Andrew Cohen acknowledges at the beginning of his latest column that he is a friend of retired general Andrew Leslie:
(A note: I have known Leslie, his wife and children for 10 years. We’re friends).
That said, he then reviews the facts:
As part of their severance, those who serve 20 years or more are offered a last move, at government expense, after they retire. Soldiers are asked to live in many places; the policy recognizes that the house you occupy at the end of your career may not be where you want to remain.
Leslie served 35 years at home and abroad and moved 18 times. When he left the military in 2011, he wanted to simplify things. He moved from a bigger house to a small one, in the same neighbourhood. The move cost some $72,000, of which the real estate fees could have come to perhaps $60,000. The rest went to packing and moving.
If Leslie -- like retired General Lewis Mackenzie -- had sided with the Harperites, there would have been no problem. However,
Andy Leslie is a Liberal. His father was a Liberal. His service notwithstanding, that displeases the government. Tell us, Minister Nicholson, would you have ordered an inquiry if Leslie had been running as a Conservative? Would your question have been as sharp, your anger as hot?
Could it be that Leslie’s expenses would never have found their way into the media at all? And could it be that the Conservatives wanted Leslie to join them, when they learned that he was going to the Liberals? Let us see this for what it is: a drive-by smear.
This is the party which spread rumours by phone that Irwin Cotler was retiring -- two years before he did retire. This is the party which aired commercials of puffins pooping on Stephane Dion's shoulder. This is the party which proclaimed that Micheal Ignatieff had returned to Canada -- but "not for you."
We know how Mr. Harper and his acolytes play the game. Cohen correctly concludes:
As we disparage a decorated general, seeing scandal that isn’t there, consider the greater affront of a government that tolerates a minister, Julian Fantino, who insults veterans as he cuts their services. Now there’s gratitude.
Then ask yourself why Andrew Leslie and other good people would even contemplate entering our soiled, sorry public life.
Under Stephen Harper, public life in Canada has become a boil -- an infection, not a vocation.