House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was development.

Topics

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly agree with that. I do think that the mission in Afghanistan has been full of successes but also some failures. I think the Manley panel pointed out those failures.

In order for what the minister spoke about to come to pass, we must begin to re-evaluate a 3D approach: defence, diplomacy and development, and do it in such a way that the Canadian Forces can work within a framework, that it can be accountable for and we can be responsible for.

I can tell the member, from being in Sudan, in conflicts in Guatemala, in Rwanda, Bangladesh and it goes on, that the need for the Canadian Forces to provide peace building would be absolutely essential and would help Canada's image in the world, especially in a place like Darfur.

However, we first must finish what we are doing in Afghanistan and also develop a better model from it.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, like the previous speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak in this debate. I certainly supported the Liberal amendment that was tabled in the House. We are never sure of anything in the House but there seems to be a certain amount of general support. I am hopeful that the issue can be resolved around the wording of that particular motion and that we can go forward.

It is my submission that perhaps we should change the channel and continue the debate in a very frank, honest and transparent nature and talk about the future of NATO and the leadership that is presently exhibited at NATO.

We are in Afghanistan under the auspices of NATO. It is a coalition of 37 countries. It is a treaty alliance and it was an article 5 engagement. There is always this debate as to when the job will be done but when I listen to the debate and read the materials, it appears to me that this, on the part of NATO, is a long term commitment. We are dealing with a failed state with a failed generation. This has been going on for many years and we need to build the country from the ground up, which would include governance, infrastructure, economy, et cetera.

It is not a 2009, 2007-09 or 2011 issue. I submit that it is a much longer timeframe than that. When we look at NATO's involvement, NATO's main political objective was to work in cooperation with the United Nations and the European Union to support the Afghan transition authority to meet its responsibilities to provide security and order. I will not go into that strategy with the limited time available to me, but I will say that it had nine components which, I submit, were well thought out. If the strategy were successful everything would be fine.

I am troubled by what has taken place with NATO. This was clearly identified on page 38 of the Manley report, which states:

UN agency operations in Afghanistan have suffered from a lack of leadership, direction and effective coordination from UN headquarters in New York. The appointment of a high-level representative to lead and coordinate both the UN and NATO commitments in Afghanistan can help achieve more productive UN-NATO collaboration.

The whole chapter talks about the NATO situation.

Canada can act with other governments participating in Afghanistan to see that the special representative’s mandate is fully and effectively exercised.

I would like to see a complete strategy from NATO. A very important high level meeting in Bucharest is coming up in April and I think that will be the time that NATO owes it to all member countries to be frank, honest and constructive as to exactly what the plan is, how the strategy is going, at what point it is in the deployment of the strategy and whether there is an exit strategy. I would suggest that the exit strategy would be a few years down the road.

I believe that should be very much part of the debate as to what exactly is going on with NATO. As we are aware, of the 37 countries, only 4 countries are in a combat role in Afghanistan: Canada, the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands, although there is all this talk about other countries, such as France, getting involved. Other countries are in the northern provinces of Afghanistan, such as Germany and a whole host of other countries, but, as the slang phrase would go, they are certainly out of harm's way.

When we read what goes on, up until today anyway, there appears to be an unwillingness by any of these countries to get more involved in the whole strategy approved by the 37 countries. That begs the question. Exactly how does NATO think it is will complete and accomplish the strategy that it so ably set out to do when it only has the support of a few of its member countries?

Canada went in and has done a good job, and I certainly support the motion. We have to be respectful of our commitment, but this talk of, “stay until the job is done”, is foolish. A NATO alliance commitment is there. We have to play our part and put our shoulder to the wheel as to the responsibilities of NATO, but there has to be an obligation, a responsibility and a commitment from other countries that are part of the alliance. I am not sure I see that.

I look forward to the communication coming from the government. Again, that was another point the Manley panel identified. A clear message in the report was that the communications from the government was not frank and not a true communication.

When I read the reports published by the Department of Foreign Affairs, it looks to me that they were been written by Aldous Huxley. Everything was great. Little girls were going to school. There was nothing to worry about and no one should be in any way concerned as to what was going in that country. This was clearly identified as wanting by the authors of the Manley report.

Canadians want answers. The answers have to be frank, clear, serious, honest and transparent as to the long term future of this mission. That is why I speak in support of the general direction of the motion, that in 2009 the nature of the engagement changes, that it be clearly terminated in the Kandahar province in 2011 and that it be clearly communicated to NATO. Why would it go and look for anyone else to be involved in the province if there were no clear message from Canada that it wants to be part of a natural rotation? As I said in my earlier remarks, I see this going on for several years. I do not see it ending in 2009 or in 2011 either.

