House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.

Topics

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, the hon. member is simply wrong. I cannot emphasize that enough. I cannot say it loud and long enough that he is wrong in terms of what he is suggesting.

There are sensors in space. There have been sensors in space since the early days of Norad. We have used them. They have been part of the system of missile warning and attack assessment. That is part of the existing system. That is what has been referred to as the militarization of space, not the weaponization of space. These are two very separate issues.

The other argument I would address is the issue of weaponization of space from the standpoint of what has been spent on this issue. There is some research being done.

Out of a $9 billion budget in the United States, approximately $14 million has been spent on space related research. That is .15% of the overall missile agency defence budget. That is a minuscule amount. Those who think that at that rate of spending the Americans will be able to put space based weapons into place any time soon are deluding themselves completely.

This is not about the weaponization of space. The existing system is based on a land and sea based interceptor system. As other hon. members have said, it will be based in Fort Greeley, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It has no space based weapons in the system. As far as we know, there may and likely never will be any space based weapons. That would certainly be my guess, but who knows what the future holds in that respect. We cannot predict out 50 years, 100 years. That is impossible. That is absurd. We should not even be engaged in that sort of speculation when we are talking about the system that is under consideration right now.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Chair, since we have been invited by the minister to engage in facts, could we have some from him as to what his defence department has done. Has it issued these contracts worth about $700,000, and I am quoting now from the Ottawa Citizen , “to try out Canadian radar technology in U.S.-run trials of the missile shield this summer”? Have we in fact committed $700,000 to that? Who is in control of those tests? If we have committed, then I have a supplementary question.

The radar system is one that was developed by Raytheon here in Canada. I think it was mentioned earlier by my colleague from the Bloc that Mr. Jim Graaskamp is quoted as saying, “We have no idea what this is about, whether it can carry out this task”. Then he went on to say, “The specific product designed for Canada is not designed for missile detection. There is no demonstrated capability that this technology can be used for ballistic missile defence”.

If we have committed to it, how does the minister justify it when in fact the producer of this product is saying it has no capability to do what is proposed to be done?

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:35 p.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, I tried to explain this earlier to another hon. member, but I will take another whack at it and hopefully, we will be able to get some information out there for the hon. member.

Raytheon produces what is known as a high frequency service wave radar. It is intended to detect things like ice floes in the north Atlantic. It is intended to detect low-flying airplanes. It is intended to detect ships. It is an over the horizon type of radar. That is what the spokesperson for Raytheon was talking about. It is not intended for ballistic missile defence, but potentially it could be used in a cruise missile type detection scenario. That is what the defence department is interested in exploring with companies like Raytheon. For that matter, the defence department has not decided whether we even want to participate in these trials.

The nature of the radar system that is produced by Raytheon would lend itself to cruise missile defence, not ballistic missile defence, which I think explains what the hon. member is trying to get at.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Chair, I want to cite further from one of the e-mails that I received in my office today in anticipation of tonight's debate. It goes as follows:

While Minister Pratt has dismissed the issue of the weaponization of space... President Bush has presented a budget to the U.S. Congress that specifically funds the space-based portion of BMD. The Pentagon's Fiscal Year 2004 budget request contains substantial funding in three space-based mission areas: Force projection and space control... Space-based elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System... and Space-based command, control, and intelligence.... Taken together, the budget request seeks almost $3 billion in 2004 for strategic war fighting from space, and more than $30 billion over the [next five-year] timeframe.

I wonder if the minister could explain the contradiction between his insistence that the NMD is not about the weaponization of space yet we see that there are three space based components that are without a doubt tied in with the 20-20 vision already set out by the Bush administration to move to the weaponization of space.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:35 p.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, I think the one thing that the NDP has been hanging its hat on in this entire debate is documents that typically are background papers. They are certainly not policy documents.

One has to look at where the money is actually being spent, where the money is being spent within the United States, within the missile defence agency. As I just mentioned a few moments ago, the fact is that the U.S. is spending about $14 million out of a $9 billion budget. It is a minuscule amount.

Look at the amounts that are being spent, not the amounts that are proposed by various groups. I think that is an important consideration and it is something that the NDP seems to completely ignore.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Brown Oakville, ON

Mr. Chair, I would not want the viewing public to think that only the NDP is opposed to this. There are many Liberal members who are equally firm against this concept. I would like to thank the members of the NDP for some of the excellent research they have done on this issue.

The minister has repeated over and over again that he has the facts, but repeating does not make his opinions facts. Evidence can be found on the American defense department website and the website of the National Space Agency suggesting that his white coating of the intention of the Americans in this realm is not true.

It is true that suggestions around weaponization of space might be deferred until maybe 2012. However, the fact that this is the intention does not erase the need for us to question it, when it will have such a negative effect on the stability of the world and the possibility for world peace.

I do not know why, and I would like to ask the minister--

Ballistic Missile Defence
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8:40 p.m.

