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Stephen Harper gets it half right

Stephen Harper has announced that he will allow (oh thank you, master) a debate in the House of Commons on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. This is good news for many of us that have suggested its necessity, but is it all good? Like, what's with this?

"It will not be a votable debate, in other words they will not vote on Canadian participation," CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife told CTV Newsnet. "This will be an opportunity for members of Parliament from all sides of the house to debate and discuss Canada's mission in Afghanistan and, of course, the concerns of some MPs about the growing list of casualties."
So instead of a debate that means something, we get an opportunity for every MP to stand up wearing a Canadian flag lapel pin and somberly intone how much he or she honours the troops and hopes no one else gets hurt? Why not allow a vote? Does Harper actually think that he would lose a vote on the mission, or is he scared of setting some sort of awkward democratic precedent? What is the purpose of a debate that doesn't result in a decision? That's just a conversation. Why would parliamentarians bother showing up other than for their sound bite for the next election campaign ad? If he wants to simply tell the Canadian people about the mission, why not just go on TV for an hour some night during prime time and lay it out.

In my own squeaky little voice, I have called for a debate in Parliament on this issue several times in previous posts and in comments and conversations with other bloggers, but I have always maintained that we need to have a vote on the mission in order for the discussion to mean anything. If Stephen Harper is too afraid to "bring it" (as all the kids are saying these days ;), then why does he expect our armed forces to do so? If he wants Canadians to back the mission, then let us say go or no.

In rejecting a debate only recently, he said that "To do so would not only be not in the best interests of Canada's international reputation... it would be a betrayal of the brave men and women we have in the field who are in danger". This is tripe - to send them without consulting Parliament is anti-democratic and to hide behind their sense of duty is cowardice. If Stephen Harper actually believes the mission is important, as I do, he will have a full vote in the House of Commons, one that I'm sure would win near if not absolute unanimous approval.

I am aware that Stephen Harper inherited the Afghanistan mission from a Liberal government that did not consult Parliament and I'm also aware that the NDP were not nearly loud enough in requesting a debate either when the mission began in 2001 or when it was expanded later. The opposition has handed Harper a golden opportunity to right a wrong.

Or he could just use it as a cynical attempt to ameliorate the NDP request for a real debate and then move on to the Big Five.

If debating/voting on the Afghan mission is so damn important how come it never happened when you Liberals commited our troops there in the first place?

Good question, find a Liberal and ask him. There are few things I hate more in this blogging gig than to have to quote myself for someone too lazy to read my post, but here goes:

"I am aware that Stephen Harper inherited the Afghanistan mission from a Liberal government that did not consult Parliament and I'm also aware that the NDP were not nearly loud enough in requesting a debate either when the mission began in 2001 or when it was expanded later. The opposition has handed Harper a golden opportunity to right a wrong."

Am I too wordy? Does this happen to other people?

Sorry I found this story through Liblogs and assumed you were a diehard big L Liberal like the rest of them...

If you have been calling for a debate since the beginning then more power to you... the annoying people are the ones who went along with the mission as long as Chretien/Martin were in charge, then turned around after the last election and acted like there had been a "change in mission" under the Conservatives that all of the sudden need to be debated.

Nothing is more annoying than hypocrites.

No probs. I have been bit making the same assumptions surfing around the Blogging Tories, too.

What annoys me the most about the opposition calls for a debate ( a debate we need to have) on Afghanistan is their timing. No-one said a thing about it until the polls made it look safe to do so. Leaving aside the fact that warm fuzzy feelings or not, the average citizen is clueless about everything military which damages the poll's validity in my view, the various political parties were happy to go along until it looked like they could score some points off the conservatives over this. Politicians using the military to serve their own ends. Who'd have thought it? If,and it's a big if, the no-vote debate at least clarifies some points about our mission in Afghanistan and what we hope to accomplish then it may have some small benefit. What I'm expecting is lots of meaningless cheerleading and for the conservatives to ignore anyreal discussion that may occur. What they're planning will have no more usefulness or effect than what we're doing on this blog.

My quarrel with this Doug is that the debate is just a move by Harper to shut up the opposition, who did indeed come into this debate way too late. The Liberals walked us into Iraq without asking and then boosted our contribution just about the time Bush was looking for people with idle hands to go to Iraq, again without asking. And Layton and the NDP have been just as inactive about it, so I don't want to leave anyone with the belief that I'm letting anyone off the hook here.

The fact is, Harper has a chance to do something meaningful here by allowing a vote that is almost guarenteed near-unamimous support, and he's not doing it. (Who's going to vote against it? The Liberals can't - they started our involvement. The Conservatives certainly won't. You might get the odd dissenter from either group and maybe the NDP, but Layton is more or less on side, I think. I don't know about Ducceppe, though.)

If the government wants to inform us of the mission, No-vote debates on CPAC is not how to do it. CPAC is where politicians get their picture taken for their promotional ads later on. Or to start off their lobbying careers.

Or cast votes on meaningful legislation.

I agree that it's an easy way for Harper to shut up the other side while not risking any change in the status quo. My complaint with the opposition parties is that untill that poll came out, they weren't particularily interested in having a debate. Their opportunism annoys me. Moreso because they're cloaking it in a concern for the military that from personal experience I don't believe they have. The results of the poll, to me, show a definite need to hold a debate on this and I'm not at all happy with Harpers forcing it into side-show status. If it does nothing else it makes me wonder, as everyone with basic reasoning skills should, why doesn't Harper want a real debate on Afghanistan? Is he really that scared that Parliment will force a pull-out? Or is it just fear of any vote that may go against his minority government? We've already seen that he really doesn't like opinions that contradict his own. Maybe it's just that on a grand scale.

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