Debates of May 29th, 2003
House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was defence.
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Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by the member for Vancouver East, a member for whom I have considerable respect. I had the privilege of working with her on a special committee of the House on the non-medical use of drugs. Her commitment to many issues is well known. I certainly learned a lot from working with her.
By way of a comment I wish to correct the record. In her opening remarks she referred to the testimony of a former member of the House, the hon. Lloyd Axworthy, a distinguished former minister, and Dr. John Polanyi . She made the assertion that there were no Liberal members at that committee. Obviously the chair, the distinguished member for Nepean--Carleton, is a Liberal. I was at the committee when it was called to order and stayed for the duration. I was accompanied at the table at all times by at least two other colleagues. I am not even sure that we could have a quorum and call the committee to order if her assertion were true, but I am not an expert on parliamentary procedure.
I attended the committee this morning and enjoyed Mr. Axworthy's presentation immensely. It was nice to see him back in this building. At the time that I was at the committee I did not see the member for Vancouver East. I thought it was important to correct the record.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments. I did say in my remarks earlier that before this debate I spoke to our representative on the committee, the member for Halifax, and she was very distressed. Obviously the chair was in the room, but other members of the committee, Liberal members, were not at the table. They were wandering around at various points and she felt that it was very disrespectful to the important witnesses who were there.
The member says he was there. I take his word for that, but there was a clear indication that there was no interest in participating in the questioning or what was taking place at that committee. It may be because Liberal members there already knew what the defence minister was going to say and they were already on board. Perhaps they decided that the foreign affairs committee was not the place where the debate was going to take place and did not particularly want to hear what those witnesses had to say, particularly the one who was a former foreign affairs minister.
I have not seen the blues yet, but in speaking with our member for Halifax she relayed to me that his comments were very critical of star wars. Mr. Axworthy strongly believed that Canada should not be participating in star wars. In fact, he likened it to a conveyor belt. Once we get on and away we go, it is very hard to turn it off, particularly when the switch is controlled by George W. Bush.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, for her excellent speech and to ask her to elaborate on the new developments before us today. I would like her to comment on the spectacle of a government that has indicated its apparent support today for the U.S. missile defence program, at the same time claiming that it is against the weaponization of space.
As the member has pointed out and others have said, the connection is clear. A commitment to missile defence is a commitment to the weaponization of space and a commitment to the weaponization of space contradicts Canada's long held policy and values. That point has been made by others. I want to reference the article by Jeffrey Simpson in The Globe and Mail on May 7. He wrote:
Just as the conquest of Iraq was not fundamentally about weapons of mass destruction, so the U.S. anti-ballistic missile system is not about protecting the United States from missiles. It's about placing weapons in space. If Canada joins the U.S. system--which it might do for economic reasons or because the [Liberal] government feels we have no choice--it will be approving what it has always opposed
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has said that for missile defence to be effective there must be flights in space. It has indicated that there will be weapons systems including space-based lasers and that the space-based laser system will be composed of a constellation of high energy laser platforms operating from space. Given all of that documentation, could the member comment further on the announcement today by the Minister of National Defence?
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg North Centre because has hit the nail right on the head.
I am a big fan of George Orwell. I really enjoy reading his books. Even today they have a sense of reality about what takes place in our society. I was thinking that had George Orwell been in this chamber today and heard the Minister of National Defence say that on the one hand we are going to enter into discussions with the U.S. to get into star wars but we are doing this under the rationale that we are still opposed to the weaponization of space, he would have been nodding his head and saying “See, I told you so. That is a really good example of doublespeak”. The comments from my hon. colleague really outline this.
A fundamental contradiction is being put forward on the rationale of somehow protecting Canada's sovereignty. I really feel that this is just a horrible joke because the threat is not from ballistic missiles. To develop a trillion dollar system that allegedly is going to protect us from this, is a complete illusion.
The member has pointed out that it has more to do with economic issues in the U.S. and Canada's apparent desire to appear to be willing. Maybe because of what took place in Iraq there is now a rush to appease the American government and Mr. Bush and say that we have to kind of go along with this.
If that does happen, we are the ones who will receive the fallout. If things are shot down, it will be on Canadian soil that this plays out. We have to be hugely concerned about Norad's involvement in this. That is the best reason to turn down this motion today and say that in no way should Norad be engaging in an exercise around star wars and the missile defence system. That is not what its purpose is. This is just about a strategy to somehow kickstart Norad. It is a very dangerous policy and we should have no part of it.
