POLITICS

Tom Mulcair Warns Against Moving 'Full Force' Into War In Iraq

10/01/2014 12:51 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is warning against being propelled "full force into a war" against ISIS in Iraq, as MPs wait to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper's plan for a Canadian contribution.

"This is not a UN mission, so we've got to be extremely careful before we start listening to the siren song of those who would propel us full force into a war," Mulcair said as he left the party's weekly caucus meeting on Parliament Hill Wednesday.

Asked whether Mulcair would consider supporting an air combat mission with an end date, he said there's no proposal right now.

"We certainly haven't heard the Conservatives make the case for that. They haven't in any way, shape or form been able to show to the Canadian people why that [sending CF-18 fighter jets] is Canada's best contribution in the current crisis there. If he was able to make that case, he would have started doing it. He can't make that case," Mulcair said.

The NDP leader says he was briefed by Harper before Canadian special forces went into Mali, but hasn't yet been offered a briefing on a possible mission in Iraq to combat fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria..

The New Democrats said Wednesday that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told them in an email that only 26 special forces troops are on the ground in northern Iraq, rather than the 69 the government had said it was sending.

Airstrikes 'heavily considered'

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau echoed Mulcair's complaint that Harper has not convinced him of the need for a combat mission.

"The prime minister seems intent on taking us into a war in Iraq. It is his job to make the case for that and so far he has failed in any level of openness, transparency or frankness in his actual approach," Trudeau said after the Liberal caucus.

He said the revelation that there are 26 Canadian special forces in Iraq shows the "government is preferring to be secretive and play games."

Conservative MP Erin O'Toole, a former fighter pilot, said he hasn't heard any discussion of how many planes might go if cabinet decides on an air mission, or a timeline for any potential mission. But he suggested the government favours an air combat role.

"We've got to play a role commensurate with our size and ability and those decisions are being made on what type of role that should be. Airstrikes is one option that is being heavily considered," O'Toole said.

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