Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Conference of Defence Associations vs. the Rideau Institute

David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen takes a backhanded swipe at the Conference of Defence Associations at his blog:
The scuttlebutt in Ottawa these days is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will finally announce his government’s Canada First defence strategy at the annual Conference of Defence Associations meeting on Thursday.

Mr. Harper is scheduled to be the keynote speaker, the first time that I can remember the Conference of Defence Associations landing such a big political fish for one of its events (it always has the Chief of the Defence Staff and the service chiefs and well as a healthy number of generals taking part in panels or giving presentations).

The CDA is the perfect forum for the launch of Canada First. The association is closely aligned with the Canadian Forces, receiving a chunk of DND money every year to preach the gospel about the need for more money for the military. It’s commentators are quoted in newspapers and seen on TV (although the part about how DND finances the organization usually gets left out of those reports).

In addition, the CDA has close links to the Conservatives. Retired Col. Howie Marsh, the association’s former top analyst, went over to the Harper government to advise on defence policy...

(The rest of the events look pretty predictable and there aren’t too many dissenting voices at this gathering to really stir up the pot. For instance on the Afghanistan panel there’s David Mulroney, the government’s point man on Afghanistan, CEFCOM commander Lt. Gen. Michel Gauthier and Stephen Wallace, VP of CIDA....don't expect that discussion to deviate too much from the government's standard line that the Taliban are on the run and reconstruction is proceeding smoothy).

UPDATE: I've been informed by retired Col. John C McKenna (a past chairman of the Conference of Defence Associations) that "the last time a Prime Minister addressed the CDA's annual conference was in the late '70's when The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau graced the assembled and promised more support for the military."
Mr Pugliese has been happy in his stories to quote Steve Staples (sometimes identified as "left-leaning") and Prof. Michael Byers. I wonder when our intrepid blogger will do a post unmasking the biases of the Rideau Institute, where both those fine men are now on the board of directors (along with Maude, my God, Barlow!), and which often tries to influence public and media opinion on military matters:
The Rideau Institute's Steven Staples, Anthony Salloum and their Senior Advisors regularly contribute commentaries and editorials on television, radio and in print.
More on the Institute's range of activities:
Because of its close proximity to Parliament Hill and national newsrooms, the Rideau Institute specializes in monitoring activities in government and communicating with Members of Parliament and other decision makers.

To accomplish that, the institute publishes and distributes research, organizes special briefings by experts and specialists, holds press conferences, and other related activities.

But in addition to activities in Ottawa, the institute supports public education and public advocacy. Using the Internet, the institute designs and implements several on-line communication and advocacy programs such as and It also supports community education through speaking tours by experts and analysts.
If you want to see the true bias of the Institute, look at the links to the sites in the quote above. A good place for Mr Pugliese to start, should he be so inclined. By the way, the Rideau Institute gives no specific details about where it gets its funding and it wants your money. At least it's not a registered charity.

Update: Speaking of fund-raising and the CDA, a reliable source has provided this e-mail from Mr Staples, from two years ago when he worked at the Polaris Institute:
Will this be Canada's Iraq?

Is the government risking Canadian soldiers' lives to protect Canada - or to curry favour with George W. Bush?

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Dear [...]

First, let me thank you for your support in the past. Today I want to tell you about the work that lies ahead, and I hope you will take the next step.

Right now, more than two thousand Canadian soldiers are in Afghanistan, fighting under the U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom. This is not a peacekeeping mission - this is a U.S.-led war.

Why have Canadian soldiers been sent to face the most dangerous mission in decades? Just so the government can score a few points with the Bush administration? It's clear that we need to mount our own "New Peace Lobby" - that's why I am asking you to take the next step and make a donation to our work for 2006.

[...], can I count on you this year?

Parliament resumes under Stephen Harper's Conservative government on April 3, and already the defence lobby is working overtime to ensure our military is built up to help fight U.S.-led wars. We must get ready now to counter this agenda right away.

A few days ago the defence lobbyists rallied their supporters to push their pro-U.S. military agenda at a huge [CDA, one assumes] conference in Ottawa. Their meeting, held right next door to Parliament, was funded by two of the largest, multibillion-dollar American arms corporations in the world: Boeing and General Dynamics.

Retired general Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor was a lobbyist for the arms industry.

And our new Minister of National Defence, retired general Gordon O'Connor - a former arms dealer himself - told the military and business leaders that the United States as Canada's most important ally. It's in our national interest to continue to work closely with them to defend our continent. And the United States must know that Canada is a reliable defence and security partner.

But our troops are in incredible danger. The frequency of suicide attacks is rising, and the generals have no idea how long our troops will be in the country. Afghanistan could become "Canada's Iraq."

But [...], the defence lobby doesn't know we have a strategy.

We already have a plan to mount a New Peace Lobby to counter the defence lobbyists in Ottawa - and you can download it from

Our main priority is to open a debate about Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, and whether the Canadian Forces are moving away from UN peacekeeping toward U.S.-led war fighting.

According to a recent poll, 62% of Canadians don't support sending Canadian troops to Afghanistan.

But the New Peace Lobby needs as much as $100,000 to be an effective force over the next 12 to 18 months - that's the expected lifespan of the Conservative minority government.

