House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Question No. 247
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

The Government of Canada is committed to making Canadians aware of what federal programs are available and how to access them. For 2002-03, there was one campaign focused on the national child benefit, NCB. This campaign was aimed at raising awareness of programs and services supporting children and families and at providing details on where to get more information on these services. The campaign highlighted the national child benefit, NCB program for low income families as there was low awareness of the NCB among the Canadian public. The NCB is a federal/provincial/territorial initiative to which the Government of Canada contributes by increasing the Canada child tax benefit, CCTB, for low income families with children.

As with all federal government advertising campaigns, the campaign was focus-tested for integrity and efficacy to help ensure that it would meet its stated objectives. Post-testing confirmed that the campaign had, indeed, achieved its objectives.

The Government has an obligation to inform Canadians about its services. In order to reach Canadians, the campaign included advertisements in

· over 100 national, local, ethnic and aboriginal TV stations,

· over 100 national and local radio stations,

· about 1,500 daily, weekly, ethnic and aboriginal newspapers, and

· several family targeted monthly magazines.

The cost of this campaign was $6.5 million.

Question No. 249
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Pursuant to Section 3(1) of the Regulations Respecting the Disposition of Seized Property, Seized Property Management Act, how many properties seized since the coming into force of the Regulations have been disposed of: ( a ) by public tender; and ( b ) by public auction?

Question No. 249
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Under section 3(1) of the Disposal Regulations of the Seized Property Management Act, properties are defined as any properties seized or restrained by court warrant or forfeited to Her Majesty under various proceeds of crime or controlled drugs and substances offences. This would include all (I) moveable assets, (vehicles, vessels, hydroponic equipment, artworks, furniture etc.), (ii) financial instruments and (iii) real property.

(ii) Financial Instruments include stocks, bonds, forfeited cash, RRSP's, mutual funds etc. and are not sold by public auction or by public tender. They are sold through brokerages and banks or in the case of cash, deposited directly into Receiver General accounts.

Question No. 249
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 249
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Question No. 249
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-37, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

October 20th, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to represent the constituents of Saanich—Gulf Islands on this very important bill. I also want to thank the member for Edmonton—Strathcona for switching our times. The two of us switched around.

This is a critically important issue. Bill C-37, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, would modernize the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act in order to maintain a competitive pension plan comparable to those in the private sector, keeping in mind the unique working conditions of the Canadian Forces.

Up until now, the Canadian Forces pension plan has been woefully inadequate. I will get into some of those details but at the outset I want to take a minute to talk about the importance of our Canadian Forces.

I believe all members in the House would agree with me that the men and women of the Canadian Forces have done an outstanding job serving all Canadians. They have been put in harm's way. As we know, there have been recent fatalities on some of their missions: Operation Apollo, the war on terrorism, the work in Afghanistan and various peacekeeping missions. These men and women are out there serving us and looking after our interests.

I applaud each and every one of them for the work they do both at home and abroad. It is not just their work abroad. As we know, during the fires this summer in my home province of British Columbia in the interior around Kelowna, up in the Kamloops area and throughout the interior down in the Cranbrook area, the forces were there. When they are called upon their services are unwaivering.

More recently, the member for Fraser Valley, whose new area will be the Pemberton area, and the member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast talked about the recent floods. If the military is required they will be the first to respond when asked to do so.

The forces' commitment to us is unquestionable and we need to offer them the same level of commitment. That is the point that I was trying to make. I applaud all these Canadian men and women. I am pleased we finally have a bill before the House that will modernize the pension act.

I question the government as to why it took so long to bring forward this bill. I hope the bill will actually become law because it is one I support, but we have all been informed that the House will likely rise, adjourn or prorogue on November 7, which is less than three weeks from now. That will be it until some time in the new year when the member for LaSalle—Émard gets the keys to 24 Sussex and tries to come in with a throne speech and do some grandstanding for an election. It is not acceptable.

This bill is just one example of many important issues on which we need to be in this place working. We need to be here looking after the interests of Canadians. We have many critically important issues but this place has virtually come to a grinding halt. Yes, we are here in body, but the problem is that as we look at the government members they are so caught up. The current Prime Minister who resides at 24 Sussex Drive has absolutely no power in the government caucus, and the member for LaSalle—Émard, a backbencher with no tangible power, holds all the real power of the caucus.

