NDP defence critic ignores party policy

Why does the NDP defence critic promote militarism and anti-Palestinian racism? Shouldn’t all critics promote their party’s policies? And if they don’t, what should the party leader do?

Randall Garrison complained to the Hill Times that the government’s recent budget didn’t devote enough to the military. In “Opposition MPs say they’re worried about lack of defence spending in budget, as experts to future of NORAD” he’s quoted saying: “Defence doesn’t change just because there’s a pandemic. … We spent a decade not providing the military with an adequate operating budget to do the work we already asked them to do. It’s time to fix that.”

Garrison has repeatedly demanded more resources for the military, which has more than 10 times the budget of Environment and Climate Change Canada. When the Liberals announced a 70 per cent increase in military spending in 2017 Garrison criticized the announcement for not putting up more money immediately, bemoaning (incorrectly) that “the money you’re proposing will not keep pace with the rate of inflation.”

Garrison supports spending $19 billion — $77 billion over their lifecycle — on 88 new aggressive, climate destroying, fighter jets. Garrison’s most egregious position concerns the Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC) procurement, which could cost $286 billion over their lifecycle. He stayed silent on the issue after the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated in February that the cost of acquiring 15 highly armed CSCs at over $77 billion, five times the initial estimate. And $77 billion is just the sticker price. Former Assistant Deputy Minister of Materiel at DND and Assistant Deputy Minister, Supply Operations Service in Public Works and Government Services Canada, Alan Williams, suggests the full life-cycle cost of the CSC will be an eye popping $286 billion.

Garrison has also ignored media reports about extreme secrecy in the CSC procurement process. Nor has he commented on its radar tying the vessels into US Ballistic Missile Defense or arming the frigates with Tomahawk missiles that travel 1,700 kilometers.

None of this aligns with the views of most NDP members.

In mid-April 85% of NDP convention delegates voted for the Palestine Resolution. It calls for “Ending all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine” and “Suspending the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld.”

In response to Israel’s ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque and violence in Gaza, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called for an arms embargo on Israel and the party promoted a petition making this demand, which most MPs shared.

Garrison stayed quiet on the arms embargo and convention resolution. He also failed to criticize Israel’s violence and ethnic cleansing. Instead, he signed a statement at the end of May designed to shield Israel from criticism, which was promoted by anti-Palestinian lobby group Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). The statement Garrison signed was connected to his position on an unofficial task force lobbying social media firms to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian working definition of anti-Semitism.

Garrison is also vice-chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group (CIIG). Three years ago 200 well-known musicians, academics, trade unionists and NDP members called on NDP MPs to withdraw from CIIG. Most ultimately did so. Garrison has refused to leave a group that promotes “greater friendship” and “cooperation” between the Canadian and Israeli parliaments. As I detailed, CIIG has organized events with other pro-Israel lobby organizations and the co-chairs of its Israeli counterpart — the Israel-Canada Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group — have been stridently anti-Palestinian. Garrison’s ties to anti-Palestinian lobbying groups go beyond his role as vice-chair of CIIG. Garrison has participated in initiatives with the staunchly anti-Palestinian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and CIJA. He has also repeatedly promoted the notion that pro-Palestinian activism is anti-Jewish. Last summer Garrison was one of two NDP MPs who refused to sign Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East’s pledge to oppose Israel’s plans to annex the West Bank.

Garrison is clearly out of step with NDP members on Palestinian rights. His militarism is also not shared by most in the party.

It’s time Jagmeet Singh removed Garrison as defence critic.

 

Please take one minute to send a letter to the NDP leadership calling for Garrison’s removal as defence critic.

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