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Fifth annual Halifax International Security Forum: Millions in spending, little peace or security

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Photo: Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/Secretary of Defense/flickr

Even though federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay concedes "no concrete initiatives related to global peace and security" have resulted from his government's $12-million grant to a Washington-based organization to stage two-day conferences on global security every year for the past four years in Halifax, he isn't discouraged.

"We have all the ingredients in place for that to happen," he told Postmedia's Tobi Cohen on the eve of last weekend's fifth annual Halifax International Security Forum.

The fixin's this year included defence ministers from Canada, the United States, Israel and France (but not, of course, from Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China or Russia, the countries most central to any of the former countries' security concerns).

The conference's 300 participants -- some of whom had their expenses paid by thee and me -- included such global security experts as TV talkers Peter Mansbridge and Tom Clark, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, the wife of Peter MacKay, and John MacDonnell, MacKay's former chief of staff. (The Forum, as Cohen pointed out, is "something of a taxpayer-funded family affair" for MacKay.)

Forget for the moment MacKay is spending millions in regional development dollars -- which could have been used to develop sustainable regional businesses -- on an American organization that puts on two-day once a year conferences of economic benefit, mainly to a few downtown hotels and restaurants.

Ask yourself the larger question: What is the real value when a government -- one that won't talk to Palestinians and closes its embassy in Iran -- creates a conference that serves as little more than an echo chamber for conventional western wisdom about global security?

Not that logic matters in matters of MacKay.

On Thursday, the justice minister announced Ottawa -- for which read the Department of National Defence, MacKay's old ministerial stomping ground, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for which understand MacKay's personal patronage sandbox -- is ponying up yet another $9.8 million for five more years of cheery chat among the congnoscenti.

I for one can't wait to hear more penetrating insights into the obvious such as this bon mot from last weekend's talkfest: "No one can deny that at this very moment uncertainty is the most important feature in international relations."

Worth every million, I'm sure.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/Secretary of Defense/flickr

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