A Bloc Québécois motion condemning the Conservative government's extension of the Afghanistan mission without a parliamentary vote has been defeated in the House of Commons.


Canadian troops will remain in Afghanistan in a non-combat role after 2011, helping to train and support the Afghan army, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says. ((Dene Moore/Canadian Press) )

The non-binding motion, which was largely aimed at exposing deep divisions on the Afghanistan mission among the Opposition Liberals, was defeated on Tuesday evening in a 209-81 vote.

Although three Liberals were absent during the vote, all Liberal MPs present voted with the government to ensure the motion's defeat.

The New Democrats, who supported the motion, released a statement immediately after the vote accusing the Conservatives and Liberals of breaking a promise to Canadians to end the mission in 2011.

But Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae insisted his party has been consistent in its position of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan for the long-term security of the country.

"You can't have a state without security, and that's what we're trying to do," Rae said during a panel interview on Tuesday on CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon.

There was a vote in 2006 and again in 2008 on the Afghan mission, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said assigning a training and technical mission — as opposed to a combat mission — is within the authority of the prime minister.

"My position is if you're going to put troops into combat, into a war situation, I do think for the sake of legitimacy ... the government does require the support of Parliament," Harper said earlier this month.

"But when we're talking simply about technical or training missions, I think that is something the executive can do on its own."

But Bloc MP Claude Bachand lashed out at the government's position that Canadian soldiers won't face combat conditions after 2011. 

"I don't want to hear about all that crap that this is a training mission," Bachand told the CBC's Solomon after Tuesday's vote. 

"This is a military mission."

The Bloc and NDP oppose the extension of the Afghan mission beyond 2011 while Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has indicated he supports a training role for Canadian Forces in the country beyond the end of next year.

The Liberals said Tuesday's vote was not whipped, meaning those who voted against the party leader's direction, abstained or were absent from the House would not face discipline.

The motion calls for the Commons to "condemn the government's unilateral decision to extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan until 2014, thereby reneging on two promises made to the population: one made in the House on May 10, 2006, and reiterated in the Speech from the Throne of 2007 to submit to Parliament a vote on all military deployment; and the promise made on Jan. 6, 2010, that the mission in Afghanistan be strictly a civilian one after 2011 without a military presence, with the exception of security to guard the embassy."