The Comox Valley Record reports on a news conference that Duncan held on Friday, September 12 (two days after Harper's announcement):
He also responded to questions about controversy caused by Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s statement that the Canadian Forces would finish their combat role in Afghanistan by 2011. It stirred the ire of one parent, whose son was killed while serving overseas.
When asked what his position is on the CF’s continued role in Afghanistan, Duncan said he simply couldn’t say right now.
“To predict in 2008 what we might do in two years is too early ... to say definitely what we would do,” said Duncan.
I wonder how other Conservatives feel about Harper's new withdrawal date.
Harper probably has a tighter leash on the rest of the Conservative candidates but we can easily guess what they think based on previous comments. Here's one example:
Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor, said “artificial deadlines” for a troop withdrawal would “let down our allies.”
“Is that the legacy we want to have for our Afghanistan mission, that we did not get the job done? Setting a deadline for the Canadian Forces to withdraw right now would send a clear and dangerous signal to the Taliban. For the sake of the Afghans, our mission cannot be measured simply by the number of years or months we have invested." -Toronto Star, April 20, 2007
There are countless other examples of Conservative MPs saying that we cannot just "cut and run" if you go looking for them. Any regular QP watchers will recall that that has been their standard line for any MP who deigned to question them on an exit strategy. Paul Wells featured a research quiz last week and readers left tons of "we cannot cut and run" quotes in the comments section.
I don't buy for a second that Harper, if re-elected, will withdraw in 2011. Even if he does, the cost of this war is already unacceptable. From the Gazette today:
The Afghan war is going to end up costing the Defence Department more than $22 billion, both in actual money spent on the mission and future payments to rebuild equipment and provide long-term care for veterans, a military conference heard Wednesday.
And Harper would have us believe that he is the only one who can save us from economic doom. Without his $50 billion in corporate tax cuts and his costly war, we could have been in a much stronger position to weather the economic storm that is coming. We could have invested in health care, the green economy, child care...The list of things we could have done with $72 billion is long.
When the numbers on Afghanistan come out, I think Harper might have a harder time selling himself as a responsible spender.
Looks like there are other Conservative candidates having problem with the Tory message box. This time on the economy. Jerad Gallinger posts on candidate Gerry Labelle:
In an interview today with Radio-Canada, Conservative candidate Gerry Labelle blasted the Harper economic record, stating that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s attitude toward Ontario has been “horrible.”
“That’s not how you do things,” he said, referring to Minister Flaherty’s statement earlier this year that Ontario is the “last place” in Canada businesses should invest.
“It’s the federal government, so you’re not supposed to have favourite provinces, you treat everyone equally,” continued Mr. Labelle.
Labelle also characterized his party’s environmental plan as “insufficient” and said about the Tories’ recent cuts to cultural programs that, “If there is a fault that I think the Conservatives have, it’s that they explain things poorly.”