Maybe Ignatieff gave Dion an ultimatum! Dion begins more and more to look like a ditherer and a leader not in control of his party. One day he seems to be taking a strong stand the next day he begins to hum and haw and make conciliatory noises. I still think in the end the Liberals will not vote against the Afghan motion. They may be able to vote down the budget however before the vote on Afghanistan is called.
Dion backs from election brink
Cindy E. Harnett , Canwest News ServicePublished: Saturday, February 09, 2008
VICTORIA - With momentum for a spring election growing, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion took a softer stance on the Afghanistan mission in Victoria Saturday, saying he wants a compromise with the Harper government but won't back down on a non-combat role for Canada after 2009.
"I would much prefer to find an agreement on the future of the mission, and I will work for that," Dion said in an interview with the Victoria Times Colonist.
"But at the same time we will not accept a future of the mission that we think is not in the interest of Canada and in the interest of the mission."
The Liberal leader was in Victoria Saturday meeting with environmentalists and technology experts at the Vancouver Island Technology Park.
Dion rejects the notion his hard line on pulling combat troops out of Afghanistan in 2009 has forced him into a showdown with the Conservative government. He said he blames the government for forcing what should be a respectful debate into an election issue.
"Our priority is to see this parliament work," he said. "The problem is the government very clearly wants to fall and go into an election. It's very clear."
The Liberals are expected to have a caucus meeting Monday night and within the week will table amendments to the government's parliamentary motion Friday calling for a two-year extension of the Afghanistan mission until the end of 2011.
The government declared the motion a confidence matter, meaning a defeat in Parliament would trigger an election. The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois both oppose any extension of the mission beyond 2009. That leaves the Liberals with the deciding vote in the House of Commons.
Canadians will not accept a "never-ending mission" in the most dangerous province in Afghanistan, Dion said.
The Liberals want Canada to stay in Afghanistan but wants troops working on issues such as redevelopment, reconstruction and the training of Afghan police and the justice system, Dion said.
In what amounted almost to a plea for an exit from the corner the Liberals find themselves in, Dion said he wants to talk.
"(We want to) see if there is a compatibility between what the government wants to do after February 2009, and what we want to do because we want to stay but we want to focus on reconstruction, development . . ." he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper brought the motion on the Afghanistan mission to the Liberal leader before tabling it Friday.
Dion said his party has just days to come up with amendments, while the Harper government had weeks to examine the Manley Report - which recommended extending the mission beyond February 2009, the current expiration date, provided Canada can secure more equipment and convince its allies to commit roughly 1,000 more troops to the volatile south.
"(Harper) had weeks to prepare his motion," Dion said. "He showed me the motion and gave me a couple of days to come with my amendments. Do you think that is fair? I am a collegial leader."
The Liberal leader said he's "fed up with this secrecy" and wants open minds and respect around a transparent and non-partisan debate about Afghanistan. "We will see if there is a way through clarification and exploration of the two positions to see if after February 2009 we may agree about what to do."
The Liberal leader would not speculate on whether a rejection of his party's amendments might force the Liberals to vote down the confidence motion, triggering an election.
The Conservative government also faces a confidence vote on its crime legislation next week, then another on the federal budget later this month.
© Canwest News Service 2008