House of Commons Hansard #3 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to compliment my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, for his excellent speech today and his responses to questions thus far.

I want to draw to his attention the forest industry because there have been criticisms in some quarters about the forest sector. We have made the investment of about $100 million over four years for green energy technologies and production. I commend the member for drawing attention to the reduction on tariffs for the manufacturing sector.

I want to draw his attention to a press release that just came out today from the Forest Products Association of Canada in which it states that the Forest Products Association of Canada welcomes the spending initiatives and directions announced in the federal budget and saying that it will strengthen the industry's plans for renewal. It states:

From a forest industry perspective, the Government has its priorities right: investing in green jobs of tomorrow, stimulating the economy through clean energy technologies, and inviting investment by changing the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance, will give Canada the edge it needs to move into the new bio-economy.

I wonder whether the member would like to comment on the accelerated capital cost allowance and how that will benefit the forest industry and all manufacturing sectors in Canada.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously my hon. colleague has read the budget and he is actually reading the positive press releases that we are getting back. I referred to them earlier in my speech. I am quite sure that the member will vote for the budget.

That is an example of what consultation brings to a budget. We consulted with these industries and asked them what would make them competitive. There is your answer, Mr. Speaker. We listened to Canadians.

Royal Recommendation and Ways and Means Motions
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Before we begin private members' business today, I would like to make a brief statement regarding the issue of royal recommendation and ways and means motions with respect to private members' business

Just as individual items of private members' business continue their legislative progress from session to session, the Chair's rulings on those same items likewise survive prorogation.

Specifically there are nine bills on which the Chair either commented, ruled or has heard a point of order with regard to the issue of the royal recommendation. There was also one bill on which a point of order was raised regarding the requirement for a ways and means motion.

The purpose of this statement is to remind the House of those rulings and of the questions that remain to be dealt with.

Members will recall that, during the last session, some private members’ bills were found by the Chair to require a royal recommendation. At the time of prorogation, there were seven such bills on the order of precedence or in committee.

Let us review briefly the situation in each of these seven cases.

Three of these bills were awaiting report stage in the House at the time of prorogation, namely: Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity), standing in the name of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore;

Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period), standing in the name of the hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi;

Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), standing in the name of the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

On May 12, 2009, the chair had ruled that Bill C-201, in its form at second reading, needed to be accompanied by a royal recommendation. In committee, all clauses of the bill were deleted. In its present eviscerated form, Bill C-201 need no longer be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

As for Bill C-241 and Bill C-280, the chair ruled on April 22, 2009 and on June 3, 2009 respectively, that these bills in their present forms required royal recommendation. The committee stage has not altered this finding.

The following four bills were at committee stage: Bill C-290, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (tax credit for loss of retirement income), standing in the name of the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska was before the Standing Committee on Finance; Bill C-308, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), standing in the name of the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas was before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities;

Bill C-309, An Act establishing the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Region of Northern Ontario, standing in the name of the hon. member for Nipissing—Timiskaming, was before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology;

finally, Bill C-395, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (labour dispute), standing in the name of the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé was before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

The Chair ruled that all these bills in their present forms needed to be accompanied by a royal recommendation. The rulings were given on October 23, 2009 for Bill C-290, on October 29, 2009 for Bill C-308, on June 16, 2009 for Bill C-309 and, more recently, on November 16, 2009 for Bill C-395.

Furthermore, points of order were raised by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Government House Leader at the end of the last session with respect to the need for a royal recommendation for two bills. These are: Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave) standing in the name of the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead and Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence standing in the name of the hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore. Both of these bills were at second reading.

Just as was done in the last session, the Chair invites other members who would like to make arguments regarding the need for a royal recommendation for those two bills or any of the other bills on the order of precedence to do so at an early opportunity in order for the Chair to come back to the House with a ruling as soon as possible.

Finally, a point of order was raised during the last session regarding Bill C-470, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (revocation of registration), standing in the name of the hon. member for Mississauga East—Cooksville, arguing that it should have been proceeded by a ways and means motion. The Chair has taken the matter under consideration and a ruling will be delivered in the days to come.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

It being 1:35, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

March 5th, 2010 / 1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, in light of the upcoming centennial of the Canadian Navy, the government should consider reinstating the Navy executive curl on its uniforms.

