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Elections are a time to discuss important issues. Judging by Stephen Harper’s avoidance of the subject, Canada’s war in Afghanistan isn’t an important issue.

Canada has about 2,500 troops stationed in Kandahar, one of Afghanistan’s most volatile provinces. To date, almost 100 Canadians, including Michael Starker, a paramedic and member of CUPE 3421 in Calgary, have lost their lives in the conflict.

Still, Harper insists Afghanistan doesn’t merit discussion. In fact, he has gone to great lengths keep the war off the election table.

Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page created a report tallying the total cost of the Afghan war since it began six years ago. The report [PDF download], released Oct. 9th, predicts the war in Afghanistan will cost $14 to $18 billion by 2011.

Whatever the price, the cost to our troops and their families is far greater. The Canadian government is sending soldiers to fight in a war that even Britain’s senior military commander admits cannot be won.

Instead, British Brig. Mark Carleton-Smith, and Afghan defence minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak, have suggested the political negotiation is a better route for resolving the conflict. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have repeatedly dismissed or mocked parties who have advocated negotiations.

We have lost so many troops in the war that a military casualty does not even guarantee front page news anymore. But Stephen Harper has vowed to extend Canada’s involvement in the war until 2011.

CUPE is calling on all party leaders to make Afghanistan an election issue. It is time for a safe and immediate withdrawal of all Canadian forces from the Afghanistan combat mission. For the people of Afghanistan, Canada must deliver on the aid and development assistance commitment made through the Afghanistan Compact.

This election, support our troops. Choose a leader who is going to bring them home.