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Ukraine crisis: John Baird says no 'blank cheques'

Written By doni icha on Senin, 28 Juli 2014 | 21.16

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada will live up to the obligations it has made to Ukraine, but will not "write blank cheques."

Earlier this week, Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, Vadym Prystaiko, publicly complained in an interview that his country had not received the $200 million in aid that Canada has pledged.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, however, Baird said these things take time.

Money going through IMF

"When we made that commitment, we were very clear it would be through the International Monetary Fund and there would have to be specific safeguards with respect to ensuring the money was used for the benefit of the Ukrainian people and not with respect to the problems they have had in the past, in the former government, with corruption."

The Ukraine Embassy said on Thursday Prystaiko was not available for interviews to explain his remarks, because of the abrupt resignation that day of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

"In this regard, Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko left for consultations and is currently out of the country," the embassy said in a statement.

UN ambassador responds

Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, remained on the job this week.

In an interview with The House guest host Rosemary Barton, Sergeyev said his country needs more support from the international community, including financial, political and administrative assistance to help the government enact reforms. He would also like to see more assistance for the military, law enforcement and the army, which he said had been destroyed by previous administrations.

"The assistance we got in the past, it's very important, political and moral assistance, including here in the United Nations, I felt this help from the Canadian delegation, from other delegations," he said. "So the assistance with materials and financial assistance was very important. But now it's obvious the Ukraine needs more help," he said.

Government still stable

Sergeyev sought to allay concerns the resignation of Ukraine's prime minister could be a signal of further instability.

"The government has not resigned, the government is working. In the time being we have the acting prime minister, who used to be the deputy prime minister," he said.

Canada and other countries continue to strengthen sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian businesses and individuals, but Sergeyev said that if Russia and Russian separatist forces in Ukraine continue with their belligerence, stronger steps will be needed.

Calling for an embargo

"[Enlarging] sanctions, more sectoral sanctions in the strategic areas of the Russian industry, gas, oil, military production, up to the full embargo," he said.

Baird expressed uncertainty about the international community going so far as a full embargo, but did agree further sanctions are being considered.

"It is unacceptable in 2014 for one leader in the Kremlin to think he can redraw the borders and boundaries of Europe unilaterally through military force," Baird said.


21.16 | 0 komentar | Read More

Germany to reject Canada-EU trade deal, newspaper reports

Germany is to reject a multibillion-dollar free trade deal between the European Union and Canada which is widely seen as a template for a bigger agreement with the United States, a leading German paper reported on Saturday.

Citing diplomats in Brussels, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that Berlin objects to clauses outlining the legal protection offered to firms investing in the 28-member bloc. Critics say they could allow investors to stop or reverse laws.

The German government could not sign the agreement with Canada "as it has been negotiated now," the paper reported, quoting German diplomats in Brussels.

It also said that the clauses in the Canada deal were similar to those in the U.S. agreement, which is still under negotiation.

"The free trade treaty with Canada is a test for the agreement with the United States," said one senior official at the Commission in Brussels, according to the paper.

If the deal with Canada is rejected "then the one with the United States is also dead", added the official.

Asked about the report, a spokesman for Germany's Economy Ministry referred to correspondence which outlined Germany's concerns about investor protection in talks with both countries.

"The German government does not view as necessary stipulations on investor protection, including on arbitration cases between investors and the state with states that guarantee a resilient legal system and sufficient legal protection from independent national courts," Deputy Economy Minister Stefan Kapferer wrote in response to an inquiry from a Greens legislator.

In the letter, dated June 26, Kapferer took a similar position on investor protection in the still-to-be-agreed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the United States.

Brussels argues that without these clauses companies from Canada will not invest in Europe.

The Sueddeutsche said that EU states will this week receive the treaty for officials to examine in detail before it is signed. All 28 members of the EU have to sign the agreement for it to take effect.

The deal with Canada could increase bilateral trade by a fifth to 26 billion euros a year and the more ambitious one with the United States, if agreed, could encompass a third of world trade and almost half the global economy.

Both accords seek to go far beyond tariff cuts and to reduce transatlantic barriers to business, but the talks are extremely complicated.


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West can't back off Russia sanctions, Harper says in Globe and Mail editorial

The Western world can't soften its tough stand toward Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, even at the expense of the economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

In an unusual move, Harper has written an editorial on the situation in Ukraine that was published in Saturday's Globe and Mail.

He writes that although militants in eastern Ukraine are referred to as "pro-Russian separatists," there is no doubt they are "an extension of the "Russian state."

Harper accuses Russia of "aggressive militarism" that he says is a threat to not only Ukraine, but Europe and the values that bind Western nations.

Some Canadian companies, notably aircraft maker Bombardier, have expressed concern about doing business in Russia in the face of increasing Canadian sanctions on Russian individuals and entities.

Harper says Canada's national interests must come first.

"The steps Canada has taken have not been made without careful consideration of their potential impact on Canadian business interests abroad and at home," Harper writes. "We will not allow business interests alone to dictate our foreign policy."

Bombardier said Friday that Canadian sanctions could affect the timeline of the company's plans to set up a plant in Russia to build regional jets in a project estimated to be worth $3.4 billion.

Harper's editorial also raised the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane this month, killing nearly 300 people including a Canadian. He pointed the finger at militants in the Ukraine and said whether accidental or not the blood of the victims is on their hands.

Canada is sending an RCMP officer to the Netherlands on Sunday to determine how Canada can assist Dutch authorities in their investigation of the Malaysian air disaster — they're taking the lead because many of those aboard were from the Netherlands.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson offered the support on Saturday when he spoke with his Dutch counterpart, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

A statement from Nicholson's office said Canada will take part in a meeting hosted by Dutch officials regarding the next steps for victim identification and the investigation


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Politics is a team sport, so 'wear a cup,' says ex-Harper spokesman

The question I'm most often asked about my time in politics is what part of it I hated the most, which, I suppose, tells you something about the current perception of my former profession.

And what do I answer? I could go with the usual complaints: the constant work, the travel and the dark cloud of knowing that your next mistake could end up being your last. But that's the gig. Wear a cup.

There was also the unremitting questioning of your motives by people who don't know you at all. Get over it.

And then, of course, there were the journalists.

Toe the line

But the worst part of my job was having to promote and defend policies I didn't agree with personally. When that happened, you had to do your job and toe the party line.

Don't shed a tear, because it didn't happen much, at least not on issues that were core to the agenda, but consider yourself fortunate if you never have to look at a camera and argue with all of your heart for something you don't believe in. Especially when, as happens in politics, you are standing on some thin intellectual ice.

Oh, how journalists loved it when they had you in that position. "Andrew," they'd say, "surely you don't believe that."

Maybe not, but it didn't matter what I believed. I wasn't elected. The government had an agenda and it was my job to talk about it.

Members of parliament are rightly in a better position to question government policy, though if the reason they got into politics was to champion a cause they knew their party didn't agree with, they probably shouldn't have made the decision to run for the party in question.

Politics is a team sport, but no matter how closely your world view lines up with that of your political party, there will always be areas where you disagree. Governments have to make decisions on too many files to achieve a perfect union between thought and action.

Imperfect parties, imperfect leaders

Just as voters weigh the pros and cons of a particular party or leader before casting a ballot, and as candidates do the same before running for office, so do political staff before signing up for work. If you are able to find one party that speaks to you on every subject, I'd suggest you haven't done enough of your own thinking.

Parties — and leaders — are imperfect. And so that means as a spokesperson you'll have to go out there and occasionally fire crooked arrows, sometimes at targets you don't believe in or care about.

To pick a particular pet peeve, no one can really mount a compelling intellectual or ideological defence of supply management for dairy, eggs and poultry. I certainly can't. The few who happen to care about it — and benefit massively from it — just happen to be better organized than the majority of us who haven't really thought about it, but might be outraged if we did. Never pick a fight with someone who produces their milk by the barrel, I suppose.

Theory vs. practice

So there I would be, defending supply managed industries every time we had a trade negotiation on the go, which was a lot. At the same moment we were fighting to scrap the wheat board. Yeah, the journalists loved pointing that one out.

But this is where the critics in the ivory towers or op-ed pages often forget that politicians have to get elected. Yes, politics is theory, which is important to read and write about, but it's also practice. It takes the vote of people and the support of stakeholders. And sometimes you have to promise them certain things. Even if it rubs across an ideological grain. Or common sense.

I'm a cynic by nature, but politics truly does have a noble purpose. It is about leading people to change, about making arguments and showing courage.

It's also about picking your spots. Raising the age for retirement benefits was long thought to be a third rail in government, but the Harper government made that change to Old Age Security without future seniors storming the barricades.

Opening debate

Let's hope we're cruising to the point where we can start a conversation about retooling our creaking health-care system. And maybe one day we will free the cheese.