Murray Calder Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been consultations with all parties in this House and I believe that you will find consent for the following order. I move:
That at the conclusion of the present debate on the opposition motion, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, June 3 at 3 p.m.
(Motion agreed to)
The Deputy Speaker
Does the House give its consent?
Some hon. members
Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC
Mr. Speaker, I will respond to one comment. The member said regarding potential ground based missiles interfering or stopping missiles flying over our country that if we ever got into a horrible situation or scenario like that, one way or the other Canada would be involved. It sounded as if the logic was that we will not have any defensive sensors or missiles or anything on our ground so that any potential missiles will just fly over Canada and then explode in the United States. Her option is to sacrifice American lives for her socialist principle.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, that is so ridiculous. I do not want to see any of these missiles flying around over any country. I do not want to see any lives lost, military or civilian. To suggest that somehow we are saying that Canada should be set aside and that missiles should be sent to the U.S. and that people should be killed as a result of that is absolutely absurd.
The point here is to work for international treaties that will prevent these missiles from even being developed. We should be eliminating nuclear missiles, ballistic weapons, all weapons of mass destruction.
Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on the Canadian Alliance motion which reads:
That this House affirm its strong support for Norad as a viable defence organization to counter threats to North America, including the threat of ballistic missile attack; and support giving Norad responsibility for the command of any system developed to defend North America against ballistic missiles.
Seven years into the U.S. missile defence program the Liberal government until quite recently had no position on the issue. The Prime Minister and the foreign affairs minister have opposed the plan in the past. Then they simply dismissed it, saying that Canada had not been asked to participate.
Now the Liberal leadership contenders, cabinet ministers and the caucus members seem divided on the issue. The frontrunner for the Liberal leadership race, the member for LaSalle—Émard, soon to have his coronation as the next prime minister of Canada, has been waffling on this issue, as usual, as he has in the case of Kyoto, the Iraq war, SARS, mad cow disease and so on.
The U.S. ambassador and a top Canadian general have warned that Norad could be at risk if Canada does not cooperate on this issue.
Throughout the cold war Canada played an important role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, commonly called NATO, and in the North American Aerospace Defense Command, called Norad. In particular, Canada has been a close partner of the United States in defending North America's and western Europe's airspace from Soviet aggression.
At various times during the cold war, the U.S. considered building an anti-ballistic missile system, called ABM, to defend against Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. In 1972 the anti-ballistic missile treaty was signed by the U.S.S.R. and the United States banning ABM systems, with the exception of one site to protect the capitals or ICBM field.
Russia currently maintains an ABM site around Moscow. In the mid-1970s the U.S. dismantled its ABM sites in Grand Forks, North Dakota because it was believed the system would not be entirely effective.
In the early 1980s President Ronald Reagan appealed to the American people for support to build a space based ICBM interceptor system using high intensity lasers and particle beams, called the strategic defence initiative, SDI. The system seemed far-fetched, but billions of dollars were poured into the program and some significant technological advances were achieved.
Although Reagan's idea never materialized, there continued to be billions of dollars allocated to missile defence each year within the U.S. defence budget. Even as the cold war wound down and the Soviet Union collapsed, money earmarked for missile defence was reduced but not eliminated. President Bush Sr. and President Clinton also continued to provide funding for missile defence.
The result of the research and investment in the last 20 years will soon materialize into a missile defence system for the United States and perhaps the allies of the United States.
The Bush administration plans on having an anti-missile system up and running by the end of September 2004. Construction is already underway in Alaska. Construction crews are busy at work at a former military base a mere 400 kilometres from Dawson City, Yukon. They are carving holes 25 metres deep for missile silos and erecting about a dozen state of the art military command and support facilities. It will be the home of a vanguard force of rocket propelled interceptors for defending the United States against ballistic missile attack.
If Canada chooses not to go along with the U.S. on BMD, it will likely mean the end of Norad, or at least the effective Norad currently in place. Norad has been a longstanding component of Canada's aerospace defence and a key area of U.S.-Canada defence cooperation. While Norad's role has changed since the end of the cold war, its importance for Canada has remained.
