The transcript of Bob Rae’s scrum with reporters after Question Period this afternoon.
Question: A question on Afghanistan. You want some clarity on Afghanistan. The government says their position’s clear with regards to the combat mission. What’s not clear?
Bob Rae: Well, I don’t think the government is telling us what are they planning on doing after 2011 and there was a very – I thought very ambiguous comment made by the Minister saying we’re going to honour the 2008 resolution until we replace it with a new one. Well, what does that tell you?
You know if you compare what’s going on here and what’s happening in the U.S. and elsewhere, the debate is much less public and much less open and transparent as to what the government is thinking about. What are the options on the table? What are the various things that the government might do? We haven’t heard a word from the government about any of these things and I think we’re – I think the Canadian people are entitled to that. We know that the discussions are underway inside the American administration. We have a pretty clear sense of what the options are on that table but we don’t have any idea what the options are on Mr. Harper’s table.
Question: (Inaudible) fairly categorical and yet you’re arguing the Defence Minister is a bit more ambiguous.
Bob Rae: Well, I think there’s a contradiction between the two. I mean you yourself can look at what Mr. MacKay said in the committee and what Mr. Cannon said in the House. And this is the second time Mr. Cannon has been very peremptory. But frankly it doesn’t help us to know what it is they’re planning to do after 2011.
Question: Is there any room in the Liberal Party to consider extending some sort of combat role?
Bob Rae: No, no. That’s not –
Question: That’s not on the table.
Bob Rae: Well, we’re abiding by the resolution. The resolution’s very clear.
Question: Your Defence Critic and your former leader Mr. Dion you all seem to agree that there will be some sort of military presence after 2011. Is the issue then will there be a vote on those 120-odd soldiers who will be there with a Provincial Reconstruction Team? Is that the issue?
Bob Rae: No, let’s be very clear. There’s a lot of issues that have to be discussed. We have to know whether the government is planning to stay in Kandahar. They haven’t told us that. We have to know whether the government has any other plans with respect to our other options with respect to governance, with respect to training of troops, whatever that might happen to be. We have no clue as to what the development options are. So the government has not put anything on the table and they have not told us, they have not been transparent about what it is they’re planning to do and I think all those things have to be clear.
Question: (Inaudible) the motion means to say that there will be no Canadian soldiers in Kandahar?
Bob Rae: Well, it says – I mean, you know, I don’t have the resolution in front of me but I read it fairly regularly. My recollection is pretty clear that it says the Canadian military deployment in Kandahar will end in the – we will notice to NATO that it will end and the troops will be out by the end of 2011. I think the motion itself is very clear. Now if the government is saying well, we want to bring in a new motion, all I’m saying is well, get started now on the discussions. Let’s start having the discussions, let’s have the options, put all the options on the table and let’s start discussing it because it’s not clear now.
Question: Is there room in your view for there to be some kind of military deployment as long as it’s not focussed around a battle group?
Bob Rae: I’d rather not get into hypotheticals. I really don’t think that’s helpful right now. I think what we need to say is we believe very strongly that the combat mission, the military presence in Kandahar is going to come to an end in 2011 but it’s up to the government, you know, they’re still the government, to tell us what it is — what are the other options that are on the table. They’re privy to all the discussions with the United States, with our NATO partners. We’re not privy to any of those discussions but they have to come back and tell us what they are.
Question: M. Rae, en français, les intentions de vote encore ce matin montrent que votre parti (inaudible). Ça vous fait quoi d’apprendre ça?
Bob Rae: Vous parlez des sondages?
Question: Oui, les sondages. Votre chef et votre parti —
Bob Rae: Ça fait 30 ans que je suis dans la politique et j’ai vu des sondages qui descendent et des sondages qui montent. Franchement, c’est la vie politique. On n’est pas dans une période d’une élection. Il faut voir ce qui va se passer. Nous avons du travail à faire comme caucus pour appuyer notre chef et on va le faire. J’ai beaucoup d’optimise pour l’avenir mais à présent on a du travail à faire.
Question: Sur l’Afghanistan, ce que vous êtes en train de dire c’est que le ministre de la Défense et le ministre des Affaires étrangères semblent pas exactement dire la même chose.
Bob Rae: Non, ils disent pas la même chose et ça c’est le problème. Vous pouvez le voir vous-mêmes quand vous considérez exactement ce qu’a dit M. MacKay aujourd’hui et encore une fois M. Cannon. Ils n’ont pas dit la même chose. Mais la chose la plus importante c’est que le gouvernement a une obligation de nous dire quelles sont vos options, quelles sont les options que vous discutez, quelles sont les options que vous négociez avec l’OTAN, que vous discutez avec nos alliés et jusqu’à maintenant il y a un manque complet de transparence dans les activités du gouvernement.
Question: It kind of requires though to a certain extent the Americans coming forward with their strategy. First, I mean –
Bob Rae: Well, the – but even there, you see, if you listen to the Americans they say well, we have to hear from Canada before we – what Canada decides to do is going to be an important element in our discussions. So it’s a bit of a chicken and an egg. But I mean I – look, the Dutch Parliament took a vote last week. There’s lots of moving things going on here. We have the vote result that’s going to be announced next week. I just think it’s important for us to have some clarity from the government and frankly I don’t see it. I’m not trying to be difficult but I do see a difference in the tone and the direction between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence.