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March 20, 2006
Canadian Liberals Support Afghan Mission

The Grits seem to have finally lived up to their name, standing up to the NDP and declining to debate or vote on the deployment of Canadian troops to Afghanistan. After reports that deployed Canadian troops had become angry at second-guessers back home, the Liberals have now made it clear that they will not play politics with their membership in the coalition assisting Hamid Karzai's new democratic government:

The Liberals appear to be lining up solidly behind the Conservative government over the mission in Afghanistan, rejecting NDP calls for a parliamentary vote on the matter.

"We are against a vote because it's a responsibility of the executive and because we should not second-guess when we have an important mission to succeed," Liberal foreign affairs critic Stéphane Dion said yesterday on CTV's Question Period. ...

Yesterday, both Mr. Dion and Opposition Leader Bill Graham placed themselves foursquare behind the government, with no ambiguity.

"We are in Afghanistan because the Afghans want us in Afghanistan," Mr. Graham said on Question Period. "This is not an invasion or an occupation. This is going to help people."

The Liberal comments yesterday followed remarks last week by Mr. Dion in which he discounted a vote but called for a debate. That was in response to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's warning to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, during his surprise visit to Afghanistan, that there was dissent in Parliament about the mission.

The Harper government has to be happy with this kind of support, belated though it may be. The NDP thought it might steal a march on Harper by exploiting anti-Americanism and the natural unease of a nation that sends its soldiers into a foreign combat zone. That effort appears to have blown up in Jack Layton's face, at least for the moment, and created a rare sense of unity between the Tories and the leaderless Liberals.

Speaking of leaderless, the G&M reports that the job of party leader has attracted no serious applicants so far:

A lack of interest in succeeding Paul Martin has been the most noteworthy aspect of the Liberal contest so far. One high-profile Liberal after another — Frank McKenna, John Manley, Brian Tobin and Alan Rock — chose not to enter the race.

The reduced entry fee of $50,000 — down from $75,000 the last time around — shouldn't be a major barrier to the long list of potential candidates.

However, the spending cap for each candidate of $3.4-million could be a burden for some, even though that's down from the $4-million in the previous race that elected Mr. Martin.

Potential candidates, from MPs Scott Brison and Belinda Stronach to newcomer Michael Ignatieff and former Ontario NDP premier Bob Rae, have been waiting for the rules to be set before they formally declare their intentions.

What if they held a party (election) and no one came?

One has to marvel at the inclusion of Belinda Stronach as a serious potential candidate for the post, an indication of some desperation among the Grits. Less than three years ago, she challenged Stephen Harper for the Tory leadership post after winning a grand total of one election. Strollin' Stronach defected last year in order to save Paul Martin's bacon, and that only worked temporarily. Now she wants to lead the other party, a revealing llook at a politician that might be more self-centered than even Bill Clinton, one of her advisors.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 20, 2006 7:11 AM

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