House of Commons Hansard #21 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was military.

Topics

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1:35 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, allow me to begin by thanking my hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois for his remarks. I think he touched on a number of things that are absolutely true. He said, among other things, that everyone in every sector is asking for more money. I agree with him on that. Unfortunately, the way representations are made verges on demagoguery at times and is not always truthful.

To illustrate this point, at present, there is an ad campaign across the country, including in Quebec, naturally. It has been going on for several months. This campaign deals with health care needs. Its purpose is to demand funding for health care from the Canadian government. This obviously concerns everyone. But these ads state that the federal government is putting in only 14 cents on every dollar. The truth is more like 40 cents.

The hon. member was quite right in what he said about the defence sector. There is much talk about rationalizing health care. We are told that, before reinvesting massively, it might be a good idea to go through a rationalization process, to take a closer look at how things are being managed. There are other sectors where the figures and the demands do not always match. References were made to fiscal imbalance.

With regards to the Canadian federation and the Canadian government, I think that most provinces benefit from belonging to the country. This is the case for all of the provinces; it is true for Quebec. We receive several billion dollars as a result of our investment in the federation. This is because the federal framework benefits all of the provinces, but to various degrees.

Other demands are being made. Among them, there is the issue of parental leave. There are provinces, Quebec in particular, who want money. They received it in the area of labour training. They asked to take over this area for 30 years. Five years ago, labour training was transferred. The federal government gives Quebec $600 million per year, and we receive a great many complaints.

By and large, I believe that my colleague is right when he says that we need to look into what the Canadian forces should be doing.

I would like to ask him if he is aware that our Minister of National Defence, to whom I tip my hat, is already taking part in consultations through a variety of mechanisms, including a special one on the web site? There are also consultations with a number of major stakeholders here in Canada. That is my question.

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1:35 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I do not want to spend too much time discussing with him the issue of health and parental leave, because I do not share his opinion, and nor do all the members of the Quebec National Assembly and all the provinces of Canada, since they all feel that there is a fiscal imbalance.

However, as regards the last part of his question on a consultation process by the Department of National Defence, I am aware of the existence of a web site and of the fact that the minister will surely consult. He said it earlier. He talked about experts who may be able to tell him how to proceed. But, as far as I am concerned, that is not the issue.

The web site is not accessible by all. There is no one who will go home this evening after having worked all day in a small business and will sit in front of a computer, key in the words “National Defence” and then write “I have something to say about National Defence”. A much broader debate than that is needed.

The government should get the input of the taxpayer, of the person who is working for a small company and sees this evening that there is a broad consultation on National Defence. He will know that he can have a say. This is what we are interested in: broad consultations, not narrow ones on the Internet in the evening, or behind closed doors with military personnel or National Defence experts. Personally, I think that taxpayers should have a say in this.

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1:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the Minister of National Defence for going public in Toronto saying that we need more money. I am surprised at the comments of my colleague from the Bloc. I am sure the people from Quebec, particularly those who are in the shipbuilding business at MIL Davie, and from our shipyard in Saint John and Halifax who build ships for our navy would like to work again. When one talks about being in poverty, the 4,000 men, who worked at my shipyard, are part and parcel of the poverty of today.

I am really shocked at what I am hearing today. When it comes the military, as I stated earlier today, those men and women in uniform cannot come here with placards like everyone else, no matter what the subject. They expect their elected members of Parliament to speak out for them.

When it comes to the replacement of the Sea Kings, does the hon. member think that people did not lose their lives? A pilot from outside my city lost his life in a Sea King. His father came to me and said, “Please get some new helicopters for our people. Give them the tools to do their job”.

How could a member of our defence committee not be in favour of giving more money to our military? It is a number one urgent matter right now with what happened on September 11. If those attacks ever come to Canada, he will have a difficult time answering those questions.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised to see that the hon. member is not aware of the recently tabled National Defence report.

My opinion, the Bloc Quebecois dissenting opinion, is part of that report. What I have taken great pains to try to explain in the past 20 minutes is pretty well what is contained in the dissenting portion of that report.

The hon. member is illustrating how National Defence operates. The hon. member for Halifax wants naval shipyards, wants to see all Canadian vessels built at Saint John. Another member, who has aircraft operations in his riding, will be wanting to have all aircraft built and repaired in that riding. Then there is the gentleman from Shearwater, who will be asking for the landing strip there to be maintained.

