By Rich Coleman
On Feb. 8, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed up on another federal election campaign promise.
He announced Canada will be pulling its six CF-18 fighter jets out of the coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria by Feb. 22.
It caused a great commotion within the Conservative Opposition ranks, with Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod stating Canada’s withdrawal from the airstrikes in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has no rationale to it.
Noting Trudeau made the promise while he was leader of Canada’s third party, McLeod said he hasn’t given a good explanation for moving forward with that promise as Prime Minister.
However, the promise to pull the CF-18s was one of the main planks of Trudeau’s election campaign last fall.
Meanwhile, interim Conservative Party leader Rona Ambrose called Canada’s withdrawal from the bombing mission against ISIL a “shameful step backwards.”
She noted maintaining the CF-18s with the coalition airstrikes would be a symbol that Canada is involved in the war against terrorism.
Polls have indicated young Canadians don’t like the pullout either.
However, Trudeau is moving forward with his new strategy, which is a significant shift in foreign policy for Canada.
The people being terrorized by ISIL don’t need vengeance, he said, adding they need Canada’s help.
So, the Prime Minister is not abandoning the war on terrorism; however, he is changing Canada’s role in the fight against ISIL.
Now, Canada will increase the number of trainers of the Iraqi security force from 69 to 200; it will add 230 more troops to the 600 personnel already serving on the ground; and provide significant humanitarian aid to people fleeing war-torn Iraq and Syria.
Canada’s commitment will also include maintaining aircrew and support personnel for one CC-150 Polaris aerial refuelling aircraft and up to two CP-140 Aurora aerial surveillance aircraft.
Canada will also send troops to mark targets for the coalition partners.
Altogether, Trudeau is committing an expenditure of $1.6 billion over three years.
In a written statement, Ambrose said increasing the number of special forces in a training capacity and the additional humanitarian assistance “are only designed to distract Canadians from the withdrawal of our CF-18s.”
However, coalition partners are stating they don’t need Canada’s jets, but they welcome the training, surveillance and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and Syria.
Trudeau said the Liberal government will debate the new policy and put it to vote in Parliament when the House of Commons resumes on Feb. 16.
It will be interesting to see how that goes.
Meanwhile, it is refreshing to have a government follow through on election promises.