Nothing is getting done. This place has become irrelevant. It is so sad. We do not get a clear indication of where the government is going, and there are so many issues that need to be dealt with.

Let me talk about a few of the issues in Bill C-37 and what it would do for the Canadian Forces. Right now under the Canadian Forces pension plan individuals must have continuous service. If there is a break in service they do not qualify. That is not acceptable and this bill would to fix that.

The number of pensionable years of service would bring the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act more in line with the Public Service Superannuation Act. The average salary and the number of years contributions were made to the plan would be used to calculate the pension. The bill provides greater flexibility and is more in line with the private sector, as it should be.

It is long overdue that we actually started providing the same level of commitment to the men and women in the Canadian Forces as they have shown us.

Bill C-37 would give our Canadian Forces early access to pension benefits if they choose. Right now they are not entitled to benefits until they reach the age of 60. Under the new plan, although members the Canadian Forces may have the option of retiring early, between the ages of 50 and 60, at a reduced pension, at least they would have other options available and portable. Under the current plan these options are not portable.

I would argue that the most important component is for the reservists. The reservists, a very significant component of our military, would now be included in the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act. At the present time they receive some type of a gratuity, which is equivalent to some severance pay, but they are not looked after.

Some of these reservists were also out fighting the forest fires in British Columbia and protecting Canadians. When called upon they do not quiver. They are there. It is high time we did the same for them.

Those are some of the reasons for some of the changes we see in Bill C-37, a bill that is long overdue. I have to admit that I am skeptical whether the bill will actually become law. I wonder whether it will be like so many other bills in the past that have died on the order paper and are collecting dust. If that were to happen then all the work that is done in the House becomes irrelevant.

I want to make a few more specific points on why it is so important that we look after our troops. Ironically, as we are here debating Bill C-37, trying to look after our troops, acknowledging that we perhaps have not looked after them in the past, we may not have been treating them fairly and perhaps we could do more for them, where has our Prime Minister been?

I will read a press release from the Ottawa Sun . In reference to our military our Right Hon. Prime Minister said “But it's never enough. They all need more. And they all have plans for more”.

I would like to remind the Prime Minister that the men and women flying the Sea Kings have done an outstanding job. These Sea King helicopters should have been replaced 10 or 15 years ago. I have watched the song and dance year after year in this place about procurement. We still have no idea of what the government is doing. It always says “Wait until tomorrow. It is coming. We have split the contract. The contract has now been put back to the other, the ordinance and the air frame”. It is one thing after the other.

The government is always playing politics to ensure that their Liberal friends get a piece of the pie. It manipulates contracts so possibly some Liberal contributor will get his or her fair share of the pie. It is so wrong.

However, when the Prime Minister wants to order two Challenger jets, which were absolutely not needed, those are delivered. He has the whole process run through the House before the ink dries on his signature when he puts his name down that he wants something. When he decides he wants something, 24 hours later it is a done deal through the back door. That is wrong.

The men and women of the Canadian Forces put their lives on the line looking after our needs at home and abroad. We all know about the terrible tragedies we have had abroad involving these men and women. Their fellow comrades, who stood beside them, soldier on the next day. Their commitment is unwaivering. Where is our commitment to them? Why is it so pathetic? Why are we not giving them the tools and resources they need to do the job?

The Prime Minister leaves the impression that they are a bunch of whiny people who always want more and are never happy. He says we have the best equipment and that we are better equipped than anybody else. Oh yes? Maybe the jet the Prime Minister is on is better than that of anybody else in the area and maybe the equipment in which the cabinet is flying around is better than that of anyone else, but it is sure not the case for our men and women. The men and women of 443 Squadron, the Sea King base in Patricia Bay in my riding, never complain. They are out there and they do the very best job. It is the same on the other coast.

But what do we do for them? Again I look at Bill C-37. Our defence critic has recommended that we support it and I agree with him. He says it is high time we did something, but the government is bringing in this bill only weeks before it plans to prorogue. Everybody in this place knows that on November 7 the Prime Minister is hightailing it out of here. I am not sure if he will be golfing; it might be a little cold for him in Ottawa. He is getting out of here because he does not want to be embarrassed when the member for LaSalle—Émard, who as we know has the real power now, officially gets the power at the Liberal Party convention.

