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House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was military.

Topics

PrivilegeOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Of course I do, but I point out that I do not think there have been any specific cases of the constituents mentioned. What the minister mentioned, or what is being complained of, is the fact that calls were made in support of something, not the fact that constituent X or constituent Y received something. I think the minister referred to some pumpkin group in his constituency that received funding. He is free to do that, if he wishes, in respect of his constituent. He did so.

I do not think there have been any cases mentioned today that have involved a private arrangement for some constituent, such as an immigration case or something like that, which might possibly constitute problems under the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act or whatever it may be. I do bear it in mind, but I do not think I heard anything today that would create that problem.

As the hon. member for Prince Albert knows, on the floor of the House members do have considerable freedom in their ability to discuss matters. In fact there is freedom of speech in this House, but all hon. members are urged to exercise judicious restraint in respect of their use of language.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, before speaking on the motion before the House, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, who rose before question period and clearly set out the Bloc's position on this issue.

I also want to commend the hon. member for Saint-Jean on the thoroughness and determination he has shown on this issue. I know things have been tough these last few weeks for our military, especially with what happened with our submarines and the fire on board the Chicoutimi . Once again, congratulations to both my colleagues.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to this motion for a number of reasons. First, we have in my region a major military base, CFB Bagotville, where the CF-18 fighter jets are based. We also have two reserve regiments, that is a marine regiment and the Régiment du Saguenay. As a paratrooper in the latter, I have had the opportunity to take part in many exercises.

So, I think I can address this issue with some authority. I am against the motion before us today, and I want to tell the House why.

I do not think that injecting money is the solution to the problems currently facing national defence. There are many reasons, including outdated equipment. I had the opportunity to see for myself how out of date the equipment was, definitely enough to cause serious problems and, in some cases, to jeopardize the safety of troops abroad.

We have seen accidents happen in the past. Think, for instance, of what happened with the Iltis in Afghanistan. I have told this story a few times to demonstrate the gap between modern equipment and what is being used.

I remember that PRC-25s were used back in 1995. The PRC-25 is a 35-pound radio you carry on your back with a range of barely 13 km. When the radio did not work, we had to grab a cell phone and call the person at the other end and ask them to either hook up the radio or change the batteries. These are aberrations, and there are many more.

We can hold this up to ridicule, or at least regard it as a metaphor. The fact remains that, on a daily basis, this outdated equipment is jeopardizing the safety of troops and people abroad.

What we need today is a debate to guide National Defence to know what our position will be in the future, say, the next time we have to deploy forces. We know that we our society is a pacifist one. We must therefore conduct, today, an in-depth review of the policy of National Defence. We could patch up the problem by throwing money at it, but that would be just a bandaid solution.

To review this role today would help differentiate our forces not only from the American forces, but also from other coalition or foreign forces. We would be creating a niche, and that is important. It would help in the development of leadership that reflects who we are, Quebeckers and Canadians, to ensure we have an army or an institution to convey our concerns.

It is also important to understand that, in recent years, we have done some good deeds. We participated in several UN peacekeeping missions. I must salute the courage of these troops who were deployed abroad, gave a lot to the international community and protected people facing death, violence or other threats.

Today, it is the safety of these troops that is threatened by certain problems. Once again, the solution is not money, but a comprehensive debate.

The same goes for the missile defence shield. There is much talk about this issue. The Bloc Québécois managed to ask, with other opposition parties, for a vote in the House. We want to discuss this because it is a real concern.

It is such a concern that, in the case of the war in Iraq, 77% of Quebeckers were against our involvement. The Bloc Québécois worked very hard to get this government to vote here in the House. We won. Today, Quebeckers are very proud that they were not caught in the mess that the Americans are in.

I believe that with an extensive debate on changes in the Canadian army, we will be able to work on the priorities and the development of niches. Small and medium businesses must position themselves to gain a place in the market, to have leadership.

Why could we not do this with an institution such as national defence? Why not direct our next actions? Because our actions must change. After September 11, the map of the world changed completely. We must review our position, in light of recent events, in order to have leadership, but also, I believe, to keep the peaceful values that sustain us, that reflect the Quebec and Canadian society.

I would like to invite all parliamentarians to push this recommendation for a change and a thorough review of national defence so that, together, we can plan its directions.

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the fact that it is the member's first speech in the House of Commons. It was great to hear him put forward his point of view in this important debate concerning the future of Canada's military.

I do not believe I heard him address the issue about Canada's combat capability. What we are discussing and what we would like to find throughout the debate today is where each party stands when it comes to the commitment to Canada's military.

I heard him talk about the disastrous state of some of our equipment. I would certainly agree with him, although I do recall that earlier in the debate, before question period, that one of our Liberal colleagues accused some of us in the opposition of saying that all our equipment was junk. I certainly want to be on the record, as I have been in the past for the Conservative Party, that it is not the case.

We know, for example, that we do have some state of the art equipment, but there is not enough of it. He was quick to point out that we had state of the art LAV III light armoured vehicles that were well respected and appreciated by our armoured troops, especially when they were overseas in dangerous situations. That is not to say that, because we have the vehicles, we do not need helicopters to replace the Sea Kings or submarines that will operate properly without catching fire or springing leaks.

I would ask the hon. member this question, as I have tried to ask of the New Democratic Party. Exactly what is the Bloc Québécois commitment when it comes to adequate funding for Canada's military? It is very clear we took a lot of heat in the election campaign when we said unequivocally that if we were elected as the government on June 28, we would put an immediate infusion of $1.2 billion into Canada's military and we would move rapidly toward the NATO average in terms of a percentage of GDP.

We were very clear on that in the Conservative Party, but it is very difficult to get that type of detail from the other three parties. When I asked that question of New Democratic Party members, they said that they wanted to go through a review process, that they were all in support of having a defence and a foreign affairs review to see where the money should be spent and that the money needed to be spent wisely.

My fear, and in the past year when I served as our party's defence critic I said it repeatedly, is that I did not want to see the need for a defence review to become the excuse for doing nothing for our men and women in the military. There are very real needs there and there are things that we will have to do regardless of the outcome of the review.

