House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was missiles.

Topics

Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Kings—Hants
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada-U.S.)

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure today that I rise to speak to the issue of ballistic missile defence, or BMD, and Canada's ongoing discussions with the United States on that important issue. This is a great opportunity to address the facts and to dismiss some of the inaccuracies or myths.

As everyone is aware, on January 15 the Minister of National Defence and the U.S. Secretary of Defense exchanged letters of intent on BMD. These letters will permit Canada to pursue negotiations with the United States and allow us to help shape those plans for the future. This is crucial for Canada to consider. Any decision made on behalf of Canadians by the Canadian government on Canada's participation in BMD will be based on the fundamental question of whether or not it is in Canada's national interest.

Before I go any further, Madam Speaker, I want to split my time with the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean.

Despite the fact that Canadians would overwhelmingly support the notion of increasing and improving Canadian security and the ability to protect Canadians against security threats, there are some who would want to actually keep Canadians in the dark. In some cases there are some who would present and disseminate information which was really misinformation and was not accurate.

If we are going to have a legitimate debate on such an important issue, we need to deal with facts. I am going to point out some of the myths that are out there.

First of all, missile defence and the proposal we are speaking of is land and sea based missile defence. This is not star wars. Star wars is a 1980s term, like Ed Broadbent. We should be dealing with the fact that we are talking about land and sea based missile defence. This is far more limited in scope than the discussions in the 1980s around the weaponization of space.

At that time the Canadian government decided it was not in Canada's national interest to participate for two reasons. It was not in Canada's national interest to pursue a policy of weaponization of space which was the proposal then. Also, it was a very different environment than that which exists today in a post-cold war environment.

It is key for us to recognize that the U.S. intention is to have up to 20 interceptors in place by 2005 and this system will not employ weapons in space. Some military planners in the U.S. have drafted vision documents discussing options in the future. These are not policy; they discuss options well into the future.

Given the fact that the Canadian position is to oppose the weaponization of space, it is important that the Canadian position be represented at the table and down the road when the discussions occur. Then we can make that case in a vigorous and meaningful way as opposed to being shut out of those discussions by some sort of pre-emptive fear of what future discussions could be.

One of the issues that is raised is that participating in these discussions somehow represents a threat to Canadian sovereignty. I would argue that when the Canadian government has an opportunity to increase and protect the security of Canadians, if it chooses not to do so, that in fact is a threat to Canadian sovereignty. Any government that fails to take every possible action to defend the security of its own people is failing to defend the sovereignty of its own people.

A fundamental principle of protecting sovereignty involves first and foremost defending security. We have a 50 year history of working with the U.S. to defend North American security. Norad is an essential part of that. Therefore, this is nothing new, to continue those discussions and continue that level of engagement.

Myth number two is that we cannot afford participation. The fact is that Canada has not yet been asked to contribute anything financially. One of the goals of the negotiations is to determine what participation would cost. Clearly the government will not participate or commit to something that we as a government cannot afford. There is no essential need and in fact there is discussion now that there probably will be no need for direct Canadian financial contribution. However, we should, as a country, be willing to participate in North American defence which among other things protects the lives of Canadians.

Most Canadians understand that when it is explained in those terms, particularly in a post-cold war environment where the nature of the threat is so different than it was. The unpredictability of threat is so significant compared to a cold war period. Most Canadians agree that it makes a great deal of sense to participate as part of North America, as part of Norad to defend the security of Canadians.

Myth number three is that a new arms race will start as a result of ballistic missile defence. To the contrary, the ability to protect against ballistic missile attack in North America, if anything, could actually reduce the degree to which rogue nations or terrorist states would want to pursue a ballistic missile strategy against North America. Why would they want to pursue that line of weaponization or contribute to that arms race if we, as part of Norad and in working with the U.S., were taking action through ballistic missile defence to protect ourselves against that? To the contrary, ballistic missile defence has the capacity to reduce the incentive for an arms race based on ballistic missiles. This is purely a limited and defensive response as opposed to something that could in any way, shape or form contribute to or feed an arms race.

Canada remains committed to stopping the spread of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. We have a strong history internationally of effecting change through multilateralism and working with the United States and countries around the world to achieve that. This certainly does not impact negatively. Canada is continuing to play an important role in reducing the spread of ballistic missiles.

Myth number four is that our security will not be heightened. Does anybody in the House, even the opponents of BMD, actually believe that the Government of Canada would be engaged in a discussion and would agree to support ballistic missile defence if it did not believe absolutely and unequivocally that it would protect the security of Canadians? Why else would we do it?

There is a strong recognition that the primary reason for entering into negotiations with the U.S. on this is to determine how BMD can protect the security of Canadians. We are not pursuing these discussions simply to mollify the Americans. We are pursuing these discussions to protect the security and the lives of Canadians first and foremost. That is the principal goal of this. Particularly in a post-September 11 environment, the principal goal of a lot of our joint initiatives with the United States on security issues has been based first and foremost on the goal of protecting the lives and security of Canadians.

Our participation and support of BMD at the end of the day will be determined and based on national interest which will be focused on the principal question of whether or not this participation will help defend the security of Canadians and protect the lives of Canadians. Clearly this proposal, BMD, has the capacity to defend and protect the security of Canadians.

The whole notion that defending ourselves from ballistic missiles is somehow un-Canadian is nonsensical. I think most Canadians want to defend Canadian sovereignty and the best way to defend sovereignty is to actually participate in a meaningful way in protecting Canadian security.

Our objective as a government and as a country is to protect Canadian and North American security, whether that means investing in our military, participating in multilateral efforts or in BMD, among other things, and to defend Canadian sovereignty. It will not weaken it.

I would argue as well--

Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Questions and comments. The member for Prince George—Peace River.

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Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a quick reference question for the member for Kings—Hants. I want to read something from Hansard of Monday, April 15, 2002, and then ask him a question.

In referring to the $100 million that was blown by the Liberal government to purchase two Challenger jets, the member asked:

Will the Prime Minister return to Earth, cancel the order for the flying Taj Mahals and put the money toward our troops that need it or has the little guy from Shawinigan truly become the sultan of Shawinigan?

He was referring, of course, to former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Does he still feel the same way? Will he now refer to the current Prime Minister when he flies in his luxury jet as the shipping magnate from Montreal?

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Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I am not quite certain what relevance that has to ballistic missile defence, but the fact is that the decision, as the Prime Minister responded to the question in the House of Commons, was made outside of the ordinary cabinet procedures. At that time he also was not part of the decision making process that led to the purchase of those jets.

If the hon. member were interested in talking about the issues on which we actually share a commonality of interest, for instance the ballistic missile defence, he could contribute positively to this debate and find common ground.

He, as an hon. member, has probably said more things about some of his colleagues in the House of Commons, with whom he now shares a caucus, members of the former Progressive Conservative Party, than anything I could have said about the party within--

Supply
Government Orders

2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The member will have approximately three minutes following question period. It is now time for statements by members.

Web Awareness Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform the House that today is Web Awareness Day.

Initiated by the Canadian Library Association, the Media Awareness Network and Bell Canada, Web Awareness Day seeks to make parents aware of the resources available at their local libraries to help young Canadians develop their Internet literacy skills.

The Internet plays a large role in the lives of Canadian children. Understanding how to manage their online time into the best possible experience for them is a difficult job for parents. Our libraries are doing their utmost to connect parents with the best resources and information.

Under the theme “Parenting the Net Generation”, public libraries will use Web Awareness Day as a positive opportunity to deliver the message that they are ready to support parents and communities in teaching young Canadians literacy skills for the 21st century.

We thank public libraries for their great efforts and wish them success with Web Awareness Day.

Middle East
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday the member for London—Fanshawe made a statement in the House. I was shocked by the insensitive and inflammatory remarks about the security wall being constructed in Israel.

I am certain most Israelis would agree to dismantle that wall in a heartbeat if the reign of terror and carnage inflicted on its citizens were halted.

The sad reality is that the Palestinian leadership has shown no will, no ability to stop suicide bombers or to prevent the glorification of those who perpetrate such vile acts as martyrs and as heroes.

Israel has a primary responsibility, like as any nation, to protect the person and security of its citizens.

To use accusatory and inflammatory words to characterize Israel's defence is to display gross ignorance of the geopolitical reality and the history of this troubled region.

Those who live in relative peace and security should not be quick to judge those who live in constant peril and with terror.

To accuse Israelis of constructing concentration camps is a cruel and unwarranted slur against all Jewish people and the memory of millions who perished in what remains the world's most infamous genocide.

Scout-Guide Week
Statements By Members

February 19th, 2004 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week is Scout-Guide Week which takes place February 15 to 22.

This is the time of celebration for Scouts Canada and Girl Guides of Canada. It is a chance for the public to recognize the limitless potential of Canadian youth and the work that scouting does to help build a better world for our nation's future leaders.

Scouting is an activity that instils fundamental principles such as leadership, pride and honour in more than 120,000 young boys and girls.

Moreover, these programs and activities are made possible through the commitment and dedication of some 40,000 volunteers working within the scouting movement.

I would encourage all members to join me in wishing both Scouts Canada and Girl Guides of Canada continued success as they move forward.

Heart Month
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, February is Heart Month and it is with great pleasure that I rise today to acknowledge this occasion.

Slightly larger than a fist, the human heart contracts 100,000 times a day and pumps roughly 8,000 litres of blood daily. In a lifetime, the heart beats an average of 2.5 billion times.

Learning more about the heart and conducting research can greatly help people with heart disease.

