Polls show an increasing unease with the mission, but the actual support numbers remain steady:
51 per cent of respondents across the country said they support the mission, while 45 per cent oppose it. The numbers remained virtually unchanged from a month ago.
In Quebec, support for the nation’s overseas combat activities actually rose to 35 per cent this week from 30 per cent in July, while opposition dropped to 61 per cent from 65 per cent.
Harper doesn't enjoy majority support for his handling of Afghanistan, but:
Canadians are divided on the government’s handling of the mission (44% agree with how the mission is being handled, 48% disagree the rest were unsure).
In Ontario, 50% agree/somewhat agree with the government's managing of Afghanistan, 31% in Quebec.
There is a political danger if all the opposition parties appear too "dovish" on Afghanistan. That reality leaves Harper alone as the champion of the mission, which might enjoy enough public support to give the Conservatives a fighting chance. Afterall, Harper only needs the support of 40% of Canadians to dream of a majority. Even in Quebec, 30% support isn't an electoral disaster, a divided Ontario even more encouraging. The other parties carving up the anti-Afghanistan vote, leaves Harper will plenty of political elbow room.
The government has pulled back recently with the "consensus" talk, and today Harper is again looking to the opposition for support. The key player will be the Liberals, who must find a niche in the mainstream, arguing against the current configuration, will also articulating a responsible future path. Harper is already alluding to the absence of a plan:
But the governing Conservatives say the Liberals, in particular, have not been clear on what type of role for the military should follow.
"We're obviously listening to what the opposition parties are saying, (and) trying to get some sense of what it means, because quite frankly, (for) a couple of those parties, there's quite a change in message from month to month, and even week to week"
The trick for the Liberals, demonstrate opposition, while also laying out a plan beyond "out in 09". If there is a detailed vision, then Harper doesn't enjoy the pro-Afghanistan landscape all to himself- there are alternatives, different paths for "success". I believe it is politically risky to assume that Harper is on the wrong side of Afghanistan, and he will pay a price. A closer look at opinion shows enough core support for Harper to fair quite well, or at the least not suffer the damage many of us assume. In a two-party system, Harper would be quite vulnerable, but Canada's fractured politcal system allows for less than impressive support to translate into viability. Thoughts?