I would like to know very clearly where the Bloc Québécois stands on this issue and what it means when it says that it will make a commitment to preserve and restore the integrity of the Canadian military.

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3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I would point out that this is my second mandate here, and this is not my maiden speech.

I have taken part in exercises on numerous occasions, and have therefore been able to see the shortcomings for myself. Before talking dollars and cents, however, I need to know where the military is headed. At the moment band-aids are being used to fix fractures.

What is needed is an orientation, a vision, the vision of Quebeckers and of Canadians with respect to the army.

Remarks were made just now about equipment. Yes, it is true that there is some cutting edge technology. There has been some investment. We have seen increases to the defence budget. Perhaps the members beside us will say that they do not agree and that it is insufficient. What I am saying is that, before injecting any more money or taking any other steps, what is needed is an in depth review of our vision and our interventions and an examination of the fundamental role of the army in future. That is what must be asked.

For example, we can see how worn out our troops are now. I have friends who have already done three tours in Bosnia. They have been left absolutely drained as a result. Problems for society then develop, illnesses and the like. Before making any decisions and before injecting any funding or purchasing any new equipment with potentially fatal consequences for personnel, a thorough review is needed.

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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Prince Edward—Hastings.

At this opportunity I am pleased to thank the good voters of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke for allowing me the privilege to represent their interests in the 38th Parliament. I pledge faithfully to represent their interests to the best of my ability.

At this time, in recognition of the motion before us, I salute the women and men of CFB Petawawa, which is located in my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke. I gratefully acknowledge the support they have given me since I was elected and most recently in the last election.

The message I received from the military electors in the last election was clear and short, “Keep fighting for us. We need you”. I thank those who serve our country for their support. I will not let them down.

It was humbling for me for the troops to acknowledge that my campaign to ensure proper military equipment for our soldiers, that things like ballistic plates for their fragmentation protection vests and the right colour of camouflage uniforms were provided, was recognized. Spouses of soldiers called when they were first told of the equipment shortages. They were alarmed at the unnecessary dangers their loved ones were being placed in by not having the proper equipment to go into a combat zone. Afterward, they called me to let me know that the items had been scrounged up for roto zero Operation Athena.

Things just do not change. Canadians troops were sent to Haiti earlier this year and they were begging for the same equipment that would have been missing going to Afghanistan, things like ballistic plates and frag vests and even the proper boots. This is basic military equipment and it is outrageous that even basic equipment to outfit our soldiers is not available in sufficient quantities.

The rank and file of our military understand that if someone had not been prepared to stand up for them in Ottawa, Canadians would be mourning the loss of more than Lieutenant Chris Saunders, more than those who have already died in Afghanistan, and all the other soldiers who in the mind of the government have just become statistics.

As Canadians approach Remembrance Day, I find myself once again participating in a debate condemning the way the government treats the men and women who serve in our nation's armed forces. I say armed forces, but how long will I be able to continue to say armed forces? It is clear from the throne speech and the actions of the government that it is only a matter of time before the disarming of our nation's military will be complete.

If anything represents the democratic deficit that exists in Canada today, it has to be that this debate is even necessary. In debate after debate, with participation from all sides of the House, including the backbenchers of the Prime Minister's own party, and in committee report after committee report, along with every independent defence analysis, we have all been unanimous in recommending a stop to the destruction of the Canadian military.

So what is the problem? Let us be clear: the blame for this sad state of affairs rests solely in the Prime Minister's Office. This reference from a Canadian defence magazine sums up the situation clearly:

But in Canada, the centralization of power in the Prime Minister's Office and the almost complete lack of Parliamentary oversight of the operations, organization and administration of the Canadian Forces has relegated the Canadian Forces to the status of a prime ministerial instrument. In the...past the Prime Minister has selected important Canadian Forces missions without consultation with Parliament and apparently over the objections of the military. He has dominated the procurement process. This cannot continue.

I congratulate my leader, the member for Calgary Southwest, for the leadership role he played in amending the throne speech policy blueprint to include the priorities of Canadians. As a result of our amendment, the Prime Minister is to commit to a vote in the House of Commons before a decision is made on missile defence, something, as noted in the defence community, that has been refused previously.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister has also stated that ultimately cabinet will make the decision on missile defence, regardless of how the vote goes in the House of Commons.

Forcing the Prime Minister to send certain items to committees will now allow for at least an element of parliamentary oversight.

So for the thoughtful observers in the broader defence community and their fear that the democratic deficit has destroyed our military, they should know that things are starting to get better.

For years the government has sought to confuse the Canadian public in directing the debate over military spending by focusing on expensive military procurement projects. This always results in a discussion over whether or not there is any need at all.

The latest discussion is whether or not Canada should even have submarines. It was clear that the government was so desperate for any piece of equipment it figured that second-hand equipment was better than nothing. Was the military so stretched for money that it was forced to get what it could for free? Was there no other option?

So it goes with every piece of equipment: helicopters, tanks, jeeps and frigates. The list goes on and on. What is always lacking, once the government apologists in the media have their go, is what this systematic neglect does to the morale of the existing troops.

Soldiers are calling me up and asking me what kind of army does not use guns. The army has been suffering from ammunition shortages for years. Even soldiers who were in Afghanistan had not been given the opportunity to fire their weapons before going into theatre. In some cases, it has been several years since troops were allowed to practise on the range. It was inevitable that the government would solve the problem of not enough ammunition by taking away soldiers' guns.

Now the plan is a Canadian peace corps, whatever that means. Does the Prime Minister intend to send Canadian citizens on peacekeeping missions without combat training? The reason soldiers are sent on such missions is because of the instability in the theatre of operations and the potential for volatile situations to erupt.

Even in the role of peacekeeping, this government tarnishes our once proud reputation. In the most recent figures from the United Nations, Canada has sunk to 38th when it comes to contributions of military observers and civilian police and troops, behind such nations as Kenya, Pakistan, Ghana, Ethiopia and Nepal. Canada, as a member of NATO, ranks only above tiny Luxembourg in per capita defence expenditure and Luxembourg is at the top of the per capita contributor list for the United Nations regular budget.

