Debates of March 13th, 2008
House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.
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Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Mr. Speaker, just quickly I will tell the member why I am so passionate and feel so strongly about this. It is because of where I come from and where I saw political decisions made during the second world war at Dieppe where we lost 950 of our personnel in that raid. The reason we were there had nothing to do with good military tactics or the skill and the heroism of our people. It had everything to do with that kind of a political decision, and that is mostly what is going on here.
We are in Afghanistan because the Americans want us in Afghanistan. We are fighting in Afghanistan because our allies will not. That is the lesson we should be learning from Afghanistan.
Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in the House today to a very important motion on a very complex issue, a motion discussing a region of tremendous instability.
I am speaking late in the debate and many of the comments will have been made by others before, but it is important that I be on the record and that I speak to the motion.
The motion, which is a lengthy one, reflects the complexity of the situation in Afghanistan as we know it today, its past histories and, most important, its future course.
In speaking to the motion, I need to comment that it reflects the concerns of many in the Liberal caucus and I am pleased that the government has, in putting forth the motion, agreed in theory to many of the positions put forward by the leader of the Liberal Party.
Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time with my colleague from St. Boniface.
In speaking to the motion, my questions relate more to the implementation of the real intent of the motion and the need for me to have some questions answered. Will Canada's involvement, as we move forward, truly reflect the words and spirit of this very important motion? Having said that, it will be up to Parliament to hold the government accountable.
Before proceeding, I want to acknowledge the contribution of the many women and men of the Canadian Forces and their families. The forces of today continue the history and traditions of those who fought and died, not only in the two great wars but in many conflict zones throughout the world. We have a responsibility to them, to support them in every way we know how, to honour them and to provide informed and responsible leadership and policy direction to those in the field and to their leadership.
As the Leader of the Opposition said when he spoke in the House:
No one should ever confuse a debate over the future of the mission with a debate over whether or not we support our troops.
Just a few weeks ago in Winnipeg, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner for the Military Family Resource Centre. I want to reiterate here the importance of the support that we must give to the families. They are families who have a member of their family involved in a very stressful occupation that is under constant public scrutiny. The services this resource centre in Winnipeg provides are far-reaching with a broad scope of activities, and the work it does is beyond measure.
Canada's participation in Afghanistan was very much part of a broader coalition response to 9/11 and the Taliban's refusal to turn over al-Qaeda. It is sufficient to say that the circumstances of Canada's participation in Afghanistan today are very different from when we first engaged there. I would suggest that the criteria by which we measure success are very different today from that time.
While there appears to be some modest success or modest gains, the conditions in many parts of the country are no better and some are much worse. Therefore, if we acknowledge that the circumstances of Canada's engagement are quite different, we have little ground for believing that this engagement can end soon or successfully, for we have heard many times from military and political leaders that it will be many years before success, as it is define, will be achieved in Afghanistan.
Mr. Manley, in his report, qualified his report at the end when he indicated that even if all the conditions of his recommendations are met, they will carry “a reasonable probability of success”.
What this motion says is that Canada will not be there for generations or in perpetuity and that the responsibility for the heavy lifting in this NATO-led mission must be more fairly reapportioned.
As many have commented before me, the motion is one that is committed to change, to a firm end date and to being more than just about military or defence. It is about a balance, a real true balance with diplomacy and development. The motion speaks clearly to this fact.
The heavy military burdens that Canada has absorbed must come to an end by February 2009. I expect that when the government representatives meet in Europe in early April, it must be made clear that Canada is not looking for reinforcements but replacements. It is not a question of helping Canada, as I have heard many leaders of other NATO countries speak to, but one of taking over the lead in the combat role so that Canadians take over a more prominent role in providing training for Afghans to foster their capacity for army and police responsibilities and security for reconstruction.
I expect the current government to emphasize that the Canadian role in the new mission following February 2009 will not be a proactive counter-insurgency mission and that the lead in that role will fall to others. This rotation is based on the expectation of rotation within the mission in Afghanistan since NATO took responsibility in 2003.
For me, support for the motion is based on the clear understanding of commitment by the government, which, I might add,wasted a year of possible negotiation and discussion, that a real rotation will take place.
I have a further question. Why are we talking about a contingent of 1,000 NATO troops for rotation? Will 1,000 troops be a replacement? The Manley commission identified 1,000 more troops to help Canada but I do not understand why it is 1,000. How many are really needed for a replacement?
