House of Commons Hansard #2 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was security.


Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.


David Walker Liberal Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not share the total pessimism of the opposition spokesperson but I understand his frustration. If he thinks he is frustrated, I can say what it is like being a parliamentary secretary in the Department of Finance for the last two years and having to deal with reality every month.

The reality is that the government has made tremendous strides in the steps of reduction strategy and that it will in the next couple of years reach the targets that are acceptable to all Canadians. It will show tremendous progress on that front.

It has to be remembered that the drain being put on young people is untenable unless we change our ways. We agree with members opposite 100 per cent on that issue. It is hard to imagine that the Government of Canada will probably have to have a cash excess each year of about $50 billion to match interest rates for a while. That is a tremendous burden.

Having said that, the reductions that we are making in public expenditures and in interest rates, and the modest economic growth that we are seeing, are still contributing to a more positive cash flow situation for the federal government. I am optimistic that we will be able to hit these targets and give people enough tax base so that they can accommodate any changes in the CPP.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6 p.m.


Paul Forseth Reform New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, we also are very concerned about what is happening with CPP money. We hear the government is floating ideas such as the age of qualification is going to have to change, the amount of premiums that are collected are going to have to increase and perhaps benefits decrease, or a combination of those.

Looking at the money that is collected, I understand that it is then loaned back to the provinces at non-market rates. What is the government suggesting that it do? Perhaps the money that is collected can receive a proper return on the international market rather than be given at non-market rates to the provinces.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


David Walker Liberal Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the Government of Canada has not made any of these proposals but all 11 governments, including the 10 provinces, have agreed to discuss these ideas. What Canadians tell us will be the way that we decide to go.

On the question of the money being available to the provinces, that is true. One of the questions in the discussion paper that has been circulated is whether or not that should continue. If premiums change, for example, there could be quite a pool of capital and I think we should all take an interest in how it should be invested.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on the throne speech. What surprised me most in the throne speech the governor general made yesterday is the way in which the truth was doctored. In the speech from the throne, the government is doctoring the truth when it says that is has honoured its commitments. This is the first comment that came to our minds and it is crystal-clear.

When you examine the speech from the throne, you realize that some of the commitments mentioned in there are somewhat similar to the commitments the federal government made in its inaugural speech, on January 18, 1994. Let us review some of these commitments, one by one. The first commitment made by the government, and it was even mentioned in its platform, was to control the increase of the national debt and to control, through sound management practices, the deficit, year after year.

But, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, to control the annual deficit, the Minister of Finance is not using sound management practices, but rather measures to get out of his responsibilities in terms of public finance. The first of these measures, as we keep telling everyone, is to reduce the deficit by shovelling part of it into the provinces' backyards. These cuts already represent $7 billion in Canada, and almost $2 billion in Quebec, which the provincial government will have to make up for in the next two years.

We also know that, far from controlling the deficit by efficiently managing public finances, the Minister of Finance is stealing the surplus in the unemployment insurance fund, surplus that should reach in the next few years an average of $5 billion a year. What the Minister of Finance is not saying and what does not transpire in the speech from the throne is that the federal government stopped putting money into the unemployment insurance fund several years ago. Since the surplus in the unemployment insurance fund is used for this purpose, I guess we can say that the government is using it as a hidden tax to control the deficit.

Otherwise, the deficit control we were promised in the first speech from the throne and again in yesterday's speech would never come about, because nothing has been done to reduce the deficit in a correct and fair way, through good fiscal management. Nothing has been done to reduce the deficit. This is the first commitment that has not been honoured.

The second commitment that has not been honoured, and we see it again in yesterday's speech from the throne, is the abolition of the GST. The Prime Minister had even made this a major campaign issue in the fall of 1993. The government is dragging its feet. It is searching for a solution to this commitment made by the Prime Minister, and Quebecers as well as Canadians are still waiting for this promise to be fulfilled. So that is another commitment that has not been honoured.

Third commitment. The government is speaking as if it had just arrived in this House.

It says that we need a research and development policy, a policy in the bio-food industry. It says we need a research and development policy because Canada is lagging behind. Canada has been lagging behind for ten years and it has been nearly three years since government members had made this a major issue in the 1993 campaign, even before being elected. I remember the Minister of Finance making a speech in Montreal, as early as 1989, on the

importance of research and development. I remember him saying that year that Canada was lagging behind considerably in this area, which undermined its ability to create in the medium term steady and meaningful jobs.

This government and its spokesperson, the Minister of Finance, are making empty promises. The research and development policy never became reality, the money was never spent, the billion dollars that were promised during the election campaign were never invested, and the government is now telling us in this speech from the throne that it is going to do all that.

What is another commitment from the Liberal government worth when it did not honour its previous commitments in the first half of its mandate? As for the fourth commitment, the government promised to help Montreal get back on its feet. As the Leader of the Opposition was saying this afternoon, Montrealers are still waiting for concrete measures that will help them get out of the slump.

Another commitment, and it struck me as soon as I heard the speech from the throne. Not only have the Liberals not honoured their commitments, but they also have shirked their responsibilities. Regarding the environment, the speech says that "The solutions to many environmental problems lie outside our borders". It is shameful to say such a thing. At the present time, we have a major environmental problem called the raising of the Irving Whale . The Deputy Prime Minister, who recently held the environment portfolio, spent over $12 million on a solution which we knew would fail; now, we have to go back to square one and the whole shoreline of the Magdalene Islands might be polluted. When I see such statements, I am ashamed of this government.

This afternoon, I listened to the Prime Minister. I listened to him religiously since he is the chief of state, the Prime Minister. He urged us to follow up on Canada's success story. He said: "A success which we must continue to build". But on which foundations? The foundations can be found in the throne speech; the first one is national unity. The government wants to continue to build this country by refusing to recognize Quebec's specificity, Quebec's identity, and the existence of a people in Quebec.

