This is from Canwest News.
Harper has cleverly incorporated most of the Liberal amendments into his new motion but still achieves the basic aim of ensuring that the mission continues basically as before in spite of all the flowery rhetorical flourishes towards mission change from combat. As MacKenzie and others have pointed out, combat in the Kandahar region is unavoidable. Also, most casualties are not from combat anyway but IEDs. So there will be more casualties and at the same time more expenditure on helicopters and drones as we support the U.S. military industrial complex. See this CBC article.
We can rest assured that the Liberals will support the new Conservative motion. However, we can expect a few disgruntled squeals first. The budget too will be passed unless some fatal poison pill is inserted in it. However, that is doubtful. Harper cannot lose. If the Liberals force an election the Conservatives are well prepared and ahead in the polls. If the Liberals do not then Dion will continue to look spineless and weak. Sorry. I meant Dion will continue to be spineless and weak.
Thursday » February 21 » 2008
Harper announces new Afghanistan plan
Canwest News Service
Thursday, February 21, 2008
OTTAWA - The Harper government took another step Thursday toward brokering a compromise deal with the Liberals over Afghanistan - and avoiding a spring election - by tabling a revised motion in Parliament calling for Canadian troops to withdraw from Kandahar province by the end of 2011.
The governing Conservatives and the Liberals have been edging closer in recent weeks to a consensus on an extension of the mission beyond the current end date of February 2009. The government earlier this month tabled a motion proposing an extension, prompting the Liberals to reply with their own motion last week.
The new government version now incorporates, almost verbatim, large swaths of text from the Liberal motion, including a pledge to focus the mission on reconstruction, development and training Afghan security forces. It also clarifies that Canadian troops will begin pulling out of Kandahar in July 2011, with the objective of withdrawing completely by December 2011.
The Liberals had previously said the government's proposal for an end date was too vague.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the new motion "now embraces an even wider expanse of common ground than before."
"It seems clear that we have moved significantly toward the kind of bipartisan consensus that can be presented to Parliament for ratification," Harper told a defence-industry conference in Ottawa.
But Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre said it was too early to say if his party will support the motion.
"It's not a deal-breaker. I'm not here to say this is what we'll accept and this is what we want," said Coderre, noting the government did not show the motion to the Liberals before making it public.
However, he welcomed the government's extensive use of Liberal wording as a vindication of the "nuanced work" done by his party.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, who was in Prince Albert, Sask., said he intends to ask why the prime minister chose July rather than February as the Liberals had suggested.
"I wish he (Harper) would have changed his opinion a year ago. We would have been in a better position with NATO (regarding the need to secure more troops for the extension to 2011)," Dion said.
Asked if the government's revised plan is enough to keep the Liberals from bringing it down in a confidence vote expected next month, Dion wouldn't commit.
"He finally accepted the mission must have a firm end date. It is progress (and) we welcome the motion and we will work with the motion," the Liberal leader said.
The government will table the motion for debate in the House of Commons on Monday, when Parliament returns from a break week. The parties will have two days to debate the motion, but it is not expected to be put to a vote until next month.
The government wants to hold the vote before Harper heads to a two-day summit of NATO leaders in Bucharest on April 2.
The Afghanistan debate has loomed for weeks as a possible trigger for a spring election, along with next Tuesday's federal budget and the government's omnibus crime bill. The government has declared the Afghanistan motion a matter of confidence, meaning the defeat of the motion would precipitate an election.
The Liberals effectively hold the deciding vote on the mission, as the NDP support an immediate pullout and the Bloc Quebecois want the troops to withdraw in Feb. 2009.
Despite steps by both parties to compromise, several differences still exist between the Conservative and Liberal positions:
. The two parties are still about five months apart on the end date. The Liberal motion proposes that Canadian troops begin leaving Kandahar on Feb. 1, 2011 and complete their withdrawal by July 1, 2011.
. The Liberals want to "immediately" notify NATO of Canada's withdrawal plans, while the Conservatives don't specify a timeline.
. Under the government's motion, Canada will extend its mission if NATO provides an additional battle group of about 1,000 troops in Kandahar. But the Liberal motion calls on NATO to secure "sufficient troops to rotate into Kandahar," suggesting more than 1,000 troops will be needed and another nation would take the lead.
. The Liberals want the government to continue to refrain from transferring prisoners to Afghan prisons until "substantive reforms" of the Afghan prison system have been implemented and the "systemic risk of torture" is eliminated. The government motion says only that Canada will commit to the "highest NATO and international standards" on detainee rights.
It is not clear, however, how much more the government is willing to bend. "Look, the rules of the House make motions amendable, but we've gone a fair way toward trying to come up with a motion here that can be the subject of a bipartisan consensus," a senior government official told reporters at a technical briefing on the motion.
Harper also announced Thursday that his government will increase the automatic annual increase in defence spending from 1.5 per cent to two per cent, beginning in 2011-12. He said the move will be part of a long-term plan to reverse the "rust out" of the Canadian Forces.
But Coderre said the government was doing things "backwards" by announcing spending plans before its overall defence plan.
In unveiling the government's motion, Harper warned Canadians to expect more combat missions such as the one in Afghanistan.
"Peacekeeping is a wonderful concept. A Canadian invention. And frequently necessary. But it covers only a limited portion of the security challenges we face in today's international environment," he said.
"If Canada wants to contribute to global security, we will have to participate in UN peace-enforcement missions, not just traditional peacekeeping, as well as intelligence sharing, aid and development, and so on."
© Ottawa Citizen, Saskatoon StarPhoenix 2008
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