The Liberals called for sufficient troops and we need clarity as to what that means and we need assurances that the government is acting in good faith. As I said earlier, this is not an engagement in perpetuity. A clear end date is required for planning and preparation for a departure.
I also need to know why the government has chosen to end the mission in July 2011, with a full withdrawal by December 2011. What is the magic of that date? The Liberal proposal of a withdrawal date of February 2011 was chosen because of the timeline laid out in the Afghan compact. I need a rationale as to why the dates have been set as they have been in the motion.
We need a real commitment to a balanced Canadian mission in Afghanistan. We know that to date development activities have been subjugated to the defence activities. The main objectives of the Afghan mission have never been absolutely clarified. The stability and security of the country will only come through the stability and capacity of the institutions of the country.
We know that the role of CIDA has been virtually ineffective, with small isolated successes, but that there has been no CIDA strategy since 2003. At best, its activities have been ad hoc and its successes have been limited. Some reports have even indicated that $1.6 billion have been wasted in the efforts there.
Diplomatic efforts have never been visible. At the beginning of his report, Mr. Manley said:
Both the reality and the perception of corruption in the Government of Afghanistan must be rooted out. They are undermining not only the hope for an Afghan solution but also support for the Western forces sacrificing their lives to help secure the situation.
Diplomatic efforts need to be enhanced. We cannot have further excuses from the Afghan government as to why reforms are not taking place.
How have detainees been treated? Just yesterday we learned of the Military Police Complaints Commission's concerns over the Canadian government's handling of detainees. We need transparency and assurances.
I am hopeful but skeptical about the government's true commitment to the real intent of the motion: a changed mission, a clear end date and a rebalanced mission. Canadians across the country share both the hope and, regretfully, the uncertainty of the reality of the commitment. Canadians deserve to know that their questions will be answers and that the government of the day will honour the intent of the motion and the will of the House will be followed.
Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I remind my colleague that I have read the motion and understand what it says.
It is a security role. The training of the Afghan police and army should be our primary role as we move forward. I spoke to that in my remarks. It is not a combat role.
Many of us met with the parliamentarians from Afghanistan and heard their concerns and issues. We acknowledge the successes that have taken place to address some of their needs, but I emphasize the fact that there is no planning. It has been done on an ad hoc basis with little planning and relatively little impact. We must continue.
Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's comments. I have a couple of points to make and then a question.
First, it seems to me that the Liberal Party's position, which it held strenuously before, notwithstanding that it helped to extend this mission to 2009, was that there had to be a withdrawal from the combat mission. Now it has entirely flipped and flopped and caved to supporting what everyone knows is an extension of the combat mission.
Everything in the motion shows that. Having a special committee, I am sorry, does not guarantee a 3D approach. Money in the bank dedicated to the mission will. Therefore, the Liberal Party cannot hide behind words. There have to be actions. A thousand troops, more helicopters and drones do not add to the other two Ds that need help.
I want to ask the member if she would agree with the following. Canadians, for example, are led to believe the biggest urgency revealed by the Manley report is the need to muster another 1,000 troops. Meanwhile the Harper government takes no steps whatsoever to—
Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I heard the end of the hon. member's question. However, from my perspective and the perspective of many of my colleagues, the end of the combat mission as of 2009 is critical to the intent of the motion.
I am operating on good faith that the will of Parliament will be observed by the government of the day as we move forward in this role.
Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this very complex issue, Afghanistan. I think most of us here visit our schools and speak to our students from time to time. Inevitably, I am asked the question whether Canada should be in Afghanistan. Unequivocally, my answer is yes. We have made the right decision to be there. I believe in multilateralism, as flawed as it may be. I believe in the UN and NATO. However, we need to maybe modify these structures somewhat as they are somewhat outdated.
It is important for some of the poorest countries in the world to know that there are organizations out there that can intervene on their behalf when they are stuck in very difficult situations. Canada is a very privileged nation. I tell the students this as well. We are G-7 country. We are privileged to be here. It would be very difficult for us to promote human rights at home but not do it in other countries where there are human rights abuses. It would be very easy for us to say that we are comfortable here, that nothing is happening and go on with our daily lives. However, as a responsible nation, as privileged nation, as one of the richest nations in the world, we need to intervene when the time comes.