That is why I am insisting this needs to be taken beyond the House of Commons. That is why the voters need to have a chance to say “Here is what we want”. Then we will move on from there. It has nothing to do with the personal and political interests of individual members of this House.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank our hon. colleague from the Bloc. He has been consistent in the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs and I thank him for working together on that.

My question for the hon. member has to do with supply chain. I would be interested in hearing how our budget deliberations and what the minister has said recently fit into his position on the supply chain issue.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for this question. Just before the House adjourned in June, there were rumours that the entire supply chain was going to be handed over to the private sector. My colleague and I waged a difficult battle to prevent that from happening. We believe that it is important that the supply chain remain within the army structures. I do not think that the American army would give up its supply chain to private enterprise.

My colleague has given me another idea for an interesting debate that could be held with taxpayers. We could ask them, “Do you agree to privatization within the Canadian forces, within National Defence? How could this be done?” If it were to cost less, it could be interesting. However, it the results were less dependable, then it might not be so good.

In this type of debate on the supply chain, as for all of the types of debates that I raised earlier, I think that the final word rests with taxpayers. It us up to them to say what kind of army they want, what the role of privatization within National Defence should be. My colleague and I hope they will share our perspective.

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1:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to indicate at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the member Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore who is the NDP defence critic and a very capable one.

Before I move to the motion before us, it is appropriate to acknowledge that the member for Saint John, who introduced this motion, has been a tireless, inveterate champion of the needs of men and women of Canada's military service. I want to also say, because I do not get a chance to do this very often, that the same can also be said of my colleague, the defence critic for the NDP, the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore.

On repeated occasions in the House, and again and again before his caucus colleagues, he has championed the need of veterans, the shabby treatment that veterans have received from the government. He has championed the needs of families of military personnel, who all too often have lived in shabby housing and have tried to make ends meet. Some of them have had to go to food banks because of inadequate pay. He has championed the cause of military personnel returning from overseas deployment, often stricken with diseases arising out of their overseas assignments or post-traumatic stress disorders. He has also and continues to champion the military women and men who are in active service on behalf of Canada today.

I listened with care to the Minister of National Defence in his earlier participation in this debate. I heard him say--and I am not sure this is an exact quote but I jotted down the sense of what he said--that when we send armed forces personnel into harm's way, we must be sure that they are properly equipped to fulfill the duties that are assigned to them on behalf of their country. I cannot imagine a single member of the House who would not agree with that statement. I cannot imagine a single Canadian who would think that we should be sending the men and women of our armed forces into harm's way without them being properly supported to fulfill their duties.

That was a rather general statement, a vague and meaningless statement. It really does not commit us to much of anything, not as a Parliament, not members opposite as a government and not the Canadian people.

I want to turn my attention to the motion that is before us. I actually endorse heartily the sentiment that stands behind the motion before us, which is much like the sentiment expressed by the Minister of Defence, that our armed forces personnel must be supported to do their jobs. However it is a bit ironic that the motion itself tends to be sufficiently vague as to be not very meaningful. It certainly is not very specific in terms of the steps or orderly procedure the government must take to act responsibly and fulfill its commitment to the armed forces personnel who serve their country proudly and all Canadian people.

I find the motion troublesome because it is very vague. It fails to mention the government's first priority in a very specific way. The government has failed to act on the recommendation of the parliamentary defence committee to conduct a full review to build public consensus on Canada's foreign policy and, within the context of that foreign policy, the support and commitment to our armed forces personnel who must be able to discharge their responsibilities in the context of that foreign policy.

If the motion were just vague I think we could all support it because it would not mean anything anyway. However, if the motion were to be supported by all members of the House, including government members, it might, in a very unfortunate way, let the government off the hook from getting on with what needs to be done, which is a thorough and comprehensive foreign policy review, how our armed forces fits within that policy and how it will be able support our commitments internationally.

I am not interested in letting the government off the hook. We need to unite and, I would think unanimously, to call upon the government to carry out that full discussion about our role in terms of international relations and our defence policy.

