Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Afghanistan

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):  

    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Liberal Party leader flip-flopped yet again, this time on the Afghanistan issue. The Liberal Party leader wants to prolong Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan, but that is contrary to the will of the House.

    Can the Prime Minister confirm that Canada will withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan as of July 2011?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):

    Mr. Speaker, I am surprised that the NDP leader would criticize another party leader. One of his members, his House Leader in fact, basically denied Israel’s right to exist by making extremist statements with impunity.

    He is in no position to criticize the Liberal Party leader or any other leader in the House.

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):

    So, Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is not prepared to confirm that Canadian troops will no longer be in Afghanistan after 2011. The cost of Canada’s involvement in the war is $20 billion so far. The NATO costs on training are $1 billion a month. That is exactly the approach that the Liberal leader wants Canada to continue with.

    Would the Prime Minister tell us if he agrees that the Canadian money would be better spent on humanitarian aid, development assistance work, justice, human rights and peace negotiations in Afghanistan? Could he at least confirm that?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):

    Mr. Speaker, successive governments, both Conservative and Liberal, have worked with our international partners and with the Afghan people to bring peace, security and development to that country. We are extremely proud of the work that our men and women in uniform, our diplomats and our development workers have done with our international partners.

    Quite frankly, I do not think a leader who shelters an MP who makes anti-Israeli extremist statements without repercussion should be making any criticism of policy.

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):

    Mr. Speaker, the faulty deal that the Prime Minister signed with the coalition of the unwilling shows why only a judicial inquiry will ever get to the bottom of the Afghan torture scandal. The government tried to silence diplomat, Richard Colvin, who was trying to blow the whistle on torture. DND officials were sending memos begging to silence him.

    Why did the government reassign people who were trying to raise the issue of torture? Why did it want to stop Richard Colvin from exposing the truth and reporting on what he saw?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):

    Mr. Speaker, once again, three political parties worked to get a responsible resolution to this question but, unfortunately, the NDP did not. However, why would we be surprised? The deputy leader of the NDP knew full well what she was saying when she made statements that could have been made by Hamas, Hezbollah or anybody else, with no repercussions from that party whatsoever. I hope the leader of the NDP will come clean and actually face up to his responsibilities on that question.

    While I am on my feet, I also hope that he will help us pass a reform of the pardon system, something for which Canadians have been waiting weeks.