Two Question Periods, Two Messages on Afghanistan

I’ve been ranting about this since July – the Motion passed by Parliament 18 months ago only says Canada is out of Kandahar, NOT Afghanistan, by end of 2011.

Yesterday, during Question Period, the Prime Minister gave another version of what’s next for Canada in Afghanistan post-2011 (highlights mine):

“Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons voted last year to have all troops out of Kandahar by 2011, but now we hear hints from the Minister of National Defence that the troops may stay in Afghanistan longer.  It is now the established practice in the House that there be a vote in the House of Commons on the deployment of Canadian troops. Does the Prime Minister believe that he can keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2011 without a vote in the House authorizing such a deployment?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, let us be clear that it was this government that brought in the practice that military deployments have to be approved by the House of Commons.  The position of the government is clear. The military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011. I have said it here and I have said it across the country. In fact, I think I said it recently in the White House.”

The day before, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon shared this  message during Question Period:

“I will say this clearly and succinctly so that the member will understand. Yes, we are sticking to that motion. Yes, the Minister of National Defence answered that question previously with the same response that we always give. We are putting an end to our military combat mission by 2011, and that is clear.”

On my highlights above:

1)  No, the government’s position is NOT clear, at least so far – check here and over at the Torch for the range of what’s been said in the debate.

2)  That’s NOT what the Motion says – it only says Canadian Forces troops will be out of Kandahar by the end of 2011.

E.R. Campbell over at Milnet.ca sums it up quite well:

“Political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, Ministers Cannon and MacKay, and Michael Ignatieff have all been careless with the facts and, almost without exception, Canadian politicians have done a real disservice to Canadians, especially to the Canadian men and women who are prosecuting this war. They should all be ashamed.”

I offer only a couple of changes to ERC’s masterful summary to express my feelings:

“Political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, Ministers Cannon and MacKay, and Michael Ignatieff have all been careless and inconsistent in the facts their statements to the public and, almost without exception, Canadian politicians have done a real disservice to Canadians, especially to the Canadian men and women who are prosecuting this war. They should all be ashamed.”

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