The deputy commander of Norad has always been a Canadian, allowing significant influence and expertise within the realm of air defence for North America. The former deputy commander, Lieutenant General George Macdonald, believes that the proliferation of nuclear and missile technology will present a threat to Canadian security in the coming years. He has asked some important questions that have a direct bearing on whether or not Canada should join the BMD effort. He has asked, can the world's remaining superpower risk the possibility of being held hostage to a ballistic missile threat, and more important, can Canada disassociate itself from this possibility?
As it currently stands, Norad can only provide limited defences against threats coming through North American airspace. Norad can only defend against air breathing or jet powered threats. The United States and some Canadians would like to incorporate BMD through Norad because it possesses a great deal of the infrastructure that would be needed to track and monitor threats.
The problem for Canada is that if it refuses to participate in BMD, it will likely mean the end of Norad. The U.S. already has a backup system to Norad called U.S. Spacecom. If Norad were to end, Canadian military personnel would lose access to information that would be virtually impossible for Canada to obtain without it.
One of Norad's key functions is integrated tactical warning attack assessment, ITWAA. If Canada was not a partner in BMD, Canadian personnel at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs could not participate in ITWAA, which they currently do. There would also be ripple effects that would be felt throughout the U.S.-Canadian cooperation on defence.
An American general has warned that if Canada does not participate in BMD, then it should not anticipate being protected under BMD either. That seems to be fair. However, due to the close proximity of most major Canadian cities to the United States, it is likely that many populated parts of Canada would be protected regardless of Canada's participation.
Free riding on American investment and expense would not help diplomatic or military relations between the two countries. We know the downside of the diplomatic relationship between Canada and the United States.
Norad's dissolution would cause Canada's standing in the western alliance to be damaged as well. Canada has participated in security matters in Europe and elsewhere frequently with the United States. The United States, along with the British, often assists Canada in lift and supply capabilities.
As the Canadian military is stretched thinner and thinner, the United States may be somewhat less enthusiastic about helping Canada participate in interventions or peacekeeping missions around the world. Indeed, despite what the government might say, Canada has been far more active in NATO missions than in the UN missions.
Although the United States may not retaliate against Canada overtly for not participating in BMD, as Joel Sokolsky points out, “Americans would no longer go out of their way to include Canada” in some aspects of defence.
The costs to Canada for participating in Norad are low in respect of the benefits in intelligence and interoperability that are gained by joining Norad.
If Canada were to go along with BMD, Canada's defence spending would most likely have to increase, but there is a possibility that the United States would fund 100% of the program. The most likely scenario would involve Canada shouldering 10% of the cost. This would be a relatively small price over a number of years when considering the technological and intelligence payoff that would result.
Canadian policy makers struggle with this question. Who would ever target Canada with a nuclear weapon? From our experience in the cold war, we know that the Soviet Union definitely targeted Canada and the Russian Federation still does, although probably far less than what the USSR probably did.
There is also the possibility that nuclear weapons could be used against Canada as a warning to Americans, our neighbours, to show the capability to strike North America exists.
For states that have just developed ballistic capabilities, like North Korea, it is extremely likely that their missiles are very inaccurate. Thus, the possibility of a warhead going astray and impacting British Columbia or Alberta is quite possible.
Similarly, many question the accuracy of Chinese ICBMs. Despite the technology that was allegedly stolen from the United States, some people still doubt that the Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles are accurate. It is also quite possible that Chinese missiles are targeted at western Canada as well because it is the closest ally of the United States.
If a Russian missile were accidentally launched or launched without authorization, there is also the possibility of the warhead falling short of the United States and detonating over Canada. The trajectory of Russian missiles is directly over Canada because it is the shortest route, similar to the way American missiles would be launched at Russia in case that happens.
Do not forget that British Columbia and Yukon is between Alaska and mainland United States of America.
Even if no missiles were targeted at Canada, or even if the threat to Canada were non-existent, a nuclear explosion on the mainland of the United States would have profound impacts in Canada, environmentally, economically, politically, as well as militarily. The cost of losing a city and thousands of lives would likely far outweigh the cost of building any missile defence system.
National missile defence is a limited system, designed to deal with small numbers of incoming ballistic missiles. While missile tests have not been completely successful, there have been a number of successful results showing substantial progress in the reliability of the system.
NMD is not a solitary system. It involves space based interceptors using exo-atmospheric kill vehicles . Theatre missiled defence through THAAD, Theatre High Altitude Air Defence, Boost Phase Interceptors, BPIs, and more local systems such as Patriot missile batteries like the new PAC-3 were amazingly successful in the recent war against Iraq.