I have already said this in the House. Probably the most difficult decision a member of Parliament has to make is whether we send our young men and women to war. In the case of Afghanistan, I am convinced it was a good cause. We joined our NATO allies in 2002. It was also a UN-mandated mission. I believe we are there for the right reasons, and two come to mind right now.
First, the Taliban regime was not only encouraging terrorists, it was helping train them. Some of my colleagues on the other side spoke about 9/11 and how it changed the world. I could not agree more. After 9/11 we realized that what was happening overseas, what was happening thousands of miles away, was having an impact on us. We realized that we had to act drastically to reduce the risks of this happening.
Second is the Taliban treatment of their people. Think of what Afghanis have been through over the last decades, with Russia being there and then the Taliban coming in. We have all seen pictures on TV of men throwing acid in women's faces if they are not wearing a veil or young school girls watching as their teacher's is being head cut off because he is teaching them. If they cannot count on a country like Canada to come in and defend their interests, on whom can they count?
Therefore, I believe that, in the first instance, we absolutely had a responsibility to be there.
One of my colleagues on the other side said that we should not question our decision to go there. We should always discuss and debate our role there. It is important for it not to become impersonal. As members of Parliament, this has to remain a personal thing for us. I think people in Afghanistan, our soldiers and our people working in the medical field expect us to continue discussing and debating this to see what changes should be made or if we should modify our position on things. I do not believe for a minute that we should be taking a position and saying that we are not going to modifying it, that we should not be discussing it and that we are supporting our troops and that is it. There has to be some flexibility.
It is easy when a conflict is happening thousands of miles away for it to become very impersonal. We see a clip on national TV for a few minutes and then we go on with our daily lives. As members of Parliament, we cannot let that happen. It has to be personal.
This does not mean for a second that we are not proud of our soldiers for the amazing work they do there. In fact, a young soldier in my riding did a six month stint in Afghanistan. I asked him to meet with me so he could tell me what he thought after his stint, what he had faced when he was there and whether he thought we made a difference there. Interestingly enough he told me that he had no intention of joining the military. It was not part of his plans. He decided after 9/11. It actually impressed upon him that he had a responsibility to get involved, which is interesting. Therefore, he went to Afghanistan for six months.
He told me they were making a substantial difference. He said that they would go into villages that had been raided by the Taliban and the people had left. They would secure the villages, bring in clinics, for instance, and people would come back. They were making a substantial difference. He was very proud of his role and very proud of Canada's role.
That is not to say there is not a dark side to any war. This young man's mother, whom I know very well, would get up in the morning and dread reading the paper in case she would see another young Canadian had lost his or her life. She said that her heart would skip a beat every time she opened a newspaper. We have to realize there is a personal impact to this as well.
The second personal impact is obviously the repercussions of post-traumatic stress disorder. I am sure most of us here have had young people come back from Afghanistan and speak to us. A few cases were absolutely devastating for them, obviously, and for me. These young people are 20 to 25 years old and their lives are essentially ruined. One person could not sleep at night for a year or two, no matter what medication he was given. He did not have access to a psychiatrist because there were not enough to deal with that type of post-traumatic stress. He tried to take on a few jobs, but had to quit because of the pressure and the panic. There are consequences. When we make these decisions, there are huge consequences for our young people. Although we support them wholeheartedly, I want people to know there is another side to this. We do not want to glorify war and we always want to avoid it at every cost.
The third issue was addressed on W-FIVE last night. It was an astonishing show. It featured a medical unit in Afghanistan and showed the number of people who went through it. We hear about Canadians being injured, but it was literally kept busy 24 hours a day with people going through it. What we do not realize is that for every Canadian, or American or Dutch troop going in, 20 civilians are going into those clinics. Young boys and girls with unbelievable injuries are in those clinics. I am very pleased our Canadians are there to look after them. Some of these injuries are caused by our people, and that is the price of war. However, they pay a huge price.
For every mother in Canada who is worried about her son or daughter, there are mothers in Afghanistan who are worried about the same thing. It is important to mention that when we make these decisions here for things that happen 2,000 miles away, there are consequences and we have to be aware of that.
