A rash of whiplash
That’s what Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said this week was going to be in a cryptic Twittered message on Sunday night “interesting.”
If the war in Afghanistan is what Rae was referring to, he’s right.
- The Conservative caucus unanimously supports continuing the war. If given the chance, they’d all vote that way.
- The NDP and the Bloc Quebecois caucuses unanimously oppose the war, pretty much.
They want the government to stick by the 2008 Parliamentary resolution to end our combat role next year. If given the chance, they’d overwhelmingly vote that way.
- The Conservative and Liberal leaders who have both previously, and repeatedly, promised Parliamentary votes on troop deployments now don’t want a vote.
There can be no doubt the Tories and the Grits are now breaking solemn promises, either.
As Sun Media’s tireless senior Parliamentary correspondent Brian Lilley has pointed out, the Conservative Party and its leader, Stephen Harper have long supported votes on the deployment of troops.
In “Stand Up for Canada,” the Tories’ election platform for the 2005-2006 campaign, Lilley notes, the ruling party promised to “make Parliament responsible for exercising oversight over the conduct of Canadian foreign policy and the commitment of Canadian Forces to foreign operations.”
Harper said the same thing repeatedly throughout the election campaign that helped the Conservatives capture power.
The Ignatieff Liberals, meanwhile, have also been pretty clear: For instance, when Harper made the spectacularly dumb decision to prorogue Parliament last year, the Grits were in high dudgeon.
At the time, Ignatieff said that avoiding Parliament was cynical and wrong. Said he: “It’s a matter of principle.”
The Liberals even ran radio and print ads at the time, lambasting the government for shutting down Parliament to, among other things, “avoid questions about torture” taking place at the hands of Afghan authorities.
The Conservatives and the Liberals reversal on this untidy democracy business has been so profound, in fact, you almost half-expect their MPs to all be wearing neck braces as they return to work this week. This is political whiplash on a grand scale, folks.
It’s also bizarre. There is nothing that Stephen Harper loves more than lobbing policy hand grenades at the Liberal caucus, and watching them dance. On gun control, on abortion, on almost any issue, Grit disunity makes Harper happier than a flea at a dog show.
So why, then, is he now giving the Grits a break?
Because he knows – or suspects – that enough Liberals would side with the Dippers and the Bloc to vote against extending our combat role in Afghanistan. Because losing such a vote would cause Harper no end of embarrassment with his NATO colleagues.
That’s the Tory dilemma.
But why have Michael Ignatieff and his foreign policy expert, Bob Rae, abruptly reversed themselves on Afghanistan and on all of that previously important Parliamentary sovereignty stuff?
Good question. Wish I had an answer.
The cliche, of course, is “may you never live in interesting times.” The Liberals and the Conservatives are about to experience very interesting times.
Our troops, meanwhile, can be forgiven for feeling they deserve better.
Kinsella is a lawyer, consultant and Liberal Party spin-doctor. He blogs at warrenkinsella.com