House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 38th Parliament, 1st 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.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to our new colleague. I also welcome him to the defence committee and look forward to working with him.

He talked about this being a partisan place. He certainly has demonstrated that and I would like to take him up on that a little just to set the record straight.

I indicated that I had taught some English, but my first degree is in history. I read and taught about the Pacific scandal. I read and taught about the Mulroney years. If there is a lesson to be learned from history in this country it is that his party has no right to point the finger at anyone else when the subject is integrity.

On the member's point, I think he has levelled a serious charge. He is a new member, but I cannot let it go. I have to challenge him in a friendly way. He used the term “gag order”, that when elected to office his party would “remove the gag order on the military”. I ask the hon. member to indicate to us where he feels there has been a gag order and what evidence he has that there is a gag order in place.

With respect, I say it is very unfortunate that he chose to say that Vice-Admiral MacLean and the chief of the defence staff General Ray Henault were gagged yesterday, that they were unable to say what they wanted to say. They were witnesses and were called witnesses for a reason. They were giving what is called testimony, evidence, at committee

I ask my colleague, and hopefully my friend soon, does he have evidence of this gag order? That is an extremely serious thing to say in the House of Commons about the interplay between the government and the military. If he has evidence, I want him to table it at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise I think he should retract.

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1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, my friend from London—Fanshawe is partially right. The two members of the military who were at committee yesterday, and I think I said that, are two excellent people. What they had to say was in answer to the questions. The answers to the committee were forthright. To be honest with the member for London--Fanshawe, I cannot specifically tell him of a gag order.

My sense is that members of the military know what is important to say in the bounds of what they do and that is what I alluded to. I may have been intemperate in my words, but the fact remains that I think they are very guarded in what they tell us.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's honesty and his candour, and I accept his statement, as we all do.

I will end with this. I spoke about hyperbole in this debate, the tendency on both sides of the House to exaggerate beyond what the facts are. This subject is too important. I know my friend agrees and I very much appreciate his candid and honest statement. It is too serious a subject to give in to the temptation to be overly partisan and to exaggerate. I caution all members, and I include myself obviously as chair of the defence committee, let us stick to the facts and deal with them as fairly and objectively as we can.

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1:40 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I want to add some historical context to what we are talking about today.

Back in 1993 to 1995 our government was enduring dealing with very large deficits. As a result we had to make cuts across the board to everything. I am very happy that over the last little while we have been able to change that and have started to make strategic investments in our military.

Obviously when I was a member of the opposition party, I went through the Conservative Party's defence white paper. One of the great difficulties I had, and why I did not sign off on it, was that the demands, the requirements and requests in that white paper were simply not affordable. The problem was that if we had purchased all of what was requested in that paper, our country would be in a deficit situation again, which was completely unworkable.

Is the hon. member aware of the costing out of the white paper of the Conservative Party? It is a leading question because I can tell members that it is in excess of what this country could possibly afford.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I am not sure if it was costed out with respect to a $1.9 billion surplus or a $9.1 billion surplus.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, since this is my first speech in this 38th Parliament, I would like to take some time to congratulate you on your appointment as Acting Speaker of the House and to thank my constituents, the voters of my riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for re-electing me.

On June 28, 64.9% of voters reaffirmed the trust they had in their MP for the third time. That is a clear sign for me to keep up the good work. It shows me that they approve of what I do in this House and that they support the work of my colleagues, the members of the Bloc Québécois. I would also like to thank and congratulate my colleagues from northwestern Quebec, my seatmates, who provide us with moral support during our speeches.

Please excuse me, I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma.

Enough thank yous and compliments, let us get to the heart of the debate. The Bloc Québécois and I are against this motion, not because it is bad, but because it asks to invest money in national defence when there is no national defence policy. The same is true for Canada's foreign affairs policies—there is no policy.

The last time national defence policies were reviewed was in 1994. I wonder if DND still uses these policies. If so, it should consider changing them because the concept of defence and military armament has changed dramatically since September 11, 2001.

