If I could just reiterate, Mr. Speaker, if the words that have been said in the past few weeks about President Bush had been said by members of the government about this Prime Minister, I would suggest that this enthusiasm for freedom of speech would have rapidly diminished in the PMO. Of course the real question is why the Prime Minister himself has not distanced himself from the remarks made by members of his government and even his own cabinet.
So what now? What do we do today? Having come to the House of Commons, we say why now and what now? Is it still not to really address this issue as an issue, not as a moment which will define this era and have an immense impact on global security in the years to come? Instead, we have today just another communication strategy, another cynical motion, another image repositioning.
Notice how all the buzzwords have changed in the speech. Three weeks ago it was “independence” and “not being told what to do by the Americans”. It was the “United Nations”. It was “non-justification”. It was all the things about the deficiencies of President Bush. Today it is “shoulder to shoulder”. It is all about the United States and the United Kingdom, “our friends”, about “support for the aims of the war to fight terrorism”, and of course, to congratulate the president for all his hard work. President Bush is learning, and I am sure he knew already, that it sure helps to be a winner.
This motion is an embarrassment. It is not based on principle. What this motion says to the House and says to the Canadian people is, “These are Liberal principles, and if you did not like those three weeks ago, well, we have some new ones today”.
Let me go through it very carefully, just to document the change in position of the government over the past few weeks. This is important. I have stated many times the various controversies and the various contradictions the government has been engaged in. One example: stating that resolution 1441 was enough to justify action in Iraq; certainly saying nothing to the contrary; then condemning our friends and allies for taking action under that resolution; and now supporting the action, in a sense, once it is clear they are winning.
Let me give specific examples. On January 23, the Prime Minister said, “If the Americans or the Brits have great evidence that Saddam Hussein--he is no friend of mine--is not following the instruction of the United Nations...of course Canada will support an activity in there”.
On the same day, January 23, the Prime Minister said, “...it is in the interest of the world that Saddam Hussein comply completely with resolution 1441. ...In doing so, he will avoid a war”.
Again, on January 27, the Prime Minister said, “A resolution was passed unanimously and must be complied with. The resolution sets out what must be done if he does not respect the conditions”.
The next day, on January 28, the Prime Minister said, “...everybody is seeking the enforcement of the resolution”.
On the same day, January 28, the Prime Minister said, “...if Saddam Hussein fails to comply with resolution 1441, not only the U.S., but its allies too will be there to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are removed from Iraq”.
Three days after that, on January 31, from the Prime Minister: “...Resolution 1441 will authorize action”.
Then, what is probably the most important event in all of this, on February 11 there was a motion by my friends from the Bloc Québécois, demanding that the government have a second resolution before acting. The Prime Minister and his government came to the House and voted against that resolution.
On February 24, the Prime Minister said, “I think that some weeks should be given to Saddam to comply very precisely with resolution 1441”.
On the same day, the Prime Minister said, “...with resolution 1441, we are telling Saddam Hussein that if he does not comply with this resolution, there will be very serious consequences”.
Then, on March 17, the president is about to deliver his ultimatum to Iraq and suddenly the Prime Minister rises to his feet with a pre-prepared statement in question period and says to our allies, “We have always made it clear that Canada would require the approval of the Security Council if we were to participate in a military campaign. ...If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate”.
There it is, and today we have a motion in front of us that says we will not participate except to the extent we are actually participating and we want the coalition to win.
This is a serious business. The lives of our friends and allies and the future of the planet are at stake. This is not a game. Let me give another example of this flip-flop; for regime change in Iraq; then against regime change; then apparently not against regime change.
These words are all recent. On February 28, the Prime Minister said, “I'm surprised to hear now we want to get rid of Saddam Hussein... If it is a changing of regime, it's not what is 1441”.
On March 18, he said, “...the position of changing of regimes in different countries is not a policy that is desirable any time”.
On March 25, the Prime Minister said, “The question of changing regime is not a policy that is acceptable under the United Nations charter...”.
The next day the Prime Minister said, “...changing the regime is not the right policy...”.
However, on March 27, the next day: “The war has already begun and it is now clear that we want the war to be over quickly and that we want the Americans and their allies to be successful”.
On April 6, the Deputy Prime Minister said, “There should be no mistaking the sympathy that we have for the ultimate success of the coalition...”.
All this is leading to today's motion hoping that the coalition will be successful in achieving its mission, its stated mission, of course, being regime change in the Republic of Iraq.
There is another contradiction: calling the campaign of our allies unjust but now urging a quick and successful end to their activities.
On March 17, the Prime Minister said, “...war is not warranted at this time...”.
On March 18, he said, “As far as their position is concerned, I can state clearly that it is not justified”.
By March 25, they were starting to watch the allied success on TV and starting to reconsider, saying, “I don't want Saddam Hussein to win”.
On March 20, he said, “...I hope the Americans will do as well as possible”.
On March 24, I thought the most revealing comment from the Minister of Foreign Affairs was, “We are willing to fight”--so now it turns out they are actually willing to be there--“under terms which are supported by the Canadian population and which we believe are appropriate in the circumstances”. That is of course the old veiled Liberal reference to the pollsters.
There is another contradiction and this is the one that troubles us the most on this side: failing to acknowledge Canadian Forces present in the gulf and in the war theatre and then failing to clearly support those troops when the truth was learned.
On February 24, I rose in the House and asked the Prime Minister, “Will the government admit that it has already agreed to contribute to military action in Iraq through back channels?” The Prime Minister said, “Mr. Speaker, the answer is no”. But it turned out that on March 17, after the press reports surfaced, the Prime Minister rose to say, “...we have a certain number of people who are in exchange with the British and the American troops...”.