The throne speech is nothing but a frame-up; it says that the government wants to entrench the distinct society in the Constitution. But what the Prime Minister does not say, and what the governor general did not say yesterday while speaking on his behalf, is that entrenching an empty shell does not change the fact that it is still an empty shell. This is the kind of distinct society the Prime Minister would eventually like to entrench in the Constitution while trying to convince the other provinces that it would not deprive them of anything. This is what the Prime Minister was saying this afternoon. However what the Prime Minister overlooked is that if that concept does not take away from other provinces and does not offload anything in the provinces' backyards, maybe it means nothing to Quebec. That is what we understood and that is what Quebecers understood last October 30.

Now we see that the Prime Minister did not get that message. Quebecers are no longer looking for symbolism, they want real actions, real measures, a true recognition, and the Prime Minister will not be able to fool them. He asks us to continue building Canada's prosperity on another basis. We find the same thing again in the throne speech on the continuation of jurisdictional fights. What a wonderful program. What a fine perspective. In two different places in the throne speech, they announce that, first of all, the federal government will withdraw from certain areas of jurisdiction it now occupies. We should thank the government, but at the same time, it announces that the measures taken in those areas could be transferred to municipal authorities or to the private sector, that it could bypass the provinces and go directly to those instances.

When the federal government speaks about withdrawing from certain fields, certain areas it now occupies illegitimately, because they are areas of provincial jurisdiction, of Quebec jurisdiction, like occupational training, forestry and mining, it is not offering us a gift. And it is certainly not offering a gift when it says: "Not only do I recognize that I was occupying these areas inequitably, but from now on, I will go over the head of the Quebec government and contact directly its own creations, the municipalities, or I will simply give more power to the private sector in areas falling under Quebec's jurisdiction".

This does not make any sense. We should also thank it for asking us to continue to build on the success of Canada when it more or less says in the throne speech: "From now on, I will continue invading jurisdictions that are exclusively provincial and I will do so with the help of a majority of Canadian provinces".

What it means is that if Quebec, a distinct people, does not want the federal government to implement a Canada-wide program in an area which is its exclusive jurisdiction, it will be isolated if a majority of provinces decide otherwise. This is a way of isolating Quebec. This is what the government calls an invitation to build on this country's success.

The government is also inviting us to continue building this country on the basis of a smaller social security net. Let us not kid ourselves. I almost blew my top when I read that in the speech from the throne. The Governor General started the speech by talking about compassion, he said the government showed compassion. The truth is, this government has shown less compassion that the Conservatives during their nine year rule. Liberals did their utmost to shrink the social security net. How else would you interpret the reform of social programs? How else would you interpret the general dissatisfaction throughout Canada about this reform of

social programs? How else would you interpret this systematic attack against the unemployed?

Quebecers, like Canadians, know that between talk and action, between commitments and what is actually being done, the government has left a large gap, and it will remain during the second part of its mandate.

How could it ask us, ask Quebecers, to continue to build a country on the basis of a systematic squandering of public funds? How can it ask us to continue working within a system which has recently allowed spending $2 billion to buy armoured vehicles in peacetime? We should be grateful that we are at peace. How can we continue building a country which is buying 1,600 antitank missiles at a cost of $23.6 million out of a total program of $230 million in peacetime? Is this the way to success, to continue building a country on the basis of continuing fiscal inequities? We can only repeat that popular phrase: "No thanks".

It is incredible that a government whose spokespersons have been talking about compassion, social justice, fiscal justice and equity for two years, would have come to a point where it refuses to examine the whole system of tax exemptions, a system benefiting mostly large corporations which have the means to take advantage of it. The government readily accepts that Revenue Canada does not even know how much half of the more than 250 such exemptions are costing the federal government. We know the value of about half of these exemptions.

According to the Department of Finance, these exemptions to large businesses cost taxpayers in Quebec and Canada more than $17 billion a year. But for the other part, the other hundred or so exemptions, the finance minister and all the government representatives have systematically refused for the last two years and a half that the House examine their content, their scope, their objectives and their costs. Why? In order to continue to build this country on the flouting of democratic rules. We also say no thanks, Mr. Speaker.

A country where, from the very first pages of the throne speech, the government says that it respects the October 30 verdict and then says: "But if that happens again, we will not respect it, we will not allow Quebecers to choose their future for themselves, we will hold a referendum or a Canada-wide consultation to do that", is a country that does not make any sense. It is a country I have more and more trouble relating to. It is a country that accepts a democratic verdict one day, when it suits it, and at the same time decides, through its political representatives, that, if Quebecers were to decide tomorrow to choose a country for themselves, perhaps it would not recognize this verdict or perhaps it would hold a Canada-wide consultation so that Canadians from the other provinces can determine Quebecers' fate and future.

In conclusion, I was listening to the Prime Minister who was saying earlier, and I quote: "The world sees Canada very much as a real country". I wondered that he meant by that. We never doubted that Canada is a real country. But what the Prime Minister has failed to understand is that, next time, Quebecers will also choose a real country for themselves, a country where they will feel at home, a country where they will not feel increasingly crowded in, for a increasing majority of them, a country that they will also be proud of, a country where values of compassion, fairness and social justice will be expressed in policies on employment, the fight against poverty, economic growth and tax reform. That will be a real country.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's speech. He had all sorts of complaints about Canada, but he did not make any comparison to show the relative importance of all these problems. It is true that we, in our country, have many problems. There are always problems. The way to solve them is to find solutions. Before saying that we must leave this country, however, we should first look at the options. We should look at how other countries operate. Otherwise, we work in a vacuum. The hon. member has not taken that into consideration. I feel that Canadians should always consider our position in the world.

