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Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan Recognized in the House of Commons

Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan Recognized in the House of Commons (Feb. 25, 2008)

House of Commons Debates
VOLUME 142 ● NUMBER 053 ● 2nd SESSION ● 39th PARLIAMENT
Monday, February 25, 2008

Hon. Peter MacKay (for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform): Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to have the opportunity to participate and to address this House on such an important issue as was just outlined in the motion presented to the chamber.

I want to begin my remarks by doing something that is seldom done in this place and that is to express appreciation and respect for members opposite for taking part in this important debate. I am firmly of the belief that this sincere effort to forge consensus on this important subject augurs well for this Parliament and for the future of our country.

This is perhaps the most important debate facing our Parliament and our nation today. It has important broad implications for Canadians, Afghans and for the world.

It is also worth expressing special acknowledgement of the role of the Leader of the Opposition, the deputy leader of the opposition, and other members of the Liberal Party for bringing forward consensus at a critical time that can result in a truly Canadian position. This is rare in this often partisan-charged air of this chamber. We are seeing democracy in action, the very thing that we seek to protect and promote in Afghanistan.

By putting aside our political differences and our party lines on an issue such as this, we demonstrate to our fellow Canadians and those who put their faith in us that we can see the bigger picture, that we can come together on a cause that others from our country are literally prepared to die for and do what is right and just.

Coming together on this motion is demonstrative and reminiscent of previous times in our country’s history when soldiers were deployed, when it was patriotism over partisanship.

I am personally grateful that we appear ready to rise above the rancour and personal sniping, and put forward a message to Canadians, Afghans and those around the world who are watching this debate, including the Taliban, that we are united.

We are a substantive and serious Parliament, responsive and responsible, on issues that matter. Behind the people who we send to far-off places to promote the values that we believe in, those acts of parliamentary union elevate us, and bring credit and credibility to public office holders.

As the Prime Minister has stated, the government broadly accepts the report and recommendations of the independent committee on Canada’s future role in Afghanistan.

I want to thank John Manley, Pamela Wallin, Derek Burney, Paul Tellier and Jake Epp for their extraordinary dedicated efforts and important insights into the question of Canada’s future role in Afghanistan. It is a comprehensive and well written report. It will contribute much to the debate before the House.

Subject to the conditions laid out in the motion before this House, this government supports extending Canada’s responsibility for security in Kandahar to the end of 2011. That date would coincide closely with the benchmarks on development outlined in the Afghanistan Compact.

The government is already moving ahead to carry out several of the key recommendations made by the independent panel. A new cabinet committee has been struck.

[Translation]

Furthermore, the Privy Council Office established an Afghanistan task force made up of senior members of the government and the public service. Together with David Mulroney of Foreign Affairs Canada, the task force has coordinated this file over the past year.

These two groups will improve the coordination of the government’s work in Afghanistan. In order to keep doing what we are doing in Afghanistan, we are pursuing discussions with our allies and partners to bring more troops into Kandahar.

We are also exploring all available avenues to ensure that our soldiers get the equipment they need.