Harper government accused of playing petty politics with Manitoba flood

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

It's no secret that politicians like to be seen during times of crises.

It may be crass but, for political strategists, a picture or video of their leader at a disaster zone on the six o'clock news is gold.

It makes them look caring, supportive and empathetic; it makes them look like leaders.

So, is shouldn't be a surprise that the federal New Democrats are upset that Tom Mulcair's tour of a Manitoba flood zone was vetoed by federal Defence Minister Rob Nicholson.

Following Prime Minister Stephen Harper's helicopter tour of flood zones earlier this week, Thomas Mulcair had arranged to get a tour of a military command post along the swollen Assiniboine River where hundreds of soldiers are filling sandbags.

Nicholson vetoed the request suggesting that the focus should be on protecting Manitobans.

The NDP suggest that the decision was based on pure pettiness.

"Last night the minister's office informed us that we did not have their permission to go through despite the fact that we had been working on this with Premier Sellinger's office and the highest levels of the military here," leader Thomas Mulcair told reporters on Wednesday afternoon.

"And frankly we find that regrettable, there are times when everyone just has to come together and put partisan politics aside. Unfortunately, Mr. Harper doesn't seem to understand that."

[ Related: Are we seeing a kinder, gentler Stephen Harper? ]

Given the Tories' history, it's hard not to believe the NDP narrative.

In 2011, military officials invited NDP MP Ryan Cleary to visit 9 Wing Gander air base in Newfoundland. Then-defence minster Peter MacKay, nixed the tour claiming that it would be too much of a disruption.

In 2012, NDP MP Pat Martin went on a Twitter tirade after he wasn't invited to a federal government announcement, in his home riding, made by public safety minister Vic Toews. According to Martin, extending an invite to the local MP had, in the past, been a common practice.

And, in 2013, Liberal MP Marc Garneau — Canada's first man in space — was not invited to a ceremony at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum commemorating the Canada Arm, an apparatus that Garneau actually controlled. Then-industry minister James Moore blamed the snub on museum staffers.

What do you think?

Did Minister Nicholson make the right choice — to ensure that crews on the ground can focus on sandbagging efforts — or is this another act of political pettiness?

Let us know your thoughts below.

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)

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