House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was political.

Topics

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-393, an act to amend the Criminal Code (witness protection).

Mr. Speaker, with unfailing perseverance, I am pleased to introduce this bill today for the third time.

When first introduced, during the 35th parliament, this bill received majority support on second reading. Because the House was dissolved, however, as a result of the Spring 1997 election call, it died on the order paper.

Subsequently, during the next parliament, I introduced it again, this time to have it eclipsed by another bill introduced by the Minister of Justice.

The purpose of my bill is to amend the Criminal Code in order to give the same protection to any person testifying in proceedings in which the accused is charged with a criminal offence of sexual assault or in which violence against the person is alleged to have been used, threatened or attempted that is currently available under the criminal code to witnesses under the age of eighteen.

I hope my bill will receive the same reception from the members of this House that it did on the occasion of its first introduction.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Broadcasting Act
Routine Proceedings

September 19th, 2001 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

moved that Bill S-7, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act, be read a first time.

Mr. Speaker, as you have--

Broadcasting Act
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. On a Senate bill the hon. member does not normally get an opportunity to give a brief explanation of the purpose of the bill. Does the House give consent to hear one at this time?

Broadcasting Act
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Broadcasting Act
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Broadcasting Act
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Speaker

There is no agreement.

(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I move that the first report of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs be concurred in.

I draw attention to a number of issues that relate to the government's intentions and requirements in the coming weeks.

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time in this debate with my colleague, the member for Saint John.

The report was originally presented to the House on June 14, 2000, during the second session of the 36th Parliament. The report was a major study of the procurement by national defence and it outlined many of the needs of the military.

The level of preparedness of Canada's armed forces has been deteriorating continually since this government came to office.

The government's only military plan is simply to hope that no crisis occurs, that there is no need for the Canadian Forces.

Now we have a crisis before us. The terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington show that there is no limit to what may be made a target. The target can even be in North America.

The information we have received from our security intelligence services establishes clearly that terrorist cells may be found even here in Canada. This has been confirmed by the leaders of other nations, as it was yesterday by the king of Jordan. Our own Prime Minister did not want to tell Canadians all the facts about terrorists. He did not level with Canadians.

Instead, CNN, the American network, confirms for us what our agencies and services are saying in this regard.

The government was informed in June that terrorists would become more dangerous and more determined. There was an indication that Canada was a target. Canadians want to share in the fight against terrorism. We want to win this battle and we know very well that among those first called on to fight the fight will be the men and women of our armed forces.

We ask them to give up their lives in a time of crisis, but this government starved them when they needed new equipment, better working conditions and more support.

The Prime Minister has been invited to Washington. He follows President Chirac, Prime Minister Blair and other heads of state. Our Prime Minister follows behind the parade, because Canada has failed to maintain the level of its international commitments, which our allies count on.

When the Prime Minister goes to Washington, we know what he will be asked. He will be asked to stop the movement of terrorists to and from Canada. He will be asked to extradite or to deport people who are wanted for crimes related to terrorism. He will be asked to curtail the flow of money to terrorists or their organizations, and he will be asked to share intelligence and defence capacities.

Insofar as defence is concerned, the embarrassing question for Canada is, what resources do we have to share?

Let me quote from an article by Jeffrey Simpson in the Globe and Mail this morning entitled “Canada's help: Who are we kidding?”:

The U.S. knows the lamentable state of our military and has periodically complained about it. Canada had one ship in the Persian Gulf, but it has returned home. The navy has frigates, but they remain without helicopters, courtesy of the Chrétien government's cancelling of a contract agreed to by the Mulroney government nine years ago. Ottawa has yet to issue detailed requests for proposals for these helicopters.

The article goes on:

The army has a few special units but lacks sufficient equipment and men to be effective in any dangerous operation. The air force has CF-18s but lacks in-air refuelling capabilities and some necessary technology for serious combat. Canada's military forces are so weak that the Chrétien government's support for any military fight against terrorism will necessarily be limited.

That commentary is by an objective journalist and commentator.

We have no long range tanker aircraft to get our fighter aircraft overseas. Our Hercules transport fleet is aging. Without tankers, it will be difficult for Canadian fighter aircraft to get overseas. The 1st Battalion Royal 22nd Regiment in Quebec is ready for deployment, but it is not a special forces unit. It lacks transport for rapid deployment and would have to go without its heavy weapons. Most of our forces are committed already in peacekeeping operations around the world. Our armoured corps is outdated and our tanks do not have the armour or the armament to stand up to handheld weapons, the sort of weapons terrorists use.

The 1994 white paper on defence called for Canada to contribute a brigade size force of about 5,000 men for sustained overseas operations. We are not capable of carrying out that commitment, according to retired Major-General Lewis MacKenzie.

The Canadian navy is the best off of our three services but it lacks modern, robust maritime helicopters, key to surface actions. It is understaffed and it lacks financial resources.

