Thursday, February 22, 2007

Generals (hillier) are there to serve, not to govern

Chretien ally to Hillier: Keep out of politics: Goldenberg chastises top general for criticism of Grits' military spending
The Ottawa Citizen 2007.02.22

Canada's top soldier has no business complaining about the level of military spending -- the "decade of darkness" -- under the last Liberal government, according to Jean Chretien's former right-hand man.

"Generals are there to serve, not to govern," says Eddie Goldenberg. And it is the elected politicians, not the generals, who decide how much money should be spent on the military, Mr. Goldenberg said during a speech to a fundraising breakfast yesterday for the Ottawa Art Gallery.

The war of words between Liberals and Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of defence staff, began last week when the blunt-talking soldier complained that cuts to military spending during Mr. Chretien's Liberal government left "some deep wounds" and comprised "a decade of darkness."

The statements seemed uncharacteristically political for a soldier holding a supposedly non-political job.

Denis Coderre, Liberal defence critic, immediately accused Gen. Hillier of being out of line and turning himself into "a prop for the Conservative party."

Mr. Goldenberg's remarks about Gen. Hillier came during a speech about the need for governments to make tough choices when deciding who should get scarce funds.

"His so-called 'decade of darkness' for the military was the same decade that saw $12 billion invested in higher learning through the creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the endowing of 2000 Canada Research chairs in our universities and much else," said Mr. Goldenberg, an Ottawa-based lawyer. "For Canadian universities in general and particularly here in Ottawa for the University of Ottawa and Carleton, it might be called the 'decade of enlightenment'."

Mr. Goldenberg took another shot at Gen. Hillier by saying "he probably also was disappointed we did not join with the Americans in Iraq."

Mayor Larry O'Brien was in the audience and he also took a hit from Mr. Goldenberg. The mayor has vowed to freeze taxes this year, a particularly unpopular move among arts groups hoping for bigger grants.

Ottawa, Mr. Goldenberg said, attracts money-spending tourists because the canal is frozen, not because taxes are frozen.