The fact is that the government is failing Canadians when it comes to international peace and security. Military observers in Canada have this to say about the current state of affairs in our military, “The Canadian Armed Forces is collapsing--not might or could collapse, but is collapsing”.

The problems with this navy's marine helicopters that dogged Jean Chrétien during his tenure as prime minister are only a sample of the problems facing today's military. Besides the $3 billion needed to replace these essential pieces of hardware, billions more will be required over the next few years to replace transport aircraft, navy destroyers and army logistics vehicles, to list just a few. The estimated budgetary shortfall for equipment replacement for the period ending 2008 is approximately $15 billion, and equipment replacement isn't the military's most pressing problem.

Even more critical is personnel. The men and women of the Canadian armed forces are being called upon to participate in too many missions, which not only causes fatigue and burnout but is seriously affecting training. New recruits do menial tasks at home while the people who should be training them are off on foreign missions. Too many back-to-back missions lead to marriage breakdowns and these pressures lead to suicides.

Is the defence of Canada worth fighting for? And the question now: is Canada worth fighting for? Every member of Parliament, if they believe as I do that Canada is an independent nation worth fighting for, will vote in favour of today's motion.

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3:40 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's comments and clearly, we have to invest in our military. Clearly, we have to strengthen its capabilities. Clearly, we have to redress issues that have taken place and give our military the personnel, the training and the equipment to do the job. There is no question about that for the reasons the member mentioned.

I want to take a look at the Conservative Party's platform. One of the reasons I left the party was that the party was putting out information that was factually incorrect and, quite frankly, not doable. The Conservative Party as part of its platform wanted to increase spending in the military from $13.3 billion to $33 billion. That is in the Conservative Party platform. The ultimate amount would be in 2010. In addition, that would take place against the backdrop of $58 billion in new spending and $41 billion in tax cuts.

I ask the member, how is the party going to square that circle, to increase spending on defence from $13.3 billion to $33 billion and have a global spending increase of $58 billion, plus tax cuts of $41 billion without running into a deficit?

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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the statements of the member across the way are completely false, but I will say what is true. Two years ago this month he stated:

The government has been neglecting defence and as a result there is an absolute crisis. The government has been told about this repeatedly. Its failure to give economic and moral support to our military is eroding not only our standard here at home but our stature abroad.

Again in 2003 he said:

For the last 10 years the government has underfunded and disrespected our military by not giving our people the tools to do the job. As the PC member mentioned, the helicopter is but one issue. We can go through manpower, equipment and training. Our people are wanting at every level. They have the desire and the will to do the job, but they do not have the tools. The Canadian public would be shocked to know that many of our service people are spending upward of 11 out of 12 months abroad, away from their families. Why? Because the government has gutted our military and our manpower is so low that it does not have the ability to put the people that we require into the field to do the job of our nation.

Again that month, he said:

For too long we have been living off the coattails of our allies on the international security concerns that we all share. The NATO secretary general mentioned two years ago that Canada must come up to the plate and contribute. That, sad to say, has fallen on deaf ears on the part of the government.

What happens when they cross the floor? Are they given lobotomies?

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to tell the member that my frontal lobes work just fine.

I want to tell the member that I am very happy that the investment in manpower, training and equipment is happening right now. We have done a lot over the last nine months and more will come on board. She is right to the extent that we have to do more, and more is happening now, and we want to do more in the future.

The problem is that whatever we do has to be in the context of having a balanced budget. It would be absolutely irresponsible for us to go back to the days prior to 1993 when massive deficits were compounding a debt that was completely out of range. It was compromising our ability to spend on everything, including our military.

Again I ask the member, how does she square that circle? Her party was going to support over $100 billion in extra spending while having a balanced budget. It just cannot be done.

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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it odd that I would be asked geometric questions when the government is dyslexic on the math, telling us that we were going to have a $1.9 billion surplus when it turned out to be $9.1 billion.

There is no reason to be depriving the people in our armed forces the equipment they need.

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3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on our motion concerning the state of the government's defence policies.

My riding of Prince Edward—Hastings is adjacent to 8 Wing CFB Trenton, one of Canada's largest and busiest air force bases. Many military personnel and employees of the base reside in my riding. I compliment them on their fine work and on being a source of pride for the Quinte region.

Approximately 3,500 military and civilian personnel are employed by 8 Wing CFB Trenton. It is a key component of the local economy. It serves many functions for the Department of National Defence.

Most personnel and equipment used in peacekeeping efforts such as Bosnia and Kosovo pass through the air base. Search and rescue missions are provided by 8 Wing's Squadron 424 covering over one million square kilometres in central Canada. The equipment warehouse for the disaster assistance response team called DART is also maintained by 8 Wing CFB Trenton.

In my response to the throne speech, I referred to a visit by the Liberal chair of the Senate committee on defence, Mr. Colin Kenny, to CFB Trenton in June 2002. In his report he outlined the shocking neglect of the base by the Liberal government. He stated:

We came away with the impression that there is a shortage of personnel, a shortage of equipment, a shortage of spare parts and there are issues involved with (staff) retention that involve more than just salary.

The senator was told on that day that only half of 8 Wing Trenton's 20 aircraft were capable of flying due to a barrage of problems attributed primarily to underfunding. The aircraft technicians simply did not have the spare parts necessary to keep planes in the air.

In a follow-up interview, the senator from Rideau stated that not much had changed. He stated, “These problems are happening at all 15 bases we visited. It's not a question of a lazy base commander, they're all getting the short stick. There are shortages all over the place and not just for planes. Uniforms, ships, housing, training facilities are in dire need”.

One year later in June 2003, the then defence minister came to Belleville for a Liberal fundraiser. At that time he dismissed any suggestion that his government had done a deplorable job of equipping our military, yet he readily admitted it in an interview with the Belleville Intelligencer . He said, “We had difficulties with buying spare parts and not having enough money to buy new equipment”. This is just about as blatant a contradiction as honestly I have ever heard.

