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

Forestry
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Saanich—Gulf Islands
B.C.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe there is any Liberal who has the nerve to stand up in the House and talk about forest fires, never mind AECL, after their government for 13 years did nothing with respect to forest fire management.

Our government has put more money into the mountain pine beetle initiative. That money is going to over 200 communities throughout British Columbia to target forest fire management.

We are getting the job done. The Liberal Party when in government ignored all of those problems for 13 years and did absolutely nothing. Now the Liberals have the gall to stand up and pretend they care.

Department of National Revenue
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, there are nearly 25 million taxpayers in Canada and our government believes in accountability and fairness when it comes to the taxes they pay.

In May 2007 the government announced the creation of the taxpayer bill of rights. In addition to this bill of rights, could the Minister of National Revenue say if the government is taking other measures to ensure taxpayers will be treated fairly and with respect?

Department of National Revenue
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, during the last election, our party promised to bring in a taxpayer bill of rights and a taxpayers' ombudsman.

I am pleased to inform all Canadians that last Thursday in Winnipeg, I had the pleasure of announcing Mr. Paul Dubé as Canada's first Taxpayers' Ombudsman. The Taxpayers' Ombudsman office is now open and ready to receive inquiries from Canadians.

This is just another example of how this government is getting the job done for Canadians.

The Environment
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister earlier refused to answer a question put to him by the Leader of the Opposition. Let me ask him again.

Can the government table one shred of evidence, any analysis to substantiate its fraudulent claims that it will achieve its weak climate change targets, or is the minister simply too busy killing light rail projects, interfering in municipal elections and putting out media fires linking him to a major bribery scandal?

The Environment
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I can give the member a number of quotes. I can give quotes from Sheila Copps, from Christine Stewart and from David Anderson, who all said that the previous government did not do anything to fight global warming. I can quote the deputy leader of the member's own party who said that they did not get the job done.

The single person who has broken the biggest environmental promise in the history of Canada is not a member of the federal Liberal Party. It is the member's brother, Dalton McGuinty, who failed to close Ontario's four coal fired plants as he promised to do, another McGuinty broken promise.

Omar Khadr
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the three opposition parties, with the support of Mr. Kuebler, Omar Khadr's lawyer, denounced the attitude of the Conservative government, which is neglecting its duty to protect this child soldier, who is being held in Guantanamo Bay. In accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed and ratified by Canada, the government must immediately demand that the United States send Omar Khadr back to Canada to be tried under Canadian law.

What is the Minister of Foreign Affairs waiting for to demand his return to Canada?

Omar Khadr
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will know that Mr. Khadr has been in prison since 2002. Four of those years were under the previous Liberal government.

I have also assured the House on several occasions that Mr. Khadr is being treated humanely.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

February 26th, 2008 / 3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of the Hon. Brad Cathers, Minister of Health and Social Services for Yukon.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, there are two designations that I would like to make.

Pursuant to Standing Order 66, I would like to designate Wednesday, March 27, 2008, for the continuation of the debate on the motion to concur in the second report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages.

I would also like to designate Friday, February 29, 2008 as an allotted day.

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

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Charlottetown.

I rise today in support of a motion before this House to extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan to 2011 and to redefine that mission as one of development, training and security.

I know every member of this House takes this matter with the greatest of seriousness. Calling upon the men and women of our armed forces to place themselves in harm's way thousands of miles from their families and communities is one of the most solemn acts that we as elected officials can undertake.

I am gratified by the civility with which this debate has so far been conducted. As others have noted, this matter is just too important to be used for partisan political gain. Canadians expect more than that from us and this week they are getting it.

This debate weighs the well-being of Canadians against the obligations we as citizens have to the world beyond our borders. Whenever I am faced with an issue such as this, I am drawn back to my own experience before I entered politics.

In the early 1990s, I served as the head of the Ontario Association of Foodbanks. I am sure many of us remember what dark days those were, especially for those at the lower end of the spectrum. Faced with the consequences of massive cuts to social programs by all three levels of government, the association presented the governments with an ultimatum. We announced that if these cuts were not reversed in the near future, we would close our food banks.

The allotted time passed and the cuts were not rescinded. That presented food banks with a dreadful dilemma, many members will remember. Our credibility rested on our following through with the threat of closing our food banks, but the fact remained that thousands of people in need depended on us, and those numbers were only growing. We quickly saw that we had no choice at all as food banks. There was only one side in this conflict, the side of those in need, and so we kept our food banks open and we kept up the fight for increased social spending, a struggle that continues today. However, I have never again put any cause, no matter how just, ahead of the welfare of the innocents.

When I look at the situation in Afghanistan, I am compelled to ask a very difficult question. If Canadian Forces withdrew in 2009, what would happen to the people of Afghanistan? What would happen to those in need? What would happen to the innocents?

I do not ask the question rhetorically. I have put it to dozens of people who know much more than I do about the situation on the ground in Kandahar. I put the question to a Canadian soldier from my riding who is currently stationed in Kandahar, literally encamped in a tent on a mountainside. He told me that if Canadian troops were to leave, the Afghanis he sees and works with every day, people he has come to know as neighbours and sometimes friends, would, without question, be terminated.

I put the question to women's groups who told me that they have evidence the Taliban knows the identity and location of key women leaders in the Kandahar region. If Canada leaves and the Taliban regains a foothold, I am told that one of their first tasks will be to find these women, arrest them and perhaps kill them.

