'They need to know that their Parliament is behind them' - Macleans.ca

‘They need to know that their Parliament is behind them’

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As futile as it may be to hold Mr. Harper’s past pronouncements as a guide to present and future action, here is what the Prime Minister said four years ago when he sought to extend the nation’s commitment in Afghanistan by two years.

Mr. Speaker, as members of the House know, we made a pledge during the last election campaign to put international treaties and military engagements to a vote in this chamber. If we made this promise, it was because before we send diplomats, relief workers and soldiers on dangerous missions abroad, it is important to be able to tell them that Canada’s parliamentarians believe in their objectives and support what they are doing…

Despite the fact that members of three of four parties in the House have consistently voiced support for a mission in Afghanistan, Canadians on the ground in Kabul, Kandahar and in the PRT have never received a clear mandate from this Parliament. That is not fair to the brave men and women who wear the maple leaf. They need to know that their Parliament is behind them.

Mr. Harper also specifically addressed what his government would do if Parliament voted against extending the engagement.

I think I also need to be clear, given the events over the last 24 hours or so, of what the consequences would be if there were a No vote. Let me be clear on this. This would be a surprise to this government. In debates in this chamber up until last month and in private meetings until very recently, we had every reason to believe that three of four parties, which have consistently supported this action, would continue to do so.

Should that turn out not to be the case, this government is not in a position to simply walk away or to run away. What the government will do, if we do not get a clear mandate, the clear will of Parliament to extend for two years and beyond, is proceed cautiously with a one year extension. We cannot walk away quickly. We will proceed with another year and if we need further efforts or a further mandate to go ahead into the future, we will go so alone and we will go to the Canadian people to get that mandate.