I hope the level of the debate will be elevated. I hope the point I have made, in my limited time in the House this afternoon, regarding NATO is part of the debate as we go forward. I hope the leaders of the government when they go to the meeting, and we all know what happens before the meeting is what is important, that those positions, policies and aspirations are clearly communicated, and not in April when the people gather in Bucharest. . However, they have to be communicated right now. People need to know that Canada wants to see more leadership and direction coming from the alliance, which heretofore we have not seen.

I look for direction on this issue. Hopefully with leadership from the alliance, people in Afghanistan can benefit and in the future the country can become a prosperous one like many other countries in the world.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my colleague touched on a number of points. He talked about the need to raise the level of debate.

Yesterday I was troubled by the comments from the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore. He suggested that for some reason the New Democratic Party was not fit to govern. He said that it had a consistent position on Afghanistan over the last two years, calling for the removal of our troops from a combat role in Afghanistan, fully supported by a convention at which 90% of the delegates voted for the motion.

In a democracy the New Democratic Party has followed a pattern of achieving support from its constituency, representing the opinion of about 50% of Canadians on this mission. We have portrayed a consistent opinion over the past two years in the face of relentless name calling and diatribes from government members and from the opposition members to some degree.

How does the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore have the nerve to say that we are not fit to government, when his party has changed its policy three times in the last two years on this very thing? Now for the very crass political purpose of avoiding an election, the Liberals have made a deal with the government. How does he stand with kind of behaviour in the House by his own leader?

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, first, I am not the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore. I am the member for Charlottetown.

I make the point that the level of debate should be raised. Those who want to limit the mission should not be accused of being Taliban supporters. Those who want to continue the mission should not be accused of being warmongers.

This debate has to occur. I support the debate. I support the ability of the member's party to have the position. I do not agree with it. I debated it for 10 minutes. My position is we are part of the alliance. We have committed ourselves to be there at least until February 2009. To go forward now in Parliament and suggest that we should leave in February 2008, in my opinion, is wrong. That would be doing the very thing that I am suggesting some other countries are doing. We would be showing a total lack of commitment to the alliance and our world reputation would suffer greatly.

Again, we are part of the alliance. We have to work within the alliance. I am a strong supporter of NATO, but I am troubled by the lack of leadership on this initiative.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague that the NATO question is valid and should be debated, but it is probably beyond the scope of the debate in the House.

I would point out a couple of things. The member is right about the load being carried by mostly four countries. However, other countries are involved as well, and there should be more. Romania, Estonia, Australia, Denmark and soon to be added Poland are also contributing to the combat mission. Certainly more needs to be done.

Could my hon. colleague comment on the leadership role that Canada plays in operations such as this, which in my view are much greater from a leadership perspective than simply 2,500 divided by approximately 50,000 troops?

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will respond briefly by challenging the premise of the question, that the debate and NATO is beyond the scope of the House. I would disagree with that. If the debate does not take place in this House, where will it take place? Will it be down the street or somewhere else?

It has to take place here. This is the House of Commons. This is where the debate has to take place. NATO, through the Government of Canada to the Canadian people, owes the Canadian people an explanation as to the strategy. How it is getting along with the strategy? How it is intending to accomplish the strategy and the end game? So far I have not seen that.

I agree with the paragraph from the Manley report that we have seen a total lack of leadership from NATO on this initiative.

I really think the debate should be had in this House. I would urge other members to talk about NATO. I would urge the government of the day to be very aggressive, not start in April but start today, February 26, on the whole issue of—

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. the parliamentary secretary on a point of order.

Canadian Heritage
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I think if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for the following. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, the motion to concur in the fourth report, extension of time to consider Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage be deemed concurred in.

Canadian Heritage
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to move the motion?

Canadian Heritage
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Heritage
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Heritage
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Heritage
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Trinity—Spadina.

Today, debate in the House has focused on the war in Afghanistan. I want to talk specifically about the NDP amendment. I am very proud of our political party's position.

I remember that back when everything started in 2003, important discussions took place here in the House. At the time, Canada had decided to go to Afghanistan, but the goal was to provide humanitarian aid and help the Afghan people. Sadly, in 2005, the Liberal government decided to go forward with a combat mission.

Our colleagues here in the House have said that because we are members of the UN, which agreed to the mission and handed it over to NATO, we have to help each other. However, there are more than four countries in the UN. Today, Holland, Canada, the United States and England are taking part in the combat mission, but other countries are not. There are several reasons for that.

