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Lead, Please, Prime Minister

Prime Minister Harper is quoted as saying that he wants consensus from Canadians before he will ask Parliament to extend the current Afghan mission beyond Feb 2009.

The Ruxted Group applauds the PM for both insisting that Parliament – the House of Commons – agree to major military operations, and asking Canadians themselves to consider the merits of this mission and guide their elected representatives.

Regardless of the common sense and fundamental democratic ideals satisfied by this initiative what is lacking is true leadership. In saying “I would hope the view of Canadians is not simply to abandon Afghanistan” without actively persuading the people of Canada that his preferred course of action is right, good and proper the Prime Minister has effectively abdicated his responsibility to lead and along with it, his ability to convince Canadians that their troops are in Afghanistan are fighting the good fight for the right reasons.

The Prime Minister needs to bring the choices before us into stark relief. The issue is not just the mission in Afghanistan, though that is the public face of this crisis. It is also an articulation of a national vision and Canada's place in a rapidly polarizing world. This government has talked at length about how this country used to punch above its weight, and has complained just as loudly about how previous Liberal governments have squandered Canada's reputation on the world stage, yet here is the Prime Minister calling vaguely for a consensus without articulating his ideas for a rational, moral and achievable alternative to the ideological and political divides that face the nation today.

The Prime Minister needs to ‘sell’ Canada’s emerging lead role and the current mission to Canadians, especially to Québecers. This is a theme which The Ruxted Group has visited over and over and over again. In 2006, when he persuaded a reluctant parliament to approve an extension of the mission until early 2009, Prime Minister Harper appeared interested only in embarrassing the Liberal opposition. He offered Canadians little in the way of solid reasons ‘why’ – rather he threatened a weak and divided opposition with a snap election. That tactic, although it served the purpose of whipping the opposition into line, was never good enough for Canadians and only distracted from the very real, important and noble reasons that their troops are killing and being killed in Afghanistan; the healing, reconstruction, and development desired by all cannot proceed without the sacrifices inherent in providing security.

We are extremely disappointed (but not all that surprised) at the fact that Prime Minister Harper is doing exactly what he accuses his opponents of doing: playing political games, and seeking to wring the maximum partisan political advantage out of the situation in Afghanistan. It is time for Prime Minister Harper to lead the country. As we said at the start, the issue is not just the mission in Afghanistan it is about Canada’s role in the world – the leadership role Prime Minister Harper says is his government’s objective. Canada needs a coherent foreign policy and Canadians need direct, honest political leadership during these hard times, we do not need more of the same on both these fronts, which is exactly what Mr Harper offered up this week.

By articulating a clear vision of Canada's goals in Afghanistan and how we intend to operate in the future, free of political posturing and spin, Prime Minister Harper may develop the consensus among Canadians he desires, and provide us with a vision for Canada in the 21st century world. There is an old military maxim: Lead, Follow or get out of the way! Lead, please, Prime Minister.


The Ruxted Group on : Resisting the Opposition’s Urge to Abandon the Afghan People

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Ruxted has spent the summer calling for a greater show of leadership from the Prime Minister and his deputies with respect to the Afghanistan mission. Ruxted has called for more and better communication from the responsible departments, particularly


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