The Chair

I am sorry to interrupt the member but time has run out. I will ask the Minister of National Defence to respond to the comments already made.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

David Pratt Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, we have to separate what has been requested by the President in past budgets and what has been approved by congress. The figure of about $14 million being approved in this year for missile defence is based on a $47 million request by the President. Congress ended up approving $14 million, which is .15% of the overall missile defence budget.

What the administration asks for and what it gets from congress are two different things. Let us deal with the facts rather than speculation. That is all I am saying.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, first it is somewhat comforting to know that, as we address this issue this evening, we have the significant support of Canadians. Polling as recent as November on this issue shows that seven out of ten Canadians want Canada involved in some kind of North American or even larger missile defence system, so it is good to know that we are speaking on behalf of the majority of Canadians.

It is also good to know that we are not alone as a country in following the lead of the government. We are not alone as a country in wanting to be involved and seeing the efficacy of being involved in missile defence. Australia has indicated its involvement and its pursuit of this form of defence as well as Japan, Britain, South Korea, India, Israel, Russia and other NATO countries. Not only are we speaking for a majority of Canadians on this issue in terms of ballistic missile defence, we are also considerably engaged with our allies around the globe.

The focus here is a defensive focus. This is somewhat unique in terms of conflict and of the preparation for possible attack as we look through time. Really, the only other times we could see an emphasis on defence was the actual building of castle walls to keep oneself and one's citizenry protected from the catapults, arrows and other things with which belligerent forces were threatening.

We are talking about a defensive system of 20 ground based interceptors, eventually leading to 20 sea based interceptors that would in effect form a protective wall against the possibility of nuclear attack, of nuclear capability, nuclear weapons obviously carried upon ballistic missiles that came toward our nation and the nations of our friends.

A government's number one responsibility to its citizens has to be safety and security. It would be negligent and I would suggest it would be delinquent of the government if it were not to do everything it could do within reason to pursue the defence of its own citizens.

No dollar amount is being asked for from the Canadian side. Our input is being requested. We have the marvellous precedent of being involved in Norad with our U.S. allies. In fact we have significant command and control positions in Norad itself in terms of this North American defence system. We are already plugged in. It has been relatively successful, and Canada has had a significant impact in terms of the involvement and how the principles of Norad and North American defence are applied.

To say that we would not be involved in these discussions, that we would not use the expertise we have, and the concern we have for peace and for proper defence, and shut ourselves out of that makes no sense, no common sense, no strategic sense and no foreign policy sense. This is the most peaceful option available to deter the threat of states that have declared they want to eliminate other states, other jurisdictions.

We hear the argument all the time that this will not stop somebody carrying a dirty bomb in their knapsack and that this will not stop the release of a chemical attack in the ventilation system of a skyscraper or the water system of a city. Of course it will not, but it will significantly deter and possibly shut down one avenue of attack.

It would be naive of us to say that belligerent nations would ever even think of using some kind of air based attack on other nations. We do not have to think too far back to realize that is exactly what happened with 9/11. Jet airlines became ballistic missiles filled with explosive fuel and hostages. I cannot believe the member for Halifax laughed at that suggestion, at that tragedy. It was a case of airplanes being turned into ballistic missiles.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, we saw very clearly his missiles, which were flying through the air, being knocked down by a U.S. based interceptor system called Patriot missiles. I wonder if the NDP would say that it would have been better not to have had that missile defence system in place, just let those Scud missiles go in and let innocent, peace loving citizens of Kuwait be decimated by the tens and hundreds of thousands.

We are talking about a missile based defensive system to deter the possibility of nuclear capability armed on ballistic missiles being launched, especially against peace loving nations. It would be naive to suggest that North Korea, one of the most vicious regimes on the earth today with its ballistic capability, would not use its weapons. What are those people who are to opposed to this thinking? Do they think that if we just sat back, North Korea and its vicious and demented leader would put their weapons away because peace loving nations did not have missile defence systems? What would mainland communist China's view be? Why would it not be involved in this system? They have 400 missiles aimed across the straits of a democratic Taiwan.

We are in need of a missile based defence system. We also have to look at the other areas of protection such as chemical warfare and the small so-called dirty bombs that could be brought into our cities in vehicles. However, do opponents prefer the old method of mutually assured destruction, where we develop the capabilities to destroy the world, who knows how many times over? Many time it hung on the brink? The Cuban missile crisis was one those times of brinkmanship. Would they really prefer that type of system? That is a deterrent which mutually assures destruction.

A ballistic missile defence system mutually assures protection. We have opponents of this system saying that we should not be involved and that we should piggyback on a defence system that would be there for us. However, ostensibly, we should be left outside of the system.

I am sensitive to the cry of the heart of some of the MPs who say that we and our allies should not put any money into this. That money should all go into food for people. We need good health care around the world. We need it in Canada. We need to see the poor fed. However, it would be naive beyond description to abandon our responsibility to provide for the safety and security of our citizens by staying outside of the system.

