Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mission possible

A couple of comments on Jack Layton's call for Canada to be out of a combat role in Afghanistan by February.

First, the message couldn't have gone public at a better time, coming out as it did the same day that Gordon O'Connor both admitted that Canadian troops haven't been able to improve matters, then requested added military resources in order to be able to keep treading water. The contrast between a government eager to push forward on a road to nowhere, and an opposition party demanding an endpoint in the absence of any discernible goals, is one that has to work in the NDP's favour.

Second, depending on how the Libs handle the parliamentary session this fall, the move may turn PMS' snap vote strategy from this spring on its head. After all, in May the Cons made clear that they see a motion in Parliament as an appropriate venue for determining Canada's participation in Afghanistan. So what happens if a newer opposition motion for a timetable manages to pass in Parliament?

Granted, I wouldn't expect Harper to actually follow the terms of such a motion, as the Cons have set the precedent with their complete ignorance of the Kyoto motion this spring. But a vote for a timetable would certainly undercut completely any claim the Cons could otherwise have to any legitimate Parliamentary support for indefinite combat commitments. And it may take no more than the Libs actually showing up this time to turn a vote against the Cons.

That said, I agree with Mike that even if the Libs can't summon enough of a spine to stand up to Harper, that may have some benefits for the NDP as well. But the larger upside here is the possibility that a united opposition could leave in tatters the Cons' claim to any legitimacy in pushing toward a further militarized foreign policy. And if today's announcement gets followed up this fall, it'll only remain to be seen which of those options the Libs decide to back.

Update: Apparently another option for the Libs is to agree with the NDP as to the more operational part of Layton's statement where a motion in Parliament wouldn't accomplish much, but refuse any cooperation on the part dealing with policy that can realistically be addressed by the House of Commons. But surely they wouldn't be that crazy, right?

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