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Well Done, Sir

The Ruxted Group wishes former MND Gordon O'Connor well.

We have taken him – and his colleagues, especially Prime Minister Harper – to task for failing to communicate the raison d'être of the Afghanistan mission to Canadians, thereby securing their support for the mission. To the extent that the government did communicate the task was too often left to Minister O'Connor alone. He did his best but it was not good enough.

Minister O'Connor served the armed forces well – as an officer and as a politician. The military is getting thousands of new people; Gordon O'Connor steered the requirement and the money through cabinet in competition with many other government priorities. The military is getting much needed new equipment. Gordon O'Connor took on some projects started by his predecessors and saw them to fruition. He started other important projects and managed them to approval and now new kit, necessary kit, is being delivered. Well done, Mister O'Connor!

Some critics in parliament and the press tried to sensationalize Mr. O'Connor's previous career as a lobbyist. Gordon O'Connor was a man of integrity who served his country, then his clients, and then again his country when called, without unduly favouring anyone. His reputation for personal integrity is unsullied.

Much criticism of Mister O’Connor was related to the handling of detainees given over to Afghan custody. Without getting into the details of the criticism, Gordon O’Connor was less than clear in explaining his department’s position. However, it seems to Ruxted that in part for domestic political interests many of the critics appeared disproportionately concerned with the plight of the detainees over the long suffering people of Afghanistan.

It also was suggested that, as a former general officer, Mister O’Connor knew too much about the functioning of his department. That a minister could have excess knowledge of his department and job was a puzzling line of attack. Ruxted adds that having too firm a grasp of the defence portfolio was a charge that could rarely have been levelled at either his predecessors or his critics.

On balance Gordon O’Connor was an effective wartime Minister of National Defence. He had his faults, as do we and his critics. He was the right person at the right time; Prime Minister Harper showed good judgement. That the time came for him to move on was more because of political imperatives than any failing on his part.

And so, paraphrasing Saint Matthew, we say: “Well done, good and faithful soldier. You have served your country well. You have earned its thanks.”

We also congratulate Peter MacKay on his appointment to the defence portfolio. Gordon O’Connor has left an admirable list of achievements and ongoing projects. There is still much to be done to reform the Department of National Defence so that it can better respond to the challenges which face Canada. There is still much to be done to transform the Canadian Forces into a flexible, responsive organization able to meet and defeat threats to Canada. There is plenty of room for a smart, hard working, ambitious politician to make a positive impression.

The Ruxted Group thanks Gordon O'Connor for his hard work and his achievements; so should all Canadians.


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