NDP delegates vote for Afghan troop pullout
CTV.ca News Staff | September 9, 2006
The New Democratic Party has made it official party policy to oppose the current mission in Afghanistan and to call for the immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from there.
On Saturday, NDP delegates at a party convention in Quebec voted overwhelmingly in favour of leader Jack Layton's call for a pullout.
About 90 per cent of more than 1,500 delegates voted for a "safe and immediate" withdrawal from the region, which has seen a spike in Canadian casualties recently.
Sustained applause swept over the convention floor after officials announced the vote results.
"We have a really strong show of support from our members here today," Layton told reporters following the vote.
"Now we're calling on Canadians to join with us in calling on the Harper government to change the track he's currently on with (U.S. President) George Bush."
The NDP Parliamentary caucus is now expected to come up with strategies on how to pressure the Conservative minority government on Afghanistan when it holds a retreat next week.
The party could choose to table a private member's bill or hold a vote on a non-binding motion in the House of Commons.
Layton wants all 2,000 Canadian soldiers removed from the violent Kandahar province by February. But he favours keeping the few dozen Canadians currently working on reconstruction efforts in safer northern areas.
Poll numbers suggest the mission is becoming increasingly unpopular with Canadians. But Layton's position is not unanimously supported within the party.
Manitoba's NDP Premier Gary Doer, who addressed delegates on Friday, told CTV Newsnet he supported the mission in Afghanistan five years ago and remains committed to it today.
"This is a UN exercise. The Taliban that we're fighting basically protected the terrorists that were involved five years ago in the 9-11 attack -- which included the killing of innocent victims from Manitoba -- and so I don't like any anti-military talk," he said.
Doer's comments come just two days after soldiers at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, Man., paid tribute to Cpl. David Braun, who was killed Aug. 22 by a suicide bomber outside Kandahar.
Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer, whose riding holds a large military constituency, also spoke out against the proposal. He called it "premature."
"What (the troops) are doing is right," he said. "We need to send the message that we love them, we care about them, and that we hope for their speedy return.
Further, he said the position fails to address what happens to Afghanistan on March 1, when there would be no Canadian troops left under an NDP plan.
But Saturday's vote showed the opinions expressed by Doer and Stoffer were in the minority.
"We need to get out of that dirty war," said Toronto delegate Barry Weisleder, who argued there's been enough debate on the issue and the time has arrived for a withdrawal.
"We don't need more consultation.
"We need to curtail expenditures which are aiding the war contractors and which are supporting a government of warlords and drug lords in Afghanistan, a government orchestrated and hand-picked by the U.S. empire ..."
Former NDP leader Alexa McDonough repeated that stability in Afghanistan cannot be achieved militarily.
"The Canadian people know there is no military solution. The Canadian people know that only through a comprehensive peace process will it be possible to bring the state and non-state actors together to begin building a democratic Afghanistan," she said.
With files from The Canadian Press