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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

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague, the vice chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, made some very interesting remarks. I am always very impressed with his reasoned approach and I look forward to working with him again as we have in the past.

If I did not misunderstand him, I would like to clarify. I thought I heard him draw an inference from the Speech from the Throne that somehow the government may be talking about scaling back the size of our Canadian Forces. Did I hear him correctly? Is he not aware that we are committed to at least 5,000 more regular forces and 3,000 reserves?

His leader spoke today about going to 80,000 men and women in the Canadian Forces. I wonder if there has been a costing of that size of increase to 80,000? Has there been a detailed rationale? I wonder if he is aware of that or was his leader just kind of throwing out the number.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

It is in the platform.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Well, if it is in the platform, it has to be costed and with a detailed rationale. I did not see that and I would love to see it. If the member has it I would love to see it today, or perhaps he could share it with me as soon as possible.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, yes, we do want to see the military increased. I do understand in the throne speech and subsequent documents that the government has talked about increasing regular forces and increasing peacekeeping capabilities, but it has talked about that in the past.

My reference was to the three words that were used in the sentence, “We have to earn our way in the world”. I agree with that, we do have to earn our way in the world as a country. It goes on to say,“but ours will never be the biggest military force, so it must be smart, strategic and focused”.

Instead of me offering an explanation on our platform, our rationale and the dollars behind increasing the military to 80,000, the government should explain what it means by those three words and how those three words will turn into a better, stronger and more well-equipped military?

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I have listened to a number of the speakers today and I find it rather hard not to be partisan. I take it that is the nature of the facilities here. I am only an old policeman, not an English teacher, so sometimes my words may not fit what he would like.

I stand before the House today to discuss yet another issue that has plagued our military and brought undue embarrassment to our country and to the government. Yesterday, the chief of defence staff and the admiral for our navy appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs to explain why Canada needs to have a submarine capability for our navy. What was truly apparent was what I equate to buyer's remorse. It is like me buying a used car and the salesman neglecting to tell me about the three or four accidents the car has been in, only to have it pointed out when a mechanic is changing the oil and has a look at the vehicle.

In 1993, the British navy pulled the four Upholder class submarines from the water because they were duds. Nothing on these subs operated properly. They were filled with design faults bad enough to frustrate one of the greatest maritime nations in the world.

As a new member of Parliament, I still feel my observations are from the outside looking in. These great military men who appeared before the committee yesterday were essentially gagged and unable to say what they really felt was wrong with the sub program.

I would venture to go as far as saying to the Canadian people that there is no doubt there is a need for submarine capability in Canada's navy. Why would these more than qualified servicemen rally around these four flawed submarines? I feel that it is because the government of the day followed what the rest of the world was doing in a former era. Aside from cutting the guts out of our health care system, it could not put the knife down and, like a crazed butcher, pounced on Canada's military.

We did not buy the subs because they were good value for the money. As the hon. Sheila Copps attested to last night on CBC, if the subs were such a good deal, then why were they still around five years after they were dry docked. Where was the bidding war? Saudi Arabia declined, Spain declined and the Australians decided to build their own subs.

The reason the navy pursued these subs was because it convinced the cabinet of the day, a cabinet, I might add, that was led by our current Prime Minister and then finance minister. However, the navy was told to find something cheap or, as the Liberals would say, cost effective. In other words, the navy was given a budget, told to forget what we need, to forget about worldclass equipment and to just go out and buy the best subs it could with one-tenth of what it needed to accomplish the task.

Our military has a motto. It is known as the “can do” approach and, because they are such good people, they compromised and took on these subs that presented them with challenges even the British navy could not conquer. What was even worse was watching the most recent information about the Chicoutimi disaster on the news networks last night.

We have service people who are risking their career advancement to make sure Canadians know the truth of what happened on that doomed sub. Lieutenant Bryan was described by the Halifax centre as being casual on the phone. What did they want, mass hysteria? Perhaps he was exhausted from what had just happened hours earlier. Lieutenant Bryan states that he had good reception on his satellite phone and that everything he said was repeated back to him, including the words “major fire”. Halifax command said that the reception was not good and yet they could hear the word “fire”, the number of casualties and the fact the sub was dead in the water. However, when they went before the media they called the fire minor.

Lieutenant Bryan also stated that there was a great deal of concern on the other end of the phone line and that he felt that by them repeating everything he had said back to him, it left him with no doubt his words were understood. So imagine, Halifax did not log or record the phone call. How ironic, a case of their words over another.

