Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt to speak to the motion before the House today, this take note debate we have before us on Canada's current and future commitments in Zaire.
Canada has apparently agreed to take command of the mission in Zaire. The intentions of the government are noble. However, it has proceeded carelessly and without clear goals. For this reason the Reform Party cannot yet support the mission to Zaire.
My colleague from Red Deer, the Reform Party critic for foreign affairs, outlined the Reform's position with a particular focus on the foreign affairs perspective. Now I will provide a military assessment of the mission.
To me and other members of the House this take note debate is purely smoke and mirrors. Although we would like to see pure consultation with members of the House of Commons, we recog-
nize that there will be no vote with respect to this information that comes out of this debate today.
For more than a week now the media has been reporting that the government has decided to commit troops to Zaire. Senior defence officials have advised the cabinet that we have the capability to participate in this force. Military preparations have been under way for some time now.
The Reform Party does not yet have sufficient information to support the government's decision to lead the mission to Zaire. Canadians recognize the importance of stability in Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi and the area, repatriating the refugees to their countries of origin and relieving the malnourished and starving. This mission will be extremely dangerous and Canadians should be fully aware of that fact.
It is dangerous and this is not a peacekeeping mission. Combat capable troops are required for this mission to Zaire. We will not be monitoring opposing armies but playing a role in providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the area and providing them with a safe corridor through which they can move to their countries of origin.
Only three days prior to announcing this mission I sat in a briefing by senior military officials and they confirmed for me then and there that Canada was not capable of supporting three large scale missions at the same time. We are already in Haiti, we are already in Bosnia, and Zaire will make our third large scale mission.
Only three days after defence officials confirmed we cannot handle three missions we hear from the Prime Minister that indeed we can. We wish we could support this mission but the government has not proven that it can complete the mission, although not through any fault of the troops or the military itself. They are among the best in the world when they are allowed to be, when they have the equipment that will allow them to be the best. We often hear when cabinet ministers talk about missions like this "I talked to the troops and the troops say they are ready to go and they are capable of going".
I was in the Canadian Armed Forces and in 1974 when my ship, the HMCS Gatineau , was asked to go to Vietnam to participate in the withdrawal of American troops I was ready, willing and able. I wanted to go. Unfortunately I was on training in Halifax at the time in fleet school. The commandant called me into the office and said:
Hart, would you like to go on this mission with your ship? It would mean you would have to come off training prior to completion of your course''. I said:Sir, I am ready, willing and able and I want to be on that mission''. Unfortunately the decision was made that I would stay back and stay on training and I did not proceed with my ship to patrol the coast of Vietnam.
That is the response that we will get from every man and woman in the Canadian Armed Forces. Of course they are ready, willing and able and they want to participate in the missions because that is what they are trained to do. That has nothing to do with the responsibility of this government, to make sure that they are properly equipped to do the job and that there are enough people to make sure they can complete their missions.
The Reform Party is concerned about the government's handling of Canada's defence policy. One of the most important tasks of any national government is to support the existence of sufficient combat troops, capable armed forces, to match the nation's defence policy. This is not something that is only desirable, this is a responsibility and a requirement of any sound national government. It would be an abdication of the government's responsibility to fail in this regard.
Not long ago the Liberal government changed 50 years of Canadian defence policy by saying that Canada does not have nor does it need to maintain combat capable land forces. In fact, it was the Minister of Foreign Affairs who told Canadians that he does not believe Canada has combat capable forces. Now he is sending that same military, the one he said is not combat capable, into the line of fire.
The former chief of defence staff told Canadians that land forces are unfit to fight a serious war. These are his words: "If the government asked me to go into a high intensity theatre with the equipment I have today I would have to say I can't do it". This is a quote from the last chief of defence staff, one who has never lost the support of this government. Its former hand picked chief of defence staff does not think that we can handle this mission.
The former minister of national defence, contradicting his own white paper, said that General Boyle's comments were pretty fair. He added that General Boyle's comments reflected the 1994 white paper on defence.
Then the Minister of Foreign Affairs went even further in reversing the defence policy of the government: "A lot of the defence purchases have been geared toward the peacekeeping effort because that is the changing nature of the world. The notion that we might re-engage in a major conflict like the second world war does not seem to be there".