A new arms race will not result. First, in economic terms, no other state can afford to engage in an arms race with the United States. Second, Russia has accepted the United States withdrawal from the ABM treaty and still desires to go ahead with the START treaties.
Other allies such as Japan, Britain, South Korea and others have expressed support for national missile defence. It is incumbent upon us to take it seriously.
Should Canada not sign on to NMD, we risk losing Norad, as I said. Although American military planners have expressed the desire to run NMD from Norad headquarters, the system could also be deployed through the U.S. space command. The U.S. does not need Canada but it does want Canada on board.
Canada gains nothing by not signing on to NMD. However we risk losing military contracts and military ties to the United States through Norad, an important bilateral defence institution that has survived the end of the cold war, even September 11 and a number of other strategic changes in world affairs.
Not participating in NMD would further deepen the rift in Canada-U.S. relations which has been complicated by softwood lumber, the Iraq war issue, wheat tariffs, anti-Americanism from Liberal MPs and the protectionist tendencies of some U.S. congressmen.
We have to give it serious thought. The loss of Norad would have a severe impact on Canada's military capabilities and intelligence gathering capabilities. The United States could easily go ahead with BMD without Canada and without Norad. In such a scenario Canada would gain nothing economically, diplomatically or politically except perhaps for a thanks from Moscow and China that would continue in fact with motivation to aim their missiles at Canadian targets.
At the end of World War II Canada had the fourth most powerful military in the world. Under successive Liberal governments, Canada's military strength has deteriorated to the point where today we have surrendered the country's defence to the United States. While this has brought about significant cost savings, freeing up money for the $1 billion gun registry and the like, there are two important consequences.
First, Canada's lack of military weight renders it a peripheral player in international affairs. Unlike in the 1950s or early 1960s, we are now no longer a player on the world stage.
Second, our dependence on the United States of America for Canada's military defence must be taken into consideration when making diplomatic calculations. This is the price we must pay for scrimping on our military budget.
A recent SES/Sun media poll found that 61% of Canadians supported Canada playing a role in the ballistic missile defence system. Certainly all Canadians will be thankful if the capabilities that are developing today successfully avert an attack tomorrow.
For tomorrow's safety, the government has to act today. The Canadian Alliance's thoughtful motion is just that time reaction
I would like to acknowledge the contribution of a Torontonian law student studying at Michigan State University who is an intern in my office and who has contributed in this research. His name is Jonathan, and he has done a good job in researching this topic. I would like to encourage this youth who has been participating in voluntary work in our Parliament.
Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC
Mr. Speaker, I find it utterly inexplicable that the official opposition would try to link Norad and the missile defence system.
The issue of Canada's participation in Norad—a longstanding, reasonable, fair and justified involvement—does not mean that because we agree with Norad, we have to automatically accept a missile defence system, as proposed by the U.S.
I find this completely illogical. The official opposition is trying to corner us. They are going to say that if we vote against the resolution, we are voting against Canada's participation in Norad, which is not at all true.
We are certainly in favour of participating in Norad, but we certainly also have the right, as a sovereign country, to decide for ourselves, upon review of all the issues involved, whether or not we support a missile defence system as proposed by the U.S.
These are two entirely different matters that they are trying to link in order to trap us. If we vote against the resolution—which we will, I hope—they will be able to say that the Liberal government is against participating in Norad, which is completely illogical.
If tomorrow morning the United States, as a major player in Norad, decided to launch a weapons system that was even more repugnant than the missile defence system, by introducing more nuclear weapons for instance, would we automatically agree, or would we take our own decisions after reviewing all the facts?
Many knowledgeable people who base their opinions on all the statements made at the most senior levels of the Pentagon or the U.S. administration, say that the missile defence system means launching weapons into space.
It is interesting to see reference in the resolution by the Canadian Alliance to any system against ballistic missiles. Does that include weapons in space? It will be interesting to hear from Alliance members whether they officially and clearly back the inclusion of weaponry in space. By putting their motion forward the way it is phrased and referring to any system, if we voted for the motion, it means we would have to accept any system, including weapons in space.