It is my view that we have no choice but to remain in Kandahar until 2011. Our troops will now serve in a new role and it is one that is as innovative and effective as Lester Pearson's approach to the Suez crisis a half century ago, but now Canadians will not be serving as peacekeepers. They will be serving as peace builders.

As Canadians, we hope the people of Afghanistan will be able to enjoy peace, justice and security, an open government based on accountability and the rule of law, an economy that offers honest and humane opportunities to provide for their families, and educational and social services that are available to all.

We are aware of the heavy price that some have paid to advance these goals. This is brought home by the bodies of the Canadian soldiers that we have all mourned together in this House. We join them and their families and friends in their sorrow and grief at lives lost, bodies broken and spirits shattered, but we must remember that the people of Afghanistan have suffered as well through the long years of violence, conflict and war.

Canada has led the combat fight for years and has had many successes, however, it is now time to realize our greater role as a nation. We are the catalyst for reconciliation of people and communities torn apart and, as such, we must now renew our pledge to work for peace and development. In this context, the Liberal Party's vision for Canada is one of moving forward to a long-lasting peace by respectfully acknowledging the need for our combative past.

This takes me to the question as to how Canada can best support reconstruction and development in Afghanistan, an area of expertise where Canada has enjoyed a virtual unchallenged legacy of success. Some have even branded us as Boy Scouts in the world, however, I believe this is a brand we can be proud of.

There are many Canadian NGOs and other organizations, and I have spoken with many of them, who are working to improve conditions in Afghanistan. We commend these organizations.

The Canadian government, through CIDA, is assisting Afghanistan's reconstruction but it must do more and it must be accountable and transparent in the way it does it. Afghanistan will require economic and other forms of support well into the future. Government reports have drawn our attention to the high cost of outfitting the Canadian Forces for continued counter-insurgency operations into the undetermined future. To be more effective in building peace, we believe that a significant shift in Canada's concentration of financial resources toward long term human development is essential and necessary.

We are aware of the difficulties experienced by development and humanitarian agencies about what they refer to as the militarization of aid in Afghanistan. I have seen this and I know that it happens. It is the close identification of military operations and basic assistance. Aid must be delivered without compromising internationally recognized principles of development and humanitarian assistance.

What will this changed mission look like? Our troops will work directly with the Afghan people. They will oversee the building of dams to irrigate valleys and, at the same time, help to train Afghan security forces so that when the water flows the land will be safe enough for cultivation. They will literally turn battlefields into farmers' fields.

Canada has an obligation not to abandon the people of Afghanistan. I read in the paper yesterday that someone said that the reason the Liberal Party was supporting this motion was because we did not want an election. That is not true of me and I would appreciate not being included in that kind of comment. It is also not true of many of the Liberals who are sitting here on this side. We believe we just cannot abandon the people of Afghanistan.

Today, all of us in the House acknowledge the grave responsibility that we have in making difficult decisions regarding reconciliation, diplomatic and development efforts for the future of our military forces in Afghanistan. We ask that the government consider a compromise for the good of Canada but, moreover, with the knowledge that the people of Afghanistan now have the chance for a lasting peace.

The men and the women of our military now have the opportunity to finish the work they have sacrificed so much for already. I have no doubt that if we in the House stand with them, our own troops will succeed.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, in the time my colleague has been in the House he has earned the reputation that he brought with him, but within the House he has earned a reputation as somebody who cares about and understands the common humanity that is this planet. I appreciate his point of view. I am very comfortable with the position that our party and the government have come to on this issue.

At this point in time, when we have troops abroad, it is important that we come to a consensus on how we go forward. I commend the leaders of both parties, the ministers and the leaders on our side who have been involved in that.

When we had to make the difficult decision on the extension of this mission a couple of years ago, one of the questions a number of us had concerned the implications for Canada's ability to assist in other parts of the world, notably, at that point in time, Darfur. My colleague has had more experience in Darfur than any other member of the House and almost any other Canadian. I want to ask him his answer to that question. With our extension in Afghanistan, does this mean that Canada will still have the ability to do good work in places like Darfur?

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Glen Pearson London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my heart is in Darfur and my kids are from Darfur but my heart has also learned to be in Afghanistan as well.

Before we can consider going to places like Darfur and other parts that are so essential and need the Canadian presence, we must finish the job to which we have committed ourselves. It was passed by the House and we have a responsibility to respect that.

I know many of us are anxious for the Canadian government to get to Darfur and start to make a difference but we must never do it at the expense of people to whom we have already committed ourselves.

Do we have the capacity to do it? I do not have the answer to that question, but I do know that we have the capacity to fulfill the commitments that we have made and I believe that we should do that.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague opposite for the tender, the tone and the contributions that he has made to this debate, both publicly and behind the scenes.

My question is basically a supplemental with respect to Canada's ability to continue to contribute to missions in Afghanistan, in the Middle East and in other parts of the world. Would the member agree that, as part of the whole government approach, which is one on which we obviously have a consensus to move forward, one that we are advocating is the way in which Canada can make significant contributions in places like Afghanistan and in other parts of the world, there is a need, given the capacity, to augment the regular and reserve forces of the Canadian military, to give us that increased capacity to be purveyors of good, to be in a position, as we have been in the past, to work for stability, for peace and to provide the necessary protection for other things to flourish on the ground, the development and humanitarian aid work of which the hon. member is familiar?

Would he agree that the Canadian military play an integral part in Canada's ability to project those important Canadian values and principles abroad?