O'Connor should keep job, Canadians say
Mon May 7 2007
By Jack Aubry
OTTAWA -- The majority of Canadians believe Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor should hang on to his cabinet post despite the furor over the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan, partly because the minister should not be expected to know everything that happens to prisoners after they are handed over to Afghan officials.
A new Ipsos-Reid poll, conducted exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National, found 53 per cent of Canadians believe it is unfair for opposition parties to call for O'Connor to step down as they have been doing almost every day recently in the House of Commons. On the other hand, 36 per cent of Canadians believe O'Connor has been negligent and should have been monitoring what was happening to the detainees after they were turned over to Afghan officials.
The Harper government has been under almost daily siege in the Commons since allegations that as many as 30 prisoners transferred by Canadians to Afghan authorities may have been abused surfaced in late April.
"I suspect Canadians are giving Minister O'Connor the benefit of the doubt in this affair. The fact that Canadian troops themselves are apparently not involved with detainee abuse, and that it is the Afghanis who are the offenders, may allow for a good measure of absolution to the Canadian contingent," said Ipsos Reid senior vice-president John Wright.
He added that it is not only O'Connor's "fingerprints" on the file since Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Foreign Affairs Peter MacKay have also been involved in answering questions, along with Chief of Defence Gen. Rick Hillier and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Conservative government has struggled the past two weeks to explain its policy on monitoring detainee treatment.
"I don't think any one person is taking the fall because, frankly, there is no one person who can apparently take all the blame," said Reid.
Repeated interview requests to the Defence Department about the handling of prisoners have been directed to O'Connor's office. The only comment his staff have provided involves directing journalists to O'Connor's statements in the Commons but the minister has been silent in question period for over a week.
O'Connor's greatest support comes from those whose families earn over $60,000, with 61 per cent of this group -- eight percentage points higher than the national average and 17 points above those families which earn less than $30,000.
-- CanWest News Service