There has been absolutely outstanding cooperation today, unprecedented in the House of Commons, between the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and the leader of the Canadian Alliance, in the interests of Canadians. I would argue that those two individuals have put the interests of the Canadian people ahead of their own interests and that of their respective parties. That is what we should be doing in this House for our military. We should not be playing politics or playing games.

But the record speaks for itself. It is disgraceful. There is the helicopter replacement program. Also, there are the horror stories we have heard about the equipment our men and women are left with when they are overseas. These men and women are stretched so thin in numbers that they are putting in double and triple time. There have been times when we have had our navy in the gulf and of course there was usually a Sea King on board most of the ships. I have spoken to the commander of the 443. He said he did not have an aircraft in the hangar that he could send out on a ship. Ships had to be sent out without an aircraft on board; then they tried to do a swap overseas. Do hon. members know what that means? Sure, they do a swap when they are overseas, but extra time has to be put in. Yes, there are multiple crews and the military tries to send a crew back, but these people have been worked as they have never been worked before. Their support, as I said earlier, was unwavering. They do not question.

I was on the docks for at least four or five departures of ships to the gulf. I listened to the young men and women with young families who said that they were proud to serve all Canadians. However, where are we? Where are the members of the House for those men and women of the service? We have had a terrible record for the military over the last 10 years as the number of troops have fallen and the budgets have fallen. What is so troubling are the quotes from our Prime Minister, who says they always want more, they are never happy, and they always have a wish list.

I would argue that equipment such as the Sea Kings, with which I am familiar because of my riding, should not be on a wish list at all. It is pathetic that they have to be on a wish list when the Prime Minister, and I keep coming back to this but it is fact, wants a couple of new private jets with marble bathrooms and the works to fly his cabinet ministers around and can have that done before the ink dries on his signature; try to tell me there is not something wrong with that.

Again, the contract was split for the Sea Kings. Originally the contract was up for tender. We have heard this song and dance for so many years now that it is not even funny. We can talk to any military expert: when the contract was split to separate the ordnance and the airframe, it was pure politics. It was not in the interests of anyone. It was not in the interests of the people who fly them. A lot of people pointed fingers, but it was the government playing politics for its friends so that it could control, manipulate and tailor the process and ensure where the contracts would go. That is wrong.

We are going to support this bill, as we should. It is the right thing. It will modernize the pension act for our military people, which needs to be reformed. The reform is long overdue, but I have a great fear about this. I urge the Liberals to show us that they care enough about our servicemen and servicewomen to sit in this House long enough to see this bill get royal assent. I do not think they will. This is just another charade, with them saying they have to get a bill down here or something. Really, it is meaningless, because we are not sure who is in power. One person is living at 24 Sussex, but another one is holding the caucus meetings. One is in charge, but one is not. One has the power of the backbench and one does not.

Canadian people do not care about that. They want to see us make changes in here, but the Liberals have brought in this bill less than three weeks before they plan to prorogue just to waste everybody's time.

If they actually care about the unwavering commitment given by the men and women of our forces, then I challenge every government member to pressure his or her own House leader to make sure we are here after November 7 working on this bill, making sure that it goes to the Senate, and making sure that it gets royal assent. I ask them to show us they care about the men and women of our Canadian Forces.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I am not quite as pessimistic as my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands in that we are debating third reading of Bill C-37 today. I hope that the bill will be passed through the House of Commons in the next few days and that the Senate will sit long enough to see it pass through the other place and indeed get royal assent. I think that is extremely important. That is why I certainly applaud the government for belatedly bringing forward this legislation. As I said in my remarks, it should have been done some five years ago, but as we on the opposition side often say, better late than never.

As my colleague says, it is certainly suspicious. Having gone through a couple of Parliaments, I have noted that just before an impending election there are certain hot topic issues that the government has taken considerable heat over during the lifetime of a Parliament and in the dying days of the Parliament we see it bring forward legislation that does have support from all parties and all sides of the House. Then the government rushes it through, with our support, with our assistance, with our help, so that government members can stand up during an election campaign and say, “Look at all the great and wonderful things we did. We do care about our military because we put through the changes to the superannuation act and changed the pensions and included the reserves”, et cetera.

In this case, I will say that I do not care what the reasoning is for it. It is still the right thing to do, belatedly, so I certainly will be supporting these efforts.

