The New Democratic Party would pull Canadian troops out of the mission to Iraq should it form the next government, Leader Thomas Mulcair says.
This week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper will ask Parliament to expand and extend Canada's role in the fight against the Islamic State, after pressing for a six-month commitment last fall that has seen troops lead on-the-ground training and Canadian planes participate in 53 air strikes and 117 surveillance and reconnaissance flights. One Canadian soldier was killed by Kurdish allies in a "friendly fire" incident this month.
If the Conservative-controlled Parliament extends the mission and the NDP forms the next government, "we would bring our troops back home," Mr. Mulcair said in an interview aired Sunday on CTV's Question Period. "We think it's wrong and we would pull back."
The government has yet to reveal what an extended and expanded mission will involve. Some experts believe the plan could see Canadian fighter jets conduct air strikes in Islamic State-controlled territory in eastern Syria. Several coalition members, including Canada, have limited their involvement to Iraq, which some observers believe has restricted the coalition's efforts against the Islamic State.
"There have been gains" but the coalition needs more jets and tens of thousands of ground troops to put a serious dent in the Islamic State in Syria and northern Iraq, said George Petrolekas, a fellow with the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.
Mr. Harper will discuss Canada's role in the fight against the Islamic State when he meets Monday in Ottawa with Northern Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in his first official visit to the capital. The anti-Islamic State mission involves several NATO members but the organization is not formally involved.
The NDP has opposed Canada's involvement in the combat mission and instead called for limiting Canada's role to providing humanitarian assistance and helping minorities and sexual-violence victims in affected areas.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the government has been overly eager to commit Canadians to a combat role and that the country's involvement and goals are poorly defined. "We've gone from what I call 'mission creep' to 'mission leap,'" he said.
The Liberals, who also voted against a combat mission last fall, have said they'll wait to see what the government proposes this week before commenting.
A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said "as a government we know that our ultimate responsibility is to protect Canadians from those who would do harm to us and to our families.
"That is why Canada is not sitting on the sidelines – as the Liberals and NDP would have us do – and is instead a proud member of the international coalition."