We no longer have an army to contend with, we have to deal with people we call terrorists, who have not been identified and whose methods we do not know. Consequently, this government absolutely must establish a defence policy. In the meantime, it should invest money in the living conditions of our service members.

I have, unfortunately, had occasion to provide support to young men and women the age of my own son, who have returned from war or peacekeeping in Bosnia with post-traumatic stress syndrome. They have come home as human wrecks, a harsh term perhaps but they are greatly in need of psychological and psychiatric help. Unfortunately, we turn a blind eye to them.

Some of these young people in my riding have to spend time at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue regularly, daily or weekly. Unfortunately, they need more help than that. Let us not lose sight of the fact that these young people, like all our military personnel, have been to war or on peacekeeping assignment in order to advance the cause of democracy. That was their role.

The dangers that await us if we invest in our armed forces without any national defence policy is that these investments are likely to be wasted. I will give a few examples of this.

Hon. members will recall that, in 1998-99, the national defence budget was $8,964 million, while it will be $13,400 million in 2003-04. That is a lot of money. Ordinary people's dreams of winning the lottery never exceed a million. So this is an increase of 49.5% in national defence spending since 1998.

What did that money go to? Let us think back to 1993, when the government over the way spent $500 million to cancel the helicopter contract. Or back to 1998 when, without consulting the House, it announced, just like that, the purchase of four used submarines from Great Britain, ones that had been in mothballs since 1993. They were purchased in 1998 for $800 million, apparently to protect our coasts, the Arctic and the far north, but the submarines were not equipped to operate under northern ice.

Since then, several hundred million dollars have been invested in those submarines. The total has reached nearly $1 billion in expenditures on those four submarines, now all in dry dock. Unfortunately, for that to happen, Lieutenant Saunders had to lose his life in the incident aboard the HMCS

Chicoutimi.

While waiting for my colleague to take his seat, I would just like to add that we spent another $174 million needlessly on a communications satellite that has not been used. That is one of the things the auditor general pinpointed.

With that I shall pass things over to my colleague for his ten minutes.

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1:50 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, my colleague from the Bloc brought up the issue of communications. I wonder if he is aware that right now at the Ottawa Convention Centre there is a very large technological conference with hundreds of displays. Our Canadian Forces put seven submissions into this very large competition on technology. Our Canadian Forces had four finalists and won three awards, two gold and one silver, which is an extraordinary accomplishment.

One of the submissions is a communications network we are using in the Arctic. It is a world leader. It will save lives not only in the Canadian Arctic but also internationally. I wonder if the hon. member is aware of and supports the investment and experimentation done by our Canadian Forces in order to improve its capabilities and also save lives here at home and abroad.

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1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I am indeed aware of the exhibition. The army does not only do bad things. It also does good things. I think, however—and this is the Bloc's view—that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence will have to agree with me that it is time this country had a national defence policy.

I sincerely believe that we need to know what role and responsibilities our army will have. Will it be a defensive or an offensive army? What role will it have? We absolutely must develop a defence policy for this army.

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I am in strong disagreement with the member's statement. The army does not do only wrong things. I am going to ask him to explain what he means by that, because our army does not do wrong things. Our army does good things all over the world. It saves lives.

I want to ask the member if he is aware that our army has capabilities of both a defensive and an offensive nature. It must have both of those capabilities. I am wondering if he is aware of and knowledgeable about the heroism that our armed forces displayed in the Medak pocket in Croatia and the awards they received from the U.S. government, and the awards that our snipers received in Afghanistan for the extraordinary work they did there. Also, is he aware of the fact that our armed forces save lives in both a defensive and an offensive nature?

Does the member support and acknowledge the fact that our armed forces must have the weaponry and capability at the end of the day to engage in offensive operations in order to save Canadian lives and also lives abroad with respect to the work they do to keep peace and security internationally? Does he support the offensive capabilities of our armed forces, yes or no?

