Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party in this very worthwhile debate. Any time is a good time to speak about veterans and their families.
I want to congratulate the minister as well the parliamentary secretary and the government for moving ahead with Bill C-50. We in the NDP support many aspects of the bill unequivocally.
As has been heard during previous debate in the House, there is one very serious flaw with the legislation. Is it money or is it the regulations in the legislation? It is probably a combination of both.
I do not think the government can be so cruel that it would intentionally leave out some widows or widowers. At the same time, it cannot hide behind budgetary remarks or legislative remarks. If the government has the will, with the full support I would assume of many of its own members as well as those in the four opposition parties and the support of many veterans organizations and their families, then there should be a way of moving the issue forward so all of them are protected under the same umbrella.
If the Prime Minister of Canada can, in record speed, allocate $100 million for two jets that even the defence department has said are not necessary, then surely he or the future prime minister can easily make it happen. I do not care what they have to do, but they have to make it happen so all widow and widowers are under the same umbrella. There is no reason in the world why it cannot be done.
We on this side of the House are encouraging the government to proceed with this legislation. It has our full support. Opposition's basic role is to oppose that which is worthy of opposition. However, we will support legislation brought forward by the government that is proactive as is Bill C-50. Many parts of this legislation are worthy of support and worthy of rapid approval to get this through the House.
The reality is all of us in opposition and many members on the government side have noticed a serious flaw in Bill C-50.
I know Mr. Cliff Chadderton quite well and he is not easily prone to asking ministers to resign. Out of pure frustration and out of what I would assume is anger, he has felt the need to do so. I would not want to see the minister resign because he is a decent human being and his heart and his efforts are in the right place. If he resigned, we would have to wait quite a while for the next veterans affairs minister. Then we would have to go through this debate all over again. We cannot ask the minister to do something and then at the same time ask him to resign. That is defeating our own argument. The minister should stay right where he is and a general election will clear up any problems in the future.
The present minister can do this if there is a will within Treasury Board or the finance department or if the Prime Minister says that is should happen.
In my riding of Sackville--Musquodoboit Valley--Eastern Shore, approximately one-third of my constituents are either in the military, or have retired from the military or are associated with the military in a civilian capacity. These people are constantly calling me on various issues with regard to the military.
There is no question that all of us would like to have more money to do all the things we would like to do. I know the government has to work within fiscal frameworks, but there are certain times when the obvious slaps us on the head.
The obvious situation in this regard is those of the widowers. Many people who are not even in the military have called my office and asked what is going on. They have asked why the Prime Minister has said that he can correct this deficiency and we are still debating it today in the House.
Symbolically, November 11 is coming down the pike. It is what I would call almost a holy day in Canada when we take the time to seriously reflect upon those who have gone before us in terms of defence of freedom and democracy. It was not just the soldiers, airmen, merchant mariners and sailors who fought for our freedoms and victories. What about the people who stayed home, kept the home fires burning and kept the families going?
Those men and women of the military, past, present and those yet to join, pay the ultimate price. They are willing to put their lives on the line to protect us. It does not just affect them, but their families as well. Many of us in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada sometimes wear what we call the invisible ribbon. That is the invisible fourth arm of the military, the families.
The parliamentary secretary knows very well the great job our military family resource centres do across the country, looking after many of the situations that we are discussing right now, many situations that we hope Bill 50 will correct. However there is one glaring omission. The military family resource centres know very well what this will mean if it is not corrected.
I give credit to the previous admirals, generals and people who made the military family resource centres a very prominent aspect of our military life. I give credit to the previous defence minister who accepted many recommendations in the report of the Standing Committee on Defence and Veterans Affairs on the quality of life. My previous colleague, Mr. Gordon Earle of Halifax West, worked on it with others. The government accepted many initiatives from that. Thus we are, albeit quite slowly in my opinion, improving the quality of life for veterans and their families as well as current military personnel.
We cannot forget the ones who were here before us. When individuals in the military lay their lives on the line and those lives are unfortunately taken, then, as members of Parliament on all sides, we have to ensure that we respect and accept the ultimate responsibility to those individuals and their families. That responsibility is to ensure that when members of the military go overseas or do their duties in the country, if they die because of their actions or their duty, their families will not have to fight with the government to get proper benefits.
Individuals in the military have to worry about their own training and defensive capabilities in order to promote peace and security around the world. The last thing they need is the lingering thought in the back of their minds is if their families will be okay if they are not. That should not even be debatable.
This is something we can correct. I know the parliamentary secretary, himself being a decent individual, would want this corrected. There is nothing stopping him and his colleagues from going to the Prime Minister when he gets back from his trip and telling him they need this corrected now.
The parliamentary secretary and colleagues could explain it to the Prime Minister in their next Wednesday caucus meeting if they have to, but they should get it done. All we are asking is that it get done. Then we will stand up and sing the praises of the government's in this regard. There are many other issues on which we would not. However it is extremely imperative that this be done.
In closing, I thank all the opposition members and those on the government side who have brought this issue forward. I also thank Mr. Cliff Chadderton and all the organizations that have brought this issue forward in defence of veterans and their families.