MR. LAYTON MUST NEVER COMMAND OUR ARMED FORCES

NDP leader Jack Layton asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa Monday Nov. 14, 2005.(CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson)

Jack Layton seems to me to be the quintessential politician. He is never truly for one position or another, nor does he seem guided by a fundamental set of principles. Jack’s passions seem to ignite with issues that are current flash points on the political scene and his stance on these issues is never really concrete, but more of a floating reference point.

When the government of Canada was mulling over whether or not to become entangled in the Iraq war, Jack Layton and the NDP were against supporting our allies, namely Italy, the United States, and England, as they attempted to enforce U.N. resolutions that the U.N. would not enforce.

Then, as we entered into Afghanistan in increasing numbers, Mr. Layton began to call for a vote in Parliament on the ongoing commitment in Afghanistan and asked for a clearer picture being drawn as to what our exact mission was.

While on the surface this may seem like a reasonable request, one of his statements is very troublesome. In an interview with Peter Mansbridge in January, 2006, while Paul Martin was still prime minister, Mr. Layton said the following: “Certainly there should be a hearing in front of the standing committee that deals with these matters so all Canadians can find out precisely what’s going on, and public opinion can have its expression on this before the vote as well.”

While we do live in a free country where Canadians have some say, the belief that ‘public opinion can have its expression’ and play a part in any decision making as it pertains to our national defense and interests is both foolhardy and extremely dangerous. I believe his statements were nothing more than cheap pandering to the masses. If not, then this is a glaring example of this man’s lack of understanding of how our defenses are to be run.

For the longest time, the press has sought to undermine the troops that we presently have in Afghanistan. They continually take polls and excitedly stand up and shout the results. “We were right. We were right” they seem to say. By beginning an open debate on whether we should be in Afghanistan simply encourages the Taliban to step up their campaign of death upon our troops in an attempt to further erode public support. It is for this reason that our national defense department feels the need to bar the media from the return of our fallen heroes. Those occasions are being used not to honor our fallen, but to further the cause of public discontentment.

On April 10, Mr. Layton stated that our troops have his full support in their present commitment in Afghanistan which is slated to end in February, 2007.

On the NDP website, you may read the following excerpt from a Jack Layton speech. “Mr. Speaker, as we assemble here in this safe and venerable place, hundreds of our fellow Canadians are serving our country and standing in harm’s way in Afghanistan. In doing this duty they have our full support.”

Apparently, polling data suggests that Canadian support has been wavering and declining since the death toll among our servicemen and women began to creep steadily upward. Likewise, NDP support has also been declining for our Afghanistan mission.

This week, Jack Layton suggested that Canada should lead the way into the hellish region surrounding Darfur. Citing once again falling public support, Mr. Layton suggests we pull some troops from Afghanistan.

As anyone in the armed forces or those privy to its current status is aware, our armed forces have been gutted for decades, leaving us with a defense department that, while being staffed by very capable men and women, is simply not up to being asked to do any more than it presently is engaged in. This point has been made publicly by those who run the defense department on more than one occasion. It is with that in mind that Mr. Layton should realize how utterly irresponsible his calls for Canadian involvement in Darfur are, and how the very suggestion undermines our present commitments. (Perhaps that was the intent.)

Again yesterday, Mr. Layton cited public opinion as he suggested Canadians would want us to be in Darfur ahead of Afghanistan. I say to Mr. Layton that Canadian foreign policy and Canadian defense department decisions are not decided by Ipsos-Reid or by a weak-hearted public. It is decided by men and women who know what they are doing and who have a lot more information than we ever will.

They have been elected to lead, to make decisions, and we must begin to allow them to do so. To do anything else is simply undermining the decisions that have already been made. I am not suggesting that we never question the government, but to be doing so in such an open way via the media is not a responsible move and screams of political posturing and opportunism.