I have seen very poor countries in the world, such as Haiti. Haitians would love to trade their problems for ours, because ours are much smaller than theirs.

It seems the hon. member is a bit like the airline passenger aboard an aeroplane in mid air who decided it was too noisy and so he decided to get out. This country may not be perfect. It has a lot of problems. It is probably the worst there is, except for all the others. The United Nations said it is the best country in the world to live in.

This member does not want to consider that. He wants to look only at the negatives and only at the problems. Yes, there are problems and yes, we are committed to working on those problems. In the throne speech the government talked about how it is very important that we focus on problems like job creation even more than we have in the past.

We have to keep focusing on deficit reduction. It is important we get our economic fundamentals right so the economy can create jobs. We have interest rates down. We started two years ago. Our

interest rates were three points above the American's. Now they are about the same. That is a great improvement.

However, there are still problems. We still need to create more jobs. People in my riding of Halifax West are looking for jobs. The government has to keep focusing on that. We have to focus more on that in the next couple of years. I was glad to hear in the throne speech that we will do that.

It seems the throne speech sets the government in the right direction. The priorities set in the throne speech are Canadian priorities. They are priorities of the people of Canada from coast to coast, from sea to sea to sea, and they are the priorities of the government, as they should be.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raised several points, as comments rather than as questions. I will deal with two of those. To be sure, there are problems in Canada and everywhere in the world. I am not saying that there are more problems here. I am saying, however, that in Canada we are creating our own problems.

Your government creates problems. Producing a speech from the throne that promotes all sorts of measures likely to lead to constitutional friction and jurisdictional disputes, regardless of how cautiously the government wants to proceed, that is creating problems.

The other point is the reference to Canada as the best country in the world. To say that there is a best country in the world is to insult other countries. It is insulting to other countries, because if you live in the best country, it means that the others are not as good. The fact is that countries are different. The best country is the one we have in our heart; it is the one we will build in Quebec.

We must understand the real and durable solution for Quebec and Canada, for Quebecers and Canadians, is sovereignty for Quebec and the development of a new relationship between the two peoples.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am specifically interested in the member's comments earlier regarding the armed forces.

CFB Chilliwack in my riding is now doomed and destined to be closed. It is, unfortunately, the last armed forces base in British Columbia. It has brought a lot of consternation and concern to many British Columbians that we no longer have an armed forces base in British Columbia.

The member said we should not be spending money on personnel carriers or on weaponry in peace time. To follow that logic, would he be willing to give up some of the military establishments in his province?

Perhaps he could encourage the premier of his province and his own party to consider the closure of perhaps Saint-Jean, perhaps the F-18 service contract, some of the things that were taken from the west. If he finds it offensive, we are willing to look after those military establishments in the rest of Canada. I wonder if he thinks they should be shut down and moved out of his province or what he has in mind for the military.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have this answer to the hon. member's two questions. First, as far as Quebec and National Defence are concerned, Quebec gets far less than what it pays in taxes to the federal government. We get about 13 per cent of the spending-

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Look at the figures instead of acting like your minds are already made up. Look at the Statistics Canada reports, look at the figures for spending and investment by National Defence in Quebec and compare them with the figures of the other provinces, and you will realize what is going on. You say you are pragmatic, so be pragmatic for once. Check your information. Quebec gets 13 per cent of National Defence spending although it pays 25 per cent of the tax bill.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would appreciate it if hon. members would address the Chair. I get very lonesome when you speak directly to the other members.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

I apologize, Mr. Speaker. They were talking about downsizing at the Department of National Defence. Downsizing should not mean closing bases right and left but taking a long hard look at what should and should not be done.

Does it make sense that at Canada's Department of National Defence, there are ten times more officers in the senior ranks than in most industrialized countries? These senior officers are paid salaries ranging from $75,000 to $150,000, or more, plus a chauffeur and a limousine, in some cases. Could there be too many of them? Does it make sense to spend money on anti-tank missiles in peacetime nowadays? Does it serve any purpose to invest in very sophisticated submarines?

Downsizing also means looking at the mandate of the Department of National Defence. In peacetime, it should be peacekeeping. Peacekeepers need training, they need bases and all the infrastructures, but they do not need anti-tank missiles.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I recognize the hon. member for Kootenay East. The hon. member will appreciate that the debate ends in two minutes. There will be two minutes remaining until next time. He has a minute and his colleague will have a minute to reply.

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the two years that we have been here we have heard the Bloc Quebecois

members consistently talk about their vision of Quebec, which I suppose is fine except when they are the official opposition.

In the context of the majority of the member's comments, would he not agree that they are all virtually focused on the whole issue of the province of Quebec as a province of Canada and that is it? In other words, in his judgment what purpose is he or his party serving in this House in the role of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition?

Speech From The ThroneRoutine Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, my answer to my Reform Party colleague is simply this: During the past two years we have spoken to Canadians across Canada, from east to west, and recently we heard from Canadians who said they liked the Bloc Quebecois as the official opposition and even hoped we would win the three byelections in Quebec, so there would be no more of this talk about the Reform Party claiming to be the official opposition on the right.

Those house resumed from February 27, 1996, consideration of the motion that Mrs. Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais, member for the electoral district of Madawaska-Victoria, be appointed Assistant Deputy Chairman of Committees of the Whole House.

Committees Of The WholeRoutine Proceedings

February 28th, 1996 / 6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on Motion No. 2 under the heading "Government Business" standing in the name of Mr. Chrétien (Saint-Maurice).

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion which was agreed to on the following division:)

Committees Of The WholeRoutine Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

Foreign AffairsGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

My colleagues, this is the first opportunity I have had since the new session started to thank you all for the support you have shown for me in my role as the Chair.