I want to comment just briefly on the situation in my home province, the province of my colleague. British Columbia has had an absolutely devastating year. First there were the forest fires and now, as could be noted during question period today, my colleague from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast has raised concerns about a couple of lives lost, and more feared lost, in the terrible flooding in the lower mainland of British Columbia.

British Columbia right now is reeling. It is bruised and battered. I want to ask my colleague about the specific issue of the removal of regular forces and bases from the mainland of British Columbia.

I think it is unbelievable that this has been allowed to happen and that the base in Chilliwack, for example, was closed down. Nevertheless, that has happened. I would suggest that at a minimum we should have additional militia units, or reserves, in British Columbia, if for no other reason than to react to natural disaster tragedies that occur from time to time, like the flooding and the forest fires.

Despite the fact that the forces from Edmonton did absolutely yeoman service in coming across the Rocky Mountains, getting into British Columbia, and helping to fight those forest fires this summer, I still do believe that communities in British Columbia could be better served with at least additional militia units, if not by having a base there with regular forces on the mainland of British Columbia. The City of Prince George in my riding is one of the cities that has been lobbying hard for that, but so far we have not seen the government move in that regard.

I would put that question to my colleague. What are his thoughts about it, especially given the present disaster situation in B.C.?

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to comment on being so skeptical about whether the government actually means the bill to pass. I need only go back to the government's record. We have seen many important pieces of legislation die on the Order Paper because of politics. This is an important bill for our servicemen and servicewomen, and I hope, as does our defence critic from Prince George--Peace River, that it does receive royal assent.

With respect to closing the base in Chilliwack, greater Vancouver is the largest populated urban area west of Toronto, without question.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

An hon. member

By far.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

By far, no question. Greater Vancouver is a very important economic centre, with a huge population base, both in the city and in all the surrounding communities in the Fraser Valley.

This goes back to the government's commitment to the Canadian Forces. The government shut down the base in Chilliwack. There is now no land base in the province of British Columbia. The navy is on the west coast and there are some air force wings up in Comox, but this is not acceptable. The land bases should be there.

What it comes down to is how the services across Canada have been cut drastically and how those that are there are overworked or stretched thin. I believe the Auditor General would acknowledge this. She has written reports in the past in which she has indicated that it is now very difficult for the forces to meet their obligations with current numbers.

By all means, I agree with the member. At a minimum, the government must start putting back the militia. We need greater militia in these areas. They are an integral part of the Canadian Forces and can serve us very well.

Again it comes back to the government's record. It speaks for itself with what the government has done, whether it be the Sea Kings, shutting down the base in Chilliwack, cutting the budgets, or cutting the number of servicemen and servicewomen in our forces. This is about the government's committment to the military. The government should think about the unwavering committment of our military to all Canadians and to us. The government should try giving back to these men and women just a fraction of what they have given to us and our country, and they then would be a whole lot better off.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

It always gives me great pleasure to rise in the House especially when I see that there is so much interest among so many members to hear my wisdom and what I bring to this debate, namely to take that advice and hopefully use it in the future.

Being from Edmonton, I would begin by identifying the fact that I and others in Edmonton are lucky to have the Canadian Forces base located there. Members of the Canadian armed forces in Edmonton always do a great job as they do right across this country.

I particularly want to identify, as my colleague from Prince George—Peace River did, the work of the Edmonton base this summer when it came to providing assistance in battling fires and helping Canadians to safety in the interior of B.C. and around Kelowna. They put a lot of effort and work into that, risking their lives as usual. I want to acknowledge that because we were all proud of the work they did to help Canadians during that very troubling time.

I would like to focus on what the bill would do and what it would mean for members of the armed forces. This legislation makes changes to the pension benefit scheme provided under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act which includes a reduction in the minimum qualifying period for a pension to two years, tying benefit eligibility to years of pensionable service rather than completion of a period of engagement in the Canadian Forces, and an immediate pension to a person who has completed 25 years of paid service and has at least 2 years of pensionable service.

As we have heard from colleagues across the House, all members believe that we owe this type of pension benefit to the men and women of the armed forces. They do an incredible job to protect Canadians, sometimes in combat situations, peacekeeping situations and also by promoting our values and interests in helping people realize their freedom around the world. Not many people would ever argue against those sort of changes.