Alliance members will probably say in reply that of course they are not talking about weapons in space and that the Americans have only proposed a ground based anti-missile system. Yet the pressures and the numerous statements coming from the highest level at the Pentagon, within the administration itself, by Rumsfeld and others and sometimes by the President himself, give us very good grounds for believing that in the end the anti-missile system proposed by the United States must include weapons in space.
I would like to read from an article, which I think is a cogent, profound article by Jeffrey Simpson, in the Globe and Mail of May 7, 2003. He puts this question:
What link exists between missile defence and weaponizing space? A missile defence system must depend on satellites for surveillance and communications. Any threat to these capabilities would weaken the anti-missile system. Therefore, the logic of an anti-missile system must drive the designers to protect it. This means producing weapons in space that can protect satellites and attack any threat to them.
He goes on to say:
Anti-missile defence without weaponizing space is like being half-pregnant. Joining the missile defence scheme without understanding where it must lead is to misunderstand the stakes.
He is not the only one to have given us a warning that joining the anti-missile defence system is a path toward weaponry in space.
It is interesting to hear our friends from the Alliance tell us about all these missiles that will rain on us if we do not protect ourselves, that the Americans will suffer enough to defend us and that they will rain on Vancouver, Seattle and Montreal. At the height of the cold war with the Soviet Union, if any country had the power to have ballistic missiles that could travel across the ocean, we did not have an anti-missile ballistic defence system. Who are these countries now? From where is this threat coming?
The axis of evil was Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Already Iraq is completely disabled and it has been proven that the so-called weapons of mass destruction and all the famous armaments it used to have in secret have not been found still, months after the end of the war. Today there was another article saying that they could not find a threat anywhere. It leaves Iran and North Korea.
Who in a sane mind could believe that Iran or North Korea or another so-called rogue state, which has not been identified, could rain missiles on the United States or Canada, for that matter? It is almost a farce because if they even attempted, surely the intelligence of the world community would signal before hand that Iran or North Korea was ready to rain missiles on us. However even if they did by surprise, does anyone think they would take a chance with the power and might of the United States and the world at large? They would be annihilated in just a matter of days. They would never risk it, even if they had the power to do so, which most informed observers say they do not.
So where is the need for this?
The irony of it is that terrorism today has been conducted by people who have used unsuspected means such as suicide bombers mostly, using low tech technology and not high tech technology. It happened in the 9/11 tragedy, again in Saudi Arabia, the other day in Morocco and it is always the same pattern, suicide bombers using low tech technology.
It really is scary, this new way or talk of militarism and more and more weaponry when we have so much of an arsenal already at our disposal.
I read an article from the San Francisco Chronicle dated May 20. It said:
As Congress moves closer to a vote on repealing a ban against developing smaller, more usable nuclear warheads, a group of prominent scientists issued a letter Monday urging that the prohibition be kept in place.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has already voted in favour of a total repeal of the prohibition, passed 10 years ago as a means of preventing the use or proliferation of nuclear weapons. But the House Armed Services Committee voted on a compromise version that would permit design work but stop short of production of low-yield warheads.
The Bush administration and many Republicans in Congress have said the law should be repealed because, in a world of dangerous new threats, the U.S. needs a new generation of low-yield weapons for pinpoint strikes...
They do not have enough. The scientists wrote this:
“It is counter to U.S. interests for the United States to pursue new nuclear weapons at a time when the highest U.S. priority is preventing other countries or groups from obtaining them”, the authors said. “The perception that the United States is pursuing these weapons and considering their use would give legitimacy to the development of similar weapons by other countries.
They added, “The United States should be seeking to increase the barriers to using nuclear weapons, not decreasing them”.
The article goes on to say:
A low-yield weapon refers to a warhead with a force of five kilotons or less, about a third of the force of the warhead that killed 140,000 people when dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Where do we stop with this weaponry? Where does the United States stop? It already has so much in the way of armaments that it can annihilate any country in the world just in a matter of days if it wants. It has nuclear warheads in profusion, ballistic missiles, ships and warships of all kinds, technology of the latest as we saw in the Iraq war but that is not enough. Now we need low-yield nuclear weapons and we need the star wars deal which will lead to weaponry in space.
Meanwhile, credible observers like Lloyd Axworthy, our ex-foreign affairs minister, with a reputation for peace, peacemaking and peacekeeping, and Nobel Laureate John Polyani have warned us that star wars is a slippery slope. What does the world really need? Does it need star wars? Does it need more nuclear weapons, low-yield or otherwise? Does it need more ballistic missiles or anti-ballistic missile missiles?