We can talk with anyone at Canada's largest transport base today and nothing has changed. Our military is still trying to make do with insufficient funding, obsolete equipment and a government that continually acts like an ostrich or passes the buck.

Despite its importance as a key air transportation location, the Canadian Press in February this year reported that the Canadian Forces faced a $500 million shortfall and some air force personnel recommended closing CFB Trenton or other bases across the country within the next 10 years.

We can imagine how difficult it is to do an important military job when the person cannot be sure that he or she will have that job 5 or 10 years from now. Military positions are difficult enough without having to worry about job security.

I believe that CFB Trenton is the jewel in the crown of our air force bases across Canada. Under a Conservative government our valued military personnel, to whom we owe so much, would be treated with the respect and support they deserve and the motion before the House would do just that in its intention.

Underfunding for the military is an undisputed fact even among my hon. colleagues on the other side of the House. Yet the Prime Minister has the audacity to boast that he has fixed the crisis in defence. I would suggest that he talk with the fine folks at CFB Trenton and ask them personally whether the crisis is over. I have. Or for that matter, ask any of the thousands of people in my riding who live underneath the flight path of these dated military aircraft.

Last Saturday the Ottawa Sun reported that the government is looking to cut a further $700 million from the $13.2 billion budget. Yesterday the International Institute for Strategic Studies revealed Canada's funding of the military is near the bottom of 169 nations when it comes to spending as a percentage of GDP, trailing countries such as Croatia and Guinea. The list is embarrassing. This country and the government should be downright embarrassed that we spend only 1.2% of our GDP on the military.

There once was a time when Canada's military was capably supported. Proudly, a number of years ago we were a middle power which did not have to flex its might but could be counted on to carry its weight on the international scene. Canadians were proud of their role, like a Boy Scout's badge of honour. Yet as Chris Malette of the Belleville Intelligencer pointed out:

If you want our air force, navy and army to be the Boy Scouts, at least have the decency to give them an adequate pocket-knife.

We cannot complete peacekeeping missions if our helicopters cannot take off. We cannot live up to NATO commitments when our submarines have to be tugged into port, and of course not even with our own tug. We cannot transport troops, equipment or supplies without dependable, capable and safe air transportation.

Our C-130 Hercules, the backbone of our peacekeeping and disaster relief assistance programs, are up to 40 years old. Our men and women in the military deserve better. Particularly in light of the millions of dollars of taxpayers' money spent on Challenger jets so the Prime Minister and his brethren can crisscross our country, I say to myself, as do Canadians across this country, where are the government's priorities?

I would be remiss if I stood here and simply criticized the government without offering a few helpful suggestions.

Our defence critic, the member of Carleton--Mississippi Mills, a man of great military experience, has noted that national defence headquarters employs between 11,000 and 12,000 military and civilian personnel, which is equivalent in size to 14 infantry battalions, in a military that cannot afford the personnel to have 14 infantry battalions.

It is time that the government started treating our uniformed personnel as well as it treats the bureaucracy that supports them.

I would also suggest to the government that it update the defence policy which has remained stagnant since 1994. However, if the government remains true to the form that I saw in the House earlier today and since I have been here, I expect only more promises prior to the next election.

My colleagues and I have outlined reasons why we on this side of the House believe the military is in desperate need of greater funding. We do this because Canada does not live in a bubble. Robert Wright of the Canadian Association of Security and Intelligence Studies points out that Canada is still a terrorist target.

Osama bin Laden had publicly identified Canada as a country he believes his followers should attack. He ranked Canada as fifth out of seven countries, and every other country on that list has already been attacked. This is just not simply someone else's problem.

I am not an alarmist and I am not a fearmonger, but the terror threat is real. When the terror alert was raised, fighters were stationed at CFB Trenton so that they could reach our nuclear facility at Pickering within five to ten minutes, and Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe, a region of over 12 million people, shortly after that.

This is why I am committed to properly funding our military. It is not simply in the self-interests of Quinte's economy, employing 3,500 people or more, but more important so that our national security and our ability to contribute to the military and humanitarian efforts around the world is secured.

The government has a responsibility, a duty and an obligation to our military personnel. The military needs the money. It is as simple as that.

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3:55 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

I think this debate on the government's commitment to the Canadian Forces is very relevant, and I am glad that the official opposition has put this motion before the House.

However, I have to tell the House that, although I find the terms of the motion itself reasonable, I have a lot of trouble with the preamble. There seems to be some inconsistencies between the preamble of the motion put forward by the official opposition and its position on the throne speech. I will refer to some parts of the throne speech which I will quote.

In today's world, effective international engagement is needed to advance national aspirations. Now that time and distance have lost their isolating effect, it is no longer possible to separate domestic and international policies. Canada's internationalism is a real advantage, but we must find new ways to express it if we are to effectively assert our interests and project our values in a changing world.

Just as Canada's domestic and international policies must work in concert, so too must our defence, diplomacy, development and trade efforts work in concert. This fall, the Government will release a comprehensive International Policy Statement that will reflect this integration. Parliamentarians and other Canadians will have the opportunity to debate its analyses and proposed directions.

Let me quote four more consecutive paragraphs from the throne speech. They read as follows:

Enhancing Canada’s security means that we have to invest more in our military as part of defending ourselves at home, in North America and in the world. We have to earn our way in the world. But ours will never be the biggest military force, so it must be smart, strategic and focussed.

Canada’s proud tradition as a leader in peacekeeping is being tested today by increasing demands in extremely dangerous and politically complicated situations, often involving failed and failing states. We have seen what extraordinary work Canadian men and women can do in places like Afghanistan, Bosnia and Haiti. We know that Canadians are among the best in the world in meeting the challenge of being soldiers to make the peace, diplomats to negotiate the peace and aid workers to nurture the peace.

That is why the Government regular forces will be increasing 5,000 troops and our reserves by 3,000 so that they may be better prepared and equipped to meet these challenges.

Here is the last paragraph:

As Darfur and other situations have shown, sometimes intervention is best achieved by regional forces attuned to their cultural and geographic conditions. In such cases, particularly in Africa, Canada intends to continue playing a role by training regional peacekeepers, to prepare them to conduct challenging security operations within the principles of international humanitarian law.

I wanted to remind members of the House of these quotes from the Speech from the Throne and also the fact that it was agreed to unanimously just last night. All members of the House supported what I just quoted. This is why I was trying to demonstrate that there is some incongruity in the preamble of the opposition motion, which is before us today. It is not the case for the text of the recommendation itself. This is why I am saying that the opposition could have been more consistent.

For the time that I have left, I will focus my remarks on what the government is doing to better equip our troops. The government firmly supports the armed forces members and is committed to ensuring that Canadian Forces remain a modern, multi-purpose and combat-capable force.

Despite insinuations to the contrary, major investments have been made in the military to ensure that Canadian Forces remain capable of protecting Canadians here and of promoting Canada's interests abroad.

More specifically, the government is committed to providing $7 billion for new equipment, including fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft, mobile gun systems, marine helicopters and supply ships.

The government is providing and will continue to provide the necessary support to the Canadian Forces. We understand that key equipment purchases are required in order for the Canadian Forces to remain effective.

The government is ensuring that the Canadian Forces have the tools they need to do the job. For example, the mobile gun system will allow the army to become more deployable and mobile. It will be a key part of maintaining the army's direct fire capability while being more versatile and transportable than our Leopard tanks.

Once it comes into service, the MGS will operate as part of an eventually larger group of vehicles that will improve the army's air defence and direct fire capabilities. This direct fire system will be part of the army's move toward a modern and medium weight fleet.

These are not the only new vehicles for our army. Recently the government delivered G-Wagons directly to Afghanistan, an example of where rapid procurement delivered first rate equipment to help our troops in the field.

These examples clearly show the government's commitment to provide to our army with first class high tech equipment, which, for the most part, will be built here in Canada.

The government has also decided to go ahead with the acquisition of new joint supply ships. These multi-role support vessels will support our navy at sea, our forces deployed on the ground, and will also provide useful services in sealift operations. They will help our forces to continue to be effective in the future context of security.

As regards the air force, I already mentioned that the government is funding the purchase of new marine helicopters and fixed-wing search and rescue aircraft. The latter is a $1.3 billion investment.

A large part of the funding has been allocated to other modernization programs in recent years, including the retrofitting of our CF-18 fighter aircraft and long range Aurora patrol aircraft, and the conversion of two Airbus aircraft into strategic tanker aircraft.

The government has also invested in technologies that will improve the Canadian Forces' intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. For example, the forces have been using unmanned aerial vehicles. Such vehicles have already made important contributions to our mission in Afghanistan. Experiments with UAVs were also recently conducted in the context of Arctic operations.

The government is also supporting enhancing the role of the Canadian Forces in domestic security. It is providing our military with the means to protect our critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks. After the events of September 2001 the government announced that it would double the size of JTF2 and create a joint nuclear, biological and chemical defence company. In addition, the Department of National Defence is leading the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear research and technology initiative, also known as CRTI.

Together with other government departments, industry and academia, members of defence are working on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear issues, an area where defence has recognized expertise. Four mobile nuclear laboratories have been acquired and boast state of the art equipment to assist in the event of dirty bomb radiological attacks.

As I quoted from the throne speech, the government recently announced a plan to increase our regular forces by some 5,000 troops and our reserves by 3,000.

All this shows the government's will to ensure that our military, the soldiers who are part of the military forces, have the equipment that they need to do their job.

Notwithstanding the preamble of the official opposition motion, we have to look at the facts and the facts are just the opposite of what this preamble says. If we looked only at the actual content of the motion before us, I think we could come to an agreement.

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4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the Liberal member across the way from Ottawa—Vanier.

I want to address my comment and question on one particular issue that I have been raising consistently over the past year or so. I was the defence critic for the Conservative Party and lately, as a concerned member of Parliament, I have received literally dozens of petitions that encompass hundreds and thousands of names of concerned citizens. They are signing petitions on behalf of our young military families, in most cases young families that live on bases.

Those petitioners are Canadian citizens who are deeply concerned about the deterioration in the housing standard that is provided on bases. It is an epidemic. It is on bases all across Canada.

In particular, I wonder if the member has had the opportunity, as I have, to view some of the homes at Rockliffe base right here in Ottawa. I would first ask, is it even in his riding? It might be, but if it is not, it certainly adjoins his own constituency. Is he aware of the deplorable state of some of the housing there? It is a fact that his government keeps raising the rents every year and it will go up another $100 next month. What is he doing to ensure that those homes are improved to a satisfactory standard for those families to live in?

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, I certainly am aware of the base. It is in the riding that I have the honour of representing in this House. I have had the occasion of visiting the base. In the past I have also had occasion to help, in some specific circumstances, resolve some of the difficulties that the people living there were going through.

I am in a bit of a difficult situation however because as associate minister of defence I am afraid that I am limited in terms of the interventions that I can engage in with respect to the military installations in the riding that I represent. I will not go further in terms of the Rockliffe air base at this point.

I would like to add though that, in terms of salary, this government has acted in recent years to boost substantially the income levels of the people who were at the lower echelons in the military. Also, in the last budget this government introduced a measure whereby the income of anyone serving abroad in a mission would be tax free.

I had the occasion of being in the welcoming line when the last contingent of troops returned from Haiti. That is one of the features that they appreciated the most.

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4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jeremy Harrison Conservative Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of the hon. member opposite, particularly with regard to the mobile gun system, otherwise known as a Stryker. This is a system being brought in by this government to replace the Leopard tanks.

I find it disingenuous at best and a joke at worst to equate the Stryker with a main battle tank such as the Leopard. It was not all that long ago that I myself was in the Canadian Forces. I still talk with my friends in the forces and they are very upset with the loss of our heavy armoured capability.

Would the hon. member comment as to how he sees a Stryker mobile gun system, as the Liberals call it, being in any way an adequate replacement for a heavy tank unit?