The House leader says that this goes on all the time. As the House leader for the NDP pointed out, there are provisions in exchange agreements that we have done in the past to withdraw troops from combat that we do not agree with. The government believes that is what it should have done but it did not have the honesty to do it.
It was not just whether the troops were there. It was that they were there, but they were not in combat. They were only going to have water pistols or some such thing but if they were fired on it was a different thing. Then of course it turned out that the British said they were in combat situations and then it was, yes, that is different, our sailors are there but only against the war on terrorism, not in the war against Iraq, until the defence minister admitted that they may actually board Iraqi boats if they suspect they are engaged in some kind of terrorist activity.
There are other contradictions. I do not have time and the world does not have time to listen to all the contradictions of the government but let me mention a couple. The government condemns those who express support for our American neighbours, including those in this party, but fails to rebuke the anti-American bigotry in its own ranks. I will go farther. Regarding some of the comments made by personnel in the Prime Minister's Office and in the cabinet, there are too many of those to be accidental. At one point the government thought that playing the anti-American card was a strategy. It misunderstood how Canadians feel about their American neighbours. Another contradiction is it condemns Saddam Hussein for war crimes and genocide, yet fails to remove Saddam's diplomatic front men from Canada.
As I say, the greatest of all of these things is to have Canadian troops in uniform in the war theatre without the full support of their government. I say to the Prime Minister, notwithstanding my regard for his long period of service, this has not only embarrassed us; this is something that no prime minister has done before and I hope no prime minister will ever do again.
The lack of leadership on this issue has not been restricted to the Prime Minister. I point out that not a single Liberal member of Parliament, notwithstanding some who have said they do not agree with everything the government is doing here, has at any point stood in the House to vote against the government's position on any aspect of this issue. So much for all the confidence that these men have about the free speech that would be tolerated from the Prime Minister's Office.
The Deputy Prime Minister has not just been part of this changing of position, but unlike the gradual move of the Prime Minister from one muddy position to another muddy position, he has actually flip-flopped back and forth completely. On March 20 he said:
We made a choice based on principle in this case, and the principles were right and the choices were right. You need to take into account the precedent that...establishes, when it comes to countries that may believe they are threatened in some way by a neighbouring tyrant.
He was against regime change, but the next day he said, “The government in Baghdad is a nasty piece of business. We certainly support the efforts of the U.S. and the U.K. and the other countries that are there”.
That was on March 21. Then on April 3 he was back to saying:
Canada is not directly engaged in this conflict. We stood apart because we believe that it is the Security Council of the United Nations that ought to take the responsibility for authorizing the use of force in international conflict.
Three days later on April 6 he was back again on the U.S. side:
There should be no mistaking the sympathy that we have for the ultimate success of the coalition forces.
Fortunately the Deputy Prime Minister is a well-conditioned runner or he would have casts all over his ankles by now from jumping on an off the bandwagon.
What can I say about the former finance minister? I do not know whether to give the Deputy Prime Minister and the government credit for having multiple positions. The former finance minister, who was here briefly, who emerged briefly from his bubble, has now disappeared again. In the course of all this he has yet to state any position of any kind other than a hint last week that he may support regime change.
I want to point out that the flipping and flopping and being on both sides on different days and simultaneously is not a position that has been characteristic of other parties and other people in the House of Commons, including those with whom I vehemently disagree.
The New Democratic Party has from the outset of the conflict taken the position that it does not support a war on Iraq period, not with the United Nations, not on Tuesday, not on Wednesday. It is just not for it. We all understand that.
The position of the Bloc Quebecois is a bit more nuanced. They are against the war. It is based on their interpretation of international law.
Its support or lack of support for this war in the case of the Bloc, is clear. It is clear why it does not support it. It is clear under what positions it would support it. And it has, like the NDP and like ourselves, demanded that the government's actions, its treatment of our own troops, be consistent with the position that we are supposedly taking.
I probably should wind up here but I will point out that the leadership that has been lacking and which frankly this country could have used is going to be needed in the future. There are not easy days ahead for this world not just in international affairs but in domestic affairs.
Regarding our economy we are going to need to become more than just a country that markets raw materials or consistently lowers the value of our dollar. We are going to have to challenge the difficult trade-offs that are required to compete to lower our taxes, to lower our debt while providing for the real services that Canadians need. We are going to have to address the demographic challenges that the aging population presents so that when the Prime Minister finally retires, we can actually provide him with the health care and that pension he is expecting, as are many other Canadians.
There are real issues with the environment. It is not like the Kyoto accord. We just cannot pretend the economy does not matter, pass a whole bunch of lofty targets and say we really do not know how we will implement it and that is somewhere down the line.
These are all questions of leadership. They are all questions on which we are going to have to have a government in the future. They are all questions we are going to have to address strongly and that we are going to have to tackle.
Let me end in making one last appeal to the government to do the right thing. I believe that the government knows, and many members of the government know, that supporting our allies is the right thing to do. They should know that because if they had not known it, they would never have let our troops go into that theatre in the first place. Similarly, they know that anti-Americanism is wrong because if they think about it for a second, whatever their feelings about the present administration, they know that in so many ways we are close and depend on our American friends and neighbours.
I would urge the House to vote for our motion. If members indeed love our friends, if they indeed hope the mission is successful, if they indeed send our troops over in harm's way, if they indeed do not believe in the anti-American slurs that some have uttered, then there is only one course of action. It is to back our motion, to back our allies, to back our troops, to back away from anti-Americanism and to get back to our history and our traditions.