The bill would provide regulation-making authority to adapt the provisions of the act so as to apply it to prescribed members of the reserve force and to deal with other matters, such as elective service, that are presently provided for in the act. It would consolidate a number of the regulation-making powers in the act and would make certain structural improvements to the act, such as moving general provisions that are presently in part I of the act to part IV and making those provisions applicable to the whole act.

On this side of the House we in the opposition are obviously in favour of the bill because it would improve the conditions of our armed forces. We support our veterans as has been shown in numerous question periods, especially on recent issues where we are fighting for benefits for the spouses of veterans.

We also support our military. We have said that on numerous occasions despite some of the things we heard in today's question period. The opposition has always called for better respect for our armed forces by increasing the amount of funding that would be given to the military seeing that we have some huge challenges. I will be discussing those during my speech, particularly equipment and personnel challenges that our military will be facing in the future.

Last spring the Canadian Alliance put out a white paper on defence called “The New North Strong and Free”. We identified a number of strengths and weaknesses, and made some recommendations as to what needed to be addressed to improve the state of our military.

It is our mission statement of how our government should run the defence department and how we would allow the armed forces to once again flourish. The paper contains 33 recommendations. It is unfortunate that after 10 years of mismanagement by the government and the former finance minister, soon to be leader of that party, must take some responsibility for this. He has allowed the military to practically fall apart and we need to take 33 steps to get where it should be today.

Here are some quick facts about what has happened to the military under the watch of the current government. The regular force personnel strength has fallen by 30% since 1993. Our military has no heavy air or sealift capacity. During the 2002 mission in Afghanistan, Canada could not sustain 800 troops for longer than six months. We only put three ships to sea instead of the proposed six.

Most Canadians have heard the dreadful stories about our Sea Kings. This is their 40th year and they will not be replaced until 2007. This is 14 years after the Liberal government had already cancelled the original helicopter contract. Even today in question period the Minister of National Defence talked about how that side of the House was working diligently to solve this problem. Going at this rate, we will probably not see any changes for another 10 years and that is just unacceptable. We have had some serious problems with those Sea Kings.

Our tribal class destroyers are 33 years old and there is not even a plan to replace them. Our CF-18 fighter aircraft have been reduced to 80 from 122. There are no army helicopters to support our troops in the field in an age where troop mobility is a prime concern.

There was, of course, the unfortunate situation recently where some of our troops were killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan. The jeeps were proven deadly for our soldiers because the Liberal government was not willing to properly purchase the jeeps that were required, not only for combat ready situations but in peacekeeping roles as well.

Our men and women go out in peacekeeping roles, but they need to be able to protect themselves. We in the House, and the government especially, need to equip these men and women to do just that and not send them out half prepared to do battle, especially at certain times when they have to protect themselves, let alone the missions that they are on while on the ground.

The former finance minister and the Liberals have dismissed the military as unimportant following the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the U.S.S.R. There has been a real decline in the attitude of the government toward the military because it feels there are no more threats in the world.

Obviously, that has been proved to be quite a wrong attitude to have, especially in light of world events that we have seen. Here in North America all of us know the tragic event that took place on September 11, and the significance of that particular event as we are moving forward in the world and what sort of challenges we face in not only helping to protect people around the world, but protecting the security of North America.

The terrorist attacks totally changed the strategic environment in which Canada operates. This pertains not only to our home turf now, but in the role we play internationally. Our best ally, the United States, has declared a war on terrorism. This is a war that we said we support in Canada and we will do what we can to help stamp out terrorism around the world.

However, from the work that has been done on the other side of the House by the government, it seems that the Liberals have only paid lip service to this particular commitment. They have ignored our responsibilities to our allies in Iraq and have not properly equipped our troops for Afghanistan, which is a shame.

We on this side of the House recognize the significance of what happened on September 11. We have pushed the Liberals to focus on both security domestically and abroad. Domestically, the Liberals have failed, especially the minister responsible for customs, who touts her border policies, but then starves our customs agents of the resources necessary to do their jobs.

I have stood in the House in question period on a number of occasions pointing to the fact that the strength of our military has to be linked to how serious we take security here at home, but the minister continues to dismiss those arguments saying that the government is doing all it can. However, when we look not only at the condition of our military and the resources that it has to do its job, the same can be said for our front line customs officers being starved. They do not have the right resources to protect Canadians.