It is not like the Chicoutimi reached the call centre trying to sell some carpet cleaning services. I say that with all due respect to those in the call centre industry. They were talking to experts in the field of navy operation so how could major be interpreted as minor? It is now up to a military inquiry to determine if the navy did indeed downplay the fires and, if so, whether it was intentional or merely a bad case of communications. Or, perhaps there was political interference to downplay the already plagued sub. Perhaps the government wanted to control the situation to ease the cloud of doom that was being cast over its choice of flawed submarines

Touchy as my statement is, I feel it needs to be debated. It would not be the first time that politics got in the way of the truth. Just look at that napkin contract for the sale of shares in a golf course.

The party across the way has no bounds when it comes to its contempt for the intelligence of the people of this country. The solution to the sub crisis in the country has yet to be discovered. From what we know now, it is clear that Canada should be looking to purchase a fleet of six new off the shelf proven subs, such as those built in Germany. These subs are NATO friendly, environmentally friendly, diesel operated and are being built with an AIP system that will allow them to go under the ice of our northern coast.

When my party is elected to government in the next election, we will remove the gag order on military officials and let them speak freely and allow them to react to our financial constraints. What we need now is a full military review. Underfunding of our forces has taken its toll on our service personnel and our national pride. It has left our forces on the brink of disaster and that is no exaggeration.

Today, after some $850 million spent on flawed subs, we are without a sub program. We have no heavy lift aircraft capability to move our military operations around the world. Rust out threatens nearly every vehicle we own. We have also learned in the last several days that we cannot even supply our soldiers in Haiti with gloves, flak jackets and proper boots. I recall a report that it took nearly 12 years to decide on the purchase of a backpack. And we wonder why we have poor recruitment numbers for our military of the future.

In the last campaign the government said it would add 5,000 new troops to our forces. A quick estimate shows that it takes two years to train a soldier at a cost of nearly $2 billion per year for those members. When have we ever seen the Liberal government increase the defence budget by $2 billion per year? It will not happen. It will go down as just another broken election promise. I say we have to look no further than across the House because that party has gouged the life out of our military.

When it comes to our NATO allies, only Luxembourg spends less GNP on its national defence than Canada does. That says it all about the Liberals' regard for our service people and the defence of our nation. Their decade of cuts and failure to increase the defence budget in significant numbers is a disservice to every soldier that has paid the ultimate sacrifice for our beloved country.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to our new colleague. I also welcome him to the defence committee and look forward to working with him.

He talked about this being a partisan place. He certainly has demonstrated that and I would like to take him up on that a little just to set the record straight.

I indicated that I had taught some English, but my first degree is in history. I read and taught about the Pacific scandal. I read and taught about the Mulroney years. If there is a lesson to be learned from history in this country it is that his party has no right to point the finger at anyone else when the subject is integrity.

On the member's point, I think he has levelled a serious charge. He is a new member, but I cannot let it go. I have to challenge him in a friendly way. He used the term “gag order”, that when elected to office his party would “remove the gag order on the military”. I ask the hon. member to indicate to us where he feels there has been a gag order and what evidence he has that there is a gag order in place.

With respect, I say it is very unfortunate that he chose to say that Vice-Admiral MacLean and the chief of the defence staff General Ray Henault were gagged yesterday, that they were unable to say what they wanted to say. They were witnesses and were called witnesses for a reason. They were giving what is called testimony, evidence, at committee

I ask my colleague, and hopefully my friend soon, does he have evidence of this gag order? That is an extremely serious thing to say in the House of Commons about the interplay between the government and the military. If he has evidence, I want him to table it at the earliest opportunity. Otherwise I think he should retract.

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1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, my friend from London—Fanshawe is partially right. The two members of the military who were at committee yesterday, and I think I said that, are two excellent people. What they had to say was in answer to the questions. The answers to the committee were forthright. To be honest with the member for London--Fanshawe, I cannot specifically tell him of a gag order.

My sense is that members of the military know what is important to say in the bounds of what they do and that is what I alluded to. I may have been intemperate in my words, but the fact remains that I think they are very guarded in what they tell us.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member's honesty and his candour, and I accept his statement, as we all do.