Mr. Speaker, as the proud member of Parliament for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, I am very honoured to speak in the House today to my private member's motion, Motion No. 459, which would introduce the executive curl on the navy uniforms.

I have had the pleasure to serve in the House of Commons for nearly six years now and this job has been a most rewarding experience for me. As members of Parliament in this chamber, we are always working on a wide range of issues. In my work here on Parliament Hill, I discovered what I feel is a small but important issue that I would like to correct through the private members' business process.

While the legislation may seem small and simple to some, it would mean a very great deal to many of our veterans, historians and military enthusiasts from coast to coast to coast.

I want to start by offering a preamble, a history of sorts, about how this motion came forward. When the Canadian Forces were amalgamated on February 1, 1968, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force ceased to exist as separate entities. As a result, the new amalgamated Canadian Forces moved to adopt one uniform for all three elements of the service.

The navy uniform, in particular, lost one of its very unique traditions which distinguished it from the two junior services. The navy executive curl, also known as Elliott's Eye, was removed from the sleeve of naval officers' uniforms. This left Canada as the only blue water navy in the world whose officers did not sport either an executive curl, a stylized national emblem, a nautical icon or a star in its ranking scheme.

It is important for us to realize that for members of the Canadian Forces, the navy being no exception, these small details and the traditions associated with them bring much pride and esprit de corps. Even members of the Canadian Coast Guard wear a maple leaf with their rank insignia with the original intention to set itself apart from the navy and its executive curl.

The tradition of the navy incorporating the executive curl is a long one. In 1856, the Royal Navy instituted an executive curl and when the Canadian Navy was created in 1910, it adopted the curl as well. In fact, of the 22 countries in the Commonwealth who maintain a navy, 18 of them incorporate the executive curl into their ranking system. This loss of the executive curl on the navy uniform meant a loss of some of the identity of the navy.

I believe the timing of the motion is significant and important as well. With the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy, what better time to right this wrong and reincorporate the executive curl into the uniform of the navy? That is why I am here today to ask the House to support my efforts. This motion is aimed to give the navy back part of its identity lost in 1968 and to support the men and women of the Canadian Forces.

I look forward to discussions here in the House in the coming weeks and I hope I can count on all members to support this small yet important and meaningful request to introduce the executive curl to the navy uniform.

On a personal note, many times in the last six years when I have assisted at the Significance of the Battle of the Atlantic that is acknowledged every year, and I speak with naval veterans at the Cornwall Navy Club or other navy clubs, there is so much pride, so much history there and they are so proud of the fact that they served in the Canadian Navy.

A member in my own family, my deceased elder brother who served seven years in the Canadian Navy, was very proud of his naval tradition. I can remember as a 10-year-old, when my brother joined the navy and came home in that wonderful uniform that sailors so proudly wore, how proud I was to walk down the street to the candy store or wherever with my big brother, the sailor. A friend of mine who also served in the navy is in assistance today.

For those veterans, those people who served this country so well and for so long, I am asking the House to endorse this motion. Our navy has a strong and proud tradition and I hope the House will recognize it.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry and was very moved. He will certainly have my support.

In giving my support, I recognize that the member did not just wake up one day and decide to put this motion forward. He must have consulted with some members of the armed forces. Could the hon. member tell us a bit more about whom he consulted.

Second, given that this took place so many years ago, why did it take so long to right this wrong?

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I am going to have to answer the second question of the hon. member with another question. I do not know why it took so long. Maybe I will throw the question back to him as well.

A large part of my heart belongs to our veterans, and I remember that one of the significant happenings in my career as a politician was when I was asked to open the Williamstown fair in my riding, the oldest fair in Canada, believe it or not, during the Year of the Veteran. I was asked to officially open the fair and before me were all the veterans in the front row wearing their uniforms. It was moments like that which prompted me.

Moreover, there was the fact that my brother served in the navy and was so proud of his time in the navy, as well as the friends I have who have served in the navy. I did not serve in the navy, but I think we must give our respect and accolades to that wonderful, proud group.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too support this motion, but like the previous speaker, I am concerned about where support for it is.

