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15 May 2006

Letter from Jon Silbernagel to:

The Rt Hon Stephen Harper

Prime Minister

House of Commons

Ottawa, Ontario

Canada

Dear Mr Harper:

It has been reported that you and your political colleagues will extend the stay of our armed forces in Afganistan. In the past you have spoken to us about democracy and tell us that it will prevail tomorrow in this country when the decision to extend will be debated and voted upon by parliament.

Politcal parties are corporate business. They are in the business of receiving cash, goods and services in exchange for land, contracts, licences,tax breaks,subsidies, grants, etc. which are delivered when their receivables successfully pay for the election of their chosen people.

It’s simple “pay-off politics – pay-off parliaments” and constitutes the ultimate corruption of democracy. As an example, your party and the Liberals before you have received millions from US interests. Now the lot of you are bound to represent US interests in our Parliament – their interest in the Afganistan being your latest obligation – the continued armed robbery of the Middle East.

You cannot help yourself and no party in this nation will act to end pay-off politics because it would mean the end of the political party system that continues to corrupt democracy in our nation and produce decisions based on brute ignorance. I understand. You are only doing what politicians have done before you.

US interests compell you and your party politicians to send our people to sustain injury , dismemberment and death in the Middle East. The deaths of poor people in distant places will inspire hatred against our country and our people. Such hatred puts us all at risk of the kind of deadly retaliation witnessed in London and Madrid. You know, it is simple stuff – what goes around comes around. In our crowded places like stadiums, subways, trains, cruiseship terminals and places of mass gathering for celebration and holiday, it is we who will die, Mr Harper. Unlike politicians, we do not command the protection of CISIS, the RCMP or the armed forces. We will be the vulnerable, out doing the everyday things that make our country a nation when we die.

For democracy to prevail it will not happen in parliament. It is a decision for our people to make through the ballot – through plebiscite. Mr Harper, you may send our people to their deaths through a vote in parliament but you cannot do that and have democracy.

Yours faithfully,

Jon Silbernagel

VANCOUVER SUN

Mike Blanchfield

CanWest News Service

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Canadians are deeply divided over Canada's military mission in Afghanistan, a division made worse by the decision to extend the deployment another two years.

The finding comes in a poll taken in a week that saw the country's first female combat death and a vote in the House of Commons that showed MPs as divided as the country over the fight against the Taliban.

The CanWest/Global National poll by Ipsos Reid shows support for the Canadian troops in Afghanistan remains relatively high at 57 per cent. That's up slightly since a pair of Ipsos polls in March showed 54 and 52 per cent approval ratings for the mission.

But, in what could be a troubling finding for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, only 44 per cent of Canadians back the two-year extension of the mission.

The telephone survey was conducted Tuesday to Thursday as Parliament debated Harper's motion to extend the Afghanistan mission and Capt. Nichola Goddard was killed in a firefight, becoming Canada's 17th casualty in the war-torn country.

Parliament approved the extension by a 149-145 margin Wednesday night, but not before some political mudslinging from the opposition over Harper's decision to call a vote on two days' notice. The Bloc Quebecois and NDP opposed the extension, as did three-quarters of the Liberal caucus.

Ipsos senior vice-president John Wright said that while Harper may lack the support of most Canadians for an extension of the mission, Afghanistan won't hurt his ability to make a run at a majority government sometime next year.

Harper's March trip to Afghanistan has also managed to slightly raise support for the mission, despite mounting casualties.

Support for the extension was highest in Alberta (66 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (54 per cent) and lowest in Quebec (27 per cent).

Only 48 per cent of Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents, 47 per cent of Ontario residents and 44 per cent of British Columbia residents approved of the extension.

Of the 57 per cent who support the mission overall, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) back the extension to 2009.

Overall support for the mission remains the strongest in Alberta (70 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (69 per cent). Wright said that by asking for the extension, Harper has taken ownership of the Afghanistan deployment from the Liberals, who sent the military on this current mission last year.

Harper said Friday he doesn't expect the extension to lead to an increase in the number of Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan in the coming years, predicting that 1,800 to 2,400 will serve in the country at any given time.

There are about 2,300 Canadian military personnel in Afghanistan now.

© The Calgary Herald 2006