I appreciate your renewed confidence in my abilities and will endeavour to do my best to ensure your confidence has not been misplaced.

Foreign AffairsGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba


Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs


That this House take note of Canada's current and future international peacekeeping commitments in Haiti, with particular reference to Canada's willingness to play a major role in the next phase of the international community's efforts to sustain a secure and stable environment in Haiti.

Foreign AffairsGovernment Orders

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I remind all colleagues that each intervention will be only 10 minutes without questions or comments.

Ten minutes without questions and comments.

Foreign AffairsGovernment Orders

7 p.m.


Lloyd Axworthy Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to open this special debate on Canada's participation in another peacekeeping mission in Haiti.

First of all, I would like to thank my fellow members of this House, members of the Bloc Quebecois, the Reform Party, the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party as well as those of my own party, the government party. This debate would not have been possible without your support, and I thank you for it.

I am sorry this debate was held on such short notice. As you know, things are happening very fast in New York, at the UN, and the Canadian government may have to make a decision in the very near future. I appreciate the co-operation of all parties in this new Parliament. This way, the people of Canada will be able to express their views to their elected representatives on an important foreign affairs issue.

I also want to point out that today's consultation will not the last on Canada's foreign policy or on Haiti. And I promise that, as far as possible, future debates will be held under better circumstances.

We all know how important the situation in Haiti is to us as Canadians, to the Haitians and to the world community as a whole. It has in the last several months been a remarkable demonstration of a country under a major process of democratization. For a country that used to be dominated by dictatorship, severe police, autocracy and by a total elimination of human rights and economic hope, it has now had some of that restored.

Now that the euphoria of the first months of freedom is beginning to set into reality, we must dedicate ourselves to the continuous building and construction of that country.

The new president, Préval, was sworn in on February 7. I am pleased to say my new colleague, the hon. Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of International Co-operation, attended the inauguration. The president made a representation to the United Nations of the need for continued assistance while his country does the rebuilding. The first necessary condition is long term stability.

Haitian police force members, many having been trained by our country and by others, are ready to ensure their responsibilities. However, they are young and inexperienced and still need time to learn on the job. As a result there has to be a complementary international presence to ensure stability and security for the population to allow its fledgling institutions of democracy to be formed. It they are left on their own at this crucial stage, the likelihood is that the problems would mount and there would be no backup or security for their initial efforts.

Over the past few weeks I have had a number of consultations on the issue of Haiti. My first trip as foreign affairs minister was to the United Nations where I consulted with the secretary-general and

officials of the UN to ensure that any continuation of mandate in Haiti would have sufficient resources to meet the task.

We have learned our lessons. We realize that when the United Nations takes on a role there must be proper and effective resources to meet the needs.

I have also had the opportunity to hold consultations with members of the opposition parties in the past two weeks to talk to them about what their concerns would be.

Last week, I met with members of the Haitian community in Montreal. They show great solidarity. They are also quite inventive in coming up with solutions to the problems facing their home country.

I also brought the views of Canadians to bear by opening up this question on the Internet so we were able to ensure that Canadians from a wide variety of perspectives could let us know what their thoughts were. The vast majority are very supportive of the continuation of Canada's role of support.

As members know, at the present moment the security council is still debating the issue. The secretary-general has made a request that Canada would take leadership as the mandate of the Americans comes to an end at the end of this week.

The security council is considering the questions of the size of the force and the length of the tenure. Certain members of the security council have raised questions, as they have a right to do. However, because we believe so strongly in the need to continue and maintain a UN presence, an international presence in Haiti, we have come forward with proposals and solutions we think will allow that force to continue and allow the deadlock to be broken, once again demonstrating that as a country we are in a unique and special position to provide leadership, to put forward ideas and to help create bridges, as our Prime Minister said earlier, for solutions to this problem.

What we are suggesting in effect is that if the size of the UN force is not sufficient to meet the task, we could provide auxiliary forces still under the control of a Canadian general, under the UN rules of engagement admission, to ensure that fully adequate resources are available when necessary to maintain the full and adequate positioning of the international forces there and to maintain the security and stability required.

It is our hope the proposals we have put forward will serve as the basis for the resolution of this matter.

At this moment the UN security council has not made its final decision. It is looking at these proposals and although the time is getting short we are confident that because of interventions we made we will find an adequate, proper and effective response to the request of the Haitian government.

We still need and want the expressions of opinion of members of Parliament on what they think would be the most effective, adequate, proper, constructive way for the force to continue its leadership.

When the official decision is made by the security council we would be in a position to make a proper and immediate response. Our will is there. Our inclination and disposition are there. We are finding the solutions but we need to have the views of members of Parliament.

If the decision is made by the security council for Canada to take on its leadership and for us to provide the kind of resources required, I will maintain constant communication and discussion with the new foreign affairs committee so that it will be fully informed on an ongoing basis.

I have had discussions with members of the opposition and they have expressed to me their interest in having the committee as a monitoring agency able to maintain a constant overview and assessment of Canadian overseas operations. We will make that initiative with the committee once it is established, report on a periodic basis and receive responses so that Parliament is a constant partner in this very important mission.

Canada will not be alone. Other countries are making their own interest known. The Pakistan and Bangladesh governments have indicated their willingness to continue the missions. The French government has told me that it is continuing to be involved in the training of police forces and the maintenance of that area. The Americans are maintaining missions of economic development and support in that country.

Beyond the pure maintenance of order we must also ensure rebuilding, economic development, social development, development of a civil society in Haiti, building up judicial institutions and proper ways the government is allowed to conduct its efforts.

Canada cannot try to solve every problem everywhere in the world but this is a place where we can make a difference as Canadians. We have been asked to take a role. We have the reputation and the experience.

