Thursday, October 9, 2008

The political cost of Afghanistan.

As predicted by groups such as the Rideau Institute the cost of the Afghan mission is much larger than Harper had earlier estimated, almost twice as much. These billions of dollars are being spent simply to advance the campaign of the US hegemonists. In return we make get some defence contracts. The taxpayer will get a bill of about 1500 per person. Harper certainly deserves criticism for misleading people about the costs but the Liberals also must bear some of the blame as well. They have continued to support the mission and its extension. Support our taxpayers! Bring the troops home.

The political cost of Afghanistan
Globe and Mail Update and Canadian Press
October 9, 2008 at 2:41 PM EDT
OTTAWA — The military mission in Afghanistan and the global economic crunch are both adding up to a potentially high political cost for Stephen Harper's Conservatives just days away from the federal election.
Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page today released a long-awaited study laying out his assessment of how much the military mission is costing taxpayers.
Ottawa has so far reported that the extra “incremental” cost for the military mission — over and above what would have been spent for the upkeep of the military anyway — was about $3.8-billion to the end of the 2007-08 fiscal year. Mr. Page says it has been somewhere between $5.85-billion and $7.45-billion.
The total price tag would be $14-billion to $18-billion by the time troops are withdrawn in 2011, about $1,500 extra for every Canadian household, Mr. Page said.
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Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 9, 2008. The cost of Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan is far higher than the government has publicly said and the price tag could eventually hit $18-billion, officials estimated on Thursday. (Christopher Pike/Reuters)
Speaking later Thursday, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said the mission was clearly an expensive one, but the expense was necessary.
“We've been clear that the cost of this is high,” Mr. Harper said. “We are doing important work there as part of an international effort. We are certainly not alone in spending money.
“When we have men and women in uniform, diplomats and development workers who are putting their lives on the line, the government will spend what is necessary to make sure they are safe and successful.”
But Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion told press in Halifax that the report showed there was a “false transparency” over Afghanistan.
“Stephen Harper again failed to be transparent and accountable to Canadians," Mr. Dion said in a scrum after speaking to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.
NDP Leader Jack Layton blasted both Liberals and Conservative for the projected cost of the Afghans mission and accused both his political opponents of hiding the truth.
“The costs of the war are dramatically higher than the Harper government has been telling Canadians,” Mr. Layton said of the Conservative government during a campaign stop in Sudbury, Ont.
"The costs are billions of dollars more. And whether it was the Liberals who took us into the war, the Conservatives who extended the war with the help of the Liberals, they haven't been straight up with Canadians about the costs.”
The NDP leader said after a speech to about 150 supporters in a local science centre that he would not attribute motives to any attempt to play down the costs of the Afghanistan mission.
“I just simply think it's wrong that a government would not be truthful about the costs of a war. And we're not talking about a few dollars here, we're talking about billions,” he told reporters.
“The Conservative government hasn't been truthful about the cost of the war, just like they haven't been truthful about a great many other things.”
Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said Mr. Harper knowingly misled voters on the real cost of the mission, adding that it would be foolish to give the Conservatives a majority government to pursue their course of action.
Speaking at Longueuil, Mr. Duceppe said Quebeckers will be appalled to learn that so much of their hard earned tax dollars was being spent on a mission which most oppose.
“I think Quebeckers fundamentally disagree with it. What this means is that it is costing them $1,500 per household. And when you factor in the total amount projected in military spending the cost is $28,000 per taxpayer,” he added.
The report could spell trouble for Mr. Harper, who has been sliding steadily in opinion polls for the last week on the back of the global financial crisis.
That economic situation still has more in store for the Canadian economy, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty — trying to reassure voters in the face of falling stock prices and dire predictions of recession — warned Thursday.
“These are extraordinary times in global financial markets,” Mr. Flaherty told a briefing in advance of a G7 conference of international finance ministers in Washington. “While Canada is better placed than other major economies, we are not immune.”
Mr. Harper continued to stress his faith in the national economy, saying Canada's banks are the strongest in the world and need no help from Ottawa.
A new report by the World Economic Forum gave Canada's banking system a gold star in the face of the crumbling global financial system, rating them the soundest in the world, followed by Sweden, Luxembourg and Australia.
Citing that rating, Mr. Harper ruled out any form of bailout package for Canadian banks.
Mr. Harper also expressed disappointment that banks are only reducing lending rates by a quarter of a percentage point, rather than the full half-point cut imposed by the Bank of Canada.
He says he expects the full benefits of the rate cut will eventually be passed along to Canadian consumers.
Mr. Layton, however, accused the Conservative government of cowing to the banks.
“Yesterday, the banks were given a reduction in their interest rates charged by the Bank of Canada. And guess what? They decided to pass only half of that along to Canadians and they are going to keep the rest for themselves,” Mr. Layton said.
“Mr. Flaherty, the Harper government's Finance Minister, this morning had an opportunity to set things right and he didn't do it. He didn't stand with the average Canadian. He should have told those banks that they should have passed on all of that interest savings to Canadians.”

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