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Grits would seek international ban on weaponization of space: leaked platform
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
MONTREAL (CP) - Canada would seek an international deal to permanently ban weapons in space under a re-elected Liberal government, according to a leaked copy of the party's platform.
The pledge is aimed at rallying the nation's more moderate voters behind the Liberals in a late-campaign drive to reverse the governing party's sagging electoral prospects. Paul Martin will take that stand against weapons in space when he unveils his party platform as early as Wednesday and will paint the pledge as the latest in a long line of Liberal-led peace initiatives.
The idea will almost certainly meet with hostility from the U.S. government, coming on the heels of Canada's refusal to sign on to the American missile-defence project.
As much as that missile snub irritated the White House, public opinion polls conducted earlier this year suggested it was a crowd-pleaser in Canada.
The weapons pledge is one of the few headline-grabbing announcements left for a Liberal party seeking to strike a chord with voters before the Jan. 23 election.
"Liberals are firmly opposed to the weaponization of space and recognize that the best time to prevent an arms race in space is before one begins," says the leaked version of the platform.
The 85-page document was posted on the website for the conservative Western Standard magazine and confirms unpublished rumours of an impending Liberal space-weapons announcement.
The proposal is modelled on the 1999 international mine ban treaty, for which then-foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
While the Liberal minister did not win the award, he was applauded for an effort that now includes 146 countries and helped clear more than 130 million square metres of land mines around the world.
The United States, China, India and Russia did not sign on to that treaty and it's entirely possible that the world military powers will also take a dim view of the space-weapons pledge.
The Liberals plan to also draw parallels between their proposed space-weapons plan and past initiatives like Pierre Trudeau's nuclear-disarmament tour and Lester B. Pearson's role in resolving the 1956 Suez crisis, which earned him the Nobel prize.
There is at least one notable difference between Martin's impending promise and the land-mines initiative it is supposed to emulate.
Unlike land mines - a global scourge that has killed and maimed thousands of civilians around the world - there are no weapons in space and won't be for the foreseeable future.
The U.S. says its current missile project, which includes interceptor sites in Alaska and California, does not include imminent plans for weapons in space.
Furthermore, the leaked document concedes that an existing international agreement already bans weapons of mass destruction in space. It adds, however, that no such deal exists for smaller-scale weapons.
The rest of the leaked Liberal platform largely confirms recently announced promises. Those pledges include:
-$30 billion in personal income-tax cuts.
- Eliminating the $975 landing fee for immigrants.
- Up to $3,000 to help first-and last-year undergraduate students with tuition and a $150 million fund to offset tuition costs for those wishing to study abroad.
- $3.5 billion for workplace skills training.
- A so-called "ban" on handguns that would require collectors to disarm their weapons. The plan would also see millions go to police and community projects to help reduce urban crime.
- Continuing to reduce the nation's debt-to-GDP ratio to 20 per cent by 2020 - a level unseen since the early 1970s.
The political aims of the space-weapons ban are unmistakeable.
The Liberals have struggled to find Canada-U.S. wedge issues that would force their Conservatives rivals into an uneasy defence of the more unpopular policies of the U.S. Bush administration.
That strategy - which Martin has attempted on climate change, gun control, the Iraq war and on missile defence - has met with limited success during the campaign.
When Martin rebuked his foes for sharing Washington's hostility to the Kyoto climate-change accord, analysts correctly pointed out his own government's woeful record on greenhouse-gas emissions.
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has also tempered his enthusiasm for President George W. Bush's Iraq invasion and for the missile project.
It was the same with gun control.
Liberals were hoping that their proposed 'ban' on handguns would draw their chief rival into a National Rifle Association-style defence of the right to bear arms.
Instead Harper responded with his own anti-gun package that includes harsher sentencing, and was careful to avoid criticizing the principle of gun control.
© The Canadian Press 2006