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, the capacity of the military has to be varied depending on the circumstances in which it is engaged. The military had long requested a capacity that is offered by the mobile gun system. We have followed its advice based on assessments that it conducted and by all accounts the army is welcoming that greatly. That is a capacity that it wants and a capacity that it needs.

We recognize that it is not a heavy armoured capacity, but not having that medium weight capacity was detrimental to the ability of our forces to deploy rapidly.

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4:10 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as this is my maiden speech in this Parliament, I first want to thank very much the people in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for giving me the honour of representing them again. It is a profound honour to be in the House. Very few Canadians have that chance and I am profoundly grateful for those who have given me the chance to do this once again.

In my riding is the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt. Both the civilian and regular force personnel who work there and their families are a significant part of my riding. Again, particularly in this post, I commit to them to work hard for them, to fight for them and to get them the things they need so they can continue to perform the extraordinary duties for our country at home and abroad. I give them an enormous thanks and gratitude for what they have done, are doing and continue to do for our nation. We are in deep gratitude to all of them.

Let me begin by talking about the motion from the official opposition. The body of the motion is something where there will not be much disagreement. It talks about the government committing to maintaining air, land and sea combat capabilities and ensuring that the members of the forces are trained and equipped to their job. We have been trying to meet that goal and we are fighting hard to do so. The government has made a significant contribution, particularly in the last nine months, to that effect. In fact we want to go much further than that. Our objective is not simply to maintain those capabilities, but expand upon them, and I will get to the reasons why.

What we disagree with profoundly though is the preamble to the motion which states:

––the government is continuing this trend by proposing to raise a peacekeeping brigade at the expense of existing combat ready forces...

I unequivocally deny and do not accept that whatsoever. The opposition members know full well that this is completely untrue.

I want to talk about the fact that the government is strongly in support of the Canadian Forces. I listened very carefully to the allegations of the Conservative Party. I will go through the various commitments it made if it were to become the government.

First, the Conservatives would invest an immediate $1.2 billion per year in the military. What has the government done? We have put in $1.6 billion in the 2004 budget. On the issue of personnel, the opposition would increase those numbers to 80,000. The cost of that alone would be $1.6 billion. The personnel increases, for which the opposition has called, would more than swallow up the exact amount of financial commitment it would put in to the military. The numbers simply do not add up.

Furthermore, the opposition in the last election said that it wanted $54 billion in extra spending, plus $41 billion in tax cuts. The only way to do that is to go into a deficit. We see that south of the border in the U.S. It has a $470 billion deficit. We want to give as much to our military as we can, but the opposition knows full well that we can only do that if we have a balanced budget. It cannot be done with a deficit budget because it would eviscerate our ability to provide not only for our military, but for health care and other priorities of Canadians.

As we go down the list of the opposition party, of the 11 things that it wants to do, 10 of those things we have either done, are in the works or we are doing better. I will simply give a few examples.

With respect to the issue of the air force, the CF-18 fleet upgrade is being done right now. With respect to the older C-130 transport aircraft, 10 new aircraft are coming on board and they will retire our older Hercules. With respect to the Sea King replacements, the opposition knows full well that commitment has already been made. We also have three new support ships coming on board.

The opposition party talks about having a stronger independent Canadian Coast Guard. The government has put together two new operation centres, one on the west coast on Vancouver Island and one on the east coast. They will integrate not only the Canadian Forces, but also the coast guard and the RCMP. We will have a combined multilateral approach to threats that come toward our borders. That is very exciting.

The opposition should know full well that not only have we accomplished a lot of its recommendations, we have gone beyond them and we have done it with a balanced budget. Our primary object, which we have always had, is to have a combat-ready, capable force to deal with threats. Let me list a few of the things we have been doing.

We are committed to putting 5,000 people on the sharp edge of our military, plus 3,000 reserves. As well, $7 billion has been committed to mobile guns, three new supply ships, new search and rescue planes and helicopters. Is that enough? It is a pretty good start. Are we going to build on that? Absolutely. Those are our commitments to the House and most important to the men and women in our armed forces. Those are the people to whom this speech is directed. We will do our best to give them the manpower, the training and the equipment to do the jobs they have been tasked to do.

It is worth reminding the hon. members that the Canadian Forces are already using equipment that is on the leading edge of technology.

Some of those examples are the Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicle and our new leading edge surveillance technology. I was privileged to go to the meeting held here today. Our military received four awards out of seven submissions. One of those was for an extraordinary surveillance and communications tool that they developed for our arctic, which can be applied to saving lives, not only in Canada but also abroad. That is a contribution to not only our security but to the security of our partners, and internationally. It will go a long way in many areas, including search and rescue. Also, the army's armoured personnel carrier, the LAV III, is a very advanced system and we will build on that too.

I can assure my hon. colleagues that the government is committed to expanding our commitments to the armed forces, not only in personnel but in training and equipment. Why is all this important? Because members from all side of the House have said very clearly that the type of threats we face have expanded and changed. They are not the same threats as we have had before, and 9/11 showed that very clearly.

What is exciting is we have taken the initiative to do something that few countries are doing, and that is to integrate our defence capabilities, our diplomacy, our trade and our development. We all know those four tools will used and needed to address the asymmetric threats. We have extraordinary capabilities in all those areas and we are committed to accomplishing that.

Furthermore, the public ought to know, and I will repeat this, that a defence review is taking place. It will be released this fall. Public input will be required. More important, input from the House will be required, so we have the best review possible. Our objective is to have the best minds, the best ideas and the best defence review we can possibly have for our country and for the men and women in our armed forces. They are extraordinary individuals. We owe it to them to give them our best as they give their best for our country.

I have been privileged to see their work. In Sierra Leone they are there training a new army for peace and security. They saved lives in Bosnia conflict. Our snipers received awards from the American government for their work in Afghanistan. It shows that our armed forces personnel are some of the best in the world. While the threats out there are defused, and we saw it in the U.S. 9/11 commission report, as partners and as individual countries we have to do a great deal more in terms of addressing these threats.

It is a new world. There are new threats and new challenges, and the government is committed to addressing those challenges for all Canadians and for the world.

