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House of Commons Hansard #167 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Canadian Security Intelligence ServiceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General. In a report made public yesterday, the inspector general of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, better known as CSIS, notes serious irregularities in the use of informants on university campuses and in political parties during elections.

How does the Solicitor General explain his statements that CSIS did not spy on or infiltrate political parties, when the inspector general of CSIS criticizes his failure to issue any sort of guideline on dealing with these political party informants during electoral campaigns?

Canadian Security Intelligence ServiceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the report is for a period of more than two years before this government took office. Since that time work has been

ongoing to deal with the problems and concerns raised in it. This is something to which we are paying close attention.

Canadian Security Intelligence ServiceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no need to go back two years. In December, Michel Robert, the chair of the CSIS review committee, stated that Canadian political parties had not been investigated, and, a month later, the CSIS review committee was forced to contradict him, saying that there had in fact been a file entitled "Preston Manning" on the Reform Party.

I would therefore ask the Solicitor General how he can play down the scope of the report by the inspector general of CSIS, which concludes that there is no justification for the use of informants on university campuses and during electoral campaigns.

Canadian Security Intelligence ServiceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the overall conclusion of the inspector general at that time, some two years ago, was that the use of informants by CSIS was professional, of an appropriate professional level.

As I have said, work is ongoing to deal with the concerns raised by the inspector general at that time.

Finally, I remind my hon. friend that he has once again stated something that is not correct. The file referred to by the acting chair of the security intelligence review committee was not about an investigation of a political party but rather about the possibility that a foreign government had made contributions in a way that was not appropriate.

Therefore, I hope my hon. friend, if he raises the subject again, will describe the matter correctly. It is about time he did so.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, over a month ago the Minister of National Defence claimed to have been ill-informed by the military chain of command specifically concerning information regarding the airborne videos.

Has the minister satisfied himself that these concerns with information from the chain of command have been addressed? What specifically has he done about them?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, there was a particular incident to which the hon. member refers and that concerns the misinformation in a report on the videos. That matter was dealt with by the chief of defence staff who relieved a general officer of his post as a result of not providing both the CDS and myself with the details.

I have full confidence in the chief of defence staff and the military command who work pretty hard at their jobs, as I have confidence in all of the men and women who serve Canada proudly in the armed forces.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have obtained a leaked report written by Brigadier-General Jeffries and submitted to land force command headquarters.

According to General Jeffries, the troops believe that, quote: "Political agendas and careerism have replaced leadership in the defence hierarchy and, furthermore, that the loyalty and focus of senior military leaders is directed upwards and not down". This is a very serious evaluation of the state of affairs.

Is the Minister of National Defence aware of this report? How does he plan to deal with the leadership crisis in his department?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am not privy to all communications that are made between the chain of command throughout the country.

If the hon. member has such a document that he describes, I will certainly raise the matter with the chief of defence staff to see if the concerns allegedly addressed by Brigadier-General Jeffries have been brought to his attention. Then we will decide how to proceed from that point forward.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that an internal report has pointed out leadership problems in the Canadian military. To date, however, the Minister of National Defence has promised only cosmetic changes and has put off major decisions with the promise of future inquiries.

Is the minister prepared to address these failings in the leadership and elsewhere in the military or do we have to wait for more videos?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have just made the statement that the government and I have full confidence in the chief of defence staff and all those in command of the Canadian Armed Forces.

With respect to the renewal of any organization, there are changes made every year. I announced a couple of weeks ago we would be streamlining the general officer ranks by about 25 per cent. Some new people have been brought into key positions at

national defence headquarters. I believe this will allay any concerns the hon. member has that we at national defence headquarters do not have dynamic, vibrant leadership.

BurundiOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The situation is very tense in Burundi since the murder, in October 1993, of the first democratically elected president of that republic. In recent months, some 50,000 people have died in the conflict between the two main ethnic groups, and there is every indication that another crisis is looming. The recent assassination of the minister of energy and mines has exacerbated the situation and there is a great deal of insecurity in the country.

Can the minister tell us about the current situation in Burundi and the means being considered by the UN and Canada to prevent a crisis?

BurundiOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

André Ouellet LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the concerns expressed by the hon. member are well founded. It is sad that the ethnic conflicts which occurred in Rwanda and ended in terrible bloodbaths could now surface in a neighbouring country and trigger a similar tragedy.

This is why Canada has repeatedly asked the United Nations, and also the Organization of African Unity, to immediately get involved and try to find a solution to this increasingly menacing situation.

BurundiOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, in committee, the minister informed us of the representations he made, among others, to the UN secretary, for sending additional troops to Rwanda in order to restore a balance in the region. As you know, the Security Council rejected Canada's request.

My question to the minister is: Will he pledge to again ask the UN Security Council to quickly organize the multinational forces required to prevent a conflict?

BurundiOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

André Ouellet LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes. In the event that the United Nations are not in a position to intervene, we also contacted the Organization of African Unity to see if a regional approach might be more appropriate. A number of countries concerned by the situation in Rwanda and in Burundi could intervene, with the support of the UN, but they would do so on a regional basis, rather than in the context of a global operation under the UN.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that with the contents of the report being so serious the minister might have had them before now.

Further to my colleague's questions regarding leadership, General Jeffries' report says the troops believe: "Senior leaders are seen to be unwilling or unable to speak to soldiers' needs on their soldiers' behalf. For example, the airborne trial by headlines left personnel feeling disillusioned and abandoned".

Has the minister yet realized how serious the leadership problem in his department is? If so, can he give the House some specifics as to how he intends to deal with it?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we have to realize the armed forces has been under considerable pressure for the last few years since the events in Somalia became public. This has posed a great problem and a strain.

The armed forces has enjoyed an enviable reputation for many years. The work discharged by the armed forces is exemplary. The Canadian Armed Forces is universally respected.

This week we are preparing to send the first of about a 470 contingent to Haiti. These people are outstanding. They are well led. That does not mean to say that from time to time problems will crop up. Where specific examples of management or leadership are brought to the attention of the government, they are dealt with.

With respect to the issue of Somalia, the whole chain of command and how the troops were deployed to Somalia will be the subject of an inquiry.

For the Reform Party to make blanket accusations about the morale of the troops and about the high leadership of the armed forces is not borne out by the facts. There was considerable disappointment regarding airborne matters and may have been reflected in the alleged report.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I would ask members once again to keep questions and answers short.

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not the Reform Party that is accusing the minister of leadership problems.

The report also says: "Soldiers perceive their interests and welfare are being sacrificed so that senior leaders can be successful in delivering the same bang for much less buck. Unpalatable though it may be, we will have to cut our suit to fit the available cloth if we are to avoid a hollow army and burnt out soldiers".

Considering the contents of this report, is the minister prepared to institute an immediate inquiry to determine the cause and extent of the problem and propose remedial action to avoid a burnt out army?

Canadian Armed ForcesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I find it odd that the hon. member wishes me to institute an inquiry based on one memo.

The hon. member was a member of the joint committee of the House and Senate that looked into all aspects and operations of the Canadian Armed Forces. He signed a report concluding that the leadership of the armed forces was top flight.

Now he comes forward based on the contents of one memo, perhaps generated by the very emotional situation of the closing of the Canadian airborne, and wishes to reverse the assessment to which he subscribed less than three months ago. That is not logical.

Irving WhaleOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. In December 1993, officials of the Department of the Environment gave their minister an internal document which seriously called into question the conclusions and quality of the study on which she based her decision to refloat the Irving Whale .

Was the Minister of the Environment aware of that document and will she tell us why she picked the most risky and controversial solution, which was to raise the Irving Whale , despite her officials' advice?

Irving WhaleOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the only one who thinks this is a controversial issue is the company that did not land the contract. What is truly unfortunate for the hon. member opposite is that people called her leader regarding this issue when he was environment minister, and he held public hearings into the matter in Halifax, Dartmouth and on Prince Edward Island, yet took no action.

As soon as we came to office, we acted and we hope to raise the Irving Whale this summer at the very latest.

Irving WhaleOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the Minister of the Environment who, at present, is the only one responsible for the Department of the Environment, and who is the one who must make the right decisions.

Irving WhaleOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Irving WhaleOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

How can the minister explain her steadfast refusal to have an electronic inspection of the barge's hull done before raising it, which the experts say is the very minimum which must be done to prevent a major ecological catastrophe from occurring if the Irving Whale were to break up during the operation?

Irving WhaleOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario

Liberal

Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member had read the documents I provided, all of the material in the public domain, including the 1990 report asking the former minister to take action, she would know that we did have an electronic inspection done last June.

What I find incredibly obscure about the logic of the hon. member is that a few months ago she stood in the House and said we should not wait until next spring. We have to lift the Irving Whale this year. Now that we are moving ahead and have gone to tender, she completely reverses the position she took only a few months ago.

I took a position, unlike her leader. I am going to raise the Irving Whale and finally we will get rid of the ticking time bomb that has been there for 25 years.