Taxpayers deserve truth

The federal government is refusing to reveal the anticipated future cost of the war in Afghanistan on the grounds that doing so would threaten our national security.

The federal government is refusing to reveal the anticipated future cost of the war in Afghanistan on the grounds that doing so would threaten our national security.

Believe it or not, the Conservatives maintain the Taliban would somehow benefit if taxpayers were told how much money we will have to cough up in the near future for the fight overseas.

Of course, that’s silly. Ordinary Canadians, who may be tiring of paying for a war that has so far accomplished relatively little, deserve the truth.

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon, a scoundrel in anyone’s books, tried to hide behind the excuse of “national security” when it came to his own misbehaviour. That strategy worked for a time, but the truth eventually came out — as it nearly always does.

In the case of Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan, Ottawa may be able to keep the mounting costs secret for a while (perhaps until after the next election), but they will be revealed someday.

Canadian taxpayers deserve to have that information now so that they can decide for themselves, before the next election, if we’ve getting much bang for our buck.

From figures released in the past, it’s apparent that the war in Afghanistan is costing Canadians about $1 billion per year, and possibly a lot more than that.

Some political pundits are speculating the Tories won’t release the future expected price of the war because the cost is out of control.

Canadians got really angry when they found out the federal Liberals had squandered at least $1 billion, and possibly $2 billion, on an unpopular gun-control program.

Now it seems that, over the course of several years, the Conservatives are spending billions and billions of dollars on a war that NATO will never win and one that will ultimately do little for the civilian population in Afghanistan.

According to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, the full cost of the mission may exceed $18 billion by 2011.

Perhaps that money would be better spent on schools and hospitals in Canada.

Federal New Democrats ought to be congratulated for pressuring the federal government to come clean on the cost of the military mission in Afghanistan. One can only hope they succeed in shaming the Tories into revealing the truth.

It’s fair for the government to keep such war details as troop movements private, but there is no excuse for declaring the cost of the war a state secret. Doing so simply fuels mistrust and makes one wonder what is really going on with the war.

Canadian soldiers serving overseas deserve the admiration of their fellow citizens back home for their bravery and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice, and they also deserve an honest government.

If they are simply fighting to defend a dishonest government, then our soldiers might as well come home right now. There’s no need to add to the Canadian military’s death toll of 120 in Afghanistan if this is all a political game.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, why won’t you be forthright with Canadian taxpayers?

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.

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