House of Commons Hansard #210 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vote.

Topics

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Richardson Perth—Middlesex, ON

Madam Speaker, the government stands against the motion on the floor for pretty solid reasons. It breaks with Canadian parliamentary practice. It deals with a hypothetical question which is clearly stated in hypothetical terms. It would set an unworkable precedent in tying the hands of the government when it comes to the timeliness and effectiveness of future deployments of Canadian forces whether in a combat or peacekeeping role such as in the Balkans or anywhere in the world.

In the Canadian parliamentary system the responsibility for deploying Canadian forces lies with the government. For example, there was no formal parliamentary resolution in our entry into the Korean war. Even in 1939 there was no specific resolution declaring war on Nazi Germany. Parliamentary approval for the government's policy was shown through support for the Speech from the Throne and the defence estimates. There was no vote at all in the declaration of war against imperial Japan.

Since 1950 there have been over 50 peacekeeping support operations of varying sizes. In many of these cases parliament was not consulted at all. In the case of roughly 20 major missions which were debated in the House, there were only five recorded votes and three motions were agreed to without a recorded vote. Only three of these occurred prior to deployment: the Congo in 1960, Cyprus in 1964 and the Middle East in 1973.

If the opposition party really disagrees with deployment it should not hide behind procedural motions. It should have the courage to introduce a motion of non-confidence in the government. Our government has delivered on its—

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1:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid I must interrupt the hon. member. We are on questions and comments and not on debate. I trust the hon. member is aware of that and can ask his question.

Does the hon. member have a question of the member who spoke?

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Richardson Perth—Middlesex, ON

I question my position to speak being given to the Bloc Quebecois.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I will comment on my Liberal colleague's comment.

We made comments because it was our turn to do so. We have not taken anybody's turn. We have 20 minutes to make comments but we agreed to share our time. My comments were of normal duration.

I will use the comment the member of the Liberal Party started making to tell him I find it surprising that he would invoke parliamentary practices to deny the House such a vote.

When it is time to send a delegation of 5, 6, 7, 8 or 10 members abroad as part of a parliamentary association or other group, the House is asked to authorize the required funding. It is deemed important for the House to vote on this matter.

Today, we are talking about eventually sending soldiers to risk their lives in Kosovo, and it is deemed not necessary for the House to vote on this. We are told that a cabinet decision will be sufficient. If it takes the approval of the House for 10 members to travel abroad, its approval should also be required to send hundreds or thousands of soldiers abroad.

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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Brampton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I followed with great interest the hon. member's presentation.

We have to remind the hon. member, as my colleague mentioned earlier, we have sent our peacekeepers overseas many times and we never had a debate. Over the last five years I can remember five or six debates and the hon. member participated in them.

Further, last week when the Minister of Foreign Affairs was asked the same question he replied that none of the European nations debated or discussed the issue. The U.K. is sending thousands of soldiers to Kosovo and has never debated it. The U.S. has sent many troops and aircraft and it has never had a debate.

This year we have had a debate. Everybody is free to express their opinions.

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1:45 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I would ask my colleague to check his information. A debate was indeed held in Germany, the country that put forward the peace plan. In the U.S. too there was a debate. The American government has been keeping its citizens better informed on these matters than we have here.

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1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

They are not on top of the situation.

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1:45 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

It is obvious that Canada is not comfortable with its response. As I recall, since the last world war, Canada took part in military interventions on three occasions only—

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1:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am sorry but the hon. member's time has expired. The hon. member for Mercier.

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1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, I think it is extremely important to speak to the motion today, and I will take a few moments to read it again:

That this House demand that the government submit to a debate and a vote in the House the sending of Canadian soldiers to the Balkans who may be involved in military or peacekeeping operations on the ground in Kosovo and the Balkan region.

The Bloc Quebecois has been calling from the start for a vote in this House on the possible deployment of Canadian troops to take part in a peacekeeping mission, and even more so if they are to take part in a ground war which would certainly be a dirty war. The Bloc Quebecois has not said that it is against such a deployment, but it wants to have all the information. It wants this issue to be debated by the representatives of the people.

We hear a lot in the news about what is going on in Kosovo. However, in the House we do not debate the issue with the benefit of all the information available to the government. We had evidence of that on several occasions.

Even though we did not hear about the conflict in Kosovo until some time ago, it is not a recent one. Last year as representative of the Bloc Quebecois at a meeting of the Council of Europe—where colleagues from other parties were also present—I attended debates on the crisis in Kosovo on two occasions. These debates were between parliamentarians from all European countries.

Those were disturbing and harrowing debates. Over there, there are many parties. Parliamentarians are divided in five blocs that have existed since the foundation of the Council of Europe in 1949. Europe has experience in this matter. The debates were disturbing and harrowing, because everybody wanted a peaceful outcome.

Calls for a peaceful settlement, for good will, for the intervention of observers, for third party negotiations were heard ad nauseam. However, what was mostly heard is that Milosevic could not have care less and was deaf to the pleas by the rest of Europe, which has had more than its fair share of wars.

I will quote only a few sentences, but I heard people like Lord Russell-Johnston, who is now the president of the Council of Europe, speak in the name of the liberal group and express his profound sadness and pessimism. This was on April 22, last year.

He said:

The Barsony report is a good report—

This report dealt with what was going on.

—but there should not be any preconditions to the negotiations between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Kosovo. As long as both parties do not move in this direction, the situation will not change and violence will continue. In Northern Ireland also, problems were complex and the situation was serious, but external mediation proved to be useful. Nothing should be excluded from the talks. The Council of Europe does not have to choose between Albanian Kosovars and Serbs. Its only wish is that all citizens live in peace and tolerance. A Liberal is not a priori in favour of an ethnic state, but when the will of a people is so clear—

He was referring to the Kosovars.

