Debating the Libya mission and Canada’s future defence policy

Parliament is scheduled to return in early June. As David Akin reports, one of the Commons’ first priorities will be debating Canada’s mission in Libya. To date, the NDP has suggested that they aren’t opposed to extending the mission. Whether they do or not, an interesting question is how they will express their approval or disapproval of the deployment and its objectives. Specifically, I’m wondering whether the government will hold a formal vote on the mission or if they will merely hold a take note debate followed by a motion, as they did in March. 

Although it may appear to be a mere technicality, there’s quite a bit at stake here. If the government simply holds a take note debate and allows the opposition to express their views on a motion, then the emerging convention of asking the Commons to formally approve military deployments with a vote will be dealt another blow. Already, as you may recall, the commitment to involve the Commons in such decisions was reduced from votes on all international deployments, to votes for combat missions alone, to votes three months after a mission has begun. If there isn’t a vote this time, it’s fair to say that the nascent convention will have been further diluted.

The NDP must be particularly careful here. The party has routinely called for the Commons to formally approve international military deployments. They were especially vehement about it leading up to the tabling of a motion on Canada’s new training mission in Afghanistan. But the NDP let the issue slide when came time to demand a vote on the intervention in Libya this past March; the Party accepted that a take note debate and a motion were sufficient. If the NDP doesn’t press for a formal vote this time around, it will be harder for them to demand a formal vote –or at least suggest that such votes should happen in the name of democracy– the next time the government decides to send the CF overseas. 

Here’s Akin’s report:

http://www.torontosun.com/2011/05/17/akin-mps-must-vote-on-libya-mission

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On another note, Daryl Copeland has a piece in today’s The Mark about the lack of debate surrounding Canadian defence policy.

While I’m somewhat skeptical about his suggestion that we transform the CF into a humanitarian assistance force, I absolutely agree that we need a better defence policy debate. 

Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Rather than debating the future of the CF, I suspect that Canadian defence policy will be largely set by the equipment and capability choices that the government makes in the next few years.

Here’s Copeland’s article:

http://www.themarknews.com/articles/5238-what-s-next-for-canada-s-armed-forces 

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