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House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was airports.

Topics

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Lakeland.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, the families are worried. This is a serious issue and the minister should treat it as a serious issue.

Afghanistan in case he does not know it is a very dangerous place. Just 11 days ago, two American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in a surprise attack.

How can the minister fail so badly in his obligation to our Canadian serving men and women

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, the hon. member is talking nonsense. This group is very well protected by the Germans who are currently deployed. The same was true for a small group of NATO soldiers.

It is the opposition which is causing unnecessary worry for the families. It is the opposition which by raising these non-issues is casting aspersions on the fine work done by the Canadian Forces.

I would suggest the opposition support our forces and talk about their fine achievements rather than raising these non-issues.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, while the government is leaving parliamentarians and citizens completely in the dark when it comes to the American missile defence shield, the Prime Minister is already talking about the need to negotiate the terms of the shield with the Bush administration.

Before deciding and negotiating, will the Prime Minister acknowledge that the government has a responsibility to explain its position to the country and to debate the details of the missile defence shield project in the House?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member would like there to be a debate on the issue, that would be just fine with us. There are opposition days that are specifically designed to discuss this type of problem. We are in the processing of discussing it within our party and our government, and we would be very happy, if the opposition deems it important enough, to use one of their days to debate it in the House. The ball is in the member's court.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is the government that grants opposition days. There will be one next week, and we will see about it then. However, until that time, rather than saying any old thing, why is the Prime Minister in such a hurry to proceed on this without a debate? Is this not putting the cart before the horse? Before the federal government invests hundreds of millions—even billions—of public dollars in anything, the public has the right to know exactly what the missile defence shield is. People need to be able to decide if this shield is a priority for them.

Once the facts are made public, does the government plan to consult with citizens to determine if the missile defence shield is one of their priorities, or if they have other priorities?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the member may not be up to speed. However, if he had been in caucus this morning, he would have seen that the members of my party are very well informed of what is involved. Some of them have their opinions on the matter. I would remind the member that there is an opposition day that he can use, and I would invite him to learn about this for himself here in the House at that time. The ministers will be very happy to inform him, because it seems that the members opposite are a bit in the dark these days.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to remind the Prime Minister that the members of the Bloc Quebecois cannot sit in the Liberal Party caucus, nor can members of the public. It is important to keep this in mind.

The government members must understand that they have no right to take hundreds of millions in taxpayers dollars for a defence system after merely discussing it amongst themselves, as the Prime Minister has just stated, without there being any debate on the matter.

That is why we are demanding that the Prime Minister tell us how much he intends to invest in the missile defence shield project.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, when the government decides to allocate funds, they are included in the estimates and must be approved by the House of Commons, at which time there is a discussion. The debate is not about how much it will cost, but where we stand after the changes made to this American project, which is not new but existed under President Clinton and which is evolving with each passing month. It is time for us to reflect and invite the House of Commons and Canadians to make a decision, which will be in—

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the army has helicopters that are so old they have trouble getting more than ten feet off the ground without crashing onto a ship's deck, would it not be better, before hundreds of millions are poured without debate into a star wars program, to figure out what kind of defence system we actually want?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to point out to the hon. member that the helicopters to which he is referring are the same kind and from the same era as those used by the President of the United States to travel from the White House to Camp David.

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not able to ask the American ambassador a question. I am not able to ask the member for LaSalle—Émard a question. So I thought I would ask a question of the person who is supposed to be running the country and making foreign policy decisions, the Prime Minister.

Why is the Prime Minister in such a rush to make a decision with respect to star wars? Is repudiating decades of Canadian commitment to multilateral arms control worth a weekend at the ranch in Texas?

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we are not rushing. We are debating among the Liberal members and the cabinet. I am happy that the hon. member is speaking but I would just like to tell him that yes, we are very strong for multilateralism. We have always been.

In the case of Norad, it has existed for 50 years and Norad is a bilateral agreement with the Americans.

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, does the Prime Minister not see that this American proposal has to be taken in context? That context is an American repudiation of multilateral arms control agreements of all kinds.

Why is it that the Prime Minister is considering being part of this? Why is he considering making a decision by next week and not involving Parliament or the Canadian people as he once promised to do?

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, who told the hon. member that it will be next week that a decision will be made? We are having a debate. There might be some consultation with the Americans and it will take months before we will be in a position to be obliged to make a decision.

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government is now considering the American system because the Prime Minister says that unspecified conditions have changed.

We know that CSIS has just created a new counter-proliferation branch to focus on terrorist groups or states with weapons of mass destruction.

I am not asking the Prime Minister to disclose information that should be secret, but could he tell us whether the government has received information which leads it to believe that there is a significantly more serious threat of attacks by weapons of mass destruction? Is that among the reasons he is considering a change in Canada's traditional policy?

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I replied earlier that the situation has not changed in the last six months in relation to a threat of that nature. There is not the urgency that the hon. member, who likes to create anxiety, suggests. He will fail because he has no reason to try.

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has received no proposal from the United States. He says there is no significantly more serious threat of attacks by weapons of mass destruction. He has no realistic idea of the costs. He has no scientific proof that a missile shield would work, yet he is rushing to a decision on this issue.

Will he tell the House of Commons and the people of Canada just why is he doing this? What does he know that he is not telling the people of Canada about this missile defence system and pressures being imposed by the government of the United States?

Foreign AffairsOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we are replying to questions every day in the House of Commons. We are not rushing. We are studying at this time. We discussed this in the cabinet yesterday and in the caucus today. Members of the caucus will discuss this.

I invite the hon. member in his last week as leader, if he has an interest to have a caucus himself, a committee of his caucus to study the problem.

National DefenceOral Question Period

May 7th, 2003 / 2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, our defence minister knew months ago that Afghanistan would be a tough and dangerous mission. He has had plenty of time to prepare for it yet today he tosses it off again as a “non-issue”. Now he tells our advance troops that they cannot be armed because the “diplomatic paperwork has not yet been signed”. That excuse is paper thin.

If the defence minister will not commit today to stand behind our troops, is he willing to stand in front of them?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, unlike the Alliance members who stand behind our troops when it is politically expedient for them to do so, I have done so day after day after day since becoming defence minister. I have said from the beginning that Afghanistan is a difficult and risky mission, at the same time that the Canadian Alliance members denigrated this as a second tier mission. They have never retracted that insulting suggestion vis-à-vis our troops.

We are proud of our mission. We are getting ready for it and Canadians will be proud of it.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect the military and the Canadian Alliance are embarrassed by the minister who is willing to send our Canadian soldiers into a deadly combat zone without any weapons to protect themselves.

Today the wife of one of our soldiers said that she expects her husband to defend himself by saying “Stop. I'm a Canadian, don't shoot me”. You can bet she is worried, Mr. Speaker.

Let us answer this question, Mr. Minister. How does he expect our troops to defend themselves--

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

No, no, she meant Mr. Speaker, I think, but she said Mr. Minister. The hon. member knows she must address the Chair.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Canadian Alliance Edmonton North, AB

Thanks, Mr. Speaker. Maybe I would get a better answer from the Chair.

How does he expect our troops to defend themselves when the bullets fly, by waving the Canadian flag at the enemy?