Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce on Friday a five-person panel of prominent Canadians who will be tasked with coming up with a consensus on Canada's future role in Afghanistan, CTV has learned.
Insiders told CTV that Harper wants to take the partisanship out of the Afghanistan mission that has divided the country, especially as the death toll has risen over the past two years.
The panel will come up with options on the role Canada should play in the war-torn nation after the combat mission ends in February 2009.
The panel of high-profile Canadians is expected to include:
Former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley
Derek Burney, Canada's former ambassador to Washington and former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney
Respected broadcaster Pamela Wallin, who was Canadian consul general in New York
Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Jake Epp
Paul Tellier, former Clerk of the Privy Council and former president and CEO of Canadian National Railway and Bombardier
The panel may consider whether to withdraw or significantly reduce combat troops and replace them with CF-18 fighter jets at Kandahar airfield as the French are doing.
Harper wants to take the "partisanship" out of the equation, so he announces a panel of five, with three Tories, a Liberal who has been a firm supporter of the mission in the past and a former TV anchor for flavor. Non-partisan? Apart from that insult to the senses, do I really think Pamela Wallin is qualified enough to tell Canadians what we should do in Afghanistan?
This is a stunt, more than a real outreach, meant to diffuse the issue, heading into an election. I can just hear Harper now out on the road, telling everyone about his expert panel of non-partisans, his magnanimous approach. We are all fools if we buy into this marketing campaign.