But until that glorious day comes, and the time is right for change, political staff will inevitably find themselves agreeing with the proposition that the revered "ordinary" Canadian needs to pay too much for milk and cheese because 20,000 dairy farmers are afraid of duking it out with producers around the world.

As a private citizen, I now get to say supply management is rubbish. I get to wonder why the Canadian Armed Forces can't just buy kit off the shelf. I get to wonder why regional development agencies exist and why hundreds of government-funded interest groups never seem to conquer the problem they were "temporarily" set up to address.

If you think defending the personally indefensible is a problem unique to politics, think again. Think about whether or not you could defend every action of your employer. Chances are you can't. If you can, lucky you.

I doubt many reporters could defend the decisions of their outlets 100 per cent either, especially those with corporate overlords.

And what do I think about the CBC? I think that it receives significant taxpayer funds, and I believe it can operate within its existing budget.

Beyond that, I couldn't possibly comment.

Andrew MacDougall is a former director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is now the senior executive consultant at MSLGROUP London. Follow him @agmacdougall.


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Thérèse Casgrain, feminist icon, quietly shunted by Harper government

The Harper government has spent millions to commemorate the War of 1812 and other episodes from Canadian history, but has also erased at least one inspiring piece of the past.

Thérèse Casgrain, a feminist icon and Quebec heroine who died in 1981, has been quietly removed from a national honour, to be replaced by a volunteer award bearing the prime minister's banner.

The Thérèse Casgrain Volunteer Award was created in 1982 by the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau.

Casgrain fought for the right of Quebec women to vote, which they finally won in 1940.

She also became the first female leader of a political party in Canada, heading the CCF in Quebec, and was appointed to the Senate in 1970 by Trudeau.

The Casgrain award honoured Canadian activists such as June Callwood until it was eliminated — unannounced — by the federal government in 2010.

Family never consulted

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, which had administered the Casgrain award, was instructed in 2010 to create a Prime Minister's Volunteer Award in its place, to be handed out in a ceremony each year presided over by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Michèle Nadeau, Casgrain's granddaughter, says her family and the Montreal-based Thérèse Casgrain Foundation, which she heads, were not consulted about whether the award should be eliminated.

"We were informed of a sort of internal review that was done by the Human Resources Department, and they decided to discontinue. But we were never consulted.

"Basically, we were advised that at some point the award would be discontinued ... Members of the family, the grandchildren, etc., the great grandchildren, were rather upset."

An image of Casgrain and her namesake volunteer-award medal also disappeared from Canada's $50 bank note in 2012, replaced by the image of an icebreaker on a new currency series.

An image of the so-called Famous Five women was removed from the same bank note.

Therese Casgrain

Thérèse Casgrain, president of the League for Women's Rights in Quebec from 1929 to 1942, is pictured during an election run in 1967. (The Canadian Press)

The Casgrain Award was killed once before by the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in 1990, but was revived in 2001 by the Chretien Liberals.

Elimination never communicated to public

A spokesman for Employment and Social Development Canada, the successor department to Human Resources, says the Casgrain award was reviewed in 2010 following the fall speech from the throne, which announced plans for a new volunteer award.

"Discussions took place with the Casgrain Foundation and it was decided that Human Resources and Skills Development Canada end the ... program, rather than re-orient and re-launch it," Pierre Nolet said in an email.

"There was no public announcement of its end. The spirit and objectives of the Therese Casgrain Volunteer Award were retained in two national categories of the PMVA [Prime Minister's Volunteer Award]."

The Prime Minister's Volunteer Awards, launched in 2011, honour 17 Canadians from across the country each year.

The awards ceremony was held Feb. 27 this year in Toronto, with Harper personally presenting a medal and certificate to each winner, and having his picture taken with them.


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West can't back off Russia sanctions, Harper says in Globe and Mail editorial

Written By doni icha on Minggu, 27 Juli 2014 | 21.16

The Western world can't soften its tough stand toward Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, even at the expense of the economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.

In an unusual move, Harper has written an editorial on the situation in Ukraine that was published in Saturday's Globe and Mail.

He writes that although militants in eastern Ukraine are referred to as "pro-Russian separatists," there is no doubt they are "an extension of the "Russian state."

Harper accuses Russia of "aggressive militarism" that he says is a threat to not only Ukraine, but Europe and the values that bind Western nations.

Some Canadian companies, notably aircraft maker Bombardier, have expressed concern about doing business in Russia in the face of increasing Canadian sanctions on Russian individuals and entities.

Harper says Canada's national interests must come first.

"The steps Canada has taken have not been made without careful consideration of their potential impact on Canadian business interests abroad and at home," Harper writes. "We will not allow business interests alone to dictate our foreign policy."

Bombardier said Friday that Canadian sanctions could affect the timeline of the company's plans to set up a plant in Russia to build regional jets in a project estimated to be worth $3.4 billion.

Harper's editorial also raised the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane this month, killing nearly 300 people including a Canadian. He pointed the finger at militants in the Ukraine and said whether accidental or not the blood of the victims is on their hands.

Canada is sending an RCMP officer to the Netherlands on Sunday to determine how Canada can assist Dutch authorities in their investigation of the Malaysian air disaster — they're taking the lead because many of those aboard were from the Netherlands.

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson offered the support on Saturday when he spoke with his Dutch counterpart, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

A statement from Nicholson's office said Canada will take part in a meeting hosted by Dutch officials regarding the next steps for victim identification and the investigation


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Charities not looking for fight with Revenue Canada

The head of the umbrella organization that represents Canadian charities says there are no plans to mount a collective defence in response to what some groups have alleged may be politically motivated audits to rout out partisan political activities.

"Imagine Canada has not created a special plan or program for collective action that is different from the current belief that charitable organizations have an important and vibrant role to play in the identification of issues of importance to Canadians," newly installed president Bruce MacDonald told CBC News by email.

"Since renewed federal interest in charities' political activities first surfaced a few years back, Imagine Canada has been actively promoting the important role that charities play in public policy both domestically and internationally," he noted.

"We have also been working with charities across the country to ensure that they are aware of their rights and responsibilities regarding political activities reporting and public policy engagement more generally, [and] we plan to continue these efforts in the weeks and months to come."

Earlier this week, The Canadian Press reported that Toronto-based PEN Canada, a small organization that represents artists and writers concerned about freedom of expression, was the latest charity targeted for special scrutiny by the tax agency, which has spent the last two years investigating possible political activities at the government's behest.

More than 50 charities have gone under the CRA microscope since 2012.

Initially, the investigations seemed to be focused on environmental advocacy groups, but that list has since expanded to include international humanitarian and aid groups.

And it isn't just allegations of excessively political activism that appears to be catching the tax agency's official attention.

Bureaucratic brawl

The Canadian Press reported earlier Friday that Oxfam Canada had been forced to reword its mission statement to remove a reference to "preventing poverty" after being informed that wasn't considered a valid goal, at least for tax purposes.

"We were told we had a broader definition of our mission, and they were only comfortable with the portion that spoke to relieving poverty," Oxfam director of international development Anthony Scoggins told CBC News on Friday.

Under the agency's direction, he said, "we withdrew the offending phrase, and have since received our registration."

But he doesn't seem to have come round entirely to the CRA's way of thinking.

"Obviously, if you're a charity working on cancer or HIV/AIDS, those charities aren't restricted to dealing only with those suffering with that, they also do a lot of work on prevention up front, because that's seen as a social benefit," he noted.

"The CRA has gotten itself caught up a little bit in a rather embarrassing snafu around this, which certainly doesn't help with their credibility, since it really is common sense for most Canadians."

Oxfam 'offside,' says Christian charities group

Not all Canadians — or, as it turns out, even all charities — share that view, however.

Canadian Christian Charities Association CEO Rev. John Pellowe believes Oxfam was "clearly offside in this."

"They're expressing surprise, but prevention of poverty is not a charitable purpose, and should not have been put in their [mission] statement," he said.

"'There are lots of grey areas — for instance, providing job training to people who don't have jobs is charitable, but providing job training to people who do is not," he explained.

"The same activity could be charitable or not charitable, depending on who you're serving. But CRA has the right to investigate charities to determine if you're following the rules."

Pellowe says his organization, which represents over 3,000 charities, doesn't have a problem with the tax agency's recent investigations.

"I only have information that I've read in the press, but we have 3,200 Christian charities that are members, so we do watch for issues like this where we think government is offside, and we're in consultation with CRA on a fairly regular basis," he told CBC News.

'CRA simply doing what it should be doing'

"What I'm reading … seems to suggest that people think there's a political agenda here. In actual fact, the cases that we're looking at, I don't see any evidence of a government agenda or interference in the operations of CRA."

The government has the right to ask the agency to look into specific issues or concerns, he notes.

"The CRA is simply doing what it should be doing with the cases I'm aware of."

The limits on political engagement are "very well and clearly defined" in the Income Tax Act, he noted.

"You can do political engagement, but you cannot engage in partisan politics, and in the cases I've heard about, that's exactly what they're doing—they've crossed the line."

As yet, he says, he hasn't heard from any member organizations concerned about the audits into political activities.

"On other issues — income tax-related issues or GST — we get people calling in and saying 'Hey, it looks like they're reinterpreting this,'" he noted.

"What typically happens is we sit down with CRA management, and it gets worked out. We've had them change their forms and documents based on our input."

In this case, he said, "I see the government saying they had an interest in how charities operate, which is within their prerogative. There's not a story here."


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Ukraine crisis: John Baird says no 'blank cheques'

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says Canada will live up to the obligations it has made to Ukraine, but will not "write blank cheques."

Earlier this week, Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, Vadym Prystaiko, publicly complained in an interview that his country had not received the $200 million in aid that Canada has pledged.

In an interview with CBC Radio's The House, however, Baird said these things take time.

Money going through IMF

"When we made that commitment, we were very clear it would be through the International Monetary Fund and there would have to be specific safeguards with respect to ensuring the money was used for the benefit of the Ukrainian people and not with respect to the problems they have had in the past, in the former government, with corruption."

The Ukraine Embassy said on Thursday Prystaiko was not available for interviews to explain his remarks, because of the abrupt resignation that day of Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

"In this regard, Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko left for consultations and is currently out of the country," the embassy said in a statement.

UN ambassador responds

Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, remained on the job this week.

In an interview with The House guest host Rosemary Barton, Sergeyev said his country needs more support from the international community, including financial, political and administrative assistance to help the government enact reforms. He would also like to see more assistance for the military, law enforcement and the army, which he said had been destroyed by previous administrations.

"The assistance we got in the past, it's very important, political and moral assistance, including here in the United Nations, I felt this help from the Canadian delegation, from other delegations," he said. "So the assistance with materials and financial assistance was very important. But now it's obvious the Ukraine needs more help," he said.

Government still stable

Sergeyev sought to allay concerns the resignation of Ukraine's prime minister could be a signal of further instability.

"The government has not resigned, the government is working. In the time being we have the acting prime minister, who used to be the deputy prime minister," he said.

Canada and other countries continue to strengthen sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian businesses and individuals, but Sergeyev said that if Russia and Russian separatist forces in Ukraine continue with their belligerence, stronger steps will be needed.

Calling for an embargo

"[Enlarging] sanctions, more sectoral sanctions in the strategic areas of the Russian industry, gas, oil, military production, up to the full embargo," he said.

Baird expressed uncertainty about the international community going so far as a full embargo, but did agree further sanctions are being considered.

"It is unacceptable in 2014 for one leader in the Kremlin to think he can redraw the borders and boundaries of Europe unilaterally through military force," Baird said.


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Germany to reject Canada-EU trade deal, newspaper reports

Germany is to reject a multibillion-dollar free trade deal between the European Union and Canada which is widely seen as a template for a bigger agreement with the United States, a leading German paper reported on Saturday.

Citing diplomats in Brussels, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that Berlin objects to clauses outlining the legal protection offered to firms investing in the 28-member bloc. Critics say they could allow investors to stop or reverse laws.

The German government could not sign the agreement with Canada "as it has been negotiated now," the paper reported, quoting German diplomats in Brussels.

It also said that the clauses in the Canada deal were similar to those in the U.S. agreement, which is still under negotiation.

"The free trade treaty with Canada is a test for the agreement with the United States," said one senior official at the Commission in Brussels, according to the paper.

If the deal with Canada is rejected "then the one with the United States is also dead", added the official.

Asked about the report, a spokesman for Germany's Economy Ministry referred to correspondence which outlined Germany's concerns about investor protection in talks with both countries.

"The German government does not view as necessary stipulations on investor protection, including on arbitration cases between investors and the state with states that guarantee a resilient legal system and sufficient legal protection from independent national courts," Deputy Economy Minister Stefan Kapferer wrote in response to an inquiry from a Greens legislator.

In the letter, dated June 26, Kapferer took a similar position on investor protection in the still-to-be-agreed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement with the United States.

Brussels argues that without these clauses companies from Canada will not invest in Europe.

The Sueddeutsche said that EU states will this week receive the treaty for officials to examine in detail before it is signed. All 28 members of the EU have to sign the agreement for it to take effect.