I will end with this. I spoke about hyperbole in this debate, the tendency on both sides of the House to exaggerate beyond what the facts are. This subject is too important. I know my friend agrees and I very much appreciate his candid and honest statement. It is too serious a subject to give in to the temptation to be overly partisan and to exaggerate. I caution all members, and I include myself obviously as chair of the defence committee, let us stick to the facts and deal with them as fairly and objectively as we can.

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1:40 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I want to add some historical context to what we are talking about today.

Back in 1993 to 1995 our government was enduring dealing with very large deficits. As a result we had to make cuts across the board to everything. I am very happy that over the last little while we have been able to change that and have started to make strategic investments in our military.

Obviously when I was a member of the opposition party, I went through the Conservative Party's defence white paper. One of the great difficulties I had, and why I did not sign off on it, was that the demands, the requirements and requests in that white paper were simply not affordable. The problem was that if we had purchased all of what was requested in that paper, our country would be in a deficit situation again, which was completely unworkable.

Is the hon. member aware of the costing out of the white paper of the Conservative Party? It is a leading question because I can tell members that it is in excess of what this country could possibly afford.

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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I am not sure if it was costed out with respect to a $1.9 billion surplus or a $9.1 billion surplus.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, since this is my first speech in this 38th Parliament, I would like to take some time to congratulate you on your appointment as Acting Speaker of the House and to thank my constituents, the voters of my riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for re-electing me.

On June 28, 64.9% of voters reaffirmed the trust they had in their MP for the third time. That is a clear sign for me to keep up the good work. It shows me that they approve of what I do in this House and that they support the work of my colleagues, the members of the Bloc Québécois. I would also like to thank and congratulate my colleagues from northwestern Quebec, my seatmates, who provide us with moral support during our speeches.

Please excuse me, I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma.

Enough thank yous and compliments, let us get to the heart of the debate. The Bloc Québécois and I are against this motion, not because it is bad, but because it asks to invest money in national defence when there is no national defence policy. The same is true for Canada's foreign affairs policies—there is no policy.

The last time national defence policies were reviewed was in 1994. I wonder if DND still uses these policies. If so, it should consider changing them because the concept of defence and military armament has changed dramatically since September 11, 2001.

We no longer have an army to contend with, we have to deal with people we call terrorists, who have not been identified and whose methods we do not know. Consequently, this government absolutely must establish a defence policy. In the meantime, it should invest money in the living conditions of our service members.

I have, unfortunately, had occasion to provide support to young men and women the age of my own son, who have returned from war or peacekeeping in Bosnia with post-traumatic stress syndrome. They have come home as human wrecks, a harsh term perhaps but they are greatly in need of psychological and psychiatric help. Unfortunately, we turn a blind eye to them.

Some of these young people in my riding have to spend time at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue regularly, daily or weekly. Unfortunately, they need more help than that. Let us not lose sight of the fact that these young people, like all our military personnel, have been to war or on peacekeeping assignment in order to advance the cause of democracy. That was their role.

The dangers that await us if we invest in our armed forces without any national defence policy is that these investments are likely to be wasted. I will give a few examples of this.

Hon. members will recall that, in 1998-99, the national defence budget was $8,964 million, while it will be $13,400 million in 2003-04. That is a lot of money. Ordinary people's dreams of winning the lottery never exceed a million. So this is an increase of 49.5% in national defence spending since 1998.

What did that money go to? Let us think back to 1993, when the government over the way spent $500 million to cancel the helicopter contract. Or back to 1998 when, without consulting the House, it announced, just like that, the purchase of four used submarines from Great Britain, ones that had been in mothballs since 1993. They were purchased in 1998 for $800 million, apparently to protect our coasts, the Arctic and the far north, but the submarines were not equipped to operate under northern ice.

Since then, several hundred million dollars have been invested in those submarines. The total has reached nearly $1 billion in expenditures on those four submarines, now all in dry dock. Unfortunately, for that to happen, Lieutenant Saunders had to lose his life in the incident aboard the HMCS

Chicoutimi.

While waiting for my colleague to take his seat, I would just like to add that we spent another $174 million needlessly on a communications satellite that has not been used. That is one of the things the auditor general pinpointed.

With that I shall pass things over to my colleague for his ten minutes.

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1:50 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, my colleague from the Bloc brought up the issue of communications. I wonder if he is aware that right now at the Ottawa Convention Centre there is a very large technological conference with hundreds of displays. Our Canadian Forces put seven submissions into this very large competition on technology. Our Canadian Forces had four finalists and won three awards, two gold and one silver, which is an extraordinary accomplishment.