It is a shame that in this day and age, after saying it was going to beef up border security, we have not seen any of the money that was put aside since the anti-terrorist legislation was passed. No money has actually trickled down to the front lines for basic things like computers and resources for our customs agents. So, domestically the Liberals have failed, especially the minister in charge of customs.

Significantly, the government has also starved our military and its ability to do its job. Let us go over defence funding. Recently in question period, we heard one of the Liberal members on the other side say it was actually the opposition that was not committed to defence. I do not know which planet he is on to suggest that sort of thing.

However, let us go over the government's record because that is where the facts speak much louder than any words that have come across from the other side of the floor.

The former finance minister, soon to be Prime Minister, slashed $20 billion from the defence department since 1993. Mr. Speaker, could you imagine what sort of impact that has had on our military? If government members want to talk about facts and who is committed to our military, let us look at that one. It is a significant number.

The Auditor General told the defence committee that the armed forces will face a $30 billion deficit in equipment by 2012. That is a huge challenge that our military is facing in the future. We are at the bottom of the G-8 and NATO in defence spending, at $7.7 billion per annum.

The government could counter these destructive trends by implementing our recommendation No. 2 that was outlined in the white paper that I spoke about earlier.

It calls for an increase in the defence budget which should be accelerated to provide an additional $1.2 billion per year over and above the increases in the 2003 federal budget bringing the immediate increases to $2 billion per year. It is money that is required right away to bring the standards of our military up to a level where it would have the resources to fight the fights that it may have to take part in through our obligations around the world. That does not even include the commitments we need to make in order to bring the equipment up to par so that we do not have this huge deficit in the future.

We go further in the next recommendation saying that defence spending must be increased to NATO standards. We have an obligation to meet our commitments, especially our international commitments, where other countries rely on us to do so. We are a member of NATO, yet year after year we are failing on those commitments because the government has not put the resources in place, especially when it comes to our military. These are standards that the government, and especially the former finance minister, has totally ignored.

If we are to undo the damage done by this particular government, it is more than just a funding issue. It is a personnel issue and that is what I spoke about when I said there were challenges on both sides, equipment and personnel.

We need to increase the regular force to 80,000 individuals. We have had quite a reduction over the years, but it would be necessary to meet our obligations, especially if we look at some of the challenges where we have troops rotating out of Afghanistan. There is also a call for further peacekeeping resources in Iraq and here at home in getting our military involved in assisting with natural disasters. We need to increase the number of troops. That is a significant problem that we are facing.

The reserves should also be increased to 60,000 from 45,000 individuals. Many of them are army militia.

We must specifically address the different branches of our military. If we look at the different branches, there are some real big challenges in every area, whether it is the army, the air force or the navy.

I will take a moment to identify those challenges so Canadians at home can see the real picture of what we are facing.

We need to expand our special forces in the army, especially the JTF-2. That is something we found over the last little while. We have really been stretched to the limit. Afghanistan has proven the need for these special forces. The JTF-2 distinguished itself there, and there are types of missions that would be very important for us. We must ensure that we address that particular resource, especially the need for which our allies often call upon us to take part in.

We need to pay special attention to the rapid deployment of our soldiers. To that end, we would establish an airborne unit and equip it with the appropriate helicopters. As I said earlier, it is a shame that we had not dealt with the Sea King earlier. It should have been dealt with a long time ago.

Additionally, to fulfill our role as peacekeepers and peacemakers, we need to be able to deploy and sustain a brigade overseas. That is something as we have seen in recent years that has been a real challenge given the current numbers in our armed forces.

We also need to be able to replace old equipment with appropriate new equipment. I spoke a little about that before.

We should also recruit more individuals into the ranks of the army. That proud tradition is something we have to instill again. We have to share that proud tradition with more Canadians when it comes to our armed forces, the work they have done over our history and the work they continue to do. We need to have all Canadians respect and cherish that and actually want to see that commitment remain strong. Unfortunately that is something which I do not think the government has done well in promoting, for Canadians to be proud of that work and sustain that work of our men and women in the armed forces.

Moving to the air force, we need to modernize our fleet of CF-18s and the Aurora aircraft so they can work side by side with our allies. We need to look at the future, including participating in the joint strike fighter project with the U.K. and the U.S.A. We also need a heavy strategic airlift capability to move personnel and equipment throughout Canada and around the globe. As I said, given the challenges we are facing in the coming years, especially if we want to maintain our role as significant peacekeepers around the world, that is something we need to address immediately.

