Must-see QP: The mission in Iraq, foregone conclusion

Your daily dose of political theatre

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action.

The must-see moment

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights warned the world last month that western airstrikes in Iraq and Syria spurred recruitment in the ranks of Islamic State. The U.K.-based group claimed 6,000 new fighters signed up to fight the western offensive after just a single month of aerial bombardment. The Israeli daily, Haaretz, dutifully reported those numbers. This afternoon, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair opened his questioning of the Prime Minister by paraphrasing the Haaretz story into Hansard. Mulcair, whose party staunchly opposes direct combat, worried that Canadian airstrikes could be “disastrously counterproductive.” Unmoved, Stephen Harper said that IS was “growing like a cancer over the summer over an entire region” and Canada must “undertake steps to limit the military capacities of this organization.”

Unmoved themselves, Mulcair’s team and Liberals in the House continued to question what was, even as the government invited debate on a motion approving Canadian combat, an inevitable deployment. The Tories moved to cut short that debate earlier today, as CityNews and Rogers Radio parliamentary bureau chief Cormac Mac Sweeney reported this afternoon.

Now, as the House prepares to vote on the government motion, at least one MP struggled to make up his mind. Independent MP Brent Rathgeber may be the only parliamentarian who was ever unsure of himself on how to cast his vote. Rathgeber chronicled his indecision at length yesterday, and capped his blog post with an admission you’ll rarely see from a Canadian MP: “For the first time since I became an Independent Member of Parliament with a free vote, I am uncertain as to how I am going to use it. I am listening to the arguments and the many pro and cons but remain conflicted.”

Reasonable questions. A perfunctory debate. A foregone conclusion. And at least one MP who, with the power of one vote, considers his options.

The recap

The context

We were watching the House continue to debate Canada’s mission in Iraq. Liberals, who will vote against the government motion, will support the deployment as soon as Tories carry the day and the motion passes. “Once the decision is made by the government of Canada, and our men and women are out there, we have to be supportive,” said Marc Garneau, the lead Liberal MP on the file. Philippe Lagassé, a University of Ottawa-based defence watcher, pointed out that a switcheroo on combat missions in the Persian Gulf is not uncommon for Garneau’s team: see 1991. No matter Garneau’s intentions, he’ll be forced to defend himself. Conservatives are attacking Liberals. New Democrats are attacking Liberals. No doubt Liberals will spin their way into a two-pronged counterattack. What started as a thoughtful, pointed debate about a military deployment against a mutually reviled scourge in the Middle East is quickly giving way to just another Twitter proxy war fought between offices in the general vicinity of Parliament.