Has the hon. member conducted a campaign and dealt with the navy vets on this issue and established any kind of petition to drum up support? Has the member talked to his own Minister of National Defence? Is there any reason to believe that if we pass this motion, the government will act? Does the hon. member have any information he can let us know about?

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course, I cannot speak for the defence minister, but I can tell the member that the minister and his department are fully aware of this. I have done a fair amount of research among navy veterans and this is significant to them.

When I sent out my first press release in my riding announcing that I was doing this, believe it or not there was only one person who thought this was folly. His basic point in a letter to the editor was why the heck was I wasting time on this given all the important things going on in the world? My office was deluged with phone calls in support of what I was doing.

Right across this great country, men, women and children, boys and girls, are proud of our armed forces. This government, of course, is proud of our armed forces. I would like to think that this whole House is proud of our armed forces. That is why I think we should do anything we can in this House to acknowledge the great work our armed forces do.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry for this motion. As the critic for Veterans Affairs, and I think I also speak on behalf of the critic for National Defence in our caucus, we will be recommending to our caucus full and complete support of this motion.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the motion and the kind of groundwork that I think should go into the motion and some of the ways it is being represented here today.

Executive curl is, of course, a distinguishing mark for navy officers. It is not absent, however, from navy uniforms. It is on their dress uniform or dress kit. When the naval dress was reinstated after the disunification of the Canadian Forces, so to speak, the executive curl was reinstated on the dress kit. So this motion is referring to the service uniform, which is actually a less significant issue to some of the veterans I have talked to than it is perhaps being made out to be today.

I have some concerns, however. At some point, the hon. member might want to comment on why, with all the issues in Cornwall and the surrounding area, this one has grabbed his attention when that particular community is facing some very significant economic, tourism and other development issues that could the subject of a very serious members' business procedure. I say that because I am somewhat jealous of the hon. member actually getting precedence to be able to present a piece of business. It is rare, because members can often wait six, eight or ten years to have a bill or a motion come to full debate.

The issues in Cornwall and the surrounding area are significant. I am wondering why the member did not take on the issue of contraband cigarettes, perhaps, and the effect they are having on children and youth across the country and very directly in his community on relations with first nations communities. That is of concern to me. Also, I wonder whether or not he had thought about asking his government to appoint a mediator to work on the longstanding dispute between the Canada Border Services Agency and the Akwesasne Nation. Perhaps it is time that the member steps up to the plate to work for his constituents on that very important issue of the reputation of his community, which has been tarnished over these last several months.

The motion the member has presented is rather weak tea. It simply requests that the government consider reinstating a piece of embroidery on a uniform, which is not to denigrate whatsoever the support we give to our troops and our veterans, which is unanimous in this caucus. What we are pushing for, instead, is for the hon. member to address the other important economic social and cultural issues that he has responsibility to stand up and talk about in the House.

I did follow the letters to the editor that were critical of this motion and the response of the member. In the response, he was able to quote verbatim, and without attribution, Matthew Worth. The member might want to listen to this, because he took a page right out of the Facebook page of Mr. Worth and printed it in his own letter. The response by the hon. member seem to represent a lot of work by Matthew Worth, and I am not sure the member has fairly represented what the people of his area want.

When it comes to the navy, we also recognize on this side of the House that we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Canadian navy this year, and it is with great pride that we will celebrate this anniversary. However, there are some other issues that the navy has brought forward, including the need for adequate resources to do its work and whether or not it actually has the equipment to keep members of the armed forces safe and secure, whether navy personnel, for example, have gloves to keep themselves warm while they are doing important aid work, and whether or not we have the necessary number of frigates and ships to do the kind of work the navy needs to do.

I want to applaud the government for its work over the last number of years, which began, frankly, under the previous Liberal government, to re-establish a well supported, well trained and well outfitted military. I give the government credit for taking that issue very seriously. Congratulations to it, but the work is not over.

The men and women in our military service need more than simple gestures. They need real resources, real ideas, real imagination and real creativity on getting the work done needed for Canada to take its place in the world.

Canada has a proud military history. Its army, navy and air force have been partners in securing a world of democracy, freedom and peace.

The hon. member mentioned the battle of the Atlantic. The Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian naval reserve, the air force and the merchant marine were all partners in that very important part of Canadian history, and we will take time to celebrate it this year at the 100th anniversary of the navy.

I reiterate that we support the reinstatement of the executive curl on the service uniform. It is a good gesture, but it is a simple gesture.

We need more from the government. We need it to stand up and talk about the real issues among veterans today. Where are the resources being dedicated for post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries? Where is there something beyond monuments? Where does the government talk about the real economic struggles faced by modern vets?

This past December, I was in Calgary at the Drop-In, the largest homeless shelter in Alberta. Every night it has between 30 and 40 homeless veterans there. Where are the resources for homeless veterans?

We have to go beyond window dressing in this chamber. We have to go into the real nature of who we are as Canadians and what it is that the men and women in our military service are doing to support our quest to establish the place of Canada in the world and ensure that we have a place that is safe, secure, democratic and full of hope.

We are proud to support this motion, but we will use the motion to push the government further, to push that side of the House further, to honour that sacrifice, to honour those lives, to honour that tradition and to keep it moving.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on the Bloc Québécois' behalf about Motion M-459, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, in light of the upcoming centennial of the Canadian Navy, the government should consider reinstating the Navy executive curl on its uniforms.

The Bloc Québécois will support this motion, which was moved by the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry. However, I got the sense that he was uncomfortable presenting the motion. He said that it was a small measure—according to the interpretation—for historians and military personnel. I can understand his discomfort.

The government decided to prorogue the House and lock the doors of the House of Commons on January 25. Today we begin debating private members' motions. The first motion moved by a Conservative Party member concerns reinstating the executive curl on the uniforms of the Canadian Navy.

Despite the many important debates we could have begun in the House, the Conservatives unilaterally decided to lock the doors. I can understand why the Conservatives might feel a bit ill at ease. He said that it was just a small measure, but to the Bloc Québécois, there is no such thing as a small measure when it comes to anything to do with symbols of the Canadian Forces.

The Bloc Québécois has always defended the men and women, Quebeckers and Canadians, who wear a military uniform, whether they are in the army, the air force or the navy.

In the case before us, we have no objection to supporting a motion to reinstate the Navy executive curl, if that is the wish of the officers of the Canadian Navy. It is easy to understand that the reinstatement of the executive curl would be a source of pride and dignity for the officers of the Canadian Navy. Again, this is not a small measure to us.

The year 2010 is the centennial of the Canadian Navy. The first attempt to create a navy was in 1881, but it was not until May 4, 1910 that it was actually created with the coming into force of the Naval Service Act. Then, in 1968, the Royal Canadian Navy joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Army to become the Canadian Forces.

The centennial of the Canadian Navy may be an opportune time to reinstate the Navy executive curl.

Since its creation, the Canadian Navy, just like all the other members of the Canadian Forces, has completed its missions with the utmost professionalism.

We remember that the navy's great baptism of fire was the second world war. When the war broke out, the navy had only 13 warships: six destroyers— Saguenay, Skeena, Fraser, Ottawa, Restigouche and Saint-Laurent—four minesweepers—Comox, Fundy, Gaspé and Nootka/Nanoose—and three auxiliary vessels—Armentières, Skidegate and Venture.

The scope of the war was such that Canada became the third largest naval power in 1945, with 433 ships at its disposal. The least we can say is that the Canadian navy lived through its baptism of fire and carried out its mission with great success. With continental Europe under the oppressive yoke of Nazism, the Canadian navy had to supply England. The navy had to organize transatlantic convoys and protect the shops against German U-boat attacks. The navy played a pivotal role in the liberation of Europe.

We think in particular of convoy HX 300, the largest convoy to cross the Atlantic during the second world war. It was made up of 167 merchant ships carrying 1,056,000 tons of cargo and 32 warships. Today, the Canadian navy ranks 28th in terms of its size.

For the Bloc Québécois, it is no small issue when naval officers want to reinstate the executive curl on their uniforms. We will therefore support this measure, and the sooner, the better. If the Conservatives had not shut down Parliament, we could have made this decision two months earlier.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate and in the support for the motion by the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry.

As others have mentioned, this is not the most important issue facing Canada today, but it does recognize that naval traditions are important to people who serve in the navy, who serve our country, those who have served and those who are followers of naval tradition in our country. They are an important group of people. They serve or have served our country. They are fully supportive of this, and we can certainly offer our support today.

