The so far secret total cost of the Afghan war has the potential to become a major mid-campaign issue.
After some stalling, Stephen Harper agreed last week to the release of a report on the complete monetary cost of the Afghanistan war for Canada by Parliament Budget Officer Kevin Page. The report includes an estimate of future financial costs and, according to media interviews with Page, comes to a figure that far exceeds the $8 billion the Conservatives have floated.
The report was requested by NDP M.P. Paul Dewar. Once the election was called, Page said he needed all party consent before he would agree to release the report during the campaign. All Opposition Leaders quickly wrote him to give their OK. Harper only agreed once his reluctance started to generate headlines.
Meanwhile, news broke Thursday of a huge $22 billion estimate in an imminent report by Dalhousie University security analyst David Perry. Perry’s report includes both actual costs so far and an estimate of future costs for everything from the replacement of destroyed military equipment to long term care costs for the projected 41,000 Canadian veterans of the Afghan war. Perry’s estimate does not include costs for aid. It will be published in International Journal.
The financial cost of the Afghan mess promises to increase already high levels of opposition to the war amongst Canadians. Getting Harper to come clean on a real estimate of costs should be a focus of the televised leader’s debates. NDP Leader Jack Layton can now push on the cost issue and add it to the many other reasons the Afghan mission is a mistake.
The financial cost issue may even help shift some seat results, particularly in Quebec.