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1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I recommend that my colleague, the hon. parliamentary secretary, read the blues carefully tomorrow, because I said that the army does not only do bad things, that it also does good things. That is what I said. The army does not only do bad things, it also does good things.

In response to the second part of his question about whether the army should have offensive weapons, yes, these are necessary in a conventional army. More needs to be done, however, and I would like to hear him on this: should there not be a new defence policy for this army? That is the problem. We are working with defence policies dating back to 1994; we are still talking about the 1994 white paper, even if this is 2004.

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1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about the war in Iraq. Quebec took a very pacifist stand on this war. There were demonstrations. People who disagreed expressed their opinion. Today, I am proud of the position against taking part in the war that was expressed and promoted here in the House.

I would like my colleague to explain this situation more fully and in connection with a debate that could redirect the entire involvement of the armed forces in this new global context.

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1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma for this opportunity to say something about the war in Iraq. Yes, I completely agree with the position Quebeckers took on this issue. It was also the Bloc Québécois position. Since the beginning we Quebeckers have been a peaceful people. We do not like war. For example, during the second world war, we opposed sending soldiers. But a law was passed here that forced us to go and fight.

Let us return to the war in Iraq. Yes, it is true that we, the people of Quebec, put pressure on this government not to follow the Americans on this issue. I am aware that, for once, the government listened to the people of Quebec, and all the more so because this war—as is very clear now—is especially and uniquely about oil, the lifeblood of the modern economy. No weapons of mass destruction have yet been found.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I know we do not have much time, but I want to enlighten my hon. colleague from the other side.

Do we need a defence policy? Absolutely. Are we going to continue to work on the 1994 policy? No. Do we have one in the works? Yes. It is going to come out to the defence committee in the fall. Not only do we have a specific defence policy, but we also have a combined four part policy that integrates a lot of the things he talks about in terms of development, defence, foreign policy and trade. It is an integrated approach to deal with complex security challenges. We are doing that and I look forward to my colleague's input so we can make the policy as strong as possible.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, this is the time of year when communities across Canada celebrate Small Business Week.

In Atlantic Canada, 70% of all jobs created by new firms are created by small businesses. That is why the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency focuses on helping entrepreneurs access the capital, information and business management skills they need to succeed.

An excellent example of how ACOA works is a company in my riding called Fabco Industries. This small company started in 1978 and is now a leader in marine construction and offshore oil and gas. When the company needed to expand and modernize, ACOA was there to help with a $450,000 business loan. Today Fabco has 50 full time employees and serves the offshore and marine industries worldwide.

The Government of Canada, through ACOA, also supports organizations that provide advice to small businesses on improving their profitability. ACOA works for Atlantic Canadians.

I congratulate all the entrepreneurs and I congratulate ACOA for its valuable support to small businesses in Atlantic Canada.

Riding of Newton--North Delta
Statements By Members

October 21st, 2004 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, among others, the following local issues are very important to the constitutes of Newton—North Delta.

Transportation and traffic congestion on Scott Road, 72nd Avenue, Highway 91 and Highway 10 is an ongoing problem, yet this government returns only 3% of the gas tax revenue to B.C. We need money for the construction of the South Fraser perimeter road.

With emergency services and beds cut in the Delta hospital, health services in Surrey and North Delta are inadequate, yet the Prime Minister's “fix for a generation” is not even a fix for a decade.

Auto theft, marijuana grow ops, prostitution, break and enter and organized crime put the safety of residents at risk. Laws without teeth and the revolving door justice system need to be fixed.

Newton—North Delta being the host of Burns Bog, we need the government's commitment to conserve the environment and the bog rather than waste resources on selling Kyoto.

We need resources for dredging the Fraser River, and the Fraser docks need expansion with better connections to road, rail and air transportation.

The misplaced priorities of the Liberal government are hurting our communities.