‘What’s enough? What’s enough?’: Harper fires back when asked if Canada is doing enough for migrants

Conservative Leader says ’s military mission in the Middle East must last for “the long haul” to defeat Jihadist extremists in the region.

As well, as political pressure mounts on the prime minister to bring more Syrian refugees to Canada, he insists this won’t solve the problem.

Harper made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge that was broadcast Monday night.

Among the highlights of what Harper said:

He believes the only party that should form a government after the Oct. 19 election is the one that wins the most seats. He insisted it would be improper if the opposition parties join forces after the election and ask the Governor General to be given a chance to govern.

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The Conservatives are running on a platform that is not “expensive” and, if re-elected, there are no “cuts in the offing” to government programs. However, he spoke about how he would stick to how governments should be “modernizing their systems, thinning their bureaucracy.”

He holds former chief of staff Nigel Wright responsible for keeping him in the dark on Sen. Mike Duffy’s expenses. Although there is court evidence that suggests his current chief of staff, Ray Novak, also withheld the facts from him, Harper said there is no one on his staff who he believes “deceived me or acted unethically or irresponsibly.”

He declined to say if his own judgment should be called into question after some of the people he appointed to places such as the Senate got into trouble. Instead, he blamed the unaccountable culture in the Senate itself for the problem.

As the election campaign picks up steam, pollsters are finding a tight three-way race amid a deep desire for change among most voters.

Harper insisted that a change in government now would be bad for the country, and he defended his approach after a decade as prime minister.

I am who I am. Canadians know me. I’m not perfect, but you know, I’m dedicated to my country, I love my country

“I am who I am. Canadians know me. I’m not perfect, but you know, I’m dedicated to my country, I love my country. I think I’ve done as good a job as I can do and I lead a great team of people.”

The interview was recorded last Thursday as the Syrian refugee crisis exploded on the campaign trail when it was learned the photo of a three-year-old dead boy on a Turkish beach came from a family with relatives who hoped to eventually bring them to British Columbia.

In addition to sparking a sudden political debate over refugee policy, the development drew attention to the differing positions between the governing Conservatives and their rivals on military policy.

The Conservative government, over the objections of the NDP and Liberals, ordered a military combat mission into Iraq and Syria last year.

Six CF-18 jets are dropping bombs on ISIL targets in both those countries and about 70 military trainers are training local forces on the ground in Iraq. The mission is due to end next spring, but Harper indicated it will last much longer than that.

Two Canadian F-18 fighter jets sit in a hanger at Camp Patrice Vincent in Kuwait on Sunday, May 3, 2015. “We have to be in for the long haul,” Harper told Mansbridge.

“There’s no instant solution. But what we do know is that we cannot just withdraw, allow ISIS to spread the way it was spreading a year ago and use this as a staging area for international terrorist attacks against the world, including against us.

“It’s easy for the Liberals or NDP to say we’re going to pull out Canadian forces. But I don’t think our allies are going to say we could all pull out. That would be an absolute catastrophe.”

A military pullout, he said, would only lead to more refugees and also quickly create a “radical escalation and a security threat to our own countries. We cannot tolerate that.”

Harper described the Syrian situation as politically “messy” because neither the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, nor the “jihadist extremists” can be supported.

He said Canada is training a “good fighting force” of Kurds in northern Iraq to battle ISIL, but the local troops in the southern part of the country are not so efficient.

“There’s going to have to be a more effective ground force. And I don’t think there’s any desire or willingness for that to come from our country.”

In the meantime, Harper said, “rich, privileged nations” like Canada have an obligation to help Syrian refugees, but he struck back at questions over whether this country is doing enough.

“What’s enough? What’s enough?” he shot back repeatedly.

“It’s not just enough to turn around and say, ‘Oh let’s admit more refugees.’ We can admit thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands more refugees and we are still going to see those kinds of images.”

About Mark Kennedy, Postmedia News