2 min

A $5-million sop

Whoever would have guessed that there would be even more concerns about the proposed new “Office of Religious Freedoms” that the government is planning to build within the Department of Foreign Affairs? You see, other countries that have tried (like the States) have wound up with a department that simply issues government-to-government press releases and talking points. It can’t actually do much, and for such an office of our own to be effective, we’d have to staff it with some people highly trained in areas of theology, history, culture, language and diplomacy. And on a $5-million budget, can we actually do that effectively? Not to mention that already, Christian groups in Canada (which this office’s creation is pandering to) are already skeptical that when it comes to trade versus human rights, trade wins out every time. Not an auspicious start, then.

But then you have to look at what this kind of an office represents, and it quickly becomes apparent – a hierarchy of human rights, where religious freedoms start trumping others. On top of that, those countries where Christians are being persecuted have problems with human rights abuses in general, and do we really think this office will actually say anything about the rights of Muslims being trampled in countries like France, the Netherlands or Switzerland? It seems unlikely. And so, we are left to wonder whether this really is a $5-million sop to the evangelical community in this country, which sees itself as a persecuted minority looking to be pandered to (if their lawyers before the Supreme Court at the Whatcott trial were any indication).

It seems that the initial production run of the F-35 fighter jets we’re supposed to get won’t be equipped to communicate in the Arctic. You know, that vast region that we’re going to have them patrolling? Also, they'll be doing so on a single engine, without the search and rescue capacity in the event that something goes wrong with said single engine? Can somebody please remind me why we’re buying these things again?

The government has been cutting back on the number of pieces of contemporary art it rents from the Art Bank – even at the department of Canadian Heritage.

Kady O’Malley keeps her eye on the current batch of private members’ business and finds three pieces of opposition legislation have been given the warning that they will require a royal recommendation (as they will cost the treasury money), which they are unlikely to get from the government, while the presumptive first bill – on requiring financial disclosure data by unions – has been bumped down while it, too, is reviewed, on the likelihood it would require a royal recommendation. So you see why private member's bills are tricky business?

And Susan Delacourt talks to former prime minister John Turner about his new biography, and what he sees as the diminishing role for backbench MPs. Also, Liberal Party: not dead yet.