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House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was missiles.

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A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting supplementary estimates (B) for the financial year ending March 31, 2004, was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Supplementary Estimates (B), 2003-04Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I have a copies of the supplementary estimates documents for 2003-04 and a list of the recommended distributions to the appropriate standing committees for consideration of the supplementary estimates.

I also have copies of the supplementary estimates for the Prime Minister, leaders of the parties in the House, and the Treasury Board critics of the opposition parties, and of course, copies will be available for all other members.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, re-elected as the co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

Constitution Act, 2004Routine Proceedings

February 19th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-486, an act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867.

Mr. Speaker, this private member's bill seeks to cap the size of the House of Commons at what it will become after the next election, which is 308 seats.

We do not need to be much of a mathematician to do the mathematics and realize that given our population, if we had the population of the United States, we would have some 3,000 members of Parliament. That would be patently ridiculous of course.

The bill proposes to accommodate any future increase in population which will surely come, as we hope, and accommodate it within the cap of 308. Obviously, by law there has to be future redistributions. They would take place on course, but there would be a changing of the distribution of seats within the cap as per the new demographics of our country.

We are one of the most over-governed countries in the world at all three levels of government, quite frankly, and this bill, if passed, would help address the over-government we have experienced at the federal level.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Canadian Alliance Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today in the House to present six petitions on behalf of citizens of Canada.

The petitioners state that whereas protecting the moral good of society is a natural and serious obligation of elected officials and cannot be left only to religious leaders and institutions; whereas, the defence of traditional marriage as the bond between one man and one woman is a serious and moral good; whereas, marriage as the lasting union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of others cannot and should not be modified by a legislative act or a court of law; whereas, the recent rulings of the appeal courts of Ontario and British Columbia redefining marriage to include same sex partners destroys traditional marriage in law and endangers Canada's social stability and future vitality and health, they request that Parliament take whatever action is required to maintain the current definition of marriage in law”.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 it is my privilege to present to the House a petition dealing with marriage. It is signed by over 400 concerned Canadians.

The petitioners wish to draw to the attention of the House that the traditional male-female institution of marriage is a serious moral good and should not be modified by legislation or the courts. The petitioners pray and request that the Parliament of Canada take every action at its disposal to uphold and protect the current understanding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am in receipt of some 25,000 signatures from Londoners and people of the district of London, Ontario. I present the latest 2,000 such signatures that have been vetted by the appropriate process.

These petitioners call on the Government of Canada to do everything possible to uphold the traditional definition of marriage of the union between one man and one woman which has existed since day one of this country when Confederation occurred in 1867.

The petitioners note that the government has shown inconsistency over the past year or so in its defence of marriage. It calls on the Government of Canada to buck up, be consistent, and defend this most fundamental and important of Canadian institutions.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I always want the government to buck up and to listen up to some more petitions from petitioners who have been busy at my work in my riding and others.

Many, as has already been mentioned, want the government to pass legislation to recognize marriage as the union and lifelong relationship of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have other petitioners who are concerned about the former Bill C-250 which is still making its way through Parliament. They are concerned about their freedom to express their religious opinions without fear of prosecution or persecution.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have several thousand signatures from people, almost all of them from my riding, calling upon Parliament to assist in protecting children and youth from sexual exploitation and abuse. They would like Parliament to take steps to amend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to prohibit the development, purchase and ownership of child pornography.

It is one of the largest petitions that I have presented in the last couple of years. It has between 5,000 and 6,000 signatures. The petitioners say that this is a dastardly deed and they want the government to buck up and fix that problem.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table petitions, literally thousands, that are coming in from Canadians that recognize that the national missile defense program is a unilateral initiative of the U.S. which has plans for dominating the space dimension of military operations in integrating space forces into war fighting capabilities, that no other country in the world supports.

The petition calls upon Parliament to ensure that Canada objects to the national missile defence program and commits to playing a leadership role in banning nuclear weapons and missile flight tests.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition on behalf of the constituents of Prince George—Peace River from the Peace River side of the riding. Constituents from Buick, Montney, Pouce Coupe, Dawson Creek, Farmington, and Baldonnel call upon Parliament to recognize that the majority of the provinces have no intention of enforcing the federal firearms registration law and that it is now costing taxpayers well in excess of $1 billion and counting.

They call upon Parliament not to review the firearms registry, but to wind it up, and reallocate the spending to front line policing and effective controls against the illegal weapons at our borders, airports and ports.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a different set of petitions that I wish to table, also indicating that star wars would clearly undermine Canada's proud tradition of supporting arms control and calling on this Parliament to ensure that Canada does not participate in the star wars missile defence program, that it strongly condemns George Bush's destabilizing plans and that it works instead with our partners in peace for more arms control and to peacefully bring about an end to the production and sale of weapons of mass destruction and any material used to build them.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Sarnia—Lambton Ontario

Liberal

Roger Gallaway LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should oppose the proposed American antimissile defence shield and, therefore, cease all discussions with the Bush administration on possible Canadian participation.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I believe that you will find consent for the following motion:

That at the conclusion of today's debate on the Bloc Quebecois opposition motion, all questions necessary to dispose of this motion be deemed put, a recorded division deemed requested and deferred to the end of government orders on Tuesday, February 24, 2004.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois today about the antimissile defence shield.

