The Canadian Global Affairs Institute provides credible, open access expertise on global affairs. With your support, we can continue to spark impassioned nation-wide discussions designed to help Canadians better understand their role in the international arena.
S U P P O R T   U S

In The Media

Liberals lift Harper government’s controversial ban on opposition MPs’ visits to military bases

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. David Perry)

National Post
June 5, 2016

OTTAWA — The Liberal government has quietly reversed a controversial policy that saw opposition MPs barred from most military bases, continuing a trend of opening up the Canadian Armed Forces to increased public and parliamentary scrutiny.

The base-visit policy came to light in September 2014, after several opposition MPs complained that their requests to tour military facilities outside their ridings had been rejected. Among those affected was the Liberal defence critic at the time, Joyce Murray, who had asked to visit nine bases.

Then-defence minister Rob Nicholson blamed the ban on the military, saying the Conservative government was following a directive drawn up by senior commanders. The Conservatives said the policy applied to MPs from all parties, and was designed to ensure military resources were used “effectively.”

But the opposition accused the Tories of playing political games, noting Conservative MPs were allowed to attend photo ops on bases outside their ridings. They said the ban was an obstacle to performing their roles as parliamentarians, which included understanding the military and its challenges.

On Friday, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office confirmed the policy was no longer in force.

“Members of Parliament have a responsibility to learn about what the government does, what the military does, and to bring this information back to their constituents,” spokeswoman Jordan Owens said. “And if they feel they need to go and see what’s going on on a Canadian Forces base, we’re not going to say no.”

Individual base commanders will have some discretion if there is a compelling reason a particular visit cannot be accommodated. “We’re not going to step in if they say this is a really bad weekend,” Owens said. “But we’re also not going to have a blanket order of never, ever do this.”

Meanwhile, a directive issued by Vice-Chief of Defence Staff Lt.-Gen. Guy Thibault and provided to the Ottawa Citizen confirms that past visits required ministerial approval. The new directive requires base commanders to notify the minister’s office of an MP’s visit, but otherwise leaves approval in their hands.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan, who served as parliamentary secretary when the Tories were in power, was travelling overseas Friday with Sajjan and unavailable for comment. Nicholson could not be reached for comment.

The new directive describes the military as an “important national institution,” which is why base visits should be facilitated. “However, visits must not interfere with operations, routine unit administration or negatively affect security,” it reads, “and incremental costs should be avoided or minimized whenever possible.”

The Liberal government has opened up more than bases in recent weeks. Restrictions on interviewing and photographing military personnel have been relaxed to the point where select journalists were given unprecedented access to Canadian special forces troops in Iraq last month.

This represented a sharp departure from recent practice. Under the Conservatives, access to military personnel was severely curtailed on security grounds. This included all military members, not only those involved in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said the move to make the military more accessible to the public and parliamentarians represents a marked change in tone. He said MPs are expected to understand the military given their role in holding the government to account.

“Members of Parliament are constitutionally supposed to approve the defence budget,” he said.

“As long as it’s not an imposition on the base commander. There could be legitimate situations in which it is. Otherwise it should be a policy that members of Parliament can visit military installations.”

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Biden’s push for EV revolution is a ‘win’ for Canada: Policy Analyst

by BNN Bloomberg (feat. Eric Miller), BNN Bloomberg, January 20, 2021

New US Arctic strategies ignore climate risks in focus on geopolitics, experts say

by Melody Schreiber (feat. Tim Choi), Arctic Today, January 20, 2021

From Alberta’s oilsands to tariffs, how Biden’s presidency could change Canada

by Graham Slaughter, Ryan Flanagan, and Rachel Aiello (feat. Sarah Goldfeder, Stephen Saideman, and Laurie Trautman), CTV News, January 20, 2021

Challenges ahead despite major shift in Canada-U.S. relations under President Biden: expert

by Cormac Mac Sweeney and Kathryn Tindale (feat. Colin Robertson), News 1130, January 20, 2021

How Biden’s Made-in-America plan could impact Canadian companies

by Brett Bundale (feat. Colin Robertson), BNN Bloomberg, January 20, 2021

Biden’s plan to cancel Keystone pipeline signals a rocky start with Canada

by Amanda Coletta (feat. Eric Miller), Washington Post, January 19, 2021

The road ahead for Biden’s unnamed ambassador to Canada

by Charlie Pinkerton (feat. Eric Miller), iPolitics, January 19, 2021

Trump’s political legacy: How will the U.S. president be remembered?

by Meredith MacLeod (feat. Sarah Goldfeder), CTV News, January 19, 2021

Canadian Conservatives reckon with fallout from Capitol Hill riot

by Maura Forrest (feat. Peter Donolo), Politico, January 18, 2021

Project Syndicate Commentators’ Predictions for 2021

by Project Syndicate (feat. Robert Muggah), The Washington Diplomat, January 16, 2021

Minding the gap

by CBA National (feat. Lawrence Herman), National Magazine, January 15, 2021


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 150–9th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 3H9


Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6


Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: contact@cgai.ca
Web: cgai.ca


Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.


© 2002-2021 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email