A newspaper reader turns to the op-ed page and finds a commentary supporting the mission in Afghanistan written by a retired general or colonel writing for the Conference of Defence Associations. Or the reader scans a story on the purchase of military hardware in which Paul Manson, the former chief of defence staff, or another distinguished retired officer affiliated with the CDA, is quoted supporting the move. The comments dovetail with Conservative policy, but are presented as the views of an expert, independent group.
Just how independent, though, is open to debate. The CDA gets $100,000 a year from the Department of National Defence expressly for advocating on military matters. The department refused to release its funding agreement with the CDA to Maclean’s, saying it went to cabinet and is therefore secret. But Alain Pellerin, retired colonel and CDA executive director, outlined some details. The CDA must produce a quarterly magazine, for instance, and conduct symposiums for students. “We also have to write,” Pellerin said, “a number of op-eds to the press.”
Requiring a taxpayer-subsidized advocacy group to make its case through the media to qualify for annual renewal of its funding is not standard policy. In fact, the Conserva-
work at all. To cite a contentious area, the 2007-08 federal guidelines for women’s groups make domestic advocacy and lobbying ineligible for any funding support.
Pellerin said the CDA remains independent, but he conceded, “It’s walking a fine line at times.” Asked if there is any aspect of Tory defence policy the CDA opposes, he couldn’t think of one. Back when the Liberals were in power, things were different. Pellerin said the CDA briefly lost its federal support, which goes back to 1932, because then-defence minister John McCallum was “annoyed” over its persistent calls for more defence spending. M
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