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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe a single word that member just said and let me tell the House why. As recently as a year ago these are the things he said about his government's record on defence:

—the government has been neglecting defence and as a result there is an absolute crisis...Its failure to give economic and moral support to our military is eroding not only our standard here at home but our stature abroad.

Further, he said that the men and women in uniform:

—have been giving much more consideration to our country than the government has given to them.

He also said:

For the last 10 years the government has underfunded and disrespected our military by not giving our people the tools to do the job.... Our people are wanting at every level. They have the desire and the will to do the job, but they do not have the tools.

He further said:

—the government has gutted our military and our manpower is so low that it does not have the ability to put the people that we require into the field to do the job of our nation.

Finally he said:

For too long we have been living off the coattails of our allies on the international security concerns that we all share.

Those are his statements in this place a year ago. That is a 180° turn from what he just said moments ago. That is why I do not believe a word he has to say on the question of our national defence.

He said that all had changed in the past nine months since he became a member of the Liberal Party. Surely he has changed 10 years, 20 years, 30 years of neglect that he spoke about. Yes, right. This from a government that just gave a throne speech that contained one completely meaningless line about defence. This from a government that campaigned using demagogy against our party for proposing substantial new capital investments in the military. This from a government that is still delivering the second lowest defence expenditure in NATO as a percentage of GDP. This from a government that is still delivering, according to the International Institute on Strategic Studies yesterday, one of the lowest relative defence expenditures among 164 nations that were studied. This from a government that is still leaving our men flying 45 year old helicopters and in submarines that cannot make it across the Atlantic without tragic fatalities.

How can he have any shame giving a speech like that?

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is sad that the member on the other side continues to live in the past. He does not recognize the exciting commitments the government has put forward, particularly over the last nine months. I will repeat it for his edification because obviously he was not hearing or comprehending what was being said.

The government will be providing $7 billion of new money to our military for four good pieces of equipment. There will also be 5,000 new troops and 3,000 new reserves. The government is committed to change the situation.

The member ought to look in the mirror and look at the commitments his party has made. He has to understand a bit of basic mathematics. The Conservative Party wanted to commit $54 billion in new spending plus $41 billion in new tax cuts. The only way that could be done is if the government went into deficit spending. The member might look in the mirror one day and ask himself if he wants to support the kind of policies like those in the United States, resulting in a $470 billion deficit. If he wants to adopt a deficit spending protocol, then he should say that. However we will not support that.

We will not support that. We will have surplus budgets. We do not think that is the way to support our military, our health care and the requirements and necessary needs of Canadians. We will not compromise the economy of our country. We will have a balanced budget and support our military at the same time.

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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not get into the budget and explain how it works because the Liberals seem to have difficulty understanding it.

During the election campaign, the Liberals proposed, through the foreign affairs department, a peacekeeping brigade, which came as a complete surprise to national defence. It was specifically called a peacekeeping brigade because the people who came up with the idea had no concept of combat capability. They were going to create a force with blue berets and rifles and negotiate peace. That is why we are having this debate today. We want to make certain that the 5,000 regulars and the 3,000 reserves that go into the military will be trained for combat at the highest standard only.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, those 5,000 troops are going to get on the sharp edge as well as the 3,000 reserves. Both of them will be integrated into the needs of our armed forces in order to carry out the complex duties that they do across the board.

The member knows full well that we can only do that if we have a balanced budget. The government has been able to have a surplus or balanced budget and the strongest economy of any of the OECD countries. That is something to be proud of. The only way we will be able to support our military is to have a strong economy. That is our commitment.

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4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to speak in the debate today. I think I should repeat the motion that our party has put before the House so that members will know where my comments are coming from. The motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government's national defence policies are seriously out of date and funding has fallen dramatically short of what is needed to meet defence commitments, the combat capabilities of the Canadian Forces have been permitted to decay and the government is continuing this trend by proposing to raise a peacekeeping brigade at the expense of existing combat ready forces; and accordingly,

This House call on the government to commit to maintaining air, land and sea combat capability by ensuring that members of the forces are trained, equipped and supported for combat operations and peacekeeping, in order to enhance Canada's status and influence as a sovereign nation.

The one thing I would like to say is that whatever members of Parliament from all parties, and that goes for Canadians from all parts of this country, believe about the Canadian military, they believe one thing and support one thing. If we are going to send our serving men and women into harm's way they deserve the people and the equipment necessary to do the job on our behalf as safely as possible. Canadians right across the country agree with that. The members of all political parties agree with that. There is no argument about that.

I believe the facts have to be looked at, the facts on what has happened over the past 11 years with the Canadian military. It has to be examined and it has to be differentiated from the statements made by various ministers of the government and by members of the Liberal Party throughout this debate and over the past couple of weeks. I think it is really important to look at both and to see the differences that we have.

To provide our country with the people and the equipment that we need for them to do their job safely, we have to increase spending. There is no other way of doing that. We have to do others things, but we have to increase spending.

The Liberal government keeps repeating that it has done that. Even though it keeps repeating the line that it has increased funding to Canada's military, it does not make it so. Let us look at the facts.

First, the government has cut $20 billion from defence spending over the past 11 years. Second, in terms of personnel, when that government came into power we had a military of roughly 80,000 effective strength. Now we have 52,000 effective strength. That is a fact, no matter what the government says.

Yes, our forces been provided with some new equipment, but while they have some new equipment, there are glaring shortfalls in the equipment they have. We tend to point to the most obvious examples, such as the Sea King replacements, the problems with the refurbishing of the subs and the lack of supply capability, supply ships and so on. We tend to point to those types of things, but a part of that equipment deficiency, which is much less obvious but every bit as important, is the maintenance and repairs needed to ensure that the other equipment, which is often extremely old, is safe, usable and in reliable condition. That is rarely referred to and rarely talked about.

As I said, to do all that requires money. The Liberals say that they are spending all the money needed. By the military's own calculations, the money that the Prime Minister has promised, $7 billion roughly, is only one-quarter of what the military itself says is needed.

