Tell us which party leaders you thought spoke out for peace. Read the transcript below, or watch this TV clip from the debate provided by CTV.ca. Then leave your comment at the bottom of this post.
Party Leaders English Debate, Oct 2, 2008
Transcript of discussion on Afghanistan
Steven Paikin (Moderator)
Barmak Salam (Citizen questioner, on tape)
Stephen Harper (Conservatives)
Jack Layton (New Democratic Party)
Gilles Duceppe (Bloc Quebecois)
Elizabeth May (Green)
Stephene Dion (Liberal)
PAIKIN: That is the last word in this segment, lady and gentlemen. We’re going to go on now and talk about Afghanistan. Kitchener, Ontario, come on in with your question. Roll tape, please.
BARMAK SALAM (Kitchener, Ontario): Good evening. I am an Afghan Canadian. My question is to Mr. Harper. How would he justify to other NATO countries, the people of Afghanistan, the Canadian families who have lost their loved ones that pulling the troops out of Afghanistan in 2011 while Taliban have continuously been exhibiting reorganization, strength and ruthlessness is the best Canada could do to continue to take on its internationally military responsibility? Thank you.
PAIKIN: Okay, a question referring to deadline of 2011 when Canada says it will take its troops out.
HARPER: Yes, it’s a very good question. 2011 is three more years off. By then Canada will have been in Afghanistan for nearly 10 years in a military capacity. We will have been in Kandahar for six years. It’s our strong belief, we had a parliamentary resolution to authorize this involvement to a particular point in time.
I think that’s wise. One of the things I disagree with with some other western leaders is that our plan can be somehow to stay in Afghanistan militarily indefinitely. If we are to truly pacify that country and see its evolution, we have to train the Afghan army and police so that they are credibly able to take greater responsibility for their own security.
I’ve discussed this with President Karzai. He agrees that that’s what we should be aiming for and we won’t achieve such a target unless we actually set a deadline and work to meet it.
PAIKIN: Thank you, Mr. Harper. Jack Layton, you’re next.
LAYTON: Well, thank you for the question. And no soldier that goes and serves this country risking life ever serves in vain because we parliamentarians have asked you to perform that role.
Now, our party was the only party to step forward from the outset and on every occasion to say that there should not be an extension of the mission because we don’t believe that we’re on the right path. All of the indications are that it’s a less safe place. There’s more drug production, there’s more corruption, more civilian death and more soldiers’ deaths.
Canada’s voice should be a voice for peace and we should go to the UN after we withdraw our troops and engage in a comprehensive peace process. Even President Karzai is recommending it now.
PAIKIN: Thank you, Mr. Layton. That’s your time. Gilles Duceppe, you’re next.
DUCEPPE: Yes, first of all, I think that when Jack Layton is saying that he’s the only party who was coherent on that question, I would say that in May 2007, if he had voted with the Liberals and us, that mission will be… would be coming to an end by next February, in four months. That’s a matter of fact.
Having said that, I think that this is not a balanced mission. We need to put more money for humanitarian aid compared to the money we are investing for military purposes. And I think we have to come with more collaboration with other countries in a larger peace plan for Middle East, including Afghanistan because even if it’s not in the Middle East, it’s part of the problem, a large problem.
PAIKIN: Okay, Mr. Duceppe. Thank you, that’s your time. Elizabeth May.
MAY: The situation of Afghanistan is simply too important to deal within a history free zone, as Mr. Bush and Mr. Harper have done. When you look at history, you see that when the U.S. led covert mission, destabilized and finally saw the occupying USSR forces withdraw, there was a vacuum. And in that time, there was a humanitarian crisis and hundreds of thousands of people were killed.
So the Greens come at this with a different approach. What’s fair and right for people of Afghanistan, what will work. The NATO mission isn’t working. The bombardment of civilians only turns people to the Taliban. The destruction of poppy crops only turns people to the Taliban. We need a United Nations mission that is prepared to take on Taliban but with far more nations involved, many from Islamic backgrounds, and turn those poppies into medicinal drugs for developing countries.
PAIKIN: Okay, Ms. May, that’s your time. Thank you. Stéphane Dion, s’il vous plaît.
DION: Thank you so much, Mr. Salam. I want to say first that I have an admiration, incredible admiration for the courage of men and women in uniform and our civilians risking their life in Afghanistan to help the people of Afghanistan to have a better living and more security.
