When is a government initiative not a government initiative? Who should one believe? The Premier of Manitoba or the Co-ordinator of his Secretariat?
A little over a month ago I emailed Premier Doer to express my outrage at Manitoba’s decision to support the “Yellow Ribbon Campaign” and by extension, Canadian participation in the war in Afghanistan.
The Premier had issued a news release and held a news conference announcing provincial support for the campaign. As well, he turned the Manitoba Legislative Building into a temporary drop-in centre for campaign supporters to sign yellow ribbons that would be sent, along with Manitoba and Winnipeg flags, to Canada House in Kandahar for permanent display. A Winnipeg Free Press story about the announcement said that the campaign would be taken to shopping malls and schools, which prompted this post.
I had been wondering when or if the Premier’s Office would respond and what they might say. Well, the response came today. In a fashion typical of government, the email said very little. It was, however, interesting how the responder tried to deflect my anger in another direction by noting that the campaign was the project of retired soldiers and suggesting that I should write my local MP and the Minister of National Defence, Peter McKay.
My local MP (Pat Martin, Winnipeg Centre) has nothing to do with Manitoba’s pro-war stance. In fact, the federal NDP of which he is a member supports ending Canada’s military occupation of Afghanistan. And Mr. McKay? It is difficult to know what he has to do with turning the Manitoba Legislature into a yellow ribbon drop-in centre.
It’s time to cut the crap
Sadly, citizens who write to politicians are accustomed to getting evasive responses that fail to speak to the issues they have raised. My respect for the Premier would have gone up considerably if his flack had written back saying “Yes, Mr. Doer supports this war.” and explained why he held this position. I might have disagreed with his reasons, but at least there would have been some honesty – and without honesty there can be no true democracy.
For your amusement and edification, here’s my email to the Premier, his flack’s response, the provincial news release, and Mr. Doer’s reported statement on the war.
From: Paul Graham
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 4:09 PM
Cc: Altemeyer, Rob (NDP Caucus); Layton, Jack – M.P.
Subject: Yellow Ribbon Campaign
Your reported decision to provide provincial support for the “Yellow Ribbon” campaign is deeply disturbing. Even more outrageous is your decision to allow campaigners access to Manitoba schools.
The Yellow Ribbon campaign is propaganda for the Canadian combat role in Afghanistan, a role opposed by a majority of Canadians and most New Democrats. War propaganda has no place in our schools.
You are welcome to your personal opinions, but you have no business imposing them on the rest of us. As a Manitoban and a New Democrat, I am outraged that you should align yourself, and by extension, Manitobans, with the criminals who control Afghanistan.
If you genuinely cared for Canadian soldiers, you would join Jack Layton in condemning this war and pushing for an end to Canada’s complicity in it. Do not expect thoughtful Canadians to “support our troops” by sending them to Afghanistan to help the Americans secure their oil supplies while propping up a gang of warlords and drug runners.
Your decision is shameful and disgraceful.
Premier’s Flack’s Tardy, Disingenuous Response
March 12, 2008
Dear Mr. Graham:
On behalf of the Honourable Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba, I would like to thank you for your correspondence regarding the Yellow Ribbon Campaign.
Our office appreciates hearing your comments on this matter. Although the campaign was launched at the Legislative Building, please note that it is not a government initiative. The project was developed by two retired soldiers in order to provide any Manitoban who so chooses with the opportunity to extend best wishes and support for the soldiers departing for Afghanistan.
We would also like to encourage you to share your concerns with the Honourable Peter Mackay, Minister of National Defence, as well as your local Member of Parliament.
Thank you again for sharing your views with Premier Doer.
Coordinator of the
Provincial News Release
February 6, 2008
Manitoba Legislative Building To Host Yellow Ribbon Campaign
Visitors and the general public will now be able to show their support at Manitoba’s Legislative Building for Manitoba soldiers deploying to Afghanistan, Premier Gary Doer announced today.
For two weeks beginning today, yellow ribbons will be available near the front entrance security desk for visitors and the public to sign.
“Yesterday, we launched this campaign at the Legislative Building,” said Doer. “Today, I am proud to announce the building will become one of the venues providing Manitobans the opportunity to support our troops in this unique way.”
The campaign was developed by two retired soldiers who wanted to give Manitobans a way to express support and best wishes for the province’s departing soldiers. The goal of the campaign is to obtain 10,000 signatures.
“The Yellow Ribbon Campaign is one way Manitobans can show their support for Canadians deploying to Afghanistan,” said Bonnie Korzeniowski, Manitoba’s special envoy for military affairs. “I am pleased the Legislative Building will host the campaign which will give visitors and the public an opportunity to show their support for our troops.”
The signed ribbons, together with a Manitoba and City of Winnipeg flag, will be taken to Afghanistan in late April or early May 2008 and will be housed in Canada House in Kandahar as a permanent symbol of the province’s support for Manitoba soldiers.
Gary Doer on the war
Doer said he supported the ribbon campaign and Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, despite federal NDP leader Jack Layton’s comments that the Taliban cannot be defeated by international troops and the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable.
“I don’t worry about what people say in Ottawa,” Doer said.
Source: Winnipeg Free Press: Ribbons to honour troops: Vets seek signatures as province OKs campaign; Feb. 6, 2008