Throw The Journos From The Plane
The first step was to tell Canadian media who accompanied him to find their own flight home from the G8 summit to free up seats on the Airbus;
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper ordered his official plane to be diverted to Cyprus on Wednesday to pick up Canadians fleeing Israeli air strikes in Lebanon.
Harper was already in Europe at the end of a week-long official three-country tour and decided to divert the Canadian Forces Airbus he was flying in to take as many citizens as he could before returning to Canada.
The Canadian leader has been criticized for the speed the government has taken in arranging the evacuation and for having defended Israel’s actions in Lebanon even after a bomb Israel dropped on Sunday killed eight Canadians.
Harper rejected the idea he had ordered the diversion simply to generate good publicity.
“Criticism in this kind of situation given all the complexities is inevitable,” Harper told reporters before the plane took off.
“But one way or the other, we believe there’s a real need here, and we can make a more-than-symbolic contribution to helping with the situation.”
He expects to pick up 100 to 120 people of about 350 that his spokeswoman said were boarding a vessel in Lebanon for an overnight journey to Cyprus.
Those from that ship who could not fit on Harper’s plane would fly on another plane the Canadian government was chartering. Canada has chartered six other vessels as well.
Spokeswoman Sandra Buckler estimated Canada had 40,000 to 50,000 people in Lebanon, possibly the largest contingent of any western nation, and Harper said Canadian officials were working around the clock on evacuation plans.
While most of the Liberal-dominated Canadian media has been “going Katrina” with the critics and disgruntled evacuees – “we had to sleep on the floor.” – about all they’ve succeeded in doing so far is to raise awareness – and questions – about how the hell Canada came to have 50,000 “citizens” in Lebanon?.
One wag from the CBC went so far to explain them away as “snowbirds” – forgetting, presumably, that this is July.