Sunday, April 16, 2006

on both sides, opposition and harpers puppets, few showed up for afghanistan debate; that shows support ...

Too many MPs missing in action
April 16, 2006, Winnipeg Sun

After all that opposition whining about holding a parliamentary debate on our military mission in Afghanistan, what happens?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper agrees and then almost nobody shows up, apparently concerned about getting an early start on their Easter vacation. This after being at work in Ottawa for all of one week since the Jan. 23 election.

And it wasn’t just the Opposition that was missing in action. Only half the Conservative caucus showed up to hear Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor give the government’s view.

Only 20 — tops — stuck around after that.

Only 21 Liberals were in their seats when Grit defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh spoke. Just one other Bloc MP was there when BQ defence critic Claude Bachand did the same. The NDP started with only eight MPs, although all of its 29-member caucus was there when leader Jack Layton spoke. Overall, it was a dismal showing.

Then there was the debate itself. Some Opposition MPs were all aflutter about our soldiers handing over Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners to the Americans and Afghans, who might torture them.

Good grief! This is their biggest concern about Canada’s mission? How about whether our troops have the best possible weapons and equipment available, considering how many times that hasn’t happened in the past?

Some will argue few MPs showed up because this was just a “take note” debate with no vote. Nonsense. Just because there’s no vote doesn’t mean there’s no point in debating.

For example, we still don’t know whether the Conservatives are going to hold a vote in Parliament on whether to extend the Afghan mission once the current assignment in Kandahar ends next February.

From what Harper said during question period, it looks like the answer is no.

Harper said our troops will be in Afghanistan for years to come and the government will decide on the next deployment soon.

To be clear, we support this mission and believe it should be extended.

But like our troops, we also believe it’s important for Parliament to debate and vote on that issue. Why? Because that would be democracy at work and defending democracy is what our soldiers are doing in Afghanistan.

Where, unlike our MPs, they always answer the call of duty.