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A Canadian soldier scans the horizon while on sentry duty at Ma'sum Ghar camp in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, on Oct. 12, 2007. (FINBARR O'REILLY/REUTERS)
A Canadian soldier scans the horizon while on sentry duty at Ma'sum Ghar camp in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, on Oct. 12, 2007. (FINBARR O'REILLY/REUTERS)

NDP blasts 'deplorable' deal to extend Afghan mission without vote Add to ...

A deal between the Conservatives and Liberals allows Stephen Harper to break his promise and extend the mission in Afghanistan without approval from Parliament, New Democrats charged Friday.

"That's really deplorable," NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said. "To say, 'We don't need to go to Parliament.' Excuse me?"

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Mr. Dewar was reacting to news from Korea that the Prime Minister will not seek parliamentary approval to allow Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan post-2011 in some yet-to-be defined training mission. In addition, Bob Rae, the Liberal foreign affairs critic, told The Globe on Friday morning that he was fine with that.

"Whether there's a parliamentary resolution is not a matter of law (or even custom) but a choice of the government," Mr. Rae said. "In the current circumstance I fully understand the government's decision."

Mr. Dewar noted that Mr. Rae was in conversation with Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon about a training plan. The Liberals have long pushed for Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan after the combat mission is scheduled to end this summer.

"It matters not how the deal was done. It's the outcome," Mr. Dewar said. "Rae was pushing this. The Conservatives were setting off their trial balloons as usual with our friend Dimitri, the Minister of Everything, Elected by No One ..."

The NDP MP was referring to a string of media appearances this week by Dimitri Soudas, in which the Prime Minister's communications director floated some of the government's post-2011 options.

"Then next thing you know, boom, [there's]a statement by the Prime Minister and it's a done deal," Mr. Dewar said. "I mean it really is ridiculous on so many facets ... the breaking of a promise on the issue itself but the process."

Mr. Rae "basically has got his way to get the Conservatives to extend the military mission," Mr. Dewar said. "What I found interesting is that he just shrugged off the need for parliamentary oversight. Well, astonishing is actually more of a descriptor on it."

He argued the "responsible thing to do" is for this issue to come before Parliament, adding that his party will take some time to talk about it.

The NDP supports the option of supporting transitional justice, aid, development and governance, which Mr. Dewar says would cost about $500-million over three years.

He said if 1,000 troops stay in Afghanistan it could cost Canada $3-billion over four years, according to estimates by the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

Such choice, he added, "should be in front of Parliament. Are we going to extend the military mission? How much is it? Or the other choice - which was governance, aid, development and transitional justice."

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