Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gordon O'Connor: Canada's biggest liability in Afghanistan

How long can Harper afford to keep O'Connor in as defense minister, if Canadian support for the war in Afghanistan is being undermined by his inability to get the message straight? Even the PMs friends agree that this is what's happening.

I get that the Prime Minister wants to shuffle his cabinet on his own terms, and doesn't want to appear weakened by moving O'Connor at a time when he's taking fire, but most of O'Connor's wounds are self-inflicted. And he reloads so quickly.

If Harper insists on waiting until the fall, he'd better muzzle O'Connor now, or (as humiliating as this would undoubtedly be) order him to get his lines from Hillier's office, since Hillier clearly isn't taking his lines from the Minister's Office. O'Connor needs to know that if he continues to blunder along, his demotion will be to the back benches, rather than Veteran's Affairs, or some other lesser portfolio.

General Hillier won't be managed, at least not by someone he doesn't respect. He's already demonstrated that he doesn't feel beholden to his political masters. He knows they won't fire him; he's more popular than all of them put together, and his is the voice Canadians trust, even if they don't always like what he has to say.


Anonymous said...

I have to wonder if it's all O'Connor's fault - you know that ministers and MP's are only allowed to relay PM approved statements.

Perhaps - Harper is the problem.

Anonymous said...

Hillier is the true problem, he was appointed to do what he is told. At least, in a moment of monumental bad taste, O'Connor, our defence minister-cum-weapons lobbyist, was elected and placed in charge by the PM.

And anyway, what is our objective in Afghanistan? That has never been clear. So it's a bit unfair to blame O'Connor. But, if he must go, let not Hillier hold the door for him, let Hillier precede him.

Steve Marsh said...

Well no, Tony. He's the Chief of Defense Staff, not some lackey. His job is to lead Canada's military, not to be a mouthpiece for the government.

I don't always agree with Hillier, but I find his frankness refreshing. And he's incredibly popular with the men and women in uniform, which is not unimportant. Regardless of whether one agrees with the Afghanistan mission, our forces stationed there and elsewhere around the world are doing a job in which they risk their lives every day. They deserve a leader they know is genuinely on their side.

That he was appointed rather than elected is irrelevant. Soldiers aren't promoted by democratic process.

Anonymous may be right, though, that it's Harper, not O'Connor who's blundering with the message. But O'Connor has displayed atrocious clumsiness whenever he opens his mouth. When he gets flustered, which is frequently, he seems to just make stuff up.

If O'Connor is, in fact, sticking to his boss' script, then Harper and Sandra Buckler need to rethink their strategy, but O'Connor's still got to go. Hillier's never going to play nice with someone he so obviously disrespects.

wilson said...

Why are Libs so worried about O'Connor embarrassing/humiliating the Gov't???
I would think you would be rejoicing, hoping PMSH keeps him for a long long time.
Libs suggesting Harper MUZZLE a Minister??? huh??? I though PMSH muzzled EVERYONE already !!
Liberal Defence critic, Coderre, said Hillier was a Conservative puppet.....huh, did he lose his script ?????

Miles Lunn said...

Although no fan of the Conservatives, I was willing to give O'Connor a chance at even hoped that being a former soldier he could do some good. But clearly he has been nothing short of a disaster and needs to go ASAP. As for his replacement, here is where the problem lies as I don't think the Tories really have anyone who is competent on this file.

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