If I thought for a minute that we are there in order to be invaders, I would say we need to pull out right away because we Canadians always put our troops abroad to help for the cause of peace, security and democracy.
In Afghanistan, we’ll do our best until 2011 to provide more security to the people of Afghanistan to help them to take care of their own country in coalition with only two partners. And in 2011, we’ll have other responsibilities to do in Darfur or in the other countries. It’s what we will do with a Liberal government.
PAIKIN: Okay, thank you, M. Dion. Let’s get into some discussion about this. Mr. Harper, I think what’s underlying the question here is how can we leave if the job isn’t done? What’s the answer to that?
HARPER: Well, I guess the question is… I guess I would turn it around. If we never leave, will the job ever get done? And look, we can’t ourselves pacify Afghanistan. We’ve got to eventually have Afghans be capable of running their own security and, you know, obviously, we’ve got a role there. This is a United Nations mission, let’s be clear.
And people talk about George Bush. This was a mission approved by the United Nations. There are 36 countries militarily involved. There are some 60 partners altogether that were there as part of an international mission with the support of the democratically elected Afghan government. And, yes, we’re doing a military mission. We’re also doing an important development and humanitarian work.
Afghanistan is our biggest single recipient of foreign aid by far in this world. So I think it’s a mission as balanced as it can be given the conditions we’re in in Kandahar.
PAIKIN: Let’s go one, two, three, four.
LAYTON: Mr. Harper, I don’t think at the bottom line you can be trusted on this. I think your views on these matters go back a long way. And they derive from the philosophy emerging from the Bush White House, a philosophy which hopefully will be replaced soon. And I don’t think that this is the philosophy that represents the values of Canadians. And I must say I don’t think the Liberals can be trusted on this either because, Mr. Dion, you committed to 2009 withdrawal and then it became 2011. How do we know you’re not going to change your mind again? So I think if we want a new direction, we need a prime minister who makes the commitment and does it in an election.
LAYTON: That we’ll withdraw our troops and start on a process to achieve peace. That’s my commitment.
PAIKIN: Since you took a shot at him, I’ve got to let him respond to that.
DION: Well, Mr. Layton, I never broke my word. Mr. Harper, what he said would have been in complete disagreement with what he said a year ago. A year ago, he was saying we’ll stay until the job is not done and so on. I always said the same thing. If we accepted to go from 2009 to 2011, it’s because Mr. Harper prepared nothing for the rotation.
He would have left Afghanistan without any preparation. You need to prepare these things. You don’t leave Afghanistan as you leave a camping. You need to organize that with your allies. It’s what I will do.
One of the first things I will do as prime minister, I will announce to our NATO allies and to the government of Afghanistan that indeed, 2011 is a serious end date that we will respect and we have a mandate from the Canadians for that.
PAIKIN: Okay, it’s Gilles Duceppe and then Elizabeth May.
DUCEPPE: Yes, I want to know, Mr. Harper, if you will admit that if the situation’s so tough in Afghanistan, certainly a large part of that is because of the error made by George Bush by going in Iraq. And thus you realize today that you were making a huge error by supporting Bush and Australia, in a given speech that was deeply inspired. And that was a huge error you made that time.
Would you make the same decision today than you were proposing Canada to do in 2003?
PAIKIN: Okay, Mr. Harper then Ms. May.
HARPER: Well, I’ve made it very clear Canada’s not going to Iraq. So obviously…
DUCEPPE: It’s not the question I asked.
HARPER: Obviously, you know the answer to that question. Let’s be clear about…
DUCEPPE: No, I know. I want to hear it.
HARPER: Let’s be clear about Afghanistan.
DUCEPPE: I want to hear it!
HARPER: Let’s be clear about Afghanistan!
DUCEPPE: Do you admit it was an error of George Bush and you made the same error?
HARPER: It was absolutely an error. That’s… Obviously…
DUCEPPE: So you made an error at that time?
HARPER: It’s obviously clear, the evaluation of weapons of mass destruction proved not to be…
DUCEPPE: Are you telling me you made an error?
PAIKIN: Let him answer.
HARPER: … correct. That’s absolutely true and that’s why…
DUCEPPE: So you made an error.
HARPER: And that’s why we’re not sending anybody to Iraq and that’s…
DUCEPPE: He’s not answering.