What it needs really is more concern for the areas of the world that are totally neglected. Three million people are dying in the Congo right now as we speak and I think a few troops are there. To help this small United Nations force would be really a far greater service to the world than spending billions and maybe trillions on a star wars defence system. What we need is to really check our conscience.
Malaria, AIDS and TB are devastating millions and millions of people in Africa. They say that just AIDS alone devastates something like 27 million people in Africa. We really need to change course, to abandon weaponry in space and to say to ourselves, yes, we can be participants in Norad but, no, to any system that would lead to star wars.
Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC
Mr. Speaker, the member is talking about weapons in space as an emotional hot point, but we must talk about the global positioning system that we have around the world now. It is a military device, created by the military. It is now of course used by boaters, recreational people, hikers, and it is even at my golf course to tell me how far I am from the hole, but it is a military satellite system. We must also remember that we have had satellite recognizance for military purposes for years. It was used in war, the last one of course.
Let us just think of the great case when the satellite information was given to the British by the Americans to sink the Argentinian ship, the General Belgrano . That was using the satellite system specifically for direct offensive action. Secret military launches into space have been going on since the 1960s.
What is his definition when he talks about so-called weapons in space? If he is going to make the political point to create some kind of emotion on the issue for political purposes, he has to be very precise on what he is talking about when he says weapons in space. That is my first point.
Second, I want to ask him this very clearly. Is he contradicting the Minister of National Defence, who came into the House and made a statement today? I want him to clearly state his view about what the minister said in the House just an hour or so ago. In general, the minister said that Canada will be in the tent for discussions.
I would like a comment on both of those questions.
Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC
Mr. Speaker, first, we all know there are spy satellites in space and that space is being used for spying by countries, by giving observations to armies to act. I will not contradict the facts that are brought up by my colleague.
At the same time, the question to be asked is whether this is not enough already. Is it not too much already? Should we weaponize space even more, as Rumsfeld and all the others are predicting they will? There have been several statements. I do not have the time now but I am sure my colleague will refer to them because he has a whole slew of statements from people at the Pentagon, from people in the administration who say that the anti-missile defence system will lead to more weaponry in space.
We do not need an organized system of weaponry in space because if the United States starts to arm in space, certainly another nation will do it tomorrow, whether it is China or Russia or somebody else. What we need are less armaments, not more armaments on the pretext that we are defending against terrorism in rogue states.
As to what the Minister of National Defence said, I did not hear his speech. However we happen to be in a democratic party on this side of the House. It may be funny for them to talk about democracy and laugh. I do not laugh. This is why I am able, as a member of the Liberal Party, to state my case because this question is still open. The government has not made a final decision as to whether it will. Until it does, we on this side will say our piece. Those of us who are for our joining the anti-missile defence system will say so. I just happen to disagree.
If the defence minister says today that his position is we should join it to find out what it is, that is his position. I have a different position, and until a decision is made, I will continue to hold that position because we just happen to be a party that is not cheap. Thank the Lord.
Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT
Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate the hon. member's talks. They are always very thoughtful and I am very interested in hearing them. I wonder if he could comment on two things.
I did not hear the minister's speech either but my understanding is he basically said that he was only going to enter into discussions to find more information. Does the member have any comments on that?
Second, could the member give us some of the details of Mr. Axworthy's presentation, at which most of us were not present?
Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC
Mr. Speaker, I did not hear Mr. Axworthy speak. I wish I could have been there, but I read his article in the Globe and Mail and I know his feelings about this issue. He wrote an extensive article in the Globe and Mail some time ago. I endorse his views 100%.
He is warning us that we are falling more and more in the orbit of the United States in military defence and that we should be most careful, especially in regard to this new star wars. People do not want to call it star wars because that evokes weapons in space and they want to avoid that, but he and John Polanyi and many other observers are saying that is really what it means.
In regard to the Minister of National Defence, I did not hear his speech. If it is a matter of just discussing with the United States without any precondition and leaving the options open to us in Parliament to vote yea or nay, then there should be discussions certainly. Why not? Before doing that however, we should be sensitive to the point of view of many of us who do not want the discussions just to be a forerunner to a decision. We want the chance to debate this issue as it is a fundamental issue for our country. I hope that this is the spirit in which the Minister of National Defence has spoken and I am sure it is.