Healthy living is achieved in many ways, such as eating well, being physically active and quitting smoking. A combination of these good habits will provide a fuller and longer life and could reduce the incidence of heart disease.

As part of Heart Month, I encourage Canadians to take action to stay healthy. I invite Canadians to celebrate Heart Month and become aware of the importance of leading a healthy life all year long.

Export Award of Distinction
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

David Kilgour Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Western Economic Diversification presented the Export Award of Distinction to BioWare of Edmonton.

BioWare develops advanced technology for video and computer games. It has received over 37 Game of the Year awards for its internationally acclaimed products.

Lucasfilms, Microsoft and other producers have chosen this company as their partner for international projects.

Since 1995, BioWare has sold more than 8 million software units in over 40 countries. Exports make up about 98% of BioWare's sales; last year alone accounting for about $13 million.

The 21st century economy is an economy open to the world. Western Canadian companies like BioWare are leading the way.

Government Programs
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claims that as the former finance minister he knew nothing about the advertising scandal. That is a red herring. At least two years ago every MP in the House knew, so obviously he knew as well.

The real question is not whether he knew but rather why, as the finance minister, he did nothing about it. As finance minister he cut funding to health care, defence, the justice system, training, education, all areas important to Canadians.

Why then, as the government's key financial man, did he not do anything to curb the scandalous skimming of funds through the Liberals' money laundering advertising scheme?

In December the billion dollar firearms registry was forecasted to cost $113 million for the fiscal year ending March 31. The Prime Minister introduced changes to cut costs and now the firearms registry is $20 million over budget. The government temporarily suspended funding but the program kept on spending.

If the Prime Minister is not as guilty as anyone in this money laundering and kickback scheme, then at a minimum he is the most incompetent money handler and leader this country has ever had.

Middle East
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too want to speak today to the misleading statement of the member for London—Fanshawe which depicted the Israeli security barrier as a provocative measure against the Palestinian people.

Canadians should remember that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a dispute between two peoples with a legitimate claim to the same land where the Palestinians remain unwilling to abandon the strategy of terror and accept Israel's right to exist.

Without a peace partner, Israel is forced to protect its people unilaterally.

In the past three and a half years Israel has intercepted 313 attempted homicide bombers. Nonetheless, more than 130 others were able to maim and kill innocent Israeli civilians.

It is unfortunate that Israel has to contemplate this barrier, however, a similar security perimeter has stopped all suicide attacks from the Gaza Strip.

The Canadian government correctly objected to the politicization of the barrier in the International Court of Justice.

The Israeli government continues to make every effort to minimize the barrier's impact on Palestinians. However a tide of suicide bombers continues. Israel does not have a choice.

Arts and Culture
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, this year, 14,435 authors in Quebec and Canada will be hit with a 15% decrease in their public lending right earnings. The public lending right is an amount paid to authors in recognition of the presence and use of their books in public and university libraries. The decrease is the result of the $631,000 budget cut made by the Canada Council for the Arts.

This program is a tangible form of appreciation and celebration of the creative and intellectual contributions of authors and for a good number of them, some support as well.

I will borrow the words of one author who said, “The poor writers and poets receive their public lending right cheque with relief and for one day, they can have steak and fries instead of peanut butter”.

Considering the growing number of new authors, every year more money—at least $500,000—should be added to the program, and not taken away as it happened this year. This is a good example of where the $100 million wasted on sponsorships could have gone: to provide money to artists.

The Economy
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Duplain Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, on February 18, 2004, KPMG released the results of their latest study of international business costs. The annual KPMG study is the world's largest objective comparison of operating costs in the G-7.

In this year's version, for the fifth consecutive time, Canada was ranked the lowest-cost country in which to do business. The Minister of International Trade and his colleague the Minister of Industry welcomed these results yesterday at simultaneous press conferences in Montreal and Toronto.

The KPMG study is clearly good news for our economy and our communities. The results show that our country is well positioned to build a 21st century economy that will be a global magnet for capital, creative entrepreneurs and innovative ideas.

Employment Insurance
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, there is much concern in my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador surrounding the recent decision of the Quebec Court of Appeal regarding maternity, parental and sick benefits through the EI program.

The ruling claimed that these were matters of provincial jurisdiction and that the federal government had no right to ensure that all Canadians receive equal access to these benefits.

There are also concerns that the government is considering carving up the EI moneys to cover the cost of these benefits which would ensure the poorer provinces, like Newfoundland and Labrador, will be hit hardest as a result.

Canadians everywhere understand the federal government has a crucial role to play in maintaining national standards and the national program in order to prevent balkanization of the EI program.

If the Quebec ruling stands, it will set a dangerous precedent and will eliminate the current standards that exist with respect to special benefits.

I therefore urge the government to do the right thing and immediately appeal the ruling of the Quebec Court of Appeal.