By Dan Albas/Contributor
This week is a constituency week, when the House of Commons is not sitting after having been in session for the previous two weeks and the House will resume next week for a three week session until the next constituency week.
For the sake of interest between now and the House adjourning on June 23 for the summer recess, there will be a total of six constituency weeks and 13 sitting weeks remaining.
What happens during a constituency week? Contrary to the opinion of some, a constituency week is not a holiday for MPs or MLAs. Constituency weeks provide opportunities to meet with local citizens as well as other groups and organizations in an MP’s home riding.
Constituency weeks also provide opportunities for cabinet ministers as well as Opposition critics to travel into different regions of Canada to attend similar meetings and in some cases government may also make announcements relevant to certain areas.
As we also learned this week, the government may also choose to announce a major policy change during a constituency week as was the case when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally announced a new policy on Canada’s mission against the terror group ISIS.
As was promised by the Liberals during the election, our CF-18 fighters that have been part of the allied air coalition against ISIS will be withdrawn and returned to Canada. However, these will be the only aircraft withdrawn as our Polaris refueling and Aurora surveillance aircraft will remain in the region to assist the continued bombing operations by our coalition partners.
In addition, the current 69 members of our Armed Forces who are on the ground providing training and assistance with bombing activities will be increased almost three fold to 230 soldiers.
Another change is that small arms and related ammunition will also now be provided to Iraqi security forces along with the deployment of Canadian helicopters to provide medical evacuations.
Over and above these changes, the current humanitarian aid being provided in the region will also be increased. The total cost of the new mission is estimated to increase as a result up to $1.6 billion in total over the next three years.
My thoughts? It is disappointing the prime minister did not make this announcement in the House of Commons where the original mission was announced on March 24, 2015. An announcement in the House allows the Opposition to directly question the government and an opportunity to respond while at the same time also ensures the prime minister’s comments are on the official record.
Why is this important? During his response speech to the current mission announced last year Trudeau, then leader of the third opposition party, stated: “We can and we should provide that training far from the front lines.”
In reality, and as confirmed by Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, our training soldiers will be continue working near the front lines “painting targets” that in turn will be bombed by our allied coalition partners under the new Liberal announced plan.
This also raises another point of concern I have. The fact that Canada will continue to provide reconnaissance aircraft to locate targets, as well as to provide aerial tankers so allied bombers can reach those targets, and finally troops on the ground to paint the targets to be bombed demonstrates the critical importance of aerial bombing to this mission.
Yet while Canada remains implicitly and actively involved in the bombing of ISIS the withdrawal of our CF-18s in essence suggests we support our allies doing this heavy lifting but no longer stand shoulder to shoulder carrying an equal load as has always been the Canadian way.
I welcome your thoughts, questions and comments on this or any subject before the House of Commons. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.