The deal with Canada could increase bilateral trade by a fifth to 26 billion euros a year and the more ambitious one with the United States, if agreed, could encompass a third of world trade and almost half the global economy.

Both accords seek to go far beyond tariff cuts and to reduce transatlantic barriers to business, but the talks are extremely complicated.


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Politics is a team sport, so 'wear a cup,' says ex-Harper spokesman

The question I'm most often asked about my time in politics is what part of it I hated the most, which, I suppose, tells you something about the current perception of my former profession.

And what do I answer? I could go with the usual complaints: the constant work, the travel and the dark cloud of knowing that your next mistake could end up being your last. But that's the gig. Wear a cup.

There was also the unremitting questioning of your motives by people who don't know you at all. Get over it.

And then, of course, there were the journalists.

Toe the line

But the worst part of my job was having to promote and defend policies I didn't agree with personally. When that happened, you had to do your job and toe the party line.

Don't shed a tear, because it didn't happen much, at least not on issues that were core to the agenda, but consider yourself fortunate if you never have to look at a camera and argue with all of your heart for something you don't believe in. Especially when, as happens in politics, you are standing on some thin intellectual ice.

Oh, how journalists loved it when they had you in that position. "Andrew," they'd say, "surely you don't believe that."

Maybe not, but it didn't matter what I believed. I wasn't elected. The government had an agenda and it was my job to talk about it.

Members of parliament are rightly in a better position to question government policy, though if the reason they got into politics was to champion a cause they knew their party didn't agree with, they probably shouldn't have made the decision to run for the party in question.

Politics is a team sport, but no matter how closely your world view lines up with that of your political party, there will always be areas where you disagree. Governments have to make decisions on too many files to achieve a perfect union between thought and action.

Imperfect parties, imperfect leaders

Just as voters weigh the pros and cons of a particular party or leader before casting a ballot, and as candidates do the same before running for office, so do political staff before signing up for work. If you are able to find one party that speaks to you on every subject, I'd suggest you haven't done enough of your own thinking.

Parties — and leaders — are imperfect. And so that means as a spokesperson you'll have to go out there and occasionally fire crooked arrows, sometimes at targets you don't believe in or care about.

To pick a particular pet peeve, no one can really mount a compelling intellectual or ideological defence of supply management for dairy, eggs and poultry. I certainly can't. The few who happen to care about it — and benefit massively from it — just happen to be better organized than the majority of us who haven't really thought about it, but might be outraged if we did. Never pick a fight with someone who produces their milk by the barrel, I suppose.

Theory vs. practice

So there I would be, defending supply managed industries every time we had a trade negotiation on the go, which was a lot. At the same moment we were fighting to scrap the wheat board. Yeah, the journalists loved pointing that one out.

But this is where the critics in the ivory towers or op-ed pages often forget that politicians have to get elected. Yes, politics is theory, which is important to read and write about, but it's also practice. It takes the vote of people and the support of stakeholders. And sometimes you have to promise them certain things. Even if it rubs across an ideological grain. Or common sense.

I'm a cynic by nature, but politics truly does have a noble purpose. It is about leading people to change, about making arguments and showing courage.

It's also about picking your spots. Raising the age for retirement benefits was long thought to be a third rail in government, but the Harper government made that change to Old Age Security without future seniors storming the barricades.

Opening debate

Let's hope we're cruising to the point where we can start a conversation about retooling our creaking health-care system. And maybe one day we will free the cheese.

But until that glorious day comes, and the time is right for change, political staff will inevitably find themselves agreeing with the proposition that the revered "ordinary" Canadian needs to pay too much for milk and cheese because 20,000 dairy farmers are afraid of duking it out with producers around the world.

As a private citizen, I now get to say supply management is rubbish. I get to wonder why the Canadian Armed Forces can't just buy kit off the shelf. I get to wonder why regional development agencies exist and why hundreds of government-funded interest groups never seem to conquer the problem they were "temporarily" set up to address.

If you think defending the personally indefensible is a problem unique to politics, think again. Think about whether or not you could defend every action of your employer. Chances are you can't. If you can, lucky you.

I doubt many reporters could defend the decisions of their outlets 100 per cent either, especially those with corporate overlords.

And what do I think about the CBC? I think that it receives significant taxpayer funds, and I believe it can operate within its existing budget.

Beyond that, I couldn't possibly comment.

Andrew MacDougall is a former director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is now the senior executive consultant at MSLGROUP London. Follow him @agmacdougall.


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