Our country is a bilingual country capable of providing peacekeeping services in French. Since Haiti is a member of the Francophonie, this special role played by Canada will make a difference for the people of Haiti.

I hope we as Canadians can offer hope to the people of that country. They are looking for help. They want support. They are starting an exciting process of rebuilding a country, rebuilding a democracy. Canada can make a difference to those people in terms

of expanding and enhancing the role of the United Nations, giving the international community a place and once again demonstrating to the world that Canada is the real peacekeeper.

Foreign AffairsGovernment Orders

7:10 p.m.


Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, for some time now we have been given the opportunity to participate in debates on peacekeeping missions. In that regard, I want to tell the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom I congratulate on his appointment, that we are pleased to once again take part in a debate on peacekeeping missions in which Canada might take part.

In light of previous debates on this issue, of the Minister of Foreign Affairs' speech, and of the motion, it goes without saying that, as a matter of principle, the Bloc Quebecois supports this type of motion, which proposes that Canada play a role in helping to maintain peace in Haiti whose population, as we know, was ruled by dictators for many years.

However, I remember that we asked on several occasions, including the two debates on Bosnia, that the government come up with specific and well-defined criteria before holding a debate in the House.

In his speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs shows a great deal of compassion and goodwill, reflecting Canadian values regarding peacekeeping missions, and the Bloc Quebecois fully agrees with those. We have no problem with that.

However, we also said on several occasions that some specific criteria should be set, that the duration of the missions should be determined, as well as the mandate, the number of troops to be sent, and the cost of these missions. It appears that nothing has yet been decided, even though cabinet apparently agreed, based on the information that we have, to send some 750 peacekeepers to Haiti to carry out that mission and to ensure the establishment of a democracy.

But nowhere is there any mention of what Canada's mandate would be. It was assumed that Canada might take over command of the UN mission and that American troops would leave, to be replaced by troops from other countries.

As I said, we readily support this principle but I may have to play the killjoy here and say that, in my view, not much has changed in the preparation of peace missions. We seem to answer requests by the UN without knowing in advance what the real needs are or what we can offer.

It even happened a few times that we exhausted our own peacekeepers. I see the Minister of National Defence sitting in the front benches, and I remember quite well that we often heard him say that if we were to provide more peacekeepers we would not have enough soldiers for the turnover. Some of them were on their fourth or fifth tour of duty in Bosnia. And here we are, committing to yet another mission. Far from me to suggest that we do not agree with that except that, in the last debate on Bosnia, we had asked for exact figures and we still have not received them.

The planning seems to be somewhat improvised. I would say this is rather what we have come to expect from this government over the last two years. There is no shortage of great ideas and grand principles, but there does not seem to be any planning. Right now in Bosnia and in Haiti there are almost 6,000 peacekeepers, Americans, a few French, Canadian, and Dutch troops, etc. I will not give a full list. There are also almost 800 police officers. Yet in spite of all that aid, there are problems. It is very difficult to disarm the Haitian putschists. In fact, Haitian citizens have complained about the non-application of these standards.

Considering the scenario that is slowly unfolding, and this is my reservation on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, if the Americans withdraw from Haiti and Canada takes over command of the UN force with some 2,000 peacekeepers and 500 to 600 police officers, how can we expect as Canadians to disarm the putschists? Moreover, the UN expects, and this is mentioned in the motion, the problems to be solved within six months. Unfortunately, I do not agree with that when we see all the problems that have occurred since 1991-92. I have a hard time acknowledging that simply by arriving with a new mission we will really get what we want.

We could support the principle for another reason. During the defence policy review, the Bloc Quebecois suggested in its dissenting report that Canada should also consider whether its universal mission was not overly ambitious and whether it would not be more appropriate for it to concentrate its efforts in areas of the world where its presence is more natural, such as in America and the Caribbean. We said that, by establishing a regional profile, Canada could better manage and plan requests from the UN while giving Canadian military peacekeepers better and more thorough training. This suggestion was made in a dissenting report tabled in October 1994. We repeated it in the debate on Bosnia and it seems to have gone unheeded, unfortunately. Here is another instance of lack of planning.

I say again, in terms of the principle itself, the Bloc Quebecois supports the Canadian mission without hesitation. We would even say that-as the Minister of Foreign Affairs said-it is really Canada's role, in the end, given that Haitians are part of the francophone community. Obviously, being French speaking, troops coming from the Val-Cartier base, in my riding, will find it easier to relate to the Haitian people than American peacekeepers did due to the language barrier.

On the other hand, I do have other reservations regarding this mission. This afternoon, during question period, I asked the defence minister to confirm the information we had to the effect that General Daigle might be appointed the commanding officer of the UN force in Haiti.

Mr. Speaker, allow me to raise the issue again since the defence minister told me that he would comment on it during the emergency debate. I am referring to the problems in Somalia, to the attack on the Quebec Citadel, and other problems the minister is probably aware of, including the incidents in Gagetown when General Daigle was not yet general. There seems to be a trend as revealed by the inquiry on the deployment of the airborne regiment in Somalia and all the problems surrounding certain individuals. This causes me some concern and my colleagues are of a same mind. We are concerned even though the minister told us he has full confidence in the new general. We are concerned about the history of problems which have been more or less fixed and, I would say, sometimes covered up. This is another reservation I want to mention, Mr. Speaker.

In conclusion, I will say that the Bloc agrees in principle, with a few reservations: we do not know the costs, and we do not know the mandate nor the criteria, and this is not the first time we are saying this. I believe the time has come to present a more specific plan before making any further commitment.

To conclude, I would like to say there is no doubt that the Haitian people needs this and that Canada, because of its geography, must take part in this mission. However, as usual, I would appreciate if we could have more detailed information, as we have requested, in order to apprise the people of the role our peacekeepers are going to play in Haiti, as well as the costs and the means provided to carry on this mission.

