Thursday, April 13, 2006

harper is sounding more like bush every day ...

PM visits Alberta base to reaffirm support for Forces and Afghanistan mission
April 13, 2006

Prime Minister Stephen Harper used a graduating ceremony for fresh-faced army recruits Thursday to emphasize his government's support for the military and its mission in Afghanistan.

In a cavernous drill hall festooned with signs depicting past Canadian battle honours, Harper acted as reviewing officer as the unit of about 50 troops marched past bleachers filled with their family and friends. Harper compared the service of troops in Kandahar to the sacrifices made by Canadians in the two world wars.

And he thanked the young soldiers, many in their early 20s, for risking their lives.

I believe that military service is the highest calling of citizenship, Harper told the troops, who had just completed basic infantry and leadership training.

{i personally hope to see his son joining the military when be becomes of age}

Many of the Edmonton-based soldiers expect to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Each and every victory in that dangerous country occurs only because young men and women like yourselves back up our values by providing security and risking their lives.

The stop at Wainwright, Alta., about 200 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, was Harper's second visit with troops since he took office in early February.

He travelled to Afghanistan last month to demonstrate the new Conservative government's support for the Canadian mission there.

Soldiers from the graduating class were buoyed by Harper's speech.

Pte. Justin Hodge, 23, of Edmonton beamed with pride after accepting a marksmanship award from the prime minister.

His words meant a lot to me, because that is where I want to be - overseas, said Hodge, a member of the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

This shows he has a real commitment to the army. It is really incredible. It is a change from the past few years.

Harper said he wants to send a message to the military that what he called years of neglect by previous governments is over.

He acknowledged the Afghanistan mission has put a significant strain on the military but pledged that the state of the Canadian Forces will improve as it is built up over the next few years.

Part of that plan will include winding down smaller military deployments around the world to focus on bigger missions such as Afghanistan, he said.

Rather than placing a handful of soldiers here and a handful of soldiers there, we will concentrate our efforts in ways that we can show leadership . . . and make a real, notable contribution.

That could include both United Nations peacekeeping and other kinds of missions, such as the NATO operation in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of the defence staff, said the military needs more money and recruits to better support missions abroad.

Twelve Canadians - 11 soldiers and one diplomat - have died since Canadian troops were first deployed in Afghanistan four years ago, and tensions in that country are rising.

Three soldiers' lives have been lost just since Harper became prime minister.

Opinion polls suggest that Canadians are divided about the country's role in the war-torn region, and Monday's Commons debate on the issue appeared to reflect that division.

About 2,300 Canadians are currently serving in Afghanistan.

They are prepared to take on danger, Harper said.

What they want to know from government is that if we are going to send them to a dangerous place, that we are going to support them.

Later Thursday, Harper took his young son to a NHL Calgary Flames hockey game.

The prime minister was careful not to give a prediction on who will win the Stanley Cup.

I will get people more upset about my hockey opinions than any of my political opinions, but now that I'm in Calgary, how about this: I give the Calgary Flames and Ottawa Senators pretty good chances of winning the Stanley Cup.

Harper, who had seats in the crowd, not in a private box, said he's been working on a hockey book on professional hockey in the city of Toronto in the early 1900s.

I've had an interest in hockey history since I was a boy and in the last few years I've used it as a kind of an escape form the pressures of the job.

He said he had hoped to have it published by the end of this year but since January 23rd, I've been spending a little less time on it than before, so we'll see.