As we know, the top brass in the military answers to government. They will not be going around saying things against the government, the elected representatives of the people. In spite of that, the number the military gave, the minimum needed to provide what is necessary, is four times what the Prime Minister has promised, not that he has delivered but that he has promised. Clearly, there is a huge gap of many billions of dollars.

The fact is that we need the money. Let us look at Canada relative to other NATO allies. I think that is a good measure of where the Canadian military is really at, a good measure of what the Prime Minister, the parliamentary secretary and others on the other side have said.

Canada spends about 1.2% of GDP on its military. The NATO average is somewhere over 2%. That is a huge gap. The Prime Minister, the defence minister and others have stood in the House and said that Canada is one of the largest military spenders in the world, but what they do not say and what the facts are is that Canada, in terms of percentage of GDP, is in fact the second lowest of all the NATO allies. That is the truth but we do not hear that from the government, which is unfortunate.

The money is important because of what it provides. What it provides, what it could provide and what it will provide when we form government is the people we need and the equipment they need to do their jobs as safely as possible on our behalf because they work on our behalf.

Is it only the Conservative Party that says the money being provided is very short of what is required? Not at all. I was a member of the House of Commons committee that tabled a report about a year ago or so. The majority of members of that committee were Liberals, including the former defence minister. What did that report say? That report said almost exactly what the Conservative Party says, that we have to move spending toward the NATO average. It said that right in the report. The Liberals, Conservatives, all parties agreed to that.

Within the last two years a Senate committee said virtually the same thing, that government simply was not providing what was necessary to give us the military that we needed to do the job that we were asking them to do year after year on behalf of our country.

The military itself has said that it needs more. We need only look at its proposals laying out what it needs to provide just what the government said should be provided on behalf of our country, in the 1994 white paper and in some more recent statements than that.

There have been various other independent studies that have said exactly the same thing. The government simply is not spending the money necessary to give us the people and the equipment that can provide what we ask our military to provide. I do not think there is any doubt about that. That is simply a fact.

I will quickly mention this new 5,000 member peacekeeping force that the government talks about. This sounds really good. The problem is, the money has not been provided. The problem is, we cannot send people who are not combat capable and trained and with the equipment they need, into harm's way. We have done it too many times in the past. How many times does it take before we all learn? I think we on this side have learned. We cannot afford to do that any more. We need our people to be combat trained, ready and equipped whether they go into combat or not. At the very minimum, we owe them that.

Many members in the House have been taping a Remembrance Day message today in the Centre Block. Many members have gone out and said how they support the Canadian military, how they remember and give thanks to those who have served our country in the past, and I believe every member says that from the heart. However, just the words are not enough any more. We all must provide our current military with what they need to protect us and to serve us as we ask them to do.

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the words of my colleague and certainly was moved at the end of his speech when he talked about Remembrance Day and remembering those who have, in all too many cases, given the ultimate sacrifice to defend the freedoms that the rest of us all too often take for granted. He is so right in his statement.

It is easy to mouth the words. It is often easy for us to forget. Of course, we must always remember, lest we forget. It is so important on Remembrance Day to give thanks for those people who answered the call time and time again and those who continue to answer the call, as was the case with Lieutenant Saunders who, sadly, gave the ultimate, his life for the freedoms we all too often take for granted.

We often are forced to send our troops abroad to help protect those people who are less fortunate and who might be struggling for freedom and democracy, the freedom and democracy we all too often, as I said, take for granted. We commit troops, as we have, to Afghanistan, Bosnia and other troubled spots around the world. In the debate today I believe the central thrust of my colleague's comments was the need to ensure that whatever troops we do send must be combat capable and as well-equipped as possible. It is the least we owe our young men and women if we send them abroad to do that important work.

I want to ask my hon. colleague to comment on a poll which, I think, shows how out of step the Liberal government is with the mood of Canadians, not just the mood of the Conservative Party of Canada and the commitment that we have made in writing to our military, but the mood of Canadians. The poll came out just last week. I want to quote from a newspaper article. The headline reads “Liberals out of step with public on military” and it says:

Nearly 80 per cent of votes cast in a CanWest Global online survey supported preparation for war as the primary role of the Canadian military, with peacekeeping taking a back seat to defending Canada's borders.

Of 10,366 votes received via the Internet, 8,160 said "Prepare for war" should be the military's primary role.

The next most popular choice was defending Canada's borders--

Only 745 votes, or 7.19%, supported peacekeeping as the chief role.

That is what we are trying to get at today. Our forces need to be combat ready.

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, actually I have not seen the poll. I have not even heard about the poll, but it must have been at least 8,000 or 10,000 people in total, and that is a huge poll. This will accurately reflect what Canadians really believe. I am not surprised by that.

It may sound like we are blowing our own horn, but what parliamentarians have said again and again over the past five years in particular, is that the need to have a combat capable military is sinking in with the general public. They are thinking about it and they have come to understand what the government will not acknowledge. The government understands it. I do not believe for a minute that the government does not understand what is necessary, but it is simply not willing to make the tough decision when it comes to how taxpayer money should be spent. It is just unwilling to make those tough decisions and that is the saddest commentary. As a result, it says the peacekeepers are good enough.

As the member said, we absolutely owe our serving men and women, at the minimum, the capability to defend themselves under any imaginable circumstance that may come upon them. The one thing that is predictable about going into an extremely unsettled situation is unpredictability. Let us give them all we reasonably can to defend themselves and to be safe in whatever situation.

God willing, when they go into a situation that they think is a peacekeeping situation, whatever that means, that it will be that, but too often in the past it has not. It has been a combat situation. Combat is necessary to stabilize the situation, and so many times that provides for people of that area, that country, some stability they have not seen for an awful long time, a chance to move ahead and a chance to become a free and democratic nation. Let us give them that and let us give that to the countries we are out to help as well.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

October 21st, 2004 / 4:40 p.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among all parties and I believe if you were to seek it you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, at the conclusion of Oral Questions on Friday, October 22, 2004, the House shall hear a brief statement by a representative of each party to pay tribute to Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier.