Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to this important motion put forth by the opposition. I come from an area of the country in Dartmouth—Cole Harbour which is still largely a military community and the death of Lieutenant Saunders had a profound impact on us all.
I speak to this issue, not simply as a bystander but as an individual who grew up in an area like others in my area where many of my best friends, and dare I say many of my campaign workers, come from the military. The military is of great importance to me. I also wanted to speak today on the issue because I believe very strongly in the work that it does.
I came to Ottawa to support the interests of my constituents, to advocate on their behalf, and to challenge, when necessary, our government to do more. I stand behind the members of our military. I know of their loyalty, hard work and dedication, courage, skills and determination to keep our ships and aircraft operational, sometimes under less than ideal circumstances.
I came to Ottawa to not only look out for the interests of my constituents, but as an MP I also believe I am here to protect and to support the national interest as well.
Let me say in the strongest terms possible that I will advocate and defend the interests of the military in my area of the country. I will do so because this issue goes well beyond local interests. Our military and its support is an issue that affects us all.
I came to this Chamber to discuss solutions to our problems, including this issue. I would like to do so in concert with all of my colleagues on all sides of the House.
I believe the Prime Minister will act and continue to support the men and women in our armed forces. He has proven to me that he is serious about addressing this issue. As an example, one of his first decisions was to replace the Sea King helicopters.
We face challenging times in our world. Global security is paramount. It is necessary that we be prepared and equipped as a military to undertake the defence of our country, and indeed to defend the interest of global security when called upon by the international community, when the cause is right and only when the cause is right.
It is clear that our military has some of the finest soldiers in the world and must continue to receive the necessary support, and indeed enhanced support to meet our obligations here and abroad.
In the October 5, 2004 Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister committed to releasing a comprehensive international policy statement that reflects our government's intention to integrate our defence, diplomacy, development and trade efforts in order to assert our interests and to protect our values in a changing world.
The government is in the process of this review and upon completion the role of the Canadian Forces will be brought up to date and adequately funded as a result. I support the government in this regard. I urge, that in this process, that we be comprehensive and create an integrated policy that reflects our values as Canadians.
Some would argue that we have to earn our way in the world, and I agree with that. I am proud of our country because I know Canada is a respected country, a peaceful country. It is clear that ours will never be the biggest military force in the world, nor should it be.
It must be smart, strategic and focused with Canadian principles and values at its core, values that support diplomacy as the first and best solution to our global problems, values that speak to use of military as a last resort, not a first response, and only in circumstances that honour our principles and values.
The government is also committed to sound fiscal management and to ensuring that we invest in high priority areas, and there are many of those. Beginning with the 1999 budget, the Liberal government began investing new money in defence which by 2006-07 will amount to almost $11 billion. This demonstrates that we are serious about this issue.
Coming from a military area, I know and I hear of the strains placed on the Canadian Forces, and they are well-known. That is why I am pleased that the government is moving ahead to expand the size of the regular forces by 5,000 regular force members and 3,000 reservists. I hope and would support that we do more in years to come. Our election platform, the platform that I ran under and support, commits to providing new money to fund this initiative.
This increase will go a long way toward solving some of the problems associated with recent high operational demands, enhancing our ability to respond to domestic emergencies, and contributing to international operations.
I think it should be noted, and I suspect all members would agree, that the introduction of the tax exemptions of income earned by the military and police while serving in high risk international missions is a positive and important step to help our military personnel.
In April 2004 the government extended the tax exemption to all deployments except low risk missions. Our government's national security policy includes a six point plan to enhance Canada's maritime security, along with an investment of $308 million. As part of this plan we will be increasing the on water presence of the navy, as well as establishing the maritime security operation centres in the Halifax-Dartmouth area, my own riding, and Esquimalt. These centres will involve cross-department and agency coordination, and will include personnel from the Coast Guard, Transport Canada and the RCMP.
In recent months the government has announced an increase in the availability of reserves for civil preparedness, including their capacity to deal with natural disasters and local emergencies.
I am not here to blame people or to create problems, or to embarrass colleagues from years past. I believe strongly that we must all work together to be honest in the way we find solutions to our problems and to do what parliamentarians are called upon to do, which is to find solutions for national problems.
I believe we need to reinvest in our military, and I hope all members will work together to meet those objectives. Predecessors from my own riding of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour from all parties have left a strong legacy of support for our men and women in the military. There is Mike Forrestall, who was a member for 25 years, who is involved in the Senate defence committee. Ron MacDonald, who was visiting here today as a matter of fact, served in this Chamber for nine years and was one of the strongest supporters that the military had. Wendy Lill, my predecessor, with the New Democratic Party, was a strong supporter of military families and the military.
My commitment to military personnel is to ensure that they are properly trained, properly equipped, properly compensated and properly deployed. While I may disagree with members opposite on how our military should be deployed and in what causes they should be asked to serve, I support increased funding for our personnel. I believe our government is moving strongly in the right direction. It is my intent to ensure that we stay true to that course.