Our armed forces personnel must be first and foremost combat capable professionals which then and only then enables them to be finest peacekeepers or humanitarian aid providers in the world. If the Minister of National Defence or anyone in the cabinet would listen today I would tell the government to do four things.
The first is stabilize the size of the Canadian Armed Forces. I would urge them to review the work of the special joint commission, which said that the size of 60,000 troops, which we are now
headed toward, is too small given the international commitments that we have facing us today.
Second, ensure that our land, sea and air troops are combat capable. Third, provide the adequate equipment and training. Fourth, I would ask the government to clearly establish a fixed number of troops which can be utilized on international peacekeeping missions, and also to establish how many missions can be supported at any one time. I will tell the House why this is important.
For each mission of 1,000 troops we have committed to a foreign country, that ties up 3,000 troops because there will also be 1,000 who will be training for the mission, waiting for their next rotation. There are the 1,000 in theatre and there are also 1,000 who have also come out of theatre and are waiting for 18 months before they can be put into service in an international peacekeeping role again.
It can be seen that 1,000 troops commits 3,000 troops in actual numbers to an international commitment. Therefore with Bosnia, with Haiti and now with Zaire we will have some 3,300 troops in international theatre. That ties up almost 10,000 of our land forces of an army of approximately 24,000. That is putting an unprecedented amount of stress on our Canadian Armed Forces.
However, there has been no move by the government or the defence minister to look at the things I have mentioned. We are still waiting to hear about the purchase of submarines for the navy to make sure that our navy is combat capable. We are still waiting for word on the replacement of the Sea King helicopters. In fact, another Sea King crashed last Thursday.
We keep hearing from the government how great everything is but in the meantime our Sea Kings are falling out of the sky. Our engineers, pilots and our maintenance crews can keep them flying with gun tape, chewing gum and baler twine for only so long. It is a testimonial to our Canadian ingenuity and skill that our men and women were able to win the William Tell competition and become top guns.
The government should live up to the combat capability to which was committed an entire chapter in the 1994 white paper. It is fine and dandy for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to commit our armed forces to Liberal government foreign policy objectives. However, they must not be trained only for peacekeeping. They must remain combat capable professionals. That is how our Canadian troops earned their well deserved reputation in the first and second world wars, the Korean war, the Gulf war and peacekeeping missions over the last 50 years. They must be given the proper tools. They must be given the proper mandate and the rules of engagement so that they can get the job done properly with minimal risk to themselves.
We have two primary concerns, saving lives in Zaire and keeping our own Canadian Armed Forces troops alive. The Liberals can use these vain ploys to garner peacenik votes but they must remember that the lives of Canadian troops are at stake. Our men and women are not going out on a picnic in Zaire. They will be going into one of the most ruthless war ravaged areas in the world where hundreds of thousands if not millions of people are very desperate. This is a very dangerous situation and we should not be going into it lightly.
There is always a human price that will be paid and it will not be paid by these fat cat Liberal ministers who sit back and suck cappuccinos while our men and women put their lives on the line for the Liberals' half baked political decisions.
How many members of the House know the actual human toll for our mission in Bosnia? Forget for a moment the suicides, the broken families, post traumatic stress disorder. Do the Liberals actually know how many Canadian casualties there were for Bosnia? I bet few of them know. There were 120 Canadian casualties, including 12 deaths. I do not know about anyone else in the House, but when it comes to senior military personnel's telling members of the House of Commons that we cannot support three major international contributions at one time and when the former chief of defence staff and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have questioned the combat capability of our military, I must doubt our abilities to support this third large scale engagement.
With all this information, I am not as quick as my Liberal friends to send our men and women to Zaire. Let me be perfectly clear. I believe that in principle we should be able to go to Zaire. However, to ensure that Zaire is a success and to take some stress off our troops possibly we should look at pulling out of Bosnia.
It is time to completely turn over all peacekeeping responsibilities in Bosnia to the European countries. Let me say that again. The Reform Party supports in principle taking command of the multinational mission in Zaire. However, from the perspective of military and human resources we may have to leave Bosnia and the IFOR mission to do so. There is nothing wrong with admitting that we cannot do all things for all people.
We must establish clear priorities. We are faced with Bosnia, Haiti and now Zaire. Canadians would like to know from this government are these missions in Canada's national interest and, in particular, if they are how do we deal with these missions with our small army and our limited resources.
Canada has performed yeoman service in the former Yugoslavia and it is time to pass the baton to other countries.
The defence minister says the mission to Zaire will last only six months. I think this is grossly naive. Income tax, as we all remember, was meant to be a temporary measure, and look where that got us. We were told in 1991 that Bosnia would be short term. We have been there for five years. The mission in Haiti goes on and on. Just last week the UN was asked to extend its mandate for another nine months, until the end of July 1997.
On the topic of mission extensions, when the Minister for Foreign Affairs was asked how long our stay would be in Zaire he stated the Liberal line four to six months. However, he has already intimated that he expects there will be a need for a force to stay on for a new phase after the first six month deployment expires.
The government intends for our troops to remain there for possibly years. It just will not admit it at this point to Canadians. It refuses to be honest with Canadians about what it is really committing to. How long does it really plan to stay in Zaire? If the first six months are projected to cost $100 million, how much will the extended complete mission cost?
The defence minister said he can find the $100 million in his budget. Liberal math never ceases to amaze me. The minister has a budget for which money has been allocated. I do not remember seeing any line items in estimates or the budget for a mission in Zaire or for a $100 million peacekeeping slush fund. So where is the money coming from? I am not saying do not go, I just want to know specifically where the money is coming from.
I know the budget accounted for acquisitions of submarines and it also accounted for helicopters, replacements for the Sea King helicopters, but are they going to be the cost of the mission to Zaire? It is most unfortunate that this Liberal government would steal money from a much needed procurement to pay for this mission.
The new defence minister says he wants to institute a morale building attitude. I will congratulate the new minister on his issuing of the Somalia medals, which was long overdue, and also on the purchase of flak jackets and helmets, which in a small way goes toward building morale as well. However, robbing from the submarine program or the helicopter procurement program is not going to help morale. It is going to hurt morale in the Canadian Armed Forces.
The minister has a responsibility to properly equip our troops. That includes giving the navy its submarines and the air force its helicopters. He should not abdicate his responsibility because his buddy in foreign affairs wants to use the military to help in a Liberal leadership race.
Canadians are confident in the ability of our armed forces. However, Canadians are not as confident in the Liberal government's ability to lead a military. Canadians call on the government to stop abdicating responsibility. We have reached the critical mass where further cuts and reductions to our armed forces will make them an impotent marching band.
Events over the weekend have dramatically overtaken the mandate of the mission and this Liberal government. The initial mission was to establish a safe corridor and to provide humanitarian relief to refugees in the camps. The refugees are now on the move. They are going home. Now the Minister of Foreign Affairs wants our troops to wander through Zaire for some 700,000 other refugees wandering the countryside. The Liberals are struggling to find a reason to be there and they cannot find one.
Even the host countries do not want us there. In fact, Canadian troops were required to deplane without their weapons because Rwanda does not want them there. Is this the kind of situation our people can expect?
The defence minister promised robust rules of engagement. Do these robust rules include sending our troops in without their weapons?
This mission is falling apart. The government should just admit it and keep our people out of harm's way until we can clearly define a mission for them to accomplish.
Our peacekeepers served for a quarter of a century in Cyprus. Today, only a few years after their departure, Greek and Turkish Cypriots are again killing each other.
In conclusion, I would like to quote the past president of the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion: "The army cannot field a properly equipped division or even a full independent brigade. It would be difficult to man and supply. Still our loyal men and women of the forces continue to serve, many under more extreme conditions short of war than one can imagine. With a targeted military of 60,000 we have less fighting personnel to defend our interests than the number of lawyers in this country".
We want our troops to know we support their collaborative efforts in any regard wherever they are in the world. Whatever mission this government sends them on, the Reform Party will always press the government to ensure there are the proper numbers, to ensure they are properly equipped and to ensure that they are properly supported.