The final part of the military I would like to address is the navy. This is another area about which we have heard different stories. Clearly we need to look at the facts of what has happened and see how we can address them to improve the condition of our navy.

Personnel need to be increased immediately so our ships are no longer understaffed and strained to the limit. We have seen that in recent rotations in Afghanistan. It has been a big personnel problem.

We need a proper fleet of submarines to maintain our sovereignty in the north, but also to be deployed whenever they are needed. The recommendations we have made would have us increase the numbers by three subs on each coast. As well, our ships and the actual equipment supporting them are getting old. We need to replace them and expand the fleet by at least four ships. That is evident by what happened recently in Afghanistan where we had to bring one of our ships back home because of the challenges it had while it was at sea.

I already talked about the Sea King helicopters. There is no excuse; those should be replaced immediately.

I have talked about the record of the government. I have made recommendations. Obviously we on this side are supporting Bill C-37 because we want to continue to make that commitment to our armed personnel and our defence forces. It is something we cannot neglect and we need to be able to support that.

I want to end on a positive note and share a personal story which I have shared before in the House. It is about the pride that many people feel, whether they are recent Canadians or whether their families have had longstanding traditions in the military.

My family was fortunate enough to come to Canada in the early 1970s. I was only a baby. We were kicked out of a country, Uganda, and we were able to flee as refugees to Canada. Canada welcomed us with open arms and gave us the freedom and opportunities where, 25 years after coming here, a son of refugee parents is able to sit in the House of Commons, debate policy and basically try to improve our nation's abilities and become respected internationally. Canada gave us this opportunity.

There is always a real respect from people coming to Canada for its role which people have seen and heard about around the world: leading peacekeeping, leading freedom fighting missions, helping other countries and allies, and helping countries in need. Canada demonstrated that to our family when we came here.

Even though Canada was not involved in a military role in Uganda, it still had troops helping out to make sure people could get out and safely come to Canada. That sort of pride is something I grew up with and heard about from my family, even though we were not directly involved in the freedom that our military forces over history have provided Canadians prior to our coming here. We need to instill that pride in future generations and to Canadians who see the work that can be done and the leadership that can be provided by our men and women in the armed forces. I am proud to be able to speak to their accomplishments up to now.

This particular bill is a small step forward and will deal with the pension changes for our men and women in the forces. Let us look forward. Let us actually make the commitments that are required to continue to make people like myself and other Canadians proud of our military tradition, and to be able to meet those requirements that they are going to have in the future. Let us hope the government will listen to some of the recommendations we have made.

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4:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague on an excellent speech on this issue.

I have visited Borden which is a training facility for the Canadian armed forces. I was very impressed with the various aspects of training that our armed forces do, not only young people but a lot of people who in mid-life decide to look at the armed forces as a place of employment.

Does my colleague think that the federal government should put more resources into the aspect of training Canadians, both young and older? Should it use that element of federal responsibility to make sure that we get an educated population who can use it not only when they are employed by the armed forces but when they go back to civilian life?

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4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from South Surrey—White Rock—Langley is absolutely right. We could do a lot more when it comes to the federal government's position as I spoke about to try to instill some pride, to try to engage Canadians in getting involved with our military. The member is absolutely right that there needs to be some effort made by the government especially in targeting certain parts of the population.

I remember that while growing up, aside from learning in school about our military history, there was not really an effort made at the school level to recruit young people into the reserve forces or even into the armed forces. That has started to be done relatively recently. We could do a lot more of that, especially in Edmonton where a base is located. I have spoken to a lot of the young men and women who are serving there. They have said that is something they would like to see happen, to have more government effort made to raise the ranks of younger people getting involved in the military, to some extent in serving our nation.

We saw a sharp rise in that after the attacks of 9/11. More people were wanting to get involved to learn more about our military history and to prepare themselves in case there were any potential attacks even here in Canada. People would be more equipped to deal with certain unfortunate situations that would arise from an attack.

Clearly the interest is there among Canadians. We need to encourage it from the federal government level. We need to target certain groups in schools and in other areas to consider getting involved even on a voluntary basis with the military. That is something the government could focus on to bring that pride and tradition back to our military.