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Ottawa snapshot: Waiting for Flaherty and Lebel’s unlikely fan Add to ...

Herewith a look at what’s on the radar in Ottawa on Wednesday:

Waiting for Flaherty

So far, Jim Flaherty has had little to say about the global debt crisis and the churning markets. Instead, he’s been sending out his surrogates -- Parliamentary Secretary Shelly Glover, for example -- to publicly make his case. Later Wednesday, however, the Minister is to hold a media availability to mark the beginning of his annual summer policy retreat. Finally, a good chance to hear from him about how the government is handling the crisis. And so we asked the Official Opposition finance critic Peggy Nash what she thinks he should tell Canadians.

She believes the government should consider major infrastructure investment and reconsider whether it should move forward on its planned $4 billion in cuts. “The big question is what do the recent changes in the U.S. and Europe mean for the economic assumptions we have here and our projections for this fall. How are our numbers impacted by that?” asks Ms. Nash. “How are we planning to adapt to the uncertainty south of the border? What kind of flexibility does the government have in its plans going forward?” Ms. Nash says flexibility is the key. “What we don’t want is rigidity in their approach that ignores the changing circumstances.”

Conservatives play defence

Stephen Harper’s Toriesare continuing their spirited defence of Transport Minister Denis Lebel, and why his association with the separatist Bloc Québécois was not as egregious as that of Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel: “There is no comparison to Nycole Turmel, who held a membership in a radical left-wing sovereigntist party when she became the Interim leader of the NDP, a supposedly national political party,” assert Harper Conservative strategists in a memo circulated Tuesday to supporters. “Even more disappointing is the fact that Ms. Turmel went out of her way not to renounce the Bloc Québécois policies when she gave up her long-held party membership a few short months ago ... .” Mr. Lebel, argues the Tories, “has been open and transparent with his constituents regarding his past membership, which he gave up nearly a decade ago.” Define transparent.

Lebel has an unlikely fan

Meanwhile, Mr. Lebel has a defender in an unexpected corner: outspoken Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin: “He is one of the most affable and friendly Conservative Ministers in cabinet,” Mr. Martin told the Globe. “He’s my office neighbour and frequent gym buddy. Quite the athlete, actually.” Mr. Martin argues that you cannot “grow your party” by ignoring others and “shunning anyone who once belonged to a different party.”

“Denis Lebel reminds us that many people have been associated with the Bloc for many different reasons quite separate and distinct from the sovereignty issue,” he says. “I hope more former Bloc members come and join the NDP.”

Jason Kenney blasts Amnesty International

The Immigration Minister has penned a rather mocking but pointed two-page letter responding to Amnesty International’s Alex Neve and Beatrice Vaugrante, who had complained about the government’s decision to release names and photographs of about 30 men living in Canada accused of war crimes. And he makes the surprising admission that he was once a member of “AI” as a high school student. Who knew?

“When I joined AI in high school, it was to defend the rights of political dissidents like Andrei Sakharov and to oppose brutal regimes, including those still doing bloody business in Iran and North Korea,” writes Mr. Kenney. “I am disappointed to learn you are now squandering the moral authority accrued in those campaigns on targeting one of the most generous immigration systems in the world, and protesting the actions of Canadian public servants applying rules and laws that far exceed our international obligations.”

To AI’s assertion that the initiative “does not conform to Canada’s obligations with respect to human rights and international justice,” Mr. Kenney replied, “Poppycock.” And then he asked, “Is it your position that the Canadian public does not deserve to know that these men are hiding among us unless or until each of them has signed a privacy waiver allowing details of their complicity in war crimes against humanity to be made public? If so, I respectfully disagree. I believe the Canadian public deserves better.”

The Minister also accuses AI of “ostentatious hand-wringing over the good name of war criminals and human rights violators ...” He says that may not sit well with “those AI members, who perhaps naively, believe your compassion should be reserved for their victims.”

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