By having a proper defence system, we can then allow the other areas of our economy to move ahead and provide the health care, provide the food and provide the education and the programs that democratic, freedom loving nations have. They take a stand against belligerent nations, like North Korea, that are starving their people literally by the millions. The estimation over the last few years is two million people in North Korea have starved, while their country puts so much of its effort into offensive attack style missile systems.

There are not many times we get to congratulate the government on a positive initiative. We should be involved in the discussion of the protection of our citizens in a responsible defence based way. We should be developing a system which we would share with all other nations in terms of defence. That would be the ultimate deterrent. Why would belligerent nations then spend the money to develop ballistic missile capabilities when they would know they would face an array of defence systems that would easily knock them down?

The system is not perfect. Obviously it has to be developed. What we have proven, and with our involvement in Norad, is Canada needs to be there. We know what global peace is all about. We understand what makes democracy work and what makes a nation strong. We need to be there. It would be delinquent for us not to be. I do congratulate the government for taking this positive initiative.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Chair, the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla has stated quite specifically that 7 out of 10 Canadians favour Canada's participation in national missile defence.

First, could the member enlighten the House on what specific question was put to Canadians on the basis of which he bases this report? Second, who conducted the opinion research that led to that conclusion? And third, where is that research actually reported so that Canadians who are interested in analyzing the findings of that poll could actually study and familiarize themselves with it?

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, that is a fair question. I cited a Michael Marzolini Pollara survey done as recently as November. The question that was put to Canadians asked whether they supported the notion of Canada being involved and participating in some type of missile defence system. That was the question that was put and 7 out of 10 Canadians said yes.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Chair, my colleague spoke in detail about how important it is for us to become part of the plans for the future of defending North America. Over the last x number of years we have seen the steady decline of government support for our armed forces which has weakening the forces. How often have we heard it said across the country “Thank God the Americans are there to protect us”?

I ask him, how long should we go on expecting others to defend us? I congratulate the government on the initiative of looking at being part of this suggested procedure because is it not time that we played our part in ensuring that our country is well defended? If not, somewhere along the line we will pay a very heavy price for our negligence.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, that is a fair observation. Clearly, the perception is out there that Canada is not carrying its weight on this issue.

Not just under the Liberals for the last 10 years, but under the Conservatives earlier, there began to be a decline in the funding of our national defence. Incumbent with that was a loss of influence around the NATO table for Canada. As a matter of fact, Canada was significant not only in the development of NATO, but also the United Nations.

Why was that? What earned us the right in the mid-forties, post-World War II, then moving into the fifties, to be there at the table in such a significant way? It was the fact of our involvement in the first world war in terms of national defence. The total population of the country was 8 million at the time and we saw 625,000 men going into combat. We were in that war three years ahead of the Americans.

People like to say the Americans tend to be belligerent. We were there three years before they were. We were in the second world war before the Americans were in a very significant way. It was because of our commitment to national defence and our armaments that we earned a place of influence at the table of peace when they were talking about the League of Nations, the United Nations and peacekeeping moving into Israel in the fifties.

We earned that and we need to earn it back. We cannot continue to piggyback along and not have any commitment. We need to be there on these issues.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, I was interested to hear the hon. member's observations about our historical participation. However, he will surely agree with me, because I listened intently earlier this evening to the member for Peace River about why his party is supporting our approach to this issue, that it is a very calibrated approach.

It is an approach which recognizes that Canada has had an independent voice in foreign affairs. It has had a way in which we have contributed to peace, a way in which we want to contribute to North American defence but bring a Canadian perspective.

I know that the hon. member will want to reiterate what his colleague said when he said that his party is not in favour of weaponization of space. He approves of the government going into these discussions in a way that represents and focuses on Canada's interests in a North American defence with our American allies, which we have been doing since the Ogdensburg agreement, since he is so interested in history. However, it would be in a way that would also preserve a Canadian perspective.

The hon. member and the members of his party have been critical of us for not rushing into this more quickly. I want to ask the hon. member, does he not think that we want to ensure that when we go into these arenas, when we enter into these arrangements with our American colleagues, that we do so in a way that is consistent with Canadian traditions, and that we bring our own perspective on peace in the world?

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, the Minister of Foreign Affairs asked why we are supporting the government's approach to this. Actually, we are congratulating the government for supporting our approach in this area of security and defence.

The government has been dragging its feet for eight years on this and finally it has done the polling on our approach, which is to be involved in North American security with a good perimeter. Also, I am somewhat cynical talking about its polling practices, but the government sincerely believes it is the right thing to do and I want to give it the credit for that.

This has everything to do with Canadian sovereignty. The sovereignty that we established over the decades is there because we recognized the importance of being properly armed as a nation so that we could protect our own and should the occasion arise in the global village--when the global bullies, as they always will, try to move in on weaker nations--Canada can indeed be there.

That has been something that we have always supported. I appreciate the minister raising that. It is a calibrated approach, of course. We say that this should be done step by step by watching where we go, and as we go, being involved and committed to North American defence and the development of a scientific and technological system which can be shared with--