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Afghanistan war could cost Conservatives and Liberals votes, says Ibbitson

Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson writes today that, “Over several elections, Canada’s adventures in Afghanistan have had remarkably little influence over the outcome, thanks to the rather-not-talk-about-it Conservative/Liberal consensus.”

“In last year’s election, the Conservatives and Liberals kept the issue in the background. Neither wanted to exploit obvious flaws in a policy that they both helped craft while in government…”

“Both Mr. Harper and Mr. Ignatieff employ the same mantra when the Afghanistan question is raised. The Canadian military commitment will end in 2011, they maintain, after which our nation will focus on rebuilding communities and institutions of governance.”

“(But) critics to the left of the Tories can rightly say that the 2011 deadline is simply this government’s acknowledgment that the $11-billion spent and the 129 soldiers killed failed to accomplish much of anything.”

“(And) polls show that both Americans and Canadians are wearying of the cost in blood and treasure for what, thus far, is little if any gain.”

“The Bloc Québécois, which opposes Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, launched a television campaign Tuesday with the faces of Mr. Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, accompanied by the slogan: ‘Two parties; one view.'”

“The NDP will hammer that point in the Tory/NDP contests in British Columbia.”

“In a closely fought race, the Conservatives’ backing of such a questionable policy in Afghanistan could tip votes toward the Bloc in Quebec and the NDP in British Columbia.”

Ibbitson suggests that the Tories could argue back that a partial democratic election in Afghanistan is better than no election at all.

The full column can be read at