However, I wonder why it needs a motion of Parliament to make this change. No doubt there will be unanimous consent. I believe the member or his representatives have consulted with all parties in advance of bringing this motion forward. Surely the Minister of National Defence and the government could do this in the 100th anniversary year of the Canadian navy without a motion of Parliament.

We bring motions to Parliament and get them passed all the time, and the government does not even follow them. Perhaps the member feels his government will not do this unless there is a motion of Parliament to support him. I do not know. I do not want to get into that. We should keep on the high road with respect to the motion.

It is part of naval tradition going back, as I understand from my research, to the time of the Crimean War and the British navy. There may be some dispute about the facts, but my information from a Canadian website, ReadyAyeReady.com, which supports the navy and naval traditions, says that almost all the navies in the world, with the exception of the French and the American, have this naval curl, or 'Elliott's Eye' as it is called, as a part of their naval insignia. Maybe the member has other information, but that is what I have been told.

It was obviously a part of the Canadian navy tradition starting in 1910 when we first had our own navy separate from that of the British navy upon which we relied until then for naval protection.

The Canadian navy has played a very important role through the decades in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador and in the country. The Canadian navy was very active during the second world war.

In the Battle of the Atlantic, the Canadian navy played a tremendous role with convoy duty and also in protecting North American shores because there were torpedoes and U-boat activity in Newfoundland waters during the second world war. Ships were sunk, including a ferry called The Caribou running between North Sydney and Newfoundland. It was sunk by enemy action during the second world war, with great loss of life. The Canadian navy was very important to the defence of Canada and North America.

I think there is a lot of sentiment within the navy for the return of this naval curl as a distinctive mark of its uniform. We fully support that. It is important that this be done by the government this year. I believe there is strong support within the naval community, certainly within the armed forces, to do that.

Some of these traditions of the individual services were lost with unification in 1968. The colours of the uniform have been restored. I think the people in uniform like that. The navy is particularly fond of tradition. I think even the use of the colour blue in naval uniforms goes back, according to my very limited research, to around 55 BC when the Roman navy used the colour blue for its uniform.

It is a very long tradition for the navy to keep certain things that may be symbolic to it and important to it as part of its distinctiveness and the pride it has in its service to its country.

We do support this. The member is doing his job to bring matters before Parliament that are of interest to people. No doubt he was prompted to do that by people in the service who would like to see this happen. It is certainly appropriate for this Parliament to discuss matters of this importance.

There is a lot of time to criticize government policy on the budget, as we did earlier today, and will in the defence committee and other circles. We will certainly take every opportunity to do that.

However, as far as this motion goes, the member has brought up something that is important for us to support. He can count on the support of our caucus in this measure.

I hope, at least this time, the government will follow through on a motion of Parliament because I am sure the motion will be passed.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry proposes that in light of the upcoming centennial of the Canadian navy, the government should consider reinstating the executive curl on its uniforms. It is with genuine pleasure that I can say the government supports the motion.

The executive curl is a ring above a naval officer's gold lace or braid insignia. The executive curl is an important link to our navy's past, recognizing the Canadian navy's rich historical ties. It was part of a Canadian naval officer's uniform from the official founding of the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910, right up until a unification of Canada's armed forces in 1968. It remains part of the naval officer mess dress, the military equivalent of a tuxedo, today.

It is no coincidence that the motion to reinstate the executive curl is being debated now during the navy's centennial year. This year offers us an excellent opportunity to recognize the vibrant heritage and culture of our navy. Supporting the motion would complement the Government of Canada's overall efforts to recognize the navy's centennial.

In fact, celebrations are already well underway, as we help the navy to commemorate, celebrate and commit. The theme for the centennial is to bring the navy to Canadians by showcasing today's navy, honouring its past and looking to its future.

Since the opening ceremony in Ottawa last May, numerous activities have been held in preparation for the centennial of the Canadian navy. A beautiful large-format commemorative book has been launched. A new coin has been struck. In addition, a royal visit to CFB Esquimalt was organized to hoist the flag marking the centennial of the Canadian navy.

