Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on the government motion to renew the NORAD agreement. As my colleague from Verchères has already pointed out, along with the ministers of foreign affairs and defence, this is a longstanding agreement due to be renewed in May 1996.
All speakers have agreed on the agreement's beneficial effects in a variety of areas, as well as on its role in advanced observation, detection and surveillance of air space.
I am sure all members are aware that, without the NORAD agreement and the U.S. financial contribution, Canada could never have afforded such a sophisticated and effective facility in the north. Clearly, as my colleague has already pointed out, the Bloc Quebecois totally supports renewal of the NORAD agreement.
As I have already stated, this agreement has provided Canada with heightened surveillance potential at an affordable cost, as well as a wealth of information. For instance, I have in mind satellite surveillance. Canada made no financial contribution to it, but access under the NORAD agreement, and receives information of undeniable usefulness to a variety of fields.
I think what has been said indicates clearly, however, that there is unanimous agreement that NORAD itself is a child of the cold war, dating back to a time when there was a threat of Russian invasion of North America, with bombers or medium to long range ballistic missiles. I will spare you the various names attached to the metre per second performance or the range of each missile according to their classification. This was the threat that gave rise to the NORAD agreement during the cold war.
Later, agreements between the U.S. and Russia were signed at the end of the cold war, which put an end to missile detection and altered NORAD's role to some extent. I think this year's renewal will bring a new shift. Clearly as the minister or even my colleague for Verchères has said, we cannot simply drop this agreement.
Obviously, if the government decided to abolish the radar installations in the north on the grounds that, with the NORAD agreement, satellite detection would be sufficient, we would no longer need these infrastructures. It is nevertheless a facility paid for, as I said earlier, in part by Canada and in part by the United States, which therefore has meant the latest high efficiency equipment and which should continue to operate in order to provide air surveillance.
Although the Soviet threat disappeared following the end of the cold war, air space surveillance remains a priority, to my mind, but not perhaps because of the potential threat of invasion. I was listening to the minister earlier, who said that Canada will retain full military capability in order to defend its sovereignty.
I always chuckle a bit when I hear that, because experts, even those from the Department of National Defence, have often said that, with our long coastline and our huge air space over both Canadian and Quebec territory, we have neither the resources nor the funds needed to go at it alone and defend our sovereignty.
It is a bit unrealistic to think that we alone can defend our immense territory despite budget cuts, which could have in fact been even somewhat more substantial than those the minister announced this year. Even if the budget were increased, we would never have what it takes to defend our immense air space and coastline on our own. We need only look at NORAD.
I believe that, under this kind of arrangement, Canada has done what it could, agreeing that the Americans would provide technology and funds in exchange for using the Canadian territory to monitor the North American air space.
The reopening of this agreement between two countries negotiating according to their resources reminds me of what we mentioned in our dissenting report on the defence policy review, that is that Canada should conclude alliances or agreements and supply only what it is able to supply, given its financial resources.
As I said before, those who believe that we can defend our territory with the limited resources we have right now are dreaming, especially in today's economic climate. Through its reputation, its participation in peacekeeping missions and diplomatic negotiations, Canada is offering its partners, its allies all it can financially.
I believe that Canada cannot afford to withdraw from NORAD, which has been very profitable for both Canada and the United States, especially in financial terms.
At this point, I would like to add that, unfortunately, when we reviewed the defence policy, we touched only briefly on the NORAD agreement. We met with Defence representatives who explained the 1991 agreement and the changes made since then.
The Bloc Quebecois said on several occasions both on the foreign affairs committee and the committee in charge of reviewing defence policy that the NORAD agreement should be expanded in terms of its role, its mission and its partners.
I believe that the minister has redefined its role very well; its role is to provide early warning and to monitor air space, which in Canada includes searching for civilian aircraft that might be involved in drug trafficking. I believe that in this respect the United States has been slower to act than Canada. During talks on this new agreement and at the time of signing, I think Canada should suggest an increase in membership, their involvement being in
accordance with their military or financial potential, and also some changes in the role of NORAD.
It is often said in military circles that some agreements should not be abandoned in time of peace, that we should not demilitarize in peace time; we should not lose our combat capability, because should a conflict arise we would have problems restoring the severed links or the cancelled agreements.
I recognize that we could call this being wary of any potential conflict. However, I think we should remember that North America itself never had any wars, but always participated with its allies in the search for solutions to various conflicts. I believe the role of Canada, Quebec and the United States is to continue in that direction.
However, I would like to say, because it was mentioned by the Bloc Quebecois in its minority report, that there is currently a war which, in my opinion, might be more deadly, more real and more obvious that any hypothetical cataclysm or conflict which could bring about loss of human lives, and I am thinking about the drug problem, the problem of drug trafficking, mainly in the U.S., but also in Canada.
We know that the detection systems of NORAD could be applied to the fight against drug traffickers with great effectiveness. According to information coming from the Department of National Defence we are about to acquire a new coastal system which would allow detection as far as 250 miles from shore, and this would be useful to monitor both fishing activities and drug smuggling.
Unfortunately, neither the Americans nor the Canadians seem willing to acknowledge the financial and human problems, the society problems, created by drugs coming into the country in scores of places, because of the vastness of the North American territory. I find it hard to understand how we can contemplate spending money on things like equipment, weapons, antitank missiles, radars, perhaps even helicopters and antisubmarine equipment, when the social fabric in large metropolitan areas, especially in the U.S. and Canada, is disintegrating before our very eyes-because of the mafia's growing influence, among other things-when we could make very effective use of NORAD's monitoring capabilities, including satellite and AWACS surveillance, the DEW line and even coastal radars, to detect any small boat or aircraft that could then be intercepted very easily.
Instead, we see the potential for invasion. It is in this regard that I question the real evolution of NORAD. Canada has very often-even more often than the U.S.-taken part in missions in various parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. Although North America is not experiencing any conflict like that in Europe, there is still a kind of plague that, in the last 30 years, has killed in my opinion as many if not more people than all the conflicts elsewhere on this planet, and yet we do nothing about it.
I find it somewhat puzzling that we are not using our defence capabilities to address a very serious social problem as well as negotiating and refining agreements with other countries to address this problem.
In closing, like my colleague for Verchères, I would like to tell the minister-who told us that, for all practical purposes, negotiations had been completed but that we could still make suggestions-that I hope he will take into consideration the Bloc Quebecois' suggestions, which I feel are very important. First, allow more countries to join NORAD, broaden NORAD's role and mission without focusing on potential star wars or invaders, but continue to use this defence technology infrastructure. I would also suggest some civilian or parliamentary monitoring of these defence partnerships which, I think, could be very useful to American society.