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Canada won’t commit more troops to Libya during election: Harper

The Canadian government will make no further commitments in Libya until the federal election is over and a new Parliament has been summoned, Stephen Harper said Friday.

"Canada has made its contribution," the Conservative Leader told reporters at a campaign event in Thornhill, on the northern edge of Toronto. "It's an important contribution. We'll continue to discuss this with allies."

But he reiterated his government's determination not to commit ground forces in Libya.

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"And in terms of any requests for additional participation, we will not make those kinds of commitment during an election campaign," he added.

"To make any kind of additional commitment would require the Parliament of Canada to be sitting and to be discussing these matters."

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is in Berlin with Canada's NATO allies in search of ways to increase the pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to surrender power.

But it is clear that, with the United States no longer willing to lead air strikes against Col. Gadhafi's forces, the remaining NATO planes and ships under the command of Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard lack the firepower to prevent government troops from attacking rebel-held positions.

Mr Harper reiterated the Canadian government's wish to see Col. Gadhafi gone.

"We believe for the population to be truly protected we have to see the end of Mr. Gadhafi's leadership," he said.

But until a new Parliament and government are in place, Canada will take no greater role in bringing that outcome about.

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In theory, the prime minister and cabinet have the authority to make any foreign-policy commitment without consulting Parliament. But Mr. Harper has made it a standing practice not to put troops in harm's way without the approval of Parliament.

Beyond that, by constitutional convention, the government of the day assumes a caretaker role during election campaigns.

Mr. Cannon was able to leave his personal campaign for re-election in the Quebec riding of Pontiac to represent Canada at the NATO conference. But he lacks the authority to make commitments that could bind a future government.

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About the Author

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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