Want an election debate on the war? Don't hold yer breath

Expect to hear a lot of discussion about Canada’s war in Afghanistan during this election? Don’t hold your breath.

The truth is that for the policy elites in this country, the war has been taken off the table by the flip-flop of the Liberals when they supported the Conservatives (again) for an extension of the war to December 2011.

So far, only Global TV has contacted the Rideau Institute to explore the impact of the war, and you can watch our program Director Anthony Salloum in the TV debate.

The lack of interest is surprising, since pollsters consistently put Afghanistan in the top four issues on the minds of Canadians.

But frankly, the war is a wildcard. For instance, a recent Canadian Press-Harris Decima poll found that 61% of Canadians believe the war has been too costly.

But in a bizarre twist, a poll by Environics found that a majority (36%) of Canadians think that the Conservatives are the best party to handle the war, even though they have been running it into the ground since they were elected in 2006.

Of course, with the death toll rising, the war will be thrust back into news again when the 100th soldier is killed in the coming weeks. It’s a morbid deathwatch, but I know of at least one newspaper that is planning a major feature, and I expect that the others are doing the same.

There is a truism that Canadians don’t cast their vote based on foreign policy questions. That’s why you will see the NDP focusing on the same “kitchen table” issues it has in the past, such as jobs and healthcare, and probably won’t discuss the war very frequently.

It’s a missed opportunity, because the war is an important issue for them to distinguish themselves from the flip-flop Liberals. The war is also having an impact of social programs, in that the $150 million per month Canada spends on the full cost of the war is not available for social programs at home.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could redefine what Canada’s national security needs really are? Shouldn’t we be concerned about job security? Energy security? Environmental security? Those are issues that I would cast my ballot for.

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