One of the frustrating things for me was the unwillingness of NATO to rotate other troops. We have been in Kandahar province since February 2002, arguably the most dangerous province in Afghanistan. We have lost more soldiers proportionately than the U.S. soldiers in Iraq. No one can say Canada has not done its share. It is not unreasonable for us to ask NATO at this point to rotate other troops into the tough areas. Some countries do not want to fight at night. Some do not want to send their troops to hotspots. Others will not send soldiers at all. Most of these decisions are made for political reasons at home and, frankly, it is a sad thing.
NATO's reputation is being questioned right now. We have to look at the whole mandate of NATO and how we should be looking at it in the future in terms of sharing. The countries in which we are intervening should know that we are going in as a united force, as a team, not only two or three out of twenty-six countries carrying the weight. This is a huge issue.
I am very pleased the mission is changing in 2009. I am pleased it is ending in 2011. Our focus will be on renewed security, reconstruction, development, governance. There is a lot at stake. In the end we have to not only hope, but we have to do everything in our power to make Afghanistan a better place for its citizens to live in the long term, because the short term costs are enormous.
Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the member opposite concerning the mission in Afghanistan.
As he might well know, the area in Afghanistan in which Canadian Forces are engaged is the Kandahar province area. It is an area that is at the northwest frontier of the South Asian continent. It is demarcated by the Durand Line, a line that was established over 100 years ago by the British and the Afghanis, demarcating the difference between what was then British India and Afghanistan.
What is also the case is that the Pashtun tribal area is divided up by this international border.
How does he propose to ensure that the nation state constructs of Afghanistan and Pakistan continue and will be able to assert their sovereignty over those areas? Are there other solutions that might be available to ensure that this nation state construct remains integral to that area, or does he believe that it may not be possible to ever do that, that there are too many difficulties in overcoming tribal conflicts in that cross-border area?
Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for the question and it is a very good question, actually.
When we enter places like Afghanistan, we have to understand the complexities. Sometimes it is something that the western world does not understand. We walk in and we think that we will be there for a few months, we will do our job and we will leave. But the tribal leader issue, the different communities, the warlords, and the poppies that are being grown, all impact what is going on over there.
I do think that we have been weak in terms of diplomacy. I do not think, in the end, that there is a military solution to this. I think that we have to work both angles.
Having said that, I am trying to think how we would negotiate with the Taliban. I am not sure that these people are open to compromise that much, so again it is a difficult situation, but in the end, I do not think any country can be there forever. At one point, there has to be an end game to this, and the only way that this can happen is if people sit down and talk. I do believe that there are solutions and that at one point people will want to stop the war.
Hopefully, when we leave there, we will have left it a better place than when we came in.
Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, let me take a quick second to apologize for not listening to you more carefully in your point of order.
I want to read into the record a critique that has been brought forward, and I would like to hear the hon. member's response. It is talking about the thousand more troops that have been focused on. The quote states: “Meanwhile the Harper government takes no steps whatsoever to address the real weaknesses: the misguided US--”.
The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie
Order. The reason I interrupted the member the last time was because he kept referring to the Prime Minister by name and he has done it again.
The hon. member for Saint Boniface.
Raymond Simard Saint Boniface, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there was a question there.
The thousand troops issue is probably something that is very needed. I am not sure it is the answer. In the end, we are going to need NATO to revise its position and push some of its member countries to bring in a substantial number of troops into the Kandahar region. I would hope that it would do that very quickly so that Canada can get onto its role of development, governance building, and things that we are extremely good at.
I do think that we have done the heavy lifting on this and that NATO has a responsibility to bring other people in.
Ways and Means Motion No. 10--Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
March 13th, 2008 / 11:45 a.m.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East on March 11 concerning the admissibility of the ways and means motion to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 26 and to enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget for which the hon. Minister of Finance gave notice on that day.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East for initially bringing this matter to the attention of the House, as well as for his subsequent intervention, and I would also like to thank the hon. member for Markham—Unionville, the hon. government House leader, and the hon. House leader for the Bloc Québécois for their submissions.
The member for Pickering—Scarborough East, in raising the matter, claimed that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, standing on the order paper in the name of the Minister of Finance, seeks to have the House decide upon a matter which it had already voted on.
That vote took place on March 5, 2008, when Bill C-253, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of RESP contributions) was adopted at third reading. To this issue, the member for Markham—Unionville has added the contention that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, by including provisions related to Bill C-253, seeks to implement a measure that does not flow from the most recent budget, thus, he alleges, enlarging the usual parameters of budget implementation ways and means motions.