—they are entitled to express it. This international principle is recognized in the Charter of the United Nations. Human rights affect everyone. Serbs should recognize the rights of those who have been living in Kosovo for centuries now. They do not have the right to impose anything on anyone.

Mr. Solé Tura, who spent many years in prison under Franco, said:

What is happening in Kosovo is definitely not a Yugoslav domestic problem. Nothing that affects human rights can be reduced to a mere domestic issue.

And I could go on and on. This was a year ago.

I took part in the other debate held in September. A lot was learned from that debate. The Council of Europe was concerned about the hundreds of thousands of Kosovars who had already been displaced and were bracing themselves for a harsh winter in the woods without enough support. Everyone was calling for pressures to be exerted so that peace agreements could be reached. It did not happen.

Finally, there were the Rambouillet talks, where NATO threatened air strikes, which many were already calling and wishing for. Many argued that NATO had to get involved. What did Milosevic do regarding Rambouillet? From what we were told, he massed 40,000 troops at the border.

We are now 26 days into the air campaign. Yesterday, we learned that 150,000 soldiers were fighting under Milosevic.

NATO got involved without waiting for the support of the United Nations for humanitarian reasons. We do not know what will come of this situation, but one thing is sure, we are far from a resolution, far from peace.

If, for the sake a consistency with our first campaign, which has been waged without a UN resolution—which is a first since the creation of the UN—and with our initial intent, which was to prevent the expulsion of the Kosovar people from its land, NATO should decide that ground troops are needed, hopefully with the involvement of the UN, we must hold a debate in the House, because this will not be a walk in the park. Other European countries have not yet decided to get involved. Only 19 countries are NATO members.

We do not know who would be ready to get involved. We need to know all the facts and have all the information. We need to know what the particulars would be. And the UN should be involved.

It seems that some pressure is being put on Russia. We should keep the pressure on. We know that Russia is in a very precarious situation.

Sending ground troops into Kosovo would not be business as usual. We certainly would not know ahead of time how long this operation would take. And there definitely would be some danger.

Our colleagues opposite should be in complete agreement with us on our motion that there be a debate in the House. If there is one important issue in this parliament, in the previous one and even in others before that, it is bound to be this one.

I have expressed my views with some feeling, but it is impossible to look at this issue objectively and not get emotionally involved. Soldiers are human beings, and when they go, there is no guarantee they will return. I am not saying we should not go, but the House should debate this issue as if it were the most important one to be put before us.

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

We will continue with questions and comments after Oral Question Period.

It being almost 2 p.m., the House will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Arthur Meighen
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Richardson Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to announce that on June 16, 1999 the city of St. Mary's will be commemorating the gravesite of the Right Hon. Arthur Meighen, 125 years after his birth.

Arthur Meighen's political career began as a member of parliament for Portage La Prairie, Manitoba in 1908 culminating with his becoming leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. He went on to become Prime Minister in the years 1920-21 and again in 1926. He is best remembered in the House as one of its most brilliant orators.

Other major achievements include the participation and the creation of the Canadian National Railway, prominence in ending the Winnipeg general strike and passage of the Armistice Day Act.

He was a good Manitoban.

His legacy on Parliament Hill lives on through his grandson, Senator Michael Meighen.

Forest Industry
Statements By Members

April 19th, 1999 / 1:55 p.m.

Reform

Bill Gilmour Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, Reform has been calling on the government to oppose the U.S. attempts to restrict the import of specialty wood products. My office has received over 400 letters from constituents who are afraid of losing their jobs as Nanaimo—Alberni is one of Canada's largest suppliers of cedar products.

My riding has already been hit hard by the mismanagement of the fisheries and we must not suffer further by the loss of jobs in the forest industry. If the U.S. restriction succeeds, Vancouver Island will be the hardest hit and stands to lose thousands of forest related jobs. If mill closures occur, many ancillary services such as truckers, machinery operators, engineers, accommodations, small companies and independent subcontractors will also be affected.

Canada must fight any negative reclassification by the U.S. at every step along the way. This government must not back down. It must fight to protect our forest sector jobs.

Earth Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is not much to celebrate on Earth Day in the Province of Ontario. Why? It is because the Ontario government has gutted its environment ministry, laying off over 700 employees. It has stopped enforcing environmental laws, thus allowing Ontario to become North America's third worst polluter.

It has failed to put into place a fair and effective car emission control program. It has allowed pollution from plants burning dirty coal to go up by 60%. It has cut spending on public transit causing the current TTC strike putting more cars on the road and generating more pollution.

In Ontario, Earth Day, rather than a celebration is a call to action as urged by the Ontario Medical Association which points to air pollution as the cause of 1,800 premature deaths every year in that province.

Wayne Gretzky
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Carmen Provenzano Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, Wayne Gretzky's retirement leads many Canadians to recall with fondness No. 99's glory days with the Oilers.

However, for people in Sault Ste. Marie the wonderful memories go back even further, to the year when Gretzky dominated the Ontario Hockey League and gave us the first glimpses of his greatness.

Drafted third overall by the Sault Greyhounds in the 1977 Ontario Hockey League draft, 16 year old Wayne Gretzky went on to have a phenomenal 1977-78 season. He dazzled fans with 70 goals and 112 assists in only 64 games. Regretfully, Saultites watched him move on the following year to the World Hockey Association.

To honour Gretzky's outstanding contribution to the Greyhounds and to the OHL, the great one's No. 99 hangs in the rafters of the Sault's Memorial Gardens.

Only now do we realize how lucky we as Saultites were to have seen Gretzky's magic develop before our eyes. Sault Ste. Marie will be eternally grateful for that one unforgettable season that started our love affair with Canada's most famous son.