My response to Granatstein’s response

J.L. Granatstein took the time to reply to my critique of his op-ed:

Prof. Lagasse’s complaints try to make law and science out of what are essentially political judgment calls. He may be right in what he says about my “deep-seated dislike” of the Westminster tradition, the Crown, and responsible government—though I very much doubt it. Moreover, he misses the only point that matters: over the last five years, the Harper government for its own political reasons believed that parliamentary support was necessary for military deployments. Will this change now that the Conservatives have a majority? Maybe, but I hope not. Putting the House of Commons on record when we send our troops abroad is smart politics and will surely remain so. And if public opinion on a mission shifts in this risk-averse nation, to be able to point to a Commons vote is most useful for government.

J.L. Granatstein

Here is my response to his response:

I did not deny that it was smart politics. As a matter of fact, my own work on parliamentary votes highlights that governments benefit from such votes because it blurs their ultimate responsibility for the decision. 

My criticism centred on Dr Granatstein’s claim that parliamentary votes are needed to maintain long-term support for the CF’s international deployments. Recent history indicates that there is no correlation between parliamentary votes and public support for these missions. I also doubt that a correlation exists between parliamentary votes and public support for Cold War-era Canadian military deployments.

So, if Dr Granatstein wanted to say that it is political prudent to hold these votes, then he should have used those terms. Instead, he made an unsubstantiated causal claim about how those affect public opinion. The issue here is not a normative one. It is one of analytical rigour. 

Dr Granatstein’s is one of this country’s most widely recognized commentator on military and defence matters. His views on Canadian defence affairs are respected and influential. It is precisely for this reason that the substance and logic of his arguments merit particularly scrutiny. Otherwise, the strength of our defence debate declines. 

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