He further contended that this was a backdoor attempt to circumvent the rights of private members as provided for in the rules governing this category of business.
For the sake of clarity, I should state that sections 45 to 48 of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 are the subject of this point of order. They are conditional amendments that seek to amend or repeal the amendments to the Income Tax Act contained in Bill C-253 should the latter receive royal assent. The stated objective of these ways and means measures is, to quote the Minister of Finance at page 3971 of the Debates, “--to protect Canada's fiscal framework”.
The government House leader asserted that the broad scope of Ways and Means Motion No. 10, and the wide range of taxation and fiscal measures it seeks to implement are clear evidence that the motion is fundamentally a different matter than was Bill C-253, and therefore, that it should be allowed to proceed.
In support of his arguments a number of procedural authorities were cited, some of which I will return to later in this ruling.
Let me first deal with the argument that the inclusion of provisions regarding Bill C-253 in Ways and Means Motion No. 10 does not respect our conventions regarding the content of such motions.
The Chair wishes to remind the House that the budget speech and bills based on ways and means motions tabled at a later date are not necessarily linked. House of Commons Procedure and Practice states at page 748:
While a Budget is normally followed by the introduction of Ways and Means bills, such bills do not have to be preceded by a Budget presentation. Generally, taxation legislation can be introduced at any time during a session; the only prerequisite being prior concurrence in a Ways and Means motion.
At page 759, Marleau and Montpetit goes on to state:
The adoption of a Ways and Means motion stands as an order of the House either to bring in a bill or bills based on the provisions of that motion or to propose an amendment or amendments to a bill then before the House.
That text footnotes examples from 1971, 1973, and 1997. Furthermore, in the case before us, it must be noted that the title of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 states clearly that it not only implements certain provisions of the February 26, 2008 budget, but that it also aims to:
--enact provisions to preserve the fiscal plan set out in that budget.
On this point, namely the objection that the motion includes provisions that were not contained in the budget, the Chair must conclude that Ways and Means Motion No. 10 is not procedurally flawed.
Let us now turn to the argument that the decision of the House to adopt Bill C-253 at third reading must stand since the House cannot be asked to pronounce itself again in the same session on the same subject.
The Chair wishes to remind hon. members that while a part of Ways and Means Motion No. 10 touches on Bill C-253, the question that the House will actually be asked to vote on today, assuming it is called today, is not the same as the question it agreed to on March 5, 2008, when it adopted the bill at third reading.
In this regard the Chair has found a number of examples where a bill repeals sections of an act already amended by another bill adopted by the House in the same session.
For example, in the first session of the 38th Parliament, Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Telefilm Canada Act and another Act, and Bill C-43, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, both proposed to amend subsection 85(1) of the Financial Administration Act.
In addition, there are also examples of bills proceeding concurrently even though some of their provisions are dependent upon one another.
As mentioned by the government House leader, Mr. Speaker Lamoureux ruled on February 24, 1971, on such a situation at page 3712 of the Debates. He stated:
There is, therefore, in my view, nothing procedurally wrong in having before the House at the same time concurrent or related bills which might be in contradiction with one another either because of the terms of the proposed legislation itself or in relation to proposed amendments.
This is further supported by the 23rd edition of Erskine May at page 580, which affirms that:
There is no rule against the amendment or the repeal of an act of the same session.
Most compelling are the rulings of Mr. Speaker Fraser from June 8, 1988, and I refer to the Debates at pages 16252 to 16258, and on November 28, 1991, pages 5513 to 5514, both of which were quoted by the government House leader. These rulings clearly support the view that the progress of any bill flowing from Ways and Means Motion No. 10 rests with the House.
As Mr. Speaker Fraser put it on November 28, 1991:
The legislative process affords ample opportunity for amending proposed legislation during the detailed clause by clause study in committee and again at the report stage in the House.
Insofar as this process affects private members' business as a category of business or indeed the rights of individual members to propose initiatives, I must point out that it is not the Speaker but the House which ultimately decides such matters.
For the reasons stated above, the Chair finds that Ways and Means Motion No. 10, as tabled by the Minister of Finance, may proceed in its current form.
Once again, I would like to thank the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East for having raised this matter.