Re-elected Conservatives would expand Canada's special forces

REGINA – Jason Kenney says a re-elected Conservative government would expand the ranks of Canada’s special forces by 35 per cent over the next seven years.

With Conservative Leader Stephen Harper taking a break from the campaign trail today, Kenney is making the campaign promise today at an event in Regina.

In a statement, Kenney says the expansion would better equip the Canadian Forces to respond to “varied and sometimes multiple” emergencies in Canada and around the world.

Canada’s special operations forces include the secretive Joint Task Force 2; the Canadian Special Operations Regiment; 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron; the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit; and the Canadian Special Operations Training Centre.

Together, they include just over 1,900 personnel, which means the government is looking at adding some 665 members by the year 2022.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Conservatives are framing the measure as a way to ensure Canada is able to confront international security threats around the world, such as the current conflict in Iraq and Syria.

“Expansion of the special forces units will ensure that our armed forces are prepared to respond to the terror threat posed by groups such as the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS),” Kenney said in a statement, noting that the government’s Liberal and NDP rivals don’t support Canada’s role in the Middle East bombing mission.

“It is simply unthinkable that we would not ensure that our armed forces are able to help defeat this serious threat and protect our country.”

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has said he would act swiftly to end Canada’s role in the U.S.-led coalition that’s currently bombing militant positions in Iraq and Syria, opting instead for a humanitarian option focused in part on helping Syrian refugees. Mulcair has insisted the mission does not fall under the United Nations or NATO.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has proposed what he calls a “balanced and reasonable position” that would turn the Canadian mission into a training exercise to help Iraqi fighters fend off Islamic State fighters, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.