John Rafferty – Situation in Ukraine Astonishing to Watch

John Rafferty
John Rafferty MP

NANOS Poll Canadian PoliticsOTTAWA – Politics – This week we saw the Harper government use government levers, once again, to further their 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 their 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, and wishing, and working to help the people of Ukraine establish their own democratic government that will act solely in the interests of the people.

John Rafferty MP
John Rafferty MP

Week of February 28 to March 5, 2013

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 New Democrat and Liberal colleagues.

This 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 are often represented on foreign missions (ie: 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 invited.

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 lsrael.  In all Mr. Harper took 208 Canadians, including an official delegation of 30 MPs, Senators, government officials, CEO’s 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 New Democrat or Liberal MP was worthy of being counted among the 208 travelers.

You may be saying to yourself that this is all ‘sour grapes’ from your New Democrat MP, and some of it may be, but a sensational event on the Israel trip I believe demonstrated why these 30 Conservative MPs and Senators were really invited, and why others were not.

When Stephen Harper visited the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall), one of the holiest sites for people of the Jewish faith, a Conservative MP on the trip wanted a picture.  However, Conservative MP Mark Adler did not want a picture of Canada’s Leader visiting a holy site on a foreign trip, but one of him and the Conservative Leader for his own re-election pamphlet.  The transcript of a bizarre exchange that occurred between MP Adler and a Harper staff person goes like this:

(…PM Harper moves up to wall to pray with a rabbi…cameras are clicking)

MP Adler:  Jeremy!  Can I get in?

Harper Staff Person: No.

Adler: Pfff!  It’s the re-election!  This is the million dollar shot!

The whole pathetic exchange was caught on video: 

I think that Adler’s behaviour and comments tell you all that you need to know about the Conservative Party’s motivation for the trip, which is a real shame as most official delegations rise above petty partisan politics.

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 that a senior Conservative government official would suggest otherwise has certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.

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John Rafferty is the current Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Rainy River and a member of the New Democratic Party caucus in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario. John was first elected to serve as MP in the 2008 federal election and was subsequently re-elected on May 2, 2011 with 48.1% of the vote.