Foreign AffairsGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech I want to comment on the minister's statement. He said that he would consider using the foreign affairs committee as a vehicle through which members could discuss this sort of thing. That should be very positive. If foreign affairs is not an area that we can approach in a non-partisan way, then there probably is not an area where we can. I look forward to that co-operation. I certainly hope it works.

A few areas must be talked about with regard to Haiti and this decision. As the last speaker mentioned, this is in our hemisphere. We have a great deal at stake in maintaining stability within the Americas and can set an example that hopefully the Europeans will look at when considerations come up later in the year regarding Bosnia.

We have to talk about the leadership role we can play in Haiti. I believe we are giving an important message which I hope will be

picked up by everyone. Obviously we are doing a favour for the U.S. It is election year but we will not talk about that issue. However, we expect this should weigh rather heavily when the US. considers setting policy in such matters as international trade and removing anti-Canada provisions in the Helms-Burton bill. We expect the Minister of Foreign Affairs to make very clear to the Americans the help Canada is providing them in this area and that certainly we need consideration in other areas-wink, wink.

We need to talk about the problems, the factions that exist in Haiti and their long history. Guns are still in the hands of people, particularly in the countryside. We could talk about the hatred that has built up in this country. These are all issues that could be talked about.

As I understand it, Canada will have control of this mission. That was something that really bothered us in Bosnia where we were not even part of the contact group. This is a move forward.

I want to tell the minister that I was at a town hall meeting last night which over 300 people attended. I gave a 20-minute presentation on Haiti because I knew this debate was coming tonight. That is just about as grassroots and as immediate as one can get. A wide range of people were there, not simply party members. I think the group was a typical cross section of Canadians.

I was rather surprised at the message which was: "You're cutting our health care, you're threatening our pensions. Now what about this going off to other places?" I was rather surprised that the message was quite as blatant as this, that it was so outspoken.

Two people said that Canadians should go but that we should be sure the soldiers have the right equipment and the right training. They put qualifications on their going. However, a huge number of that 300-person crowd said: "We have real concerns. We think you should hold back until you have all the criteria".

What should those criteria be? The message certainly included the length of stay. The resolution in the UN very clearly says that this is an extension for six months. I listened carefully to the minister, making sure that he emphasized that part of the mandate in the UN resolution. I trust it will be made clear that in fact it is six months. Conditions could arise that would cause us to reconsider but there is a six-month period in there.

The government should tell Canadians the cost of this. If on September 30, 1996, the government tabled in this House what this mission cost us, that kind of openness would help to build the confidence of the public, certainly the 300 people I talked to last night.

Is there a contingency plan? When the Americans were there they had a carrier in the harbour. They had attack helicopters that could be brought in. That is a pretty big stick to hold over anyone.

My question is: Do we have any kind of contingency plan, any kind of big stick that we might use to keep people in line?

I bring forth again the U.S. election situation. Obviously this plays very heavily on why the Americans want to leave. They want to leave because they cannot afford to have any ripples and obviously this is a major issue.

I also want to ask about the OAS. I want to know what the OAS has said, what it is going to do, how strongly it is supporting this sort of mission. Can we count on the OAS for support and help and what sort of help will that entail?

It seems to me that the OAS should become a much more important body. If we talk about the regional nature of the Americas, the OAS should be the one that helps monitor problems within that sphere. Obviously Europe is another area and possibly Africa is in their sphere. In southeast Asia there is the whole area of the Asia-Pacific. If we have these spheres we can then start to create a more peaceful world in which all of us can live, trade and get along.

I also would like to know about the reconstruction. Haiti is a country that does not have an education system, that does not have the services, the social system. Certainly there are the problems in the countryside which we have read about. What sort of plan does the UN have, if it has a plan, for the reconstruction of this country? We need a long term solution. We do not need to go back in a few months, years, or whatever. We need a plan.

In conclusion and in talking about this take note debate, I know the minister is aware of my concerns that we do not have a sham of a debate. We must have a true debate where all members take part and represent their constituents on a non-partisan issue like this one, where they can actually hear the pros and cons of the debate. They would then have the duty in a free vote to vote on what this assembly has heard on an issue like this one.

Let us take the politics out of it and put it into the area where we are really representing. This would be a perfect area to do that. If we are sending over 100 troops we should have that sort of debate.

As well, it is important that the government at least 48 hours prior tells us of the tentative budget, the mission's mandate, the size and duration of the commitment, the rules of engagement and certainly the rotation and so on planned for those troops. We owe that to Canadians. If we cannot get that information then we should not be signing a blank cheque. If the UN is so disorganized that it cannot provide it, then perhaps we should not be going.

These sorts of things are the big issues for Canadians and they are asking these questions: What is the mandate? Would you send your son or daughter on this mission? Is it safe? Do we have the equipment? Do we have the mandate? We owe it to Canadians to come up with the answers to those questions.

I believe the House will respond to that in a very positive way. That is how we build up the feeling as Canadians that we are proud of our peacekeepers, that we are proud of our missions abroad, that we are proud to be Canadians. We tend to be shy when we talk about ourselves. I know that all members on all sides of the House would agree it is time that we became proud Canadians. We can demonstrate it through missions like this one provided we have the confidence of the people. The way to have that confidence is to make it transparent, make it open, let them be part of it, let the members of Parliament be part of it and ask the people.

I welcome this opportunity to deliver this message. I know that our new minister is listening.

Foreign AffairsGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario


David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to take part in this debate because it is crucial to Canada's peacekeeping mission.

It is appropriate that Canada was called upon to play an important role in Haiti because we have for a long time participated in the peacekeeping missions of the UN and we have made great efforts to ensure the security and the stability in the western hemisphere.

