Saturday, November 27, 2010

Are New Democrats Canada's only democrats? Where's the Afghan Debate?

Life right now does not permit me to keep as close an eye on the news as I would like. With that being said it was impossible to miss the announcement that the Canadian Forces will be maintaining a presence in Afghanistan until 2014. This is a decision with which I am in full agreement, that's my personal opinion. And I am well aware that it is not an opinion shared by all, which is as it should be. Previous to joining the CF I was opposed to Canada's involvement, now I view it as integral on a variety of levels and for a myriad of reasons.

That's the joy of living in a participative democracy, we get to debate important issues, exposing them to public scrutiny before our elected officials make a decision.

Whoops, my mistake. Back to reality now.
Anyone who knows anything about this issue is aware that the decision was reached via what many are calling a back room deal between the Liberals and Conservatives. For those of us old enough to remember the debate over the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) its a case of déja vu all over again.

In that case then Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney ran on a platform which said nothing about pursuing an FTA with the US, and during the election he repudiated the idea of negotiating a Free Trade deal with the U.S. After being elected however he changed course and his government inked a deal. The only thing that prevented Mulroney's government from ramming the legislation through was a Liberal dominated senate which forced Canadians into an election, with the FTA the only real issue.

The dynamics are a lot different this time around however. While a majority of Canadians voted for parties opposing free trade, our 'first past the post' electoral system allowed Mulroney's Tories to win a substantial majority. This time Stephen Harper and the Liberals are bed mates, with the NDP the only national party with seats in the House of Commons calling for open debate about extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Should people be surprised at this so called "back room deal" with the Liberals? Hardly, Harper has flip flopped on many issues, as most politicians do. Like Trudeau, Mulroney and Chretien before him, Harper has often campaigned one way and governed another....appointing senators, taxing income trusts, government transparency, balanced budgets....its a long list.

So Canada will be staying in Afghanistan until 2014, okay. Its a policy I can support, and one I would be willing to debate. After all democracy is supposed to be one of the reasons Canada is in Afghanistan in the first place. The NDP seems to be the only major national party in favour of full and open discussion and debate. How about Conservatives and Liberals? Its beyond hypocritical to talk about the virtues of instilling democratic values in Afghanistan while squelching debate in Canada.

No comments: