Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Saint-Jean on his speech. Like other members, including the member for Peace River, I am pleased to have the opportunity for the second time this week to discuss a topic of such great importance to Canada and Canadians.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for York Centre.
I am glad to have an opportunity to discuss this, although it is the second time this week. However, I think it is very important that we have an open and frank discussion among ourselves, that we also try to demystify some of the issues around this and that we talk about the real facts. We should talk about what we plan to do, what we do not intend to do and how we intend to go about it.
What is the nature of the issue about which we are talking about? As members know, and I pointed out the other night, what we intent to do on the government side of the House is to enter into discussions with the United States of America about an issue in which it is committed.
The member for Saint-Jean and various other members of the House have given extensive reasons why they believe this is not an effective system, that it is will be too expensive, that it will be technologically unfeasible and that the greater threat from terrorism comes from containers, from ships and from other forms of threats.
There is a great deal of validity in all of that. We accept that and that is a debate taking place in the United States of America, as well. Americans are very educated people. Members of Congress and of the Senate are discussing this. They have had that same discussion. It is their treasury they are putting into this, so they are having those discussions. If they put too much money into this, they will not have the resources to deal with other issues.
The first thing we have to start with is to recognize in this debate that whatever reserves we might have about this system, the United States of America has decided to do it in a bipartisan way. This is not an initiative of the Bush administration, as this resolution would seem to suggest. Rather, this begun under Mr. Clinton and had extensive bipartisan support in both the House and Senate of the United States of America.
The first premise we have to start with, as Canadians, is the United States of America is committed to doing it. The Americans will discuss the reservations, how to go about doing it and whether its a major expense or not. However, at the moment they are committed to do it.
Then we have to ask ourselves, as Canadians, how we are being neighbours. We share the continent with our colleagues in the United States of America. We have a long tradition of working with the United States on matters of defence. We have to consider the context of the subtleties of the relationship between this country and their country, the links between our families, the link between our universities, the extensive trade on both sides of the border, the environment and other links.
We are a neighbour. It is as simple as that. In some respects, when it comes to nations, we have an unique relationship. We are probably the closest neighbour ever demonstrated in the history of the world. That is the unique nature of our relationship.
Our neighbour, after careful reflection about its security, about the menaces that threaten it, have come forward and told us that it intends to examine the possibility, as remote as it may be, of having a defence against something that it believes threatens the lives of Americans.
Members of the House would have us, the government of the country, say that we will not even discuss that with our neighbour, that we will turn a deaf ear when our neighbour comes to us and says that it sees a menace and wishes to take protective action, and if this menace comes, it will also happen to hit Canada. Neighbours being neighbours, if the U.S. house is on fire, Canada's house will likely go up with it. Any nuclear, biological weapon or weapon of mass destruction that happens to go off in Buffalo or Seattle, will affect Toronto or Vancouver, and vice versa.
Therefore, does it not behoove us to at least sit at the dining or kitchen table with our neighbours and discuss what the measure is, what they are doing and is there a way in which we can or cannot participate?
I come from the perspective that we are close neighbours of the United States. We have a long tradition, and I spoke of this the other night in the House, of cooperation with the United States in matters of defence. That cooperation has been extended now, since the terrible events of 9/11, to include our binational planning group, working on the border to ensure it is enforceable and to ensure we do not have to worry about security on the border. Now we are working outside with the United States on other initiatives.
For example, the other night I referred to the recent non-proliferation security initiative in which we have joined. We have done this to ensure that North America is secure, not only by securing ourselves here and taking reasonable measures here, but even beyond that, outside.
I have been very proud to stand with my colleague Colin Powell at international meetings and say that Canada is with the United States in trying to ensure that non-proliferation takes place. I am proud to say that Canada is with the United States in ensuring that containers coming to North America are not loaded with weapons. Canada is with the United States as we go out into the world to make it a safer place. This is not only for us but for everyone. That is the context in which it seems to me we have to approach this motion.
I would urge the member from Halifax, who talks about this administration and star wars and all this rhetoric, that this is not the way neighbours discuss things with one another, at least not neighbours who wish to have neighbourly relations, neighbours who genuinely respect one another. Even if it is only a matter of respect, do we not owe it to our neighbours and friends in the United States to say that even though they have an idea, we may have some problems with it, but we will discuss it them, then take it from there? Let us not start by creating a sense of what it is not.
I said the other night in the House that it is not star wars. The member for Halifax repeats this over and over again. This is a deliberate attempt to try and confuse people to believe that this is something like what President Reagan proposed years ago. It is nothing like that, and many members have pointed it out. It is a defence system that is in a totally different international climate. It is a series of interceptors based on land and on sea which will go up and deal with the missile that is coming in.
There is no reason to suggest that this will result in the weaponization of space. Canada being involved in the discussions can make that case more coherently and cogently than if we are not. Our colleague recently asked the member for St. John's if he did not think we could have more influence on this if we were sitting there talking to them, than if we refused to discuss it with them. If we are concerned about the weaponization of space, then let us be there. Let us be in Norad. Let us make it a part of what we are doing. Someone who is not a partner will have no influence at all.
There are voices in the United States that talk about the weaponization of space. As I said in the House the other night, it is clear those voices are losing ground at the moment, not gaining ground. Their ideas for doing some research has been pushed off from 2008 to 2012. This is simply the research that has been pushed off to 2012.
To point this out as being the weaponization of space is not helping us and Canadians come to a rational way of analyzing the nature of the issue and the problem.
We also do not know anything about the issue of cost, which is not on the table, or the issues raised by my colleagues.
To conclude, I will come back to my proposal.
The United States is committed to developing this program. After all the reasons put forward as to why it may or may not make sense, the Americans, under Clinton and the current President, have decided to go ahead. I respectfully suggest that it will happen whether we participate or not. If we do participate, we can influence its development. If we do not, all the issues that have been referred to will be dealt with and we will not be there at the table.
Let us discuss it with the United States. If we have significant problems with it, we do not need to go ahead. I suggest, given the climate, the context of North American defence and our relationship with our United States neighbours, we owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves to discuss these measures with them. That is what the government is doing in this case, nothing more and nothing less.