Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Harper's next misstep?

It looks like the Canadian PM is in danger of losing a parliamentary vote on Canada's mission in Afghanistan:

The fate of a surprise Conservative motion to extend Canada's mission in Afghanistan was up in the air Wednesday after the Bloc Québécois said it will not support the measure and the Liberals suggested that MPs will be allowed to vote their own minds on the issue.

The NDP has already said its 29 members will not back the motion, which calls for the extension of Canada's commitment in the war-torn country by two years.

Separately, reports also emerged Wednesday afternoon that another Canadian soldier had been killed Afghanistan, bringing the total number of members of the Canadian military killed in the country since 2002 to 16. A Canadian diplomat has also been killed in the country.

A spokeswoman for National Defence in Ottawa couldn't confirm the reports.

After a meeting of the Liberal caucus Wednesday morning, interim Liberal leader Bill Graham told reporters that the caucus is “totally and utterly united” in support to the mission.

He said, however, that MPs also feel they have had a “gun put to [their] heads” by the Conservatives' time frame on the debate and vote.

“We find this process abusive,” he said. “We find the process strange.

“Our caucus is completely linked together supporting our troops and in support of our mission in Afghanistan, which was the decision of our Liberal government, because we wanted to bring peace and prosperity and a chance for a better life for the Afghan people.”

As a result, he said, members of the party will listen to the arguments in the House and form their own decisions.
Of course, the mission will still probably happen; this maneuver by Harper's opposition strikes me as a way of distancing themselves from him, rather than actually trying to kill the effort.

Still, I hadn't noticed this before: Apparently Canada isn't the peacekeeper it used to be:

In the report, the Polaris Institute also said Afghan and related operations account for more than two-thirds – 68 per cent – of the $6-billion spent on international missions during that time frame.

Over that period, the group said, Canada devoted $214-million, about 3 per cent of international-mission spending, on United Nations missions.

“It's clear that we have virtually abandoned UN peacekeeping today,” Steven Staples, analyst with the institute, told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa.

The institute also said Canada now has only 59 military personnel devoted to UN missions, compared with about 2,300 troops stationed in Afghanistan. Canada – once ranked among the top 10 contributors to UN missions in terms of military personnel – now ranks 50th out of 95 countries.

The group based its total-spending estimates on figures reported in annual editions of the Defence Department Report on Plans and Priorities. It also argues that broader parliamentary hearings are needed before any decision is made on extending the mission.
I hadn't realized Canada's position had changed so dramatically. I imagine the public doesn't either.

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