10/09/2014 02:00 EDT | Updated 12/09/2014 05:59 EST

Ex-Grit Minister Sergio Marchi: Harper Plays Politics With ISIL Mission

OTTAWA - A former Liberal cabinet minister says his party and the NDP had no choice but to refuse to support Canada's combat mission against Islamic extremists.

Sergio Marchi, trade minister under Jean Chretien and former ambassador to the World Trade Organization, blamed Prime Minister Stephen Harper for backing the opposition into an untenable position.

Marchi says Harper stonewalled requests for information from the opposition and didn't bother to meet and brief opposition leaders, as is the custom when a country is on a war footing.

Marchi is defending the Liberals after former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy slammed the party for not supporting the mission, and for turning their backs on the UN's responsibility-to-protect doctrine.

In a speech at the University of Ottawa, Marchi says the debate over Canada joining the U.S.-led mission in Iraq is one more example of how Harper has used foreign affairs issues for domestic political gain.

He says Harper has politicized international affairs far beyond what previous Liberal and Progressive Conservative prime ministers have done.

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