So, the House of Commons censured Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan. Given that I have been calling for Sajjan to be removed from this position, I should a fan of this, yes? Mostly but not entirely.
First, this should not have been necessary. Sajjan should have been removed after his second disastrous appearance before the Defence Committee. He basically showed that he had lied in his earlier testimony and, to me, more importantly, did not understand his job. That his job included overseeing the Chief of the Defence Staff which Sajjan suggested would be politicizing if he actually had any curiosity about the allegations against Vance.
Second, this actual motion was a mess, wrapping into it stuff that didn't belong and omitting stuff that should have been included. Let me listicle to explain:
- Misleading Canadians on withdrawal of fighter jets in fight against ISIS? Um, what? There had been no discussion of this in years, and it is not clear what was so misleading.
- Misleading Canadians about his service record? Um, so Sajjan inflated his record (he and General Fraser overplay Medusa as a success--it was a shitshow), but that really is irrelevant. Sure, I don't think that former military officers should be Minister or Secretary of Defence, but this is a strange thing to have here.
- Presiding over wrongful accusation and dismissal of Vice-Admiral Norman. The Norman affair was a mess, and it had a significant role in destabilizing the leadership of the CAF with the Vice Chief office involving about as much job security as being Trump's Comms person. So, this is probably fair--that the MND should be left holding the bag for this mess even thought it was above his paygrade probably.
- Engaging in a cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations? I think that entirely misses the point. It was not so much a cover-up but abdication of responsibility.
The Vance/McDonald/etc mess is on Sajjan but not for covering up. Sajjan's mistakes here were many (another listicle):
- Not being sufficiently curious about allegations that arose about Vance--yes, he pushed onto staffers, but he should have thought about it, gotten more info as he had a decision to make every single day but especially around year three, four, and five--whether to keep Vance around.
- Not being sufficiently curious about the state of the Deschamps report implementation. Given the supposed priority of personnel, why didn't Sajjan push Vance to implement the report? Instead, that Vance did some stuff that was the opposite--the Duty to Report--stands out.
- Letting Vance make senior appointments without much guidance or oversight. Vance chose a guy who had a reputation for getting away with sexual misconduct--Mulligan Man Edmundson--as head of the personnel branch, which, yes, had much responsibility for sexual misconduct issues.
- Lying to the Defence Committee--I guess this is the coverup stuff that is in the actual censure motion. To be clear, on this, Sajjan was not covering up sexual misconduct--he was covering up his failure to deal with sexual misconduct and abuse of power.
- Permitting the sense of impunity the senior officers had to do what they want, whether that is to golf with those who were being investigated or to appoint people with crappy records to high positions or to have a set of rules that only apply to junior officers, etc.
- Oh, and, I forgot, appointing a new Chief of the Defence Staff with a problematic record. Vetting is part of the job.
So, yes, Sajjan deserves to be censured, and he deserves to be shuffled out of the position. But the opposition made a mess of the motion. As a result, it looks more partisan than it needs to be, which blunts its edge. Yes, all of this is partisan, but the best partisan attacks are those that look like they are purely in the national interest, putting the target on the defensive.
Anyhow, because Sajjan is important for fund-raising and for vote-getting, Trudeau is going to keep him around until after the next election. Which will erode his feminist credentials even further. I wonder if they did the math on that--how likely is it that people will decide to vote for someone else because of Sajjan's deadweight? I am sure they have surveyed and gamed it out. I just wish there was an opposition party I could vote for.