Some countries have problems: governments are no longer listening to the people. For example, last year I was in Germany, and members of the German parliament told us that 80% of Germans were against the combat mission in Afghanistan. Despite their opposition, the Germans were in Afghanistan, but not in the combat zone. In Canada, most Canadians have made it clear that they feel the same way.

The Conservative government is playing word games and trying to convince people that if they do not support the mission, that means they do not support our soldiers. Imagine that. The government is trying to make our soldiers, as well as Canadians, believe that not supporting the mission means not supporting the soldiers. George W. Bush pulled the same stunt with Americans when he said, “You're with me or you're not with me”.

It is important to understand that the government and the Parliament of Canada have the right to decide on the details of the mission. I think Canadians understand that.

Our soldiers are people who decided to join the Canadian Forces, whether it be the army, the air force or the navy. When their country, Canada, gives them a mission, they do it without question and they support it.

It is our responsibility, as leaders of our country, to give our soldiers that mission. It is clear that the combat mission in Afghanistan is not working. It is recognized that violence has increased and that Afghan women are still victims of violence. It is also recognized that the education system is not working as they would have us believe.

Even though we are talking about defending a country for democracy, I have difficulty understanding and accepting that a female member of the Afghan parliament, who wanted to express herself democratically, was thrown out of parliament by the government of Afghanistan. She lost her position as a member of parliament because she wanted to express herself democratically.

Today, we are defending a government that accepts drugs and the violence that is still being done to women. If the Canadian government really wants to help people, it could have sent money to the African countries grappling with AIDS, for example. The money spent on fighting and waging war could have saved many more lives and prevented what is happening in Afghanistan.

In any dispute, a negotiated settlement becomes necessary. We would accomplish more by engaging in diplomacy and working and negotiating with these people than by waging war.

We saw what happened to the Russians. They went into Afghanistan, they fought and fought, and they left, but today the situation is still the same. I believe they missed the boat, but we must not miss the boat. We should be able to succeed through peace missions.

For their part, the Liberals did an about-face and came to tell us that they did not do it for political reasons or because of the prospect of an election. Do they think that Canadians are that easily fooled? Do you think that people were not aware of the negotiating that went on?

The Liberal Party is divided in two. It is scared of a vote that could trigger an election. Everyone can see what happened. Now they would have us think that they really believe in continuing the mission through 2011. But a few months ago, the Liberal leader said that it would end in 2009 and that we would leave Afghanistan. He was saying the same thing just a few weeks ago, as my colleague stated. The Liberals said that we must withdraw because they did not at all believe in this combat mission.

But now, all of a sudden, they are scared of losing the election, so they are joining up with the Conservatives. But they are not really joining up with the Conservatives, since I think it is the Conservatives who are joining the Liberals' team. The Liberals are the ones who led us into a combat mission in August 2005, under the member for LaSalle—Émard, the leader of the Liberal Party at the time. The Liberals forced this combat mission on us, and later they have tried to make us believe they had nothing to do with it. The Conservatives liked this, because at the time, they were the official opposition and wanted to engage in a combat mission to support George Bush and his administration. That was the situation. Then, they were happy to say that they would keep it going.

The Conservatives then got a little scared, because for a number of weeks the Liberals did not rise in the House of Commons and even, as we say in the unions, staged a walkout; they left the House.

At one point, I wondered if someone should dock their pay because they were no longer doing their jobs. They refuse to stand up to vote on important issues, because they are afraid of losing elections. The NDP, on the other hand, is not here to see whether we will win or lose elections; we are here to vote for what Canadians want, and what they want is a peacekeeping mission.

Now even the Bloc Québécois agrees with us and wants a peacekeeping mission. In the past, the Bloc Québécois voted with us to end the combat mission in 2009, only to later change its stance. Indeed, after Parliament reached a decision, the Bloc decided that it was over, that it would no longer argue the issue and it would respect the voice of Parliament. That is what it did.

The House of Commons must now reach a decision on extending the mission to 2011. I fear that the Bloc Québécois, following a majority vote in favour of this motion by the Conservative government supported by the Liberals, will sit down and say that, since Parliament has spoken, there is no point in trying to convince people that this is definitely not a good mission.

This is why we will vote against prolonging the war in Afghanistan. At the very least, the combat mission must end and Canada must assume its proper role as a peacekeeper. That is what we are most appreciated for around the world. In doing so, Canada will be able to take its place in the world.