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Harper says Liberals care more about Taliban than troops

[PoliticsWatch posted 4:44 p.m. March 21, 2007]

OTTAWA  — For the second time in less than a month the Liberals are expressing shock and outrage at comments made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper during question period.  
 
The latest incident took place on Wednesday after Liberal Leader Stephane Dion demanded Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor resign for incorrectly claiming the Red Cross was obligated to ensure the proper treatment of detainees transferred to Afghan authorities.  
 
"I can understand the passion that the leader of the opposition and members of his party feel for Taliban prisoners," Harper said. "I just wish occasionally they would show the same passion for Canadian soldiers."

Harper's comments caused moans from the Liberal side of the House and a standing ovation from Conservative MPs.  
 
The prime minister's jab at the Liberals prompted Dion to accuse Harper of insulting "the entire Parliament" and to demand an apology.  

Harper refused to apologize and said, "I'd like to see more support in this House of Commons from all sides for Canadian men and women in uniform. I think Canadians expect that from Parliamentarians in every party. They haven't been getting it and they deserve it."
 
After question period, Dion accused Harper of hurting "the international reputation of Canada today in trivializing the issue of war detainees."

Dion said Harper was  "dividing the nation" with his "outrageous" and "awful" comments. 

However, some press gallery reporters were skeptical about Dion's timing. 

The NDP demanded O'Connor's resignation over a week ago when the House wasn't sitting and the Bloc demanded the resignation on Monday. 

Dion's demand for O'Connor's resignation comes the same day  he expelled MP Joe Comuzzi from the Liberal caucus for planning to vote with the government on the budget. 

When asked if he was trying to change the channel, Dion said "channel about what?"

Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney later defended the PM's attack on the Liberals to reporters suggesting it was justified. 

"All I know is that the Liberals are lukewarm at best in supporting the mission in Afghanistan and supporting the troops," he said, noting the years of cuts they made to the defence budget while in government.  

"All they ever seem to do is ask questions about Taliban prisoners and not the condition of our troops, and I think the prime minister was pointing out the obvious."

In February, the prime minister came under fire from the Liberals after he tried to read into Hansard a newspaper article. The article drew links between a Liberal MP's father-in-law, who the paper described as a potential witness for an investigative hearing for the Air India inquiry, and the Liberal caucus decision to vote against extending two measures of the anti-terror legislation, including the use of investigative hearings.  

Harper also suggested that "extremist elements" in the Liberal caucus were making Dion soft on terror and that Dion did not like the police because of his criticism of a government plan to include police representatives on selection panels for judicial appointments. 

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