MAY: We’re only not sending them to Iraq because you weren’t prime minister at the time.
HARPER: But on Afghanistan, on Afghanistan, on Afghanistan, let’s remember Afghanistan is a missions, it’s not a George Bush mission, it’s a mission of the United Nations. In the United States…
DUCEPPE: No, I didn’t say that.
HARPER: … both parties, Senator Obama is committed to increase, Senator Obama has increased… has committed to increase American commitment to Afghanistan.
DUCEPPE: I didn’t say that, but what I said that if you… if you were…
HARPER: But you’re against the mission in Afghanistan.
DUCEPPE: If you were…
HARPER: You’re against the mission in Afghanistan!
DUCEPPE: If you were the Prime Minister in 2003, Canadian and Quebecer soldiers will be… would be today in Iraq.
HARPER: That’s not my position.
DUCEPPE: True or not?
HARPER: That’s not my position.
PAIKIN: He said no, okay. Ms. May.
DUCEPPE: That was your position in 2003.
PAIKIN: Ms. May.
MAY: It’s very clear that your position as leader of the opposition was that Canada should be part of the coalition of the willing. You argued it. You made the speech. Let’s move on from that. The current mission is not a UN mission. The initial NATO process received UN sanction. It’s not the same thing as a UN mission. And if we’re going to actually make progress to stabilize Iraq, I mean Afghanistan, we have got to ensure that it’s not perceived as solely a western nation initiative led by the U.S. That’s why 2011 is too late to change the mission but too early to leave. We need to have a United Nations mission that involves far more countries. We need to go back to do that.
And by the way, you’re boasting about the fact that most of our development assistance is going to Afghanistan. That’s a terrible thing that’s happened is that CIDA’s missions have become so politicized that we’re turning our back on Africa, we’re not helping the poorest of the poor. It’s becoming part of our mission in Afghanistan to distort the mission on international development assistance.
PAIKIN: Okay, let’s get.
MAY: We need to make poverty history and I want to know where the other leaders are on 0.7 per cent of our GNP going to overseas development assistance.
PAIKIN: Okay, Stéphane Dion, then Jack Layton.
DION: Mr. Harper is a very imprudent man because of his ideology that is so close to the views of George W. Bush and expressed with the words of the Prime Minister of Australia, the Conservative Prime Minister.
He is a very imprudent man. What he did about Iraq, he almost did the same about Afghanistan. Now during an election, he’s saying, okay, I will respect the 2011 end date. He said the opposite month after month after month.
Our allies hope he will change his mind. We need to have a prime minister who will say the same thing in Canada and abroad that will be trustworthy, that we will believe his words. He will not change always his mind because of his imprudent ideology.
PAIKIN: Jack Layton.
LAYTON: Agreed, many Canadians don’t want us to continue in Afghanistan until 2011, that’s clear. A vote for the Liberals or the Conservatives will not change our long-term commitment or engagement there. And in fact, it will prevent us from reaching some of the targets that we have for international aid and assistance like the make-poverty-history campaign.
What we propose is to take the savings when we bring our troops home and use those savings in order to invest in saving lives through the anti-poverty programs. We call it the peace dividend.
LAYTON: That represents Canadian values better.
PAIKIN: A couple of shots here, so I’ve got to give Mr. Harper 20 seconds to respond.
HARPER: I’ll just say, I do appreciate Stéphane Dion and the Liberal Party support on the resolution that we passed. The truth is Mr. Dion’s position on this mission changed three times over the last three years, but at least now it’s the right position and I’ll give him credit for that.
PAIKIN: If you take that shot at him, I’ve got to give him (inaudible).
HARPER: Let me just say this, which is that the parliamentary resolution is precisely what I have communicated to President Sarkozy, to President Bush, to the future presidential candidates, to Prime Minister Brown, to President Karzai. Everybody knows this is Canada’s position and I’m encouraging them to work towards similar goals.
PAIKIN: Okay, a response here?
DION: Well, to the contrary, you changed your mind, you said again and again and again that we don’t need a mandate. It will be a mistake, a failure. We need to stay until the job is not done, whatever that means. Always supported an end date. I want my Canada back. Canadians want their Canada back, the Canada that we may trust in the world. A Canada speaking for the cause of justice in the world, not a Canada always following the views of George Bush…
DION: … and the Americans. Canadians don’t want it anymore.
PAIKIN: That is the last word on this segment.