Tory behaviour leaves bad taste

Last week we saw the Harper government once again use government levers to further its own electoral interests through a foreign delegation.
The situation in Ukraine has been astonishing to watch unfold. The people are rising up and demanding an end to the government of Victor Yanukovych that always seemed to put its own private interests, and those of his friends in Russia, ahead of that of the Ukrainian people.
In our Parliament and in our communities, Canadians from all walks of life are hoping, wishing, and working to help the people of Ukraine establish their own democratic government that will act solely in the interests of the people.
Unfortunately, if the Conservative government actually does care about the Ukrainian people, they are not showing it through their petty partisan actions at home.
I don’t question their individual MPs’ desire to see a peaceful, prosperous, and independent Ukraine but Conservative MPs and their staff do question mine and those my NDP and Liberal colleagues.
Last week, Foreign Affairs minister John Baird was putting together a delegation to visit the Ukraine, and regrettably decided to take just Conservative MPs and senators. No opposition MPs were invited.
It should be noted that while opposition parties often are represented on foreign missions (i.e., NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was invited to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s funeral), we have no explicit “right” to be included in such trips.
In this case, the problem is not that we weren’t invited but the official reason as to why we weren’t.
When asked by the media why no opposition MPs were invited to participate in the delegation, Prime Minister Harper’s director of communications, Jason MacDonald, provided the following reason:
“The NDP wouldn’t pick a side, unlike our government, which has been steadfast in its support for the Ukrainian people. Until they decide on what they stand for, they, like the Liberals, shouldn’t be a part of the government delegation.”
So what was our sin, you may ask? No one can be sure but apparently it was this statement made by our Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar in December: “Canadian parliamentarians of all parties should work together to show that our friendship with the Ukrainian people is a long-term commitment.”
Pretty outrageous, eh?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Harper Conservatives have used public dollars or their offices to advance their own political interests. Just this past January, Canadians got to see the same sort of behaviour during the prime minister’s trip to Israel.
In all, Mr. Harper took 208 Canadians, including an official delegation of 30 MPs, senators, government officials, CEOs, and some of their family. Not one member of the delegation was from the opposition benches.
Mr. Harper even took three unelected senators, including chief Conservative Party fundraiser Irving Gerstein, and Barbara Frum. In fact, they even took Ms. Frum’s daughter, but not one democratically-elected NDP or Liberal MP was worthy of being counted among the 208 travellers.
The people of Ukraine and Israel should know that all Canadians—New Democrats and members of all political parties and walks of life—support their tremendous efforts to live in peace, freedom, and prosperity within their own their borders and with that of their neighbours.
I don’t know if it is “sour grapes,” but the fact a senior Conservative government official would suggest otherwise certainly has left a bad taste in my mouth.