Canadian troops will spend two extra years fighting to bring democracy and security to Afghanistan’s most perilous corner after Prime Minister Stephen Harper won a tense political showdown over his divided opposition rivals.
A motion to extend the deployment barely passed 149 to 145 Wednesday night. The NDP, Bloc Quebecois and most Liberals, including key leadership candidates such as Stephane Dion, Ken Dryden and Joe Volpe, voted against it.
Other leadership candidates, Michael Ignatieff and Scott Brison, voted for the longer commitment in perilous Afghanistan, as did interim Liberal leader Bill Graham.
Former prime minister Paul Martin was absent.
The vote is a political victory for Harper, who can characterize the result as an indication of the will of Parliament, while exposing divisions within the Liberal ranks.
Harper defiantly announced he would extend the mission by a year even if he lost the vote, then win Canadians over on a second year when he next goes to the polls.
“We will proceed cautiously with a one-year extension,” Harper told MPs at the outset of a debate.
“We cannot walk away quickly. If we need further efforts or further mandate to go ahead into the future, we will do so alone and go to the Canadian people to get that mandate.”
It was the second time in as many days that a frustrated Harper held out the threat of an election after being thwarted by the opposition. On Tuesday, his choice for an appointments commission was rejected.
Harper cast the debate in terms of a debt that he said Parliament owes to Canadian troops, Canada’s allies and the Afghan people to finish the security and reconstruction job it started in Afghanistan.
Consider what would have happened had the vote gone the other way.
Stephen Harper would have been roundly damned for ignoring the will of Parliament by extending the Afghanistan commitment by another year anyway, then damned even further for calling for an election in 2008 on the Afghanistan issue.
Every pacifist and liberal apologist for Islamic terrorism and isolationism would have been congratulating themselves publicly for engineering the defeat, then starting up the protests to pull out now and not in 2007.
And we would have handed our enemies a significant propaganda victory.
But instead, the NDP and Bloc get to look like a bunch of isolationist peaceniks, the Liberals look divided, and the Conservatives look resolute.
And our enemies in Afghanistan will learn that Canada is not a nation of effete Europeanized cowards.
On with the mission, then!
Source: Toronto Star