We are paying a price today for a lack of preparation in the last nine years. The matter we are calling upon to debate, the committee report we are discussing today, itemizes ways in which Canada can move forward and become a respectable military force in the world again. We cannot simply sit back and engage commitments unless we are prepared to accept them. We are facing a commitment now and we are not in a position to do as well as Canada should be doing.

I am pleased to pass my debate time now to the hon. member for Saint John.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, I am a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. I have had the opportunity since 1993 to work on defence and veterans affairs issues and to review in the last couple of years in great detail the state of readiness of our armed forces.

Retired generals and retired colonels came to our committee and made presentations. I wish the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister had been there to hear what they had to say about our armed forces and the needs that are not being addressed by the government that should be.

I am confident in my belief that our men and women in uniform are without some of the essential equipment they might well require in this new war against terrorism.

The House will recall that since my election as an MP in 1993 I have repeatedly risen on the replacement of the Sea King helicopters. As everyone in the House knows, there were those who lost their lives because we did not get the EH-101s to replace those Sea Kings. Members of my family have said to me, “Please get out and fight for the replacement of those Sea Kings”.

The House knows that I have remained firm in my belief that the government has been more concerned with the political consequences that would follow the replacement of the Sea Kings with the EH-101s and not the military factors that make their replacement so essential.

Many here in the House and indeed many in the other place have questioned the government's lack of action in providing our armed forces personnel with the best equipment possible for the tasks we assign them.

In 1999 a report by CSIS said that there were 50 terrorist groups in Canada and they had 350 people working with them. Instead of the government doing something about it, what did it do? It laid off 750 CSIS employees. Instead of increasing the numbers to look after the safety of Canadians, 750 employees were laid off.

Our concerns are not political in nature. Rather, we recognize that our men and women in uniform are not in a position to come to Parliament Hill with placards when their funding is cut. We know that our men and women in uniform are going to the food banks. We are aware that when they came back from peacekeeping missions they were told on the airplane to take off their boots because they had to pass them to the men and women who were going to replace them. Imagine that here in Canada there is not enough money in the budget to even give uniforms and boots to our armed forces.

A senator who went over to Kosovo said that when he saw our peacekeepers he could not believe it when he looked at their uniforms. He could not believe the lack of resources that they had. Our armed forces have repeatedly shown their selfless desire to complete their duties without hesitation. In return we must insist that the government honour its duty to them by providing the tools they require.

Those of us who have advocated increased spending for our military have in the past been called alarmists. It has been said in the House that we live in a post cold war world that does not require us to be as vigilant as we once had to be. Last week tells us differently now. No one in Canada could have predicted the events of last week, and no one in the U.S.A. However those events have served as a vicious reminder that we can never allow ourselves to lower our guard.

In fiscal year 1993-94 the budget for the Department of National Defence was $12 billion. That budget was stripped down to a scandalous $9.4 billion by 1998. We would be wise to bear in mind and consider that it was during the period of these massive cuts that our armed forces operational tempo, the ratio of time spent by our Canadian forces personnel in deployed missions, rose from 6% to 23%.

Today, on the eve of the most important conflict since the second world war, we are witnessing firsthand the price of those deep cuts. The government has as its policy to maintain a regular force of no fewer than 60,000. Yet, as we stand here today, the actual number has dropped below 55,000. Our forces have been called to duty in almost every corner of the globe, to the point where we have made unreasonable demands of our most loyal citizens and their families.

Some of our armed forces equipment has been found to be either unsafe or in need of significant repair each and every time it is to be used. As hon. members are aware, we have frigates that were built in Saint John, New Brunswick. We were supposed to have modified helicopters and that was not done because of the cuts.

A unanimous report was brought forth by our defence committee with all party support. It said that we should continue, on an ongoing rotational basis, the building of navy ships right here in Canada, whether by MIL Davie Inc. or Saint John Shipbuilding Limited.

When I was down in the United States just a week before that horrible attack I met with Vice-President Cheney and I raised the Jones act. I want it on the record that he agreed with me it was time to address the Jones act whereby we cannot bid when ships are being built in the United States but they can bid on all our contracts.

We should not be buying used submarines from London, England, that cannot float. We then pay $800 million to make them float. We should be putting our own people to work. We should be building our ships and giving our navy the tools to do the job.

The House will recall the disturbing reports of rusting and missing parts on helicopters and aircraft like the CF-18. Lives have been lost. We must make sure that no more lives are lost in Canada because our men do not have modern tools to do their job.

The Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs has repeatedly made all party unanimous recommendations to the government in support of more funding and better equipment for our military. Many of us have been encouraged to hear the Minister of Finance indicate that from this day forward no expense would be spared to ensure the safety and security of Canada and our people.

One might ask if we should have been more diligent in the past in maintaining the funding levels at a rate where our operational readiness was not a point of debate. One might also ask if we should have encouraged that state of mind when approaching major equipment purchases like the ongoing process to replace our Sea King helicopters. What the government is proposing as replacements for those Sea King helicopters are not really replacements as they cannot do the job that the Sea Kings could do.

The House will know that the government's instructions are that the procurement process be directed on the basis of the lowest price compliant bid despite the fact that Treasury Board guidelines require such programs to operate under the provisions of a best value principle.

