appointees to the Senate. Given the undisputed quality of these new Senators, it appears that the new government may well be on its way to, as MacLeod quotes Trudeau as saying, “make significant improvements in the way… (the Senate) functions and to restore its place of confidence in the minds of Canadians.”

Lest such coverage of the initiatives of the new Liberal government be seen as unduly effusive, over the page on Thursday was another headline: “Millions spent on upgrades for refugees,” with large print noting, “bases readied, but facilities not needed” and, “the effort will cost taxpayers more than $700 million.” A careless reader might take it that the upgrades cost $700 million. Wrong. Jason Fekete’s interesting article on “new information quietly tabled in Parliament last week” reports the actual details of how the military spent $6 million to renovate and winterize housing on six military bases in Ontario and Quebec. The $700 million figure refers to the total cost of the entire “refugee effort” to the federal government. It strikes me that the military upgrading (undoubtedly fungible for other uses) is but a pittance of the total cost.

What is interesting about the article are the specific details of the military’s Operation Provision at bases in Kingston, Borden, Trenton, Meaford, Petawawa and Valcartier. Such transparency and timely accountability is novel and totally refreshing. With such coverage, Canadians may actually learn a little about how the Canadian military operates.

All this is written pre-Budget Day, tomorrow. It will be fun to see the Post’s coverage of that.

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