One of the submissions is a communications network we are using in the Arctic. It is a world leader. It will save lives not only in the Canadian Arctic but also internationally. I wonder if the hon. member is aware of and supports the investment and experimentation done by our Canadian Forces in order to improve its capabilities and also save lives here at home and abroad.

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1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I am indeed aware of the exhibition. The army does not only do bad things. It also does good things. I think, however—and this is the Bloc's view—that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence will have to agree with me that it is time this country had a national defence policy.

I sincerely believe that we need to know what role and responsibilities our army will have. Will it be a defensive or an offensive army? What role will it have? We absolutely must develop a defence policy for this army.

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I am in strong disagreement with the member's statement. The army does not do only wrong things. I am going to ask him to explain what he means by that, because our army does not do wrong things. Our army does good things all over the world. It saves lives.

I want to ask the member if he is aware that our army has capabilities of both a defensive and an offensive nature. It must have both of those capabilities. I am wondering if he is aware of and knowledgeable about the heroism that our armed forces displayed in the Medak pocket in Croatia and the awards they received from the U.S. government, and the awards that our snipers received in Afghanistan for the extraordinary work they did there. Also, is he aware of the fact that our armed forces save lives in both a defensive and an offensive nature?

Does the member support and acknowledge the fact that our armed forces must have the weaponry and capability at the end of the day to engage in offensive operations in order to save Canadian lives and also lives abroad with respect to the work they do to keep peace and security internationally? Does he support the offensive capabilities of our armed forces, yes or no?

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1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I recommend that my colleague, the hon. parliamentary secretary, read the blues carefully tomorrow, because I said that the army does not only do bad things, that it also does good things. That is what I said. The army does not only do bad things, it also does good things.

In response to the second part of his question about whether the army should have offensive weapons, yes, these are necessary in a conventional army. More needs to be done, however, and I would like to hear him on this: should there not be a new defence policy for this army? That is the problem. We are working with defence policies dating back to 1994; we are still talking about the 1994 white paper, even if this is 2004.

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1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Bloc Jonquière—Alma, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about the war in Iraq. Quebec took a very pacifist stand on this war. There were demonstrations. People who disagreed expressed their opinion. Today, I am proud of the position against taking part in the war that was expressed and promoted here in the House.

I would like my colleague to explain this situation more fully and in connection with a debate that could redirect the entire involvement of the armed forces in this new global context.

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1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma for this opportunity to say something about the war in Iraq. Yes, I completely agree with the position Quebeckers took on this issue. It was also the Bloc Québécois position. Since the beginning we Quebeckers have been a peaceful people. We do not like war. For example, during the second world war, we opposed sending soldiers. But a law was passed here that forced us to go and fight.

Let us return to the war in Iraq. Yes, it is true that we, the people of Quebec, put pressure on this government not to follow the Americans on this issue. I am aware that, for once, the government listened to the people of Quebec, and all the more so because this war—as is very clear now—is especially and uniquely about oil, the lifeblood of the modern economy. No weapons of mass destruction have yet been found.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I know we do not have much time, but I want to enlighten my hon. colleague from the other side.

Do we need a defence policy? Absolutely. Are we going to continue to work on the 1994 policy? No. Do we have one in the works? Yes. It is going to come out to the defence committee in the fall. Not only do we have a specific defence policy, but we also have a combined four part policy that integrates a lot of the things he talks about in terms of development, defence, foreign policy and trade. It is an integrated approach to deal with complex security challenges. We are doing that and I look forward to my colleague's input so we can make the policy as strong as possible.

Atlantic Canada Opportunities AgencyStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, this is the time of year when communities across Canada celebrate Small Business Week.

In Atlantic Canada, 70% of all jobs created by new firms are created by small businesses. That is why the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency focuses on helping entrepreneurs access the capital, information and business management skills they need to succeed.

An excellent example of how ACOA works is a company in my riding called Fabco Industries. This small company started in 1978 and is now a leader in marine construction and offshore oil and gas. When the company needed to expand and modernize, ACOA was there to help with a $450,000 business loan. Today Fabco has 50 full time employees and serves the offshore and marine industries worldwide.

The Government of Canada, through ACOA, also supports organizations that provide advice to small businesses on improving their profitability. ACOA works for Atlantic Canadians.

I congratulate all the entrepreneurs and I congratulate ACOA for its valuable support to small businesses in Atlantic Canada.

