Liberal MP defends Trudeau's low profile following Soleimani killing


OTTAWA -- The Liberal parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, Rob Oliphant, is defending Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's low profile four days after a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and exploded Iran-U.S. tensions.

During a Tuesday episode of CTV's Power Play, host Evan Solomon asked Oliphant when Trudeau plans to speak directly to Canadians about the issue.

Oliphant wouldn't say, adding that he's "not privy" to the prime minister's schedule.

"He is engaged in this situation. He's been engaged in it for the last several days. He is talking to military leaders. He's doing his job, and I think that's what Canadians want him to do," Oliphant said.

In the days since the strike, the prime minister has not held any media availabilities or spoken publicly about the issue. His office has only issued statements about the phone calls Trudeau has held with other leaders and sent a tweet from the prime minister's account about the situation.

In the tweet, Trudeau said the safety and well-being of Canadians in the region is his "top priority," adding that he will continue to monitor the situation "closely" and encourage de-escalation.

The prime minister has not directly addressed Canadians.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called out Trudeau over his low profile in a series of tweets on Tuesday.

"Three days since the US attack killed a top Iranian General and we still have not heard directly from PM Trudeau," Singh wrote.

"Mr. Trudeau needs to speak to Canadians and show us his plan for Canada to help calm tensions - not follow Trump into war."

It's a sentiment that Singh's predecessor, Tom Mulcair, echoed during a Tuesday interview on CTV's Power Play.

"One would hope that he would be speaking to the public. It's an earth shattering event and it could lead to really serious things down the road," Mulcair said.

"What's Mr. Trudeau's position on the targeted assassination? That's another important question. What's Canada's role going to be? As a middle power, we can sometime play very important roles...Canadians don't have a clue what Mr. Trudeau's thinking is."

The call for increased communication comes as many unanswered questions circulate surrounding the situation in Iraq. NATO has decided to suspend the Canada-led mission in the region and, as of Tuesday, some of Canada's forces in the region are being temporarily moved to Kuwait "to ensure their safety and security," according to a statement from General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff.

It is unclear how many of the roughly 500 Canadians soldiers in Iraq will be moved. There are also still questions surrounding when – and if – missions will continue in the region, and what kind of fallout can be expected from the escalating U.S.-Iran tensions.

The ongoing dispute between the United States and Iran have been brewing since U.S. President Donald Trump's 2018 withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the imposition of crippling sanctions on Iran.

Since the airstrike, Iran has vowed "harsh retaliation" against the U.S. for what Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called a "heinous crime."