With your support we will:

Work with like-minded Members of Parliament from all political parties
Produce and fund expert research and reports
Provide analysis and polling to reporters and columnists in the media
Support peace work in communities to build the political will for our goals

The $100,000 for the New Peace Lobby will go a long way toward helping us make a major impact on government policy - and yet it's still a pittance compared to the millions of dollars the big corporations will be spending to push Canada closer to George W. Bush.

Here is what I am asking you to do right now:
Please make a contribution for 2006. Consider making a monthly donation to our work (it can be stopped or changed at any time).

You'll be joinng a group of hundreds of people who want to make a difference. Take a moment to read the comments made by some of our donors.

Your previous support helped our work to keep Canada out of the missile defence system before - and I know with your help we can continue to keep Canada moving foward being an international force for peace.

Thank you for your support.


Steve Staples
Polaris Institute and founder of

If you prefer to make a donation by cheque through the mail, please download our easy 3-Step Donation Form.

Donations by mail and inquiries may be directed to:

Polaris Institute
Attn. Karen Craine, Program Assistant
180 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa ON K2P 1P5 Canada
Tel. 613 237-1717 Fax 613 237-3359

The Polaris Institute is a public interest research organization federally incorporated as a not-for-profit organization with Industry Canada under the Canada Corporations Act. Unfortunately, donations to the Polaris Institute are not tax deductible.

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Upperdate: Mr Pugliese's scuttlebutt that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would announce the government’s Canada First defence strategy at the CDA meeting was wrong. So much for scuttlebutt. This is what Mr Harper said:

1) Official news release:
PM unveils revised motion on the future of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan
2) Globe and Mail story:
New Afghan motion sets 2011 as mission end date
Perhaps MND MacKay will speak on the Canada First strategy Friday, Feb. 22; who knows right now? (Feb. 22 update: Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, said at the CDA meeting that it would be coming "soon", in a month or so.)

Also, should Mr Pugliese quote Prof. Byers "expert" views in the future, he might consider mentioning the professor's close NDP ties as outlined by Babbling at this post. And here's a simple and definitive link, tie, association...Though I think the professor's views have moved much further to the "progressive", anti-defence (in any realistic sense), left since 2005. See this piece of scare-mongering, propagandistic bilge that even he cannot honestly believe is true:
With Fidel Castro gone, U.S. hawks will look north

Canada should resist inevitable U.S. pressure to squeeze Cuba during leadership transition
Somehow I think President Bush and other administration raptors have other aquatic animals to fry, er catch, than beavers. If they have any time at all to worry, in a Cuban as opposed to Afghan context, about beavers these days.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, let's go easy on David Pugliese.

He's a professional journalist and he's just helping out the little guys, Mr Staples & Mr. Byers, get some recognition for their "Peace at any Price" views of Canadian International relations. Staples and Byers are often viewed as odious pondscum, so it takes journalistic courage to give them a platform. Kudos to David Pugliese.

That being said, I still boycott the Ottawa Citizen and all its advertisers because of such professionalism because it is my right to disagree with such an approach.

Everyone has a choice of how they support our Forces and our troops in a time of conflict.

4:50 p.m., February 20, 2008  
Blogger David said...

Hey Mark -- For such a smart guy, you miss the very obvious point about the big differences between Rideau Institute (or the Fraser Institute or C.D. Howe and many others of various political bents) and the CDA. The CDA portrays itself as an 'independent' voice and yet, gets what? -- half-a-million a year from DND. That ain't independent. Rideau and the others certainly don't hide their biases but they are independent in the sense that, as you pointed out with the fundraising letters, they have to scramble for cash. Not the CDA -- so long as they keep 'reflecting' on the military's preferred mission, they keep getting their DND money ...
Amir Attaran -- one of your favourites, of course :) -- makes the point quite convincingly in today's Globe and Mail (another favourite!)
Check out CDA's "About" page: It tells you that its mission is to influence public policy but nowhere do you learn who pays the bills.
Not that CDA doesn't have lots of useful and insightful things to say -- I'm just all for full disclosure.


11:04 p.m., February 21, 2008  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

David, I have no problem with anyone mentioning the CDA's funding. I do have a problem with a journalist pointing out one bias but not others.

*cough - MICHAEL BYERS - cough*

And since when does funding constitute the only criteria for bias. I'd agree with Mark's point that when an organization or individual volunteers their point of view like Staples did in that e-mail, that it's relevant regardless of how he gets his cash. Just like the CDA's funding is relevant regardless of how balanced and fair their own commentary may be.

It's not the accusations of bias that are upsetting here, it's the cherry-picking done by the MSM on which biases are worth disclosing and which aren't.

And I say: disclose them all.

10:20 a.m., February 22, 2008  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

David Akin: I quite agree about the CDA--though in my encounters with it (a fair number) they don't take ideological or partisan stances. And their members have a range of views and can be critical of the government (I believe they were funded under the Liberals too).

I just wish for an exposé, as it were, of Mr Staples' and Prof. Byers' biases (much more extreme than any of the CDA's) similar to Mr Pulgliese's and Prof. Attaran's swipes at the CDA. Esp. as Messrs Staples and Byers are constantly quoted as defence "experts" when they are no such thing--rather they are ideologues of the first water with some limited knowledge of defence matters.

I suppose you saw the two letters in the Globe today responding to Prof. Attaran?


4:54 p.m., February 22, 2008  

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