Roundup: About that two percent

Part of the preoccupying discussion over the weekend has been comments that Donald Trump made regarding the two percent of GDP spending target as a NATO obligation, and his threats to be less responsive to the alliance unless countries pony up to that level. Never mind that it’s not an actual obligation (Article 5 – the notion that an attack on one member country is an attack on all – is the actual core of the alliance), it’s become a fixation, and that could be a problem for Canada, no matter the fact that we actually show up and do the heavy lifting. To translate heavy lifting, it means that we haven’t been afraid of doing the dirty work, and getting involved in the actual fighting, as with Afghanistan, in part because we have a system of government that allows the government of the day to authorise it without bogging it down in legislative votes or in coalition negotiations where the reluctance to put troops into harm’s way means that most NATO countries wind up deploying troops with very restrictive caveats as to what they can and can’t do, and deploying them to areas where they are less likely to see active combat. (This, incidentally, is generally another caution about PR governments, but I’m sure there are those who would say that this is a feature and not a bug. Those people would be overly idealistic). That heavy lifting should count for something beyond just spending levels.

Paul Wells walks us through some of the history of the two percent target, and why it’s a poor measure of results, as well as some theorizing about why Donald Trump is fixating on that target as much as he is. Likewise, NATO scholar Stephen Saideman engages in some two percent myth-busting here. And Philippe Lagassé offers some additional thoughts about those spending targets and what could be a better measure.

Good reads:

  • Conservative MPs Michelle Rempel and Tony Clement tweeted a call to end the illegal refugee border crossings in places like Manitoba and rural Quebec.
  • At Trump’s Mar-A-Largo club in Palm Beach, Brian Mulroney got up on stage with David Foster to sing “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” for Trump.
  • BC Liberal MPs who were opposed to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion are looking to monitor that all of the conditions for approval are properly met.
  • In case you’ve forgotten our Aurora surveillance planes are still flying missions over Syria, while our forces are probing ISIS positions near the Syrian border.
  • The government plans to overhaul a fund set up to help parents whose children are missing or have been murdered, as administration costs outstrip benefits.
  • Health Canada plans to close a loophole that allows people to buy pesticides not registered for use in Canada online.
  • The gun used in the Quebec City mosque shooting was one restricted by the RCMP and overturned by Steven Blaney.
  • John Geddes talks to Joël Lightbound, the MP for that Quebec City riding where the shooting took place.
  • Here’s a look at the restoration of Province House in PEI.
  • Former NDP-turned-Bloc MP Claude Patry is now heading up a local chapter of far-right group La Meute in Quebec.
  • Thomas Mulcair says that he’ll likely land at a university or possibly return to practicing law when he retires from politics later this year.
  • Mulcair, incidentally, is unmoved by calls within parts of the grassroots to run again for leader, saying he’s ready to move on.
  • There were some additional Conservative leadership debates from Vancouver over the weekend.
  • The Star has profiles of all 14 Conservative leadership candidates, in case you’ve lost track of them.
  • Kevin O’Leary went on American television to say that it’s not fair to judge Trump based on his performance during his first 100 days.
  • Maxime Bernier is the latest Conservative candidate to say that the Indian Act should be abolished, by won’t say what to replace it with.

Odds and ends:

The by-election for Ottawa–Vanier has been called for April 3rd.

Other potential candidates for the coming Markham by-election wonder if Mary Ng will have an unfair advantage as she is coming from PMO.

On CBC Radio’s The 180, I talk about why Parliament needs to be funnier. (More of my quotes are in the story than in the radio piece).