Brian Stewart, CBC News, Canada, Wednesday, July 7, 2010 -
Another country’s dole
“Sponsors wouldn’t pay for travel without an expectation of getting something back,” says Errol Mendes, a constitutional law professor at the University of Ottawa.
What these sponsors want, above all, is influence on our politics, trade relations and international positions. For our politicians to proclaim otherwise, as some do, carries naiveté into the realm of fantasy.
China is a relentlessly generous host and deserves special mention because the federal government and CSIS have both publicly acknowledged that it is the most aggressive nation spying on us by a substantial margin.
The Conservatives have long vowed to crack down on Chinese espionage, although much of that talk was before the recent thaw in business relations.
That said, Israel and Taiwan, both very active in the world of espionage, are well up there with China at least in terms of courting potential supporters with trips.
According to the federal ethics commissioner, the Canada-Israel Committee paid more than $160,000 to host 14 MPs on one-week trips to Israel in 2009.
The committee, at least, is openly registered in Ottawa as an Israeli lobby group and it is important to note that there is nothing illegal, corrupt or against the rules of Parliament in accepting such favours from any foreign nation.
The practice is just thoroughly “reprehensible,” as Senator Colin Kenny, the former chair of the Senate committee on national security and defence, puts it in a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen defending Richard Fadden.
“Fadden did Canadians a service,” Kenny argues, “by pointing out that too many Canadian politicians are effectively on other countries’ dole.”
In fact, the issue of dubious foreign favours being lavished on our politicians is a scandal waiting to happen. Just look at what’s happened elsewhere.
Two years ago, the British media had a field day when it was revealed that former London mayor Ken Livingstone enjoyed an all-expense paid, $35,000 week-long trip to Beijing, including business class travel and $1,700 a night hotel room complete with, as one newspaper described it, “rainforest show and bath master to prepare the bath and fill it with heavily oils.”
A staunch defender of China’s human rights record over the years, Livingstone was the mayor who allowed tough-minded Chinese security officers to run alongside the Olympic flame as it passed through the city, a strong-arm role he later admitted was “a mistake.”
A far stormier scandal is currently raging in Australia over political freebies and foreign influence.
Last year the Australian government came under sustained fire when its defence minister disclosed he had received, while in opposition, two free trips to China paid for by a business concern with close ties to Beijing.
Now, it has been revealed that a quarter of Australian MPs have taken free overseas travel worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, paid for by foreign governments and lobby groups, with China the most popular destination……. (to be cont’d)
- from CBC News