Our participation in Haiti also reflects the reality of bilingualism in Canada and our role as a leader within the francophonie.

Canada helped in many ways: members of the Canadian armed forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police participated in the UN mission in Haiti; Canada trained Haitians who would form a national police force in Haiti; finally, we offered bilateral financial help in order to facilitate the social and economical stabilization of the country.

We have assisted in the last number of months in Haiti. I visited our forces last fall in Port-au-Prince and also on a mission to Gonaïves.

The forces have been composed of about 600 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, some army, but largely air force. I underscore this because people often think that peacekeeping missions are simply the reserve of the army. The fact is that the navy and the air force do participate in these missions and of course the air force has carried the load so far in Haiti.

What we are talking about this evening and my colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs has talked about the ongoing debate in New York, we are talking about a force that Canada might send of up to 750 personnel. It may be configured in an imaginative way,

perhaps not all under blue berets, perhaps under green berets. The fact is that what is envisaged is to have a Canadian commander.

On that point I do regret the comments made by the hon. member-

-for Charlesbourg because he criticized one of our generals. It is unfortunate because, as I said during Question Period, I trust all the generals in the Canadian forces and I also trust the person who raised that question this afternoon and this evening.

The decision as to who commands the Canadian force should we participate is a decision for the chief of defence staff. That is an operational decision and is one that I shall support.

A lot of good work has to be done in Haiti. The reconstruction of Haiti is needed. The force in the last six months under the leadership of the United Nations has established a degree of peace in that area. The crime rate has gone down. Democratic elections have been held. Really it has been quite successful.

I understand the reservations some members have with respect to Canada participating yet again in terms of the length of the mission and especially the cost of the mission. I stood up in this House sometime ago and I gave an approximate cost for IFOR. I have been quite amazed that not the incremental costs on the Canadian side but the costs on the NATO side have escalated.

I think the hon. members for Red Deer and Charlevoix have raised very good points about getting a better handle on the costs before we go into these missions. I will not be able to give a full accounting of IFOR for a few weeks. I will come back to the House and give that information but we do have to be very very careful.

With respect to the rules of engagement, we have to be very sure that we know under what auspices we are operating there. We have had some unpleasant experiences before, one in Somalia, and we have learned a lot of lessons.

As I mentioned in the IFOR debate before Christmas, it was because of the lessons that we had learned in the past that we were able to work with our colleagues in NATO to develop rules of engagement that were applicable to that particular situation. We want to make sure that the rules of engagement for any mission in Haiti are certainly ironed out and that we know what we are getting into.

With respect to the resources devoted to the development of the Haitian national police, that is also something we want to know about. This is just not a Canadian Armed Forces operation; the RCMP have been involved and involved in a terrific way. Inspector Pouliot of the RCMP has been well received and has been widely congratulated for the efforts he has given to the Haitian police force.

However we would like to know what the UN has in mind in terms of financial resources for that force. The mandate has to be appropriate and achievable under the circumstances. We have to know the rules of engagement. We have to know what the ultimate force size and composition are and they are the subject of negotiation, as my colleague just said, and we do not really have a clear handle on that. When we get all the costs and conditions, we will be in a position to know if the mission is viable. I think it will be viable but the questions raised here today have to be answered.

The hon. member for Red Deer talked about the public meeting in his constituency. I applaud him for having that kind of grassroots debate before we came here this evening. He made a statement that I would really like to challenge, which is that Canadians, despite our own financial woes, despite our own domestic pressures are unwilling or unable to help less fortunate nations.

Those of us on this side of the House believe that no matter what belt tightening we have to do as a government or as a people, the generosity of Canadians and the richness of our society is such that we must continue to do our bit in helping less fortunate patrons in the world. From time to time we run into doubting Thomases so to speak about our involvement and where it gets us. We have a track record, whether it has been in Somalia, whether in Bosnia, Croatia, Rwanda, Haiti in the last number of months, I think the UN missions have been successful. They have been worth participating in and the UN has made a difference. It has made a difference because it has been able to count on the dedication of forces from around the world.

We have heard the Prime Minister say in this House how highly regarded the Canadian men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are, how highly regarded men and women of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are, as are other civilian officials who monitor elections, are involved in overseas development work, are involved in bringing aid, in monitoring and are involved as observers. All the Canadians who have been involved in missions in the last few years have done an excellent job. That is why the UN needs us.

The UN frankly needs Canada. We have been in the forefront of peacekeeping development and overseas development generally in the last 50 years. If Canada is asked, if the conditions are right and if my colleague and I are satisfied that certainly the conditions under which we want to operate which we described this evening are met, then we should entertain participation in that force.

We owe a helping hand to Haiti. It is the poorest country in this hemisphere. I know the country well. I have been there at least a dozen times on various business and overseas development missions. It is a tragic case of where a people and a country have been exploited unduly. We as well as others in the United Nations are trying to make a difference to at last get Haiti back on the right path to democracy and to the improvement of its economy and the lot and lives of individuals.

The hon. member for Red Deer raised a very good point, that is, the whole question of what guarantees there are if there is a problem. This is not quite like Bosnia or Croatia but there are precedents where the United States particularly was willing to extract forces from Somalia. The U.S. was certainly willing with the allies to extract forces from UNPROFOR last year. In fact, we were part of that planning. The hon. member should rest assured that should anything untoward happen, we have the means, we have the ability, we have the equipment and we have the belief that our friends and allies would make sure that if there were any undue emergencies, they would be there to help us in a difficult situation. The precedents have already been set.

Foreign AffairsGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion introduced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, providing that Canada assume control of the UN Mission in Haiti shows, first of all, that the United Nations Organization has a great trust in Canada and its peacekeeping missions.

