Thursday, October 9, 2008

$18.1 billion: How high will it go?

I have to admit I was quite stunned, although not entirely surprised, when the Parliamentary budget officer came out this morning with his estimate for Canada's cost of the Afghanistan mission: $18.1 billion when the 10 year mission is supposed to end in 2010. This is way higher than the $8 billion that the Conservatives have been claiming all along. Included in the number is not just the price of deployment but also development projects and long term disability for veterans. Not included, however, is the cost of military procurement to ensure our men and women in uniform have the proper equipment to do their job and that could make the total even higher.

No wonder the Conservatives were trying to kill this report -- they didn't want us to find out the truth until after the election. Of course, when the war started there was a Liberal government but to be fair back then we didn't think it would take as long as it has. Frankly, none of our allies in NATO did either. And forget about how on the take Halliburton is in Iraq -- when you're dealing with tribal warlords anything goes.

It's not the amount of money spent, but the value for money that is the issue. Over and over again, the "3-D" goals of defence, diplomacy and development keep getting pushed aside in favour of that fourth D: Drugs. It's not our job, nor the job of our allies, to fight the drug trade -- at least it should not be, when we have drug abuse issues back at home already. At best, the Karzai government is holding on to about ¼ of the country; what else he controls is through agreements that many who support democratic principles would find quite contrarian to those ideals.

The Auditor-General owes it to us to do an investigation of her own -- letting costs get out of hand like this is no less scandalous than Sponsorgate was. The next Parliament, whichever party leads it, must contain the costs or end the mission. As important as rebuilding Afghanistan is, we need to rebuild our economy here first -- especially in times like these.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

No comments: