Afghanistan: Harper's Achilles Heel?

On July 20 I suggested that Afhanistan might well cost Harper his desired majority. In the weeks since then, as the body count has mounted, polls are increasingly confirming the majority of Canadians are uncomfortable with Canada's current involvement in full-scale battle in Afghan. Indeed, foreign policy appears to be the Achilles'Heel of Harper's plans to secure a majority.

The vaunted five priorities have been long forgotten by many Canadians. If an election were held today, as Chantal Hebert observed in the Star, Afghanistan would likely be the central issue and would deny Harper his majority. Indeed the potential loss of seats in Quebec and perhaps elsewhere might well cost him the government.

As Hebert observed:

While opposition to the deployment is highest in Quebec, unease over the gist of Conservative foreign policy is running rampant across the country.

The scenario of a federal election turning into a national referendum on the Afghan mission is one that the government's decision to rush a parliamentary vote on a two-year extension of the deployment last spring was supposed to pre-empt.

Back then, the political rationale for the early vote was to remove the issue from the radar of the next election by pushing the deadline for reconsidering Canada's commitment to Afghanistan off to 2009.

In hindsight, it is increasingly apparent the Prime Minister has outsmarted himself.

By committing quickly to an extension, Stephen Harper has foreclosed on the option to bring the troops home in February as had originally been planned, leaving him with no political exit strategy from the Afghan file.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Harper has indeed boxed himself in on this issue. As more Canadians die for no good purpose in Afghanistan Harper's chances of hanging on to a minority, let alone securing a majority, continue to diminish.