I have a third reason for finding the motion before us in its current form to be particularly troublesome this week. Last Wednesday the finance minister appeared in Halifax to talk about the state of the nation's finances and about the priorities for the future. Despite the fact that we are now in the fifth year of budget surplus, that we are way ahead in terms of debt reduction, of where the government's own plan would have had us if the performance of the economy and debt reduction had occurred based on its plan, the Minister of Finance declared we were projecting a budget surplus of $1 billion.

I know it is not specifically cited by the motion, but the recommendation of the defence committee was that there should be an increase in defence spending in each of the next three successive years of $1.3 billion. I think the government is low balling the projected surplus. I do not think there is any question about that. Even if it is remotely correct about a projected surplus of $1 billion, what does it mean to have a motion today that is so vague as not to talk about any facts and figures that relate to a specific international affairs consensus in the country with the military budget that is needed to support our responsibilities? What does it mean when it does not relate to specific expenditures? That is a problem enough. However, what in the name of heavens would it mean if the motion were construed to mean that yes, an absolute minimum of $1.3 billion in each of three successive years must be spent no matter what? It would have the effect of a unanimous resolution in the House, despite the fact that we have a very severe crisis in health care, because of billions and billions of dollars ripped out of our health care system and a royal commission about to make recommendations of how we remedy this; despite the fact that we have commitments internationally in conjunction with the Kyoto protocol that are critically important that we act on.

In the long run the investment will save money in becoming a more sustainable society. However, in the short run are we serious about saying that if there is a $1 billion budget surplus that just in the next year $1.3 billion needs to be spent on defence and not a cent toward our health deficit, our post-secondary education deficit, our severe housing deficit or our continuing disgraceful degree of child poverty?

I think the motion lacks specificity which, I say regretfully, makes it very difficult to support such an open-ended motion and one that is not lodged in the context of these two very important public policy matters. What will be Canada's commitment internationally and the defence requirements attached to it, and what will be the fiscal framework for addressing the deficiencies with respect to our support for the military?

Heaven knows, we are four square in our commitment to replace the Sea Kings right off the top, but we have no indication of what of the plan is within our responsible framework. We certainly are not in a position to make commitments without there being a fiscal framework within which we are making responsible choices among responsible priorities.

We support the sentiment that is behind the motion. However we would have a difficult time rationalizing support for it for the reasons I outlined.

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1:55 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock
Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Halifax who has one of the largest naval presences in her riding. I am sorry to see her leave the position of leader of the NDP. When I see someone like Toronto's Jack Layton calling for $47 billion for municipalities, I hope the members for Regina--Qu'Appelle and Winnipeg--Transcona are out selling a lot of memberships. The $47 billion does not include a cent toward military. It is all toward other things.

Before she leaves, would the leader of the NDP take time to remove from the books of the NDP a motion that was made by its membership asking Canada to withdraw from NATO? Would she also tell us what her feeling is on that based on the fact that she does have a huge riding made up of military personnel?

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member is quite correct, I have a large population of military personnel in my riding. It has been a great privilege and pleasure to count them among my constituents. I am grateful for the incredible support that they have given me, not just in seven years in Parliament, but 15 years as leader of the New Democratic Party, and as provincial member for Halifax as well.

Some people have always found it surprising that the military have been so supportive. The base within my riding, for example, has in almost every election overwhelmingly given me its majority support. I do not know whether the member will be unhappy to know that I am not going very far. I accept his good wishes, but it is my intention to seek the mandate of the people of Halifax, including the military men and women who serve so capably in our armed forces.

Let me address the question that the member has raised, because whether I am coming or going, it is an important question. It helps to underscore the point that I am making about how irresponsible it is for the government not to be getting on with urgent haste to conduct the overall review of our international obligation and of the foreign policy framework within which we can responsibly support our military to conduct the tasks that are assigned to it.

If the member who has raised the question is genuinely concerned about the role of NATO as it relates to Canada's foreign policy then will he not join us in pressing his government from the backbenches of the Liberal caucus to demand that we have that full review so that we are making responsible decisions about our international commitments including the military support that is necessary to carry them out?

Parliamentarians for Global Action
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, Parliamentarians for Global Action, an association of democratically elected parliamentarians representing all regions of the world, whose Canadian branch I chair, is holding its 24th annual Parliamentary Assembly for the first time ever in Canada. More than 90 parliamentarians from over 50 countries are convening this week to address the International Criminal Court, the most dramatic development in international criminal law in years, and the Duty to Protect, an emerging and compelling international law doctrine. Both are crucial instruments in preventing mass atrocities, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and bringing those responsible to justice.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and former minister Lloyd Axworthy opened the conference this morning. The international parliamentary delegations include major figures in human rights law. For the first time ever a Canadian, Ambassador Philippe Kirsch, is the recipient of the prestigious PGA Defender of Democracy Award, together with Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special representative for Afghanistan.

I wish to express my appreciation to DFAIT, CIDA and you, Mr. Speaker, for the support we have received in the organization and financing of this conference.

Queen's Jubilee Medal
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, November 13, 2002, it will be my honour to present the Queen's Jubilee Medal to 18 very worthy people from across southern Alberta. All these recipients have contributed to the communities and people around them in significant and unique ways.

The recipients are: Richard Papworth, Bernard Nieboer, Erna Goertzen, Robert Lee, Stella Lacey, Henry Lindstedt, Mary Schneider, Gary Bowie, David Carpenter, Keith Robin, Dick Dewert, June Hepple, Irma Dogterom, Flora Matteotti, Carol Steen, Carol Gemer, Colin Weir, and Ralph Thrall Jr.

So often we do not take the time to thank the unselfish people who have worked so hard in their own way to make this country great. On behalf of all Canadians, I wish to congratulate and thank them all.

Federal Electoral Boundaries
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Electoral Boundaries Commission for Quebec will not respond appropriately to several of my letters, that is the letters dated September 12, 13 and 19, and October 1, 2002, concerning a number of issues, including the regions of Nunavik and the Abitibi.

Moreover, it is referring me to several Internet sites, such as those of Elections Canada, Statistics Canada and Natural Resources Canada.

On October 9, 2002, in response to my letter dated October 1, 2002, Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley, wrote “I would like to make it clear that the federal electoral boundaries commissions established in the ten provinces operate at arm's length from Elections Canada. Their independence is a fundamental aspect of the federal readjustment process”.

Highway Infrastructure
Statements By Members

November 4th, 2002 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, the Minister of Transport entertained a petition brought to his attention by business people and stakeholders in the political community, who were accompanied by the hon. member for Beauce.

This petition is calling for highway 73 to be recognized as a national interest highway and for the safety conditions and traffic flow on route 173 to be significantly improved up to the Armstrong border crossing.

This petition was signed by more than 22,000 citizens, as well as more than 200 social and economic businesses and organizations, and municipal corporations.

Highway 73 and route 173 go through Beauce up to the Armstrong border crossing, and together, form the main artery to New England.

The people of Beauce are counting on the Government of Canada to help them put in place 21st century highway infrastructure.

Canada Career Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada Career Week is taking place from November 3 to 9. This year's theme, “Focus on the Journey”, reminds job seekers to keep their minds open and to seize opportunities as they make their way through life and career.Innovation and apprenticeship opportunities are essential to get a better job and a higher income.

This year, Canada Career Week is all the more important because it is supporting two priorities announced in the Speech from the Throne. These are the innovation strategy of the Government of Canada and the commitment to help Canadians gain the skills and knowledge required to find their place in the job market.

Such a week highlights what can and must be done to allow all Canadians to assume their rightful place in the labour market.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, last spring, in an attempt to cloud a complete lack of vision for agriculture by his government the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board said western farmers must plant more trees. He said two million acres of trees in Saskatchewan alone would alleviate the dependence of farmers on traditional crops.

One farmer in my riding took the minister's directive seriously. Joe Nicodemus developed a system to make cattle feed from white poplar trees. Expanding on an idea borne out of desperation during the 1930s, Mr. Nicodemus chips, then shreds these trees to make a silage that is high in vitamins and minerals.

Mr. Nicodemus, thinking his project timely, what with the directive from the minister and the feed shortage in western Canada, applied through the government's CARDS program for help in financing the expansion of his operation to a commercially viable size. Imagine his surprise to be denied, with no reasons given.

Mr. Nicodemus is now convinced, as are all other western farmers, that the Liberal government is all rhetoric and incapable of understanding the problems in agriculture, let alone having the solutions that are required.