Editor’s Corner article

Is the ‘Loyal Opposition’ losing sight of its purpose?
CHRIS MacLEAN  |  Mar 15, 2015

“Loyal Opposition: A minority party, especially in a legislative body, whose opposition to the party in power is constructive, responsible, and bounded by loyalty to fundamental interests and principles.” – Merriam-Webster

The system of elected members holding the ruling government to account is a British innovation that was intended to allow Members of Parliament to question or oppose the policies of the incumbent government without fear of being accused of treason. While it is an integral part of every republican and parliamentary democratic system, has it deteriorated into simply opposing everything in the hopes of weakening the ruling party come election time? William Sparling, a FrontLine reader, recently wrote his MP, Elizabeth May, saying: “Too many opposing MPs have forgotten exactly where their duty lays.” The once noble and useful role of political oversight has almost completely given way to blatant self-interest and a tainted discourse of partisan aspirations – a more current definition of Loyal Opposition is found on ask.com: “a group of dissenters who seek to disrupt the programs of the party in charge.”

Clearly, opposition requires asking the hard questions and making sure the government has examined the consequences of its plans, and weighed the costs and risks. Questions such as whether the government can guarantee the safety of its fighter pilots are irresponsible and designed to inflame the public. A better question would be “are combat extraction forces in place?” (and remember, asking for details would jeopardize mission success should an extraction become necessary).

On the other hand, Opposition parties would be prudent to turn their attention to the need for a National Defence Policy which would establish what our national interests are, and would help clarify when those interests are at stake and requiring military action. The Harper government refuses to articulate such a policy – for no good reason.

Mr. Mulcair is under the misconception that “military planners” suggest that in order for a mission to succeed, it “must have two things: a clear objective, and an exit strategy.” In fact, mission success requires three things: a clear objective, a strategic plan, and enough tactical resources to effect decisive victory. An exit strategy does not simply mean “clearing out” – which seems to be the focus Opposition MPs continually return to (why?). An exit strategy is actually part of the objective, but may not present itself in the early stages. In WWII, the exit plan became the reconstruction of Germany and the foundation of the United Nations, but that came well after the war began. Our predecessors knew that to defeat Hitler, the fascist state that supported the ideology had to be ­dismantled, and nothing less than the unconditional surrender of Germany would suffice.

Sure, it’s fair for Opposition parties to declare they will do things differently if elected but, in the meantime, they must put Canadian interests first, not their electoral ambitions. And, believe it or not, Canadian interests do not end in our own back yard. We travel all over the world, we have news channels, we have the internet. We see atrocities earlier generations mostly didn’t see until after the war ended. Google “atrocities” and you will find Nazi and ISIS topping the list.

Some suggest the ruling party ‘wants’ to fight ISIS based on some political agenda rather than the UN’s three pillars of Responsibility to Protect. Those pillars obligate Canada not only to act, but to “take collective action” to protect lives from this ­brutality that rivals the worst of Hitler’s regime. Is human butchering taking place elsewhere? Yes. Can we be everywhere? No. Is that an excuse to stay at home? No. Polls across the country show that Canadians recognize that the ISIS threat is significant. Will Opposition MPs stop burying their heads in the sand and remember that sometimes we have to take a hard stand?

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