It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to predict what our military needs will be in the coming months. All we know for certain is that our armed forces and our country as a whole must be prepared for the worst. It is no longer acceptable for us to assume that the United States will protect us just as it is no longer possible for us to take comfort in the fact that the cold war has ended.

The sentiment I rise to express today, one of deep respect for our Canadian armed forces coupled with distress at our government's inaction, is one that is shared by a legion of retired military personnel who have committed their years out of uniform to the protection and promotion of those who remain in uniform today. Let us learn from those who have firsthand experience in these matters and let us listen to them. Let us put their wise counsel into practice and let us prove to the world that our armed forces are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

There are many in the world today who hate Canada simply because we are a democracy and friends of the U.S. There are groups with arsenals of weaponry who would do us harm solely because we value freedom, liberty and human rights above all else.

The only thing that makes their existence more frightening is that we cannot say for certain where they are. The events of last week have shown us that despite the best intelligence gathering available these terrorist threats can strike whenever and wherever they want. Those who would do our country, our continent and our friends harm should know that the Canadian armed forces will respond. Those who would seek to end our way of life should think twice about doing so, fearful of the protection we have afforded ourselves.

The reality is that the world knows that Canada's military power is not what it used to be. In the time since the House last sat the American ambassador himself issued a friendly but stern reminder to us that we have defence related obligations to our friends and allies that cannot be forgotten. We cannot take comfort in the security our relationship with the U.S. provides us and then not rise to the occasion when it asks for our help.

Last week, in mourning the loss of the 5,000 innocent victims of this tragedy, our nation showed its infinite capacity for compassion. As the nations of the world prepare for a battle between the forces of good and evil let us remind them why we are known for our courage. We will be there to assist.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I commend my friend from Saint John for her longstanding and passionate advocacy of the need for our country to place much greater emphasis on our capacity to defend ourselves and advance our national sovereignty. She is certainly a very principled advocate of that.

I agreed with her remarks with the exception of her comment on procurement programs such as shipbuilding for national defence. I inferred from her comments that she was suggesting we ought to procure equipment in Canada as a sort of industrial policy.

This is a concern to me because it seems that the objective in providing a strong national defence and maximizing our scarce resources ought to be to seek the best available equipment at the lowest possible price, even if that means tendering defence procurement contracts overseas.

Does she think that if it costs us more to tender a procurement contract for defence equipment to a domestic company that this is in the best interest of advancing our capacity to defend ourselves and maximizing those scarce tax dollars?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, I am saying that our navy should continue to build ships on a rotating basis because when the contract for 10 frigates was received by Saint John, New Brunswick, and MIL Davie Inc., they started to age after 10 years. We are saying one ship a year, whether it be for the coast guard, the navy or whatever.

We are also saying that we should be bidding on the contracts in the United States. The Jones act has blocked us. We were the first ones to go to the U.S. when Ambassador Chrétien was there. I asked him if he was dealing with the Jones act and he replied that he had never been asked. When we went down this time to see the new Canadian ambassador he too said that he had never been asked.

When we went to see Vice-President Cheney he said he was glad we had raised it because it was not right. Canada should have the opportunity to bid down there, build those ships in Canada, and put our people back to work. We have the most modern shipyard anywhere in the world sitting idle right now because we do not have a navy shipbuilding policy, and we can build ships cheaper than anyone else.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I too thank the hon. member for her remarks. One of the things I would like her to address is a policy that is followed by other countries. I am thinking specifically right now of Australia. It does not do what this government does and say “This is the funding for this year”, and then slash a billion or so out of it the following year and tell us that we will just have to make do. It provides long range funding. The military budget is not just a line budget that can be cut up or added to. One cannot build an armed forces that way.

I used Australia as an example but many countries in the world provide long term funding because they realize what a military needs. It needs surety in its planning. It needs reliable funding because it does not raise its own funds. It relies upon parliament. It does not do what the government does here, which is to make it a political football where it slashes even below its own targeted number of troops and equipment revitalization and renewal.

Some say the military should be taken out of the political realm and given long range stable funding so it can plan its future. Then when we ask the men and women of the armed forces to go and do the job they have the tools because they were given the long term funding to make it happen.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Madam Speaker, I totally agree with my colleague. As was stated earlier by our leader, there is an article in the Globe and Mail which says what the colonels and the generals have been stating. It says “The military's limitations were recently displayed when Canada could only participate in peacekeeping operations in Macedonia by transferring troops from elsewhere in the Balkans”.

These are married men and women who have children. They do not even get home to see their families any more. We need long term budgets and not just on a yearly basis. We need a budget that will be there and increased for the next 10 years.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, Lumber Industry.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I will not take much time to debate this report. I wish the House had not considered this report today for a number of reasons. First, the report was tabled on June 12. Anyone who has read the modernization committee report would know that moving concurrence in a report where the government has been asked for a response and not had an opportunity to respond yet is like shovelling air. It does not do anything. I am surprised the right hon. member would not know this.

The government--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Has the government House leader gone to government orders?