This year will see major international fleet assemblies on the east and west coasts, port visits on both coasts, in the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, and celebrations throughout the country. There will be a new naval memorial in Ottawa and a special stamp, all in celebration of the navy in its centennial year.

It is a proud history that we celebrate: 100 years of outstanding service both in peace and in war. Canadians are rightfully proud of how well our navy has served us here at home and abroad over the last century. We need only look to the sailors who supported the RCMP in securing the Vancouver Olympic Games and the service of the men and women of HMCS Halifax and Athabaskan who worked so hard to deliver aid and humanitarian assistance to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Canadians are proud of how the navy has flown Canada's flag around the world during two world wars, the Korean conflict and the postwar period. Each May we still celebrate the critical role of Canadians and the navy in the Battle of the Atlantic. Even as we celebrate this illustrious past, we recognize the navy's continuing commitment to provide Canada with excellence in service, whether safeguarding all three of Canada's oceans, participating in search and rescue operations, conducting sovereignty exercises in Canada's Arctic, or patrolling the world's oceans to keep them free for all to use lawfully.

Last month HMCS Fredericton completed the first phase of Operation SAIPH, during which she was engaged in NATO counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa. For the second phase of the operation, she has re-tasked to a counter-terror role as part of Combined Task Force 150.

The versatility and performance of today's navy are truly impressive, but we are also looking to the future to ensure that our country has a navy that can live up to the increasing scope and complexity of maritime threats. That is critical for Canada because we are a maritime nation with the longest coastline of any country in the world. We are a seafaring trading nation, a world player and a modern multi-purpose navy is essential to sustaining our sovereignty, our prosperity and our interests.

As part of the Canada first defence strategy, the government made a commitment to build such a navy, which means, among other things, providing our navy with the finest possible ships.

We are about to embark on the most ambitious fleet replacement and modernization program in the navy's history.

It is not only the navy that will benefit from this ambitious undertaking, renewing our navy's fleets will also strengthen the Canadian economy and create jobs for Canadians. There is no doubt that this is great news for the men and women of our navy, men and women who are out there for us every day.

We are also showing our appreciation for these fine women and men, our pride in them, through our support for the navy's centennial celebrations and for supporting this motion to reinstate the executive curl. The government is pleased to take the reinstatement of the executive curl under consideration, paying tribute to the past as we look ahead to our navy's bright future.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to this motion which states that the government should consider reinstating the executive curl on the navy's uniforms. By all accounts, it has unanimous support in the House, so I will try to reflect that.

I do want to say at the outset though that I was concerned about some of the comments made by one of the earlier speakers. I know the MP to be a very intelligent member, but I think it is rather unfair to the member who introduced this motion, with the best of intentions, to be reflected on in that way. I have read the notes, and the notes that were negative came from a man who ran against the MP in the last election. It is not really the best idea, in my opinion, to be reading and following up on notes of criticism against the MP who has brought forward this motion with the best of intentions.

Who are we to decide what his issues should be in his riding? In his view, this is a very important issue for him. He has the opportunity, as we all do, to introduce as many private members' resolutions and bills in this House as he wants. Some of us have none; some of us have 20 of them, but it is our choice as to which resolutions and bills we introduce. A defeated candidate who has some issues and maybe wants to run again against this MP passes on the comments and then another sitting MP brings them up and tries to belittle the efforts of the member. I applaud the member who moved the motion for sticking to his guns and dealing with what he wants to do.

As a final aside to that, there were members of this side of the House who drew very low numbers in the draw for private members' bills and chose to introduce a resolution. The member for Papineau did exactly that in his first attempt here. I did not see anybody from either side of the House in any way question his choice of that particular topic and of a motion over a bill.

Having said that, I did want to make some comments about the actual resolution itself. I did note, and the previous speakers have noted, that in 2010 the Canadian navy will mark its centennial. The distinctive loop on the upper stripe of naval officers means little to some Canadians, but it means a great deal to those who currently serve in the navy and who had previously worn the executive curl for decades in the service of their country.

