PM's Afghan vote puts opposition
parties on the spot
[PoliticsWatch Updated 5:30 p.m. May 16, 2006]
OTTAWA — To
support, or not to support: that is the question for the Liberals,
the NDP and the Bloc.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to hold a
vote Wednesday evening to extend Canada's mission to Afghanistan to
2009 has put the opposition parties on the spot as both the Liberals
and the NDP caucuses will meet on Tuesday evening to
After months of hearing from the opposition parties that a vote was
needed to extend the mission, the Conservative government decided
late Monday to table a motion to extend the mission beyond February
2007 when it is scheduled to end.
The motion reads as follows: "That this House support the government's two-year extension of Canada's diplomatic, development, civilian police and military personnel in Afghanistan and the provision of funding and equipment for this extension."
During question period, NDP Leader Jack Layton complained to
Harper about the short notice on the vote.
"Does he believe that providing 36 hours of notice for a debate on a two year commitment of our troops is the proper way to make foreign policy?"
Harper response was a hint of what this vote is about -- forcing the
opposition parties to take a position.
"Members of the House and the parties of the House have had five years to decide what their position is on this
mission," Harper said. "We want to be sure that our troops have the support of this Parliament going forward."
Harper said Canada was in Afghanistan to provide international
leadership and to help the Afghan people.
"These are important things for which Canada should
stand," Harper said to the cheers of his MPs.
So far 15 Canadian soldiers and a government official have been
killed in Afghanistan.
Most of the fatalities have occurred this year as Canada has taken
on a larger role in Kandahar.
Critics say Canada's new role in tracking down Taliban insurgents is
a more offensive role than the traditional peacekeeping role and
that most Canadians are not aware of it.
Liberal MP Joe Volpe, who is one of 11 Liberals running to
lead the party, has been dubbed by the media as the least supportive
of Canada's new role in Afghanistan.
When asked after question period if he was opposed to the mission to
Afghanistan, Volpe said he fully supported Canadian troops but was
not about to give the prime minister "a blank cheque" to
alter Canada's role in Afghanistan.
"(The Liberal) government said we're going to be involved in
Afghanistan in a peacekeeping capacity and laid out the conditions
for it. That's what I'm in favour of."
Volpe said the government should define the objectives of the
mission and the resources.
Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh said the Liberal caucus
will meet Tuesday evening to discuss the mission and will continue
the debate at Wednesday's weekly caucus meeting.
Dosanjh said Interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham and not leadership
candidates will speak for the caucus once a decision has been made
to support or not to support the two-year commitment.
He would not say if he believed the Tories were trying to exploit
possible divisions within the Liberal caucus on the Afghan
The Conservatives need the support of just one of the three
opposition parties to get the motion passed in the
MPs will debate for six hours on Wednesday. The vote is expected at
© PoliticsWatch® 2006. All rights reserved. Republication
or redistribution of PoliticsWatch content, including by framing,
copying, linking or similar means, is expressly prohibited without
the prior written consent of Public Interests Research and Communications
Inc. (PIRCINC). PoliticsWatch is registered trademark of PIRCINC.