Riding of Newton--North DeltaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gurmant Grewal Conservative Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, among others, the following local issues are very important to the constitutes of Newton—North Delta.

Transportation and traffic congestion on Scott Road, 72nd Avenue, Highway 91 and Highway 10 is an ongoing problem, yet this government returns only 3% of the gas tax revenue to B.C. We need money for the construction of the South Fraser perimeter road.

With emergency services and beds cut in the Delta hospital, health services in Surrey and North Delta are inadequate, yet the Prime Minister's “fix for a generation” is not even a fix for a decade.

Auto theft, marijuana grow ops, prostitution, break and enter and organized crime put the safety of residents at risk. Laws without teeth and the revolving door justice system need to be fixed.

Newton—North Delta being the host of Burns Bog, we need the government's commitment to conserve the environment and the bog rather than waste resources on selling Kyoto.

We need resources for dredging the Fraser River, and the Fraser docks need expansion with better connections to road, rail and air transportation.

The misplaced priorities of the Liberal government are hurting our communities.

Co-op WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Denise Poirier-Rivard Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Madam Speaker, along with my colleagues in this House, I would like to point out that October 17 to 23 is Co-op Week.

Over the years, Co-op Week has become a major event and a prime opportunity for promoting the cooperative way. Every October the entire cooperative movement in Canadaexpresses its pride in being a part of this worldwide movement, which has rallied millions of people to its unique values.

This week gives both the French- and English-speaking communities a chance to celebrate the cooperative presence and promote the co-op sector through special events and initiatives in every region.

With its theme of “Take control of your affairs!” Co-op Week reflects the pride of place afforded individual members, their commitment and their shouldering of responsibility, in the cooperative formula.

Therefore, I wish everyone a happy Co-op Week.

Governor General's AwardStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Nunavut, I would like to congratulate Allison Brewer of Iqaluit, Nunavut on being awarded the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

Allison is a true advocate of inclusion and equality. This award is well deserved, as Allison's life has been dedicated to removing discrimination from society. Allison has shown courage and integrity throughout her life and has been active in social justice and feminist causes.

This is the 25th year of the Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case, and Allison is truly a worthy recipient of this important award for her work in Nunavut and also in her hometown of Fredericton.

This award honours what Allison has achieved until now and I know Allison will continue to educate and motivate people to end discrimination. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours. I say congratulations to Allison. Her family and friends are proud of her.

Riding of Brampton--SpringdaleStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise before this House today to pay tribute to the constituents of Brampton--Springdale. The Brampton--Springdale community is a community like many others across our great country. It has been built on a sense of pride, hard work and dedication. These are so many of the same values that are shared by Canadians coast to coast.

It is truly an honour to be part of a government that wants to build upon these values. It is truly an honour to be part of a government that wants to be responsive to the many needs of these Canadians: having a national quality childcare program, ensuring that we have the highest quality of health care, and ensuring that we have the best cities and communities in which to live. These are the very reasons that Canada will continue to be the envy of the world.

I am humbled to be able to be a member of this House and to contribute to the achievement of these goals with the same energy, enthusiasm, dedication and spirit that make up and define the success of the Brampton--Springdale community.

Victoria CrossStatements By Members

October 21st, 2004 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, next week Branch 6 of the Royal Canadian Legion in my riding of Bruce--Grey--Owen Sound will play host to the southwestern Ontario unveiling by Canada Post of two stamps commemorating the Victoria Cross. Owen Sound was selected as the site for this prestigious unveiling because four of the 94 Canadian Victoria Cross winners have Grey-Bruce connections. I would like to pay tribute to these people today.

In World War I, Samuel “Lew” Honey of Conn was awarded the medal. In World War II, the recipients included Owen Sound born and famous flying ace Billy Bishop, Thomas William Holmes, and David Currie, who are all buried in or near Owen Sound. I would also like to acknowledge Mrs. Shirley McGregor, niece of Mr. Holmes, who will be participating in the ceremony.

The 49¢ stamps mark the 150th anniversary of the war. One stamp features a medal based on photographs provided by the Canadian War Museum, and the other an illustration of the Canadian Victoria Cross, approved in 1993 by Queen Elizabeth II.

The Victoria Cross is a medal awarded in recognition of the most exceptional bravery, and on behalf of my constituents--

Victoria CrossStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Tobique--Mactaquac.