Scheer says anti-Khadr campaign in U.S. media is fair game as NDP cry hypocrisy

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer brushed off suggestions that his party's campaign denouncing the Trudeau government's apology and payout to Omar Khadr in the U.S. media will negatively impact upcoming NAFTA negotiations.
At a press conference announcing senior members of his team, Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer says his party's use of U.S. media to attack the Trudeau government's apology and payout to Omar Khadr is not breaking the united front Canada is trying to present to the U.S. on the eve of NAFTA negotiations. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer brushed off suggestions that his party's campaign denouncing the Trudeau government's apology and payout to Omar Khadr in the U.S. media will negatively impact upcoming NAFTA negotiations.

The new Conservative leader suggested that if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was concerned about how the reported $10.5 million payout to Khadr would play south of the border, he should have handled the issue better.  

"The only person that's trying to make a link between those two issues is Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party," Scheer told reporters in Ottawa. "It's so clear why they are doing this because they realize they are so offside with the overwhelming majority of Canadians."

Several senior Conservative MPs have been appearing in the U.S., denouncing the payout and apology. On Tuesday MP Pierre Poilievre appeared on Newsmax TV slamming the government for the decision.

"Canadians from coast to coast are totally outraged with prime minister Trudeau's decision to pay this confessed terrorist and known supporter — past supporter at least — and member of Al-Qeada $10.5 million Canadian tax dollars," Poilievre said on the cable television outlet.

Conservative MP Peter Kent wrote an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal entitled "A Terrorist's Big Payday, courtesy of Trudeau" while Tory MP Michelle Rempel appeared on Fox News Monday denouncing the deal.

In 2002, 15-year-old Khadr was captured by a group of American troops in Afghanistan after a firefight that led to the death of U.S. Sgt. Christopher Speer. Another soldier, Sgt. Layne Morris, was blinded in one eye.

In 2010, appearing before a U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Khadr admitted to throwing the grenade that killed Speer and wounded Morris — but he's since recanted and said he confessed under duress. Khadr, who is now 30, is trying to have his conviction overturned in the U.S.

Asked whether he was concerned the media front the Conservatives have now opened south of the border could negatively impact upcoming NAFTA negotiations, Trudeau said he would continue to focus on getting a good deal for Canada.

"This is too important to fall into partisanship, for most people," Trudeau told reporters in Barrie, Ont., Thursday. 

Scheer told reporters Thursday that he doesn't see a connection and that he has told his caucus to present a united front when it comes to dealing with the U.S. because "trade is too important to allow partisan differences to get in the way."

This isn't the first time MPs have travelled south to criticize their rivals.

In 2013, then-Opposition leader Leader Tom Mulcair went to Washington D.C. and New York City to speak to U.S. officials and make connections with Congressional leaders. While there, Mulcair was asked by reporters to comment on then-prime minister Stephen Harper's climate change and oilsands policies.

'It's obviously hypocritical'

Mulcair's visit occurred around the same time Harper was engaged in a widespread campaign designed to encourage then-president Barack Obama to approve the pipeline, with ministers and premiers travelling south to make the case for Keystone XL.

The natural resources minister at the time, Joe Oliver, told reporters that Mulcair should have been backing the extension during his visit south and "standing up for Canada's interests and Canada's jobs."

John Baird, the then foreign affairs minister, said Mulcair was "trash talking" Canada and undermining efforts to win approval for the pipeline while Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall accused him of "betraying Canadian interests."

NDP MP Nathan Cullen, the party's ethics critic, said it's ironic the Conservatives are now using the U.S. media to criticize the Liberals.

"It's obviously hypocritical to start with because they called even less than this treasonous when the NDP did it against a controversial project that the Conservatives were in favour of," said Cullen.

"It's not helping anybody, except Fox News and others," he said. "And I don't know if it's going to help do what the Conservatives want to do back here in Canada simply because outlets like this will always try to torque these issues into their most disgusting frame, which is anti-Muslim and jingoistic."

'We would have been very clear with Canadians, we would fight it,' says the Conservatives' new deputy leader. 7:48

With files from The Canadian Press


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