Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Canadian Alliance I congratulate the member for Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore for bringing up once again Remembrance Day.
All of us are deeply thankful and grateful because it gives us an opportunity to honour and remember the men and women who fought and sometimes gave their lives and their families' lives so that we could enjoy the peace and security that we have today and are so lucky to share.
Remembrance Day has a number of elements to it. Yes, it is a time for honour and it is a time to hold up those who gave up their lives and those today who go out across our dangerous world for peace. However, it is also a time for remembrance. It is a time to teach the young about the sacrifices of the past.
The hon. member's intention of having a national holiday so we can have more time to remember our men and women in uniform and for those who have gone is honourable. However he is forgetting something that veterans groups brought up to us recently. They said they needed an opportunity to teach the young about this important day and about the history that is behind it.
It is for that reason that they want opportunities to go into schools to teach about the past, about their experiences and to let us not forget. That is what they want to do. They want the young to not forget the lessons of the past so that they may not be repeated in the future.
As a party, the then Reform Party now Alliance since 1993, we have fought hard for our men and women in uniform. Unfortunately, the government took it upon itself, since 1993, through an utter disregard, through financial and political interventions, to hamstring the military and to compromise it in a time when our world is becoming more dangerous. Today we have more complicated weapons, more threats, both direct and indirect to our country and to the world, than we have ever seen in the last 100 years. Yet there has been a systematic erosion of the military in our country.
The removal of funds, the reduction in weaponry, the rust out and the reduction in manpower has severely compromised the ability of our men and women to do what Canada has asked them to do, both at home and internationally. There have been many comments about how that has eroded our military. The U.S. ambassador to Canada stated in Whistler, B.C. on July 26, 2001:
At this point, I must note that many of our friends in Canada have expressed a concern in this area, one that many on the U.S. side of the border share. That concern is over resources for Canadian forces. While these resources were cut drastically because of the end of the Cold War, and the need to put the Federal budget back in balance, it has now reached the point where without significant increases, the Canadian forces could lose much of their effectiveness.
That is what the U.S. ambassador said. That is what we found in the U.S. and that, sadly, is what we found among many of our men and women in uniform. They want our support. They have been given dangerous tasks and yet we have not supported them.
Let the motion on Remembrance Day be an opportunity for Canadians across the country, and particularly for the House, to back our men and women in uniform and also the civilian employees who work so hard to support them. For example, Union of Defence Employees are a terribly hardworking group of civilians who the military desperately needs to support in the superb work they do at home and abroad.
The government has cut their effectiveness by cutting them to the bone. In spite of that, they continue to work hard in support of our men and women in uniform. That relation of the civilian aspect of our military simply cannot continue. It is an unrecognized disregard for our men and women in uniform and also compromises their effectiveness.
Our party has put forth a number of solutions over the years to address these issues and I will address a few of them: a lack of manpower, a rust out in equipment, a lack of foresight, and not addressing family issues. All these seek to erode our men and women in uniform.
Here are some possible solutions. First, our defence department needs a white paper that works in conjunction with foreign policy. We need a combined foreign policy defence white paper. This would enable our defence forces to know what our foreign policy was. We would then be able to fund our defence department to do what our foreign policy dictated. We cannot have disconnected foreign and defence policies, yet that is what we have had for a long time.
Second, we must increase our manpower to 75,000. We have seen our men and women in uniform rapidly cycling through the tasks they have been given. As a result they are burnt out, particularly our army people. Our army personnel are burnt out because they are cycling from the Middle East, Kosovo and Bosnia. They are tired and exhausted. We need up to 75,000 more people on the sharp edge of our military.
Third, we need critical investment in the rust out factor I have mentioned. We have a critical need for weaponry and equipment in a vast array of areas, particularly in the army but also in the air force. The navy is not doing too badly.
Fourth, those who come back sick must be taken care of. For reasons that are unfathomable to us, soldiers in uniform who get sick are too often treated with utter disregard. That is not fair. We must give our men and women in uniform greater regard than they give us, and they give us a tremendous amount. They must be taken care of when they come back sick.
Fifth, we must consider the families of soldiers and issues of life. The SCONDVA published an excellent report on issues concerning military families, yet by and large it was disregarded. The families placed much hope on the report. They listened and gave input. The report came out. It was excellent. It was supported by parties across the House, yet it has not been implemented. Why has the report not been implemented?
If the government truly wants to do something constructive and support our military it will remember those who have gone before us and those who are here today. It will live up to the obligation Canada has toward the people who fight for us and for peace.
There are many ways to do this. The Conference of Defence Associations published an excellent report which proffered many solutions to make our military effective. However we cannot condone the recent comments of government cabinet ministers who said aid was more important than defence. They suggested that diminishing our defence complement and defence investment would somehow make our country safer.
It would not. The world is more dangerous today than it has been in the last 100 years. China has a superheated military complex. It has been investing in long range weaponry and aircraft carriers while pretending to be weak. Even smaller countries like Thailand and Singapore have large militaries. The expansion of long range weaponry by China and other countries makes Canada a less safe place.
Furthermore, more than 50 conflicts are taking place. The nature of the world has changed. The conflicts are no longer between nations. Most are internecine conflicts within nations. Our military needs the tools to be nimble. It needs the ability to project military people into the theatre with our allies. Our military personnel need the equipment to do their jobs. Their families sit here worried sick about them. They are worried they will not come back alive because their husbands and wives do not necessarily have the equipment they often need.
We in our party plead with the government and the minister of defence to finally give our military personnel the respect they require and the tools to do the job. It should make the necessary investment so they will be safe in some of the most dangerous theatres in the world.
On behalf of the Canadian Alliance I thank the men and women who are in Afghanistan today. I thank the peacemakers and peacekeepers who work across this dangerous world of ours in the pursuit of peace and security for those who are most impoverished. I thank the Union of National Defence Employees and the civilian population. Above all, I thank the families for the sacrifices they make on behalf of Canada.