The prime minster’s principal secretary took the rare step Tuesday of directly engaging the government’s critics over social media, when he got into a Twitter spat about the Liberals’ revamped mission against Islamist extremists in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been under fire from political opponents and pundits who argue that he has failed to adequately explain his decision to withdraw Canada’s six CF-18 fighter jets from the bombing mission targeting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
On Monday Trudeau announced the jets will end bombing runs by Feb. 22, fulfilling a pledge the Liberals made during last year’s election campaign. But as part of the same announcement, the prime minister said the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to support coalition airstrikes by supplying allies with two surveillance aircraft and an air-to-air refuelling tanker.
Canada will also increase the number of troops training local forces in northern Iraq to over 200, and arm local fighters who are combating Islamic State militants.
Stephanie Carvin, an associate professor at Carleton University who specializes in war and technology, tweeted on Monday that the Liberal government should “own” the decision to “stop” the combat mission.
Gerald Butts, a prolific Twitter user who is among Trudeau’s closest aides, responded by sending a tweet asserting the Liberals have “been making this argument for 18 months. We’ve owned it a long time.”
Steve Saideman, the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton, chimed in by describing the Liberal strategy as “incoherent.”
Butts then engaged in a back and forth with the pair in which he defended the government position, including by stating that, “Our view is equipping locals to fight has the best probability of success.”
– With files from Bruce Campion-Smith