Its origins can be traced back to 1856 when it was introduced by the Royal Navy. It was worn by officers from the early days of the Canadian navy, most notably the Battle of the Atlantic, when the Royal Canadian Navy together with the merchant navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force played a pivotal role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Canada underwent military unification in 1968, and we all know how traumatic that experience was at the time. There were many people opposed to the unification of the forces. It was a traumatic experience not only for the forces but for a lot of people in the country. The navy's executive curl was lost, along with all the other distinctive elements of the naval uniform. The restoration of this unique insignia would serve to build morale, which is always in short supply and something that is always needed, and would pay tribute to past sacrifice.

The unification of the forces, as I indicated, was a controversial issue in the 1960s, but traditions have endured for many years and then faded into history never to return. This was one of those.

I too had access to ReadyAyeReady.com which outlines some history of uniforms in general and the curl in particular. It indicates at one point that what is known as the executive curl, which is the ring above an officer's gold lace or braid, is said to date from the Crimean War when it was called Elliott's eye, in commemoration of Captain Elliott who carried his wounded arm in a sling under heroic conditions.That term also refers to an eye in a hemp rope said to be a memento of the Hon. William Elliott, a member of the board of the admiralty from 1800 to 1801. It is worthy of note that of almost all of the seagoing nations of the world, the French and the Americans are the only navies whose officers do not wear the Elliott's eye. That was pointed out by one of our other speakers.

The curl was originally worn only by executive officers, but in 1915 engineer officers adopted it, followed by officers of other branches in 1918.

Although in the British navy the curl is now common to all officers, some of the navies that copied the custom have restricted its use to their deck officers. While in some navies the insignia was placed above the braid to indicate specialist branches, Commonwealth navies used coloured cloth of gold lace. Coloured branch distinction first introduced in 1863 went out of use except for the medical nursing, medical administration and technical branches on December 31, 1959.

From 1879 to 1891, British naval officers wore three brass buttons between the lace and several navies still do the same.

There is a lot of history regarding the uniforms in the forces going back hundreds of years. The universal colour of the naval uniform is blue, presumably as a camouflage against the sea itself. For this purpose the sails of Roman ships around 55 B.C. were dyed blue so that men dressed in blue standing near the sails would be almost invisible to the enemy.

I found it very interesting that during the 14th century, when breast armour was worn in action, armour was rarely worn at sea even by soldiers for the reason that the steel plate was an obvious disadvantage as a bathing suit.

A more modern version which does not exclude the first is that King George II, who lived from 1683 to 1760, was so attracted by the dark blue riding costume with brass buttons worn by the Duchess of Bedford that he ordered the adoption of this colour scheme for the officers' uniform. Until the king's wish became known in 1748 through the first British uniform regulations, the most popular colour for dress in the English and the foreign navies had been red, but from there on it was blue. The admiralty ordered promulgating the uniform regulations of April 13, 1748.

With that I will draw to a close. I sense that we have unanimous agreement in the House to pass the motion and I will be very happy to see when that happens.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to add my voice to the many in the House who support the motion tabled by my friend and colleague, the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, to reinstate the navy's executive curl.

The motion before us today is important in reminding us of the valuable work and proud traditions of our navy. I think it is important to mention that I served in the Canadian army for 20 years. While being an army soldier, I have the greatest respect for our navy personnel. In fact, I have served with naval personnel both at military college in training and on bases. We are men and women in uniform serving shoulder to shoulder to defend our great country.

Here in Ottawa, far removed from the coasts, it is easy to take for granted the importance of the oceans to the health and vitality of our country. Our country has an extensive, proud and glorious maritime history. It has a long coastline and important ties to the sea. It is important that we not overlook the vital work being done by our sailors. This motion and the navy's upcoming centennial in 2010 gives us ample opportunity to reflect on the contributions of the navy and its sailors.

The very birth of the Canadian navy was a watershed moment in our national history. At the turn of the last century, our young nation was maturing and seeking to become a strong and contributing member of the British Empire. We wanted to do our part and so in 1910, Canada's own navy was established. It was a daring move and it meant starting from scratch. Raising a navy, training men, and buying ships was a demanding task.

Despite inauspicious beginnings, we developed a modest coastal defence force. During the first world war, the Canadian fleet assumed the responsibility of patrolling our waters. However, even in these early days, valour and daring were evident in our burgeoning navy. For example, in 1914, HMCS Rainbow was the only Allied ship along the Pacific coast of North America. Still, it set out alone to find and engage with ships of the Imperial German navy.