I would like to stress that the Bloc Quebecois is pleased to see that the new Minister of Foreign Affairs is willing to consult members of Parliament regarding the Canada's involvement in this mission. The goal is to continue the peace mission already in progress in Haiti. As I said previously, Canada shows a great deal of openness towards countries in need of humanitarian help, or support in re-establishing democracy and respect for human rights, or help in maintaining a stable and peaceful society, in short, help in their peacebuilding efforts.

We are currently living in a world where a country cannot ignore what other countries are doing or experiencing, and even more so when such a country is a friend and almost a neighbour. The need to live in peace in the world requires actions and initiatives which promote better conditions. Some would tell us, wrongly, that we should take care of our deficit and our own problems before giving any help to foreign countries. This would be a shortsighted view when faced with a problem which might endanger our own security.

To get a better understanding of the context which led to the motion we are debating today, I would like to review briefly the various interventions of the UN in Haiti. In December 1990 the long awaited first democratic election brought President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. The success of that election was in part the result of the good work of an international mission of observers under the direction of Pierre F. Côté, director general of elections in Quebec.

Less than a year later, a coup perpetrated by the Haitian army forced the new president into exile. Following the coup of September 30, 1991 and until the President's return, the people of Haiti were under a military regime that scorned the fundamental principles of democracy. During those three years, more than 3,000 people were killed by putschists in summary executions, over and above others acts of torture. In the absence of any willingness on the part of the military to restore democracy, severe economic sanctions were imposed on the country by UN and OAS members.

Quebecers and Canadians were among the first to call upon their elected representatives to make major efforts in order to restore democracy and ensure President Aristide's return. Canada also took part in several humanitarian missions under the UN and the OAS.

Furthermore, more than 500 police officers and peacekeepers from Canada and Quebec were involved in the UN mission to Haiti, known as UNMIH. That mission was launched pursuant to Resolution 867 of the Security Council. It was aimed at implementing the Governors Island agreement in order to ensure the President's return as soon as possible. In July 1994, just a year and a half ago, the UN mission to Haiti being unable to give effect to that agreement, Canada took part in setting up a multinational force under U.S. command, in order to hasten the departure of the Haitian military leaders.

The UN Security Council then gave increased capabilities to the multinational force, which would give over these powers to the UN mission to Haiti once the situation had been stabilized. As of March 31, 1995, Canada had provided 100 RCMP officers and 500 members of its armed forces to the UN mission. Since then, the UN mission has taken over from the multinational military implementation force. It includes a military contingent of 6,000 soldiers and a police component of 800 officers from 30 countries.

The Haitian people gave a warm welcome to the troops and police officers, and there has been a substantial drop in the crime rate over the past 12 months. Peaceful demonstrations are now allowed. Journalists are free to do their job. The international community, however, still has one concern: the mandate of UNMIH expires tomorrow.

Since the situation in Haiti is still precarious, the Secretary General of the UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, recently indicated that a smaller transition mission would be desirable in order to strengthen the young Haitian democracy. This mission would focus on

supervising the new Haitian police and supporting the civilian institutions. The military aspects of its mandate would be reduced.

We must be assured that this new national police force, which would be trained by Canadian instructors among others, will be able to maintain order after the peacekeepers leave. The newly elected President of Haiti, Mr. Préval, has already stated his intention to ask the Security Council to extend the mission.

The challenge of democratization has not been won yet. It seems that the disarming of the former supporters of the putschists is far from over, and that there is still a risk that hostilities will resume after the international forces leave.

Despite its reservations, the Bloc Quebecois feels that the presence of UN troops, which will be under the direction of Canada for a while, will undoubtedly be a great help in rebuilding Haiti. Maintaining foreign troops is desirable until we have more evidence that democracy prevails in that country. However, before committing Canadian Forces any further and responding to the UN's request, we wish to express certain reservations.

First of all, the government must set the rules and criteria governing its intervention and assess the resources needed to carry out this mission. The minister seemed prepared earlier to take into account what his colleagues were saying, and I hope it was not idle talk.

The government must immediately specify what the mandate of our troops will be in Haiti, to avoid repeating the ad-libbing that has taken place during other missions. We believe that their primary task should be to consolidate democracy by supervising and training local forces and reinforcing civilian institutions.

Since the American troops are scheduled to leave next month, the Bloc Quebecois questions whether this new mission will be able to keep the peace in Haiti. We think that the Canadian government should negotiate with the UN and the U.S. government the withdrawal, possibly over a six-month period, of the American and Pakistani troops currently deployed.

The multinational force under U.S. command included 6,000 troops. Canada should know from the start how many troops we will be able to count on when we will take over command, and make sure that the UN will provide all the resources we will need to fulfil our mandate properly.

As for the Canadian troops in the field, the Bloc Quebecois is of the opinion that no more than 750 peacekeepers should be sent to Haiti, as my colleague, the defence critic, indicated. More than 1,000 Canadian military have already been assigned various tasks with regard to the implementation of the Dayton accords in Bosnia. While being generous and compassionate, Canada must also take into account what if any resources are available.

So far, the government has not told us much about the costs involved in this mission. Again, the minister seemed to take that aspect into consideration. For the sake of transparency and integrity, taxpayers in Quebec and Canada must know what expenses the government will incur during this mission.

In June 1995, I took part in an observer mission for the verification of parliamentary and senatorial elections in Haiti. I saw for myself that the presence of foreign forces was absolutely necessary if an atmosphere of detente and security was to prevail over there. For far too long, the people of Haiti have been afraid of walking in the streets, of speaking, singing and expressing themselves freely.

Democracy is a wonderful means of integrating citizens in the society to which they belong. This can take place provided that citizens can play an active and responsible role in society. The democracy emerging in Haiti deserves to survive, if only it will be given a chance.