Tossing aside democracy to support democracy

Parliament held an emergency debate on Canada’s response to the situation in Iraq this week.  The fact that it was an emergency debate and not a government-led one spoke volumes about the Prime Minister’s go-it-alone approach on this issue.  That was hammered home when Thomas Mulcair was the only party leader in the House of Commons for the debate.  He delivered the defining speech of the evening and it was clear there was no match for him on the thin government benches.

By sending troops into an armed conflict without consulting parliament, the Prime Minister is breaking his own repeated promises to present a clear motion that outlines the details (objectives, strategy, costs, and timelines) of Canada’s commitment in these instances to a vote in the Commons.   By forcing MPs to demand due process the Conservatives are creating a story line that attempts to paint themselves as defenders of democracy while everyone else is defending terrorists -which is about the furthest you could get from the truth.

It’s pretty clear that the question isn’t whether Canada should be playing a role in this mission.  The question is whether Canadians should be informed and if the parliamentarians they elect should approve such an important endeavour.   Put another way, what is so urgent that warrants bypassing our democratic traditions? 

The United States have been very clear about what they are doing and have shared that with their citizens.  Our Conservative government is only being dodgy and has turned a request for more humanitarian aid into an undisclosed number of boots on the ground in an armed conflict.   They can’t - or won’t - identify timelines, the nature of the mission, or even how the chain of command will work.  They won’t address concerns about mission creep or whether Canada should be jumping feet first into something that doesn’t have the backing of the United Nations or NATO.  The only thing that is clear is that they want the opposition to fight them on this. 

We shouldn’t be sending our brave men and women into ill-defined missions and it is import to remember that Canada is already delivering badly needed humanitarian assistance into Iraq. This year alone we have committed $28 million in aid.  If we are suddenly going to increase our presence with a military component the debate on that must be open, honest, and transparent. 

Of course the terrorist’s actions are horrible, but it does not excuse the way the Conservatives are using this to frame an election question that suits their own needs.   Canadians deserve better than a government that refuses to answer basic questions about our country’s military deployment in Iraq.