The first world war also saw the Royal Canadian Navy playing an important role in fighting the threat posed by German submarines. This marked the beginning of a long tradition of anti-submarine expertise within the Canadian navy. When war broke out again in 1939, the RCN lived up to its motto of “Ready, aye, ready!”. Beginning the conflict with only a dozen ships, the navy worked diligently to ensure the safety of Canada's maritime approaches.

However, the navy grew and grew. Thousands of men and women from across the country flocked to recruiting stations. They learned the ways of the sea and the ways of the navy. They crewed ships, worked in ports and served as wrens in operations rooms and planning offices. They demonstrated their excellence in anti-submarine warfare and shouldered the responsibility of protecting the transatlantic convoys, which provided the lifeblood of the war effort in its darkest days.

Sailors of the RCN endured dark times of their own. Operating in Atlantic gales on long winter nights, cramped in small corvettes and tossed by the wind and waves, it was not uncommon for them to use axes to hack thick ice off the superstructure of their ships to prevent them from keeling over.

Despite tremendous challenges, they did their duty. Over the course of the Battle of the Atlantic, the second world war's longest battle, our sailors and naval aviators shepherded thousands of merchant ships to safe port and deterred or sank many German U-boats. They saved countless lives and showed fortitude and professionalism.

Under the most difficult of circumstances, the navy continued to grow. By the end of the war, the Royal Canadian Navy had over 400 commissioned ships, more than the number of officers it had at the beginning of the conflict. That number also earned it the distinction of being one of the world's largest navies. While the post-war period saw a reduction in the size of the navy, it did nothing to diminish its professionalism or detract from its proud tradition.

Indeed, the Korean War saw our navy putting its skill to good use. During this conflict, our sailors developed a reputation for destroying enemy trains as they moved down the peninsula's coastline. Later, in the Cold War, our sailors again demonstrated their skill in tracking Soviet submarines, a talent that saw them entrusted with responsibility for that task in the vital North Atlantic.

Throughout the tense years of standoff between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, our navy made proof of ingenuity as it pioneered the use of helicopters aboard small ships and developed the tools and procedures necessary to make that possible even in rough seas.

Our resourcefulness has been recognized by our allies and the Canadian system has been adopted by navies around the world including that of the United States. But we have gone further than that. All of our navy's main surface combat ships today have been designed and built right here in Canada. With these Canadian ships our navy has participated in operations around the world from the Persian Gulf, to the Caribbean, to the Far East. In every instance they have steadfastly carried out the task Canadians have asked of them.

Even today our sailors are engaged with NATO and our allies in counterterrorism, counterpiracy and counternarcotic missions. Our navy is busy because it knows what it is doing and does it well. It has served with diligence and decorum in war and peace. It has helped protect sea lanes vital to Canada and has furthered our country's interests abroad.

Indeed, Canadian warships and sailors act as ambassadors around the world and I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to salute the men and women serving on HMCS Halifax and HMCS Athabaskan for their outstanding work and quick response to the earthquake in Haiti. Canadians were proud to see our Canadian ships arriving so soon to help with medical aid, supplies and relief for the people of Haiti. Our sailors and ships fly our flag and display the best Canada has to offer. They have a long and storied history replete with tradition and honour.

We can also be proud of the role our navy plays in complex multinational operations. Last month HMCS Fredericton completed a three month engagement in NATO counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa. She was following in the footsteps of her sister ship HMCS Winnipeg which distinguished herself in counterpiracy operations last year. HMCS Fredericton is now engaged in counteroperations as part of combined task force 150. Our sailors are detecting, deterring and defending against piracy and terrorism.

Our fleet remains flexible and ready to respond to humanitarian emergencies. When people are in need or suffering through pain we cannot even imagine, Canada's navy deploys to help. We only need to look at the extraordinary job performed by the men and women aboard HMCS Halifax and HMCS Athabaskan as I mentioned. I will end my comments here and say that I fully support the motion put forward by my colleague and I ask all colleagues in the House to support our Royal Canadian Navy and this motion.

Canadian Navy
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate. There being no further members rising, I will go to the member for Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry for his five minute right of reply.