From the outset, as I did last week, I would like to explain that I come from a different country than you do, Mr. Speaker. It is not better or worse, but definitely different. With respect to many of the issues raised in this Parliament for the past decade or so, since the Bloc Quebecois arrived here in 1993, we have stood apart from the rest of the members in this House on all issues. Whether we like it or not, Quebec culture is very different and is recognized as being distinct from the culture in the rest of Canada. It is normal for our positions to vary slightly, reflecting the region or country we come from.

Naturally, we have different opinions on the issue of the missile defence shield. I take as an example the whole question of the war in Iraq. In Canada, whether one likes it or not, it was in Quebec that the largest demonstrations took place. In all the big cities in Quebec we stood out by having the highest rate of turnout for the demonstrations. I took part in two or three demonstrations in Montreal, in Arctic weather; there were still 100,000 or 150,000 people in the streets. That was a sign that we in Quebec have a different vision of war and peace.

I would even say that in Quebec we are warriors for peace. The people of Quebec want to find answers to the basic questions, at home and elsewhere on the globe. Quebeckers have a great deal of confidence in mediation, consultation and negotiation, and place great importance on them. This is not a people that wants to impose its will by force—economic, military or other. This is a people that wants to live in harmony both inside and outside its borders, and in the world at large.

It is important to state that right at the beginning. It will not surprise anyone that the motion before us today has been introduced by the Bloc Quebecois. I have seen the Liberal Party's poll statistics,which say we are on the wrong track, because 70% of Canadians appear to support the government's intention to get closer to the Americans through the missile defence shield. There was no breakdown on the numbers, but I am sure that in Quebec the figures are probably reversed. Probably 70% of the people object to the shield and only about 30% say they agree with it.

It is important to provide a clear picture of the situation at the beginning and say that in Quebec we are different and proud of our difference, because we are pacifists. As I said before, and I have said often, the people of Quebec are warriors for peace.

We have already talked about the missile defence shield. The Minister of Foreign Affairs presented a motion in the House to hold a take-note debate and we were able to talk about it at length. Something has made us curious. The minister says that if we are going to discuss the weaponization of space, the government does not want to talk about it. With that, he is ignoring the whole American plan.

Someone in the United States is in possession of the overall plan and that is the Missile Defence Agency. It has submitted a clear multistage plan. First, it involves the installation of about 30 land and sea missiles in autumn of 2004. This autumn. Then, there will be the deployment of 20 additional missiles in 2005 and subsidies to launch studies on the installation of counter-missiles in space. I thought that was important enough to mention. The plan also provides for the installation at sea of giant detection radars and a fleet of detection satellites. It is all in the plan. We are talking about space-based interceptors as early as 2012 and the famous laser-equipped Airborne aircraft that could launch missiles at us. We have many concerns about all of this, and I will come back to them.

To the government which says that it will step out if the weaponization of space is on the agenda, I reply that, by approving our involvement in the plan submitted by the Missile Defence Agency, we have already given our consent to go all the way. We cannot adhere to the first two stages of a plan and then say we will opt out.

I am not sure we are being told all the truth here. I will come back to the lack of transparency.

This has been assessed. Before going along with that kind of policy, the threats have to be assessed. I believe the threats were inadequately assessed by the United States as well as by Canada. If we get on board, we have to know why.

Of course, there are other issues at stake, like our important economic ties and the fact that we have distanced ourselves from the Americans on the Iraqi issue, which was not a good thing. I also realize that one of the main goals of the Prime Minister is rapprochement with the United States. But do we have to do it through the army and the defence shield?

We think the answer is no and that a poor preliminary assessment is to blame. I have three examples with regard to this poor assessment. Would a missile defence shield have prevented three commercial planes from striking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? No. That danger, that threat, is real, and it is worth investing in measures to counter such actions.

My second example: could a missile defence shield prevent a ship 200 km off the American coast from launching a cruise missile on New York, Boston or Los Angeles? No. A missile defence shield could not prevent such an attack. That kind of threat is much more concrete and real than a possible intercontinental missile strike on the United States.

There is one statistic that really bothers me. I am told that only 3% to 4% of containers entering Canadian ports are inspected. According to my calculations, 95% or 96% of these containers are not inspected. I do not want to be dramatic, but a weapon of mass destruction could be placed inside a container entering a port such as Vancouver or Montreal. This is much more likely to happen than an intercontinental missile strike on the United States.

As a result, we think that there has been a poor threat assessment. Why seek to invest so much money in this project? We have an answer. We think it is because of the military industrial complex. In a moment, we will talk about the financial costs. There is also a cost associated with a country's sovereignty, but the financial costs are astronomical. These military companies will profit. The most recent amount, for $700,000, granted by the Minister of National Defence, will go to Raytheon. In my opinion, the assessment is inadequate.

Now, is it possible that a missile will be launched? We need to get one thing straight right now. If a massive attack is launched, even with the system that will be developed in several decades, it will be impossible to stop it. We must go back to what George Bush said. Could a rogue state launch an interbalistic missile attack on us? Often, North Korea and Iran are mentioned. But the situation is already quite critical with regard to China and Russia, because they already have more missiles.

First, I think any country that would launch a missile against the United States would be wiped off the face of the earth. Indeed, the infamous doctrine of mutually assured destruction still holds. In my view, this is very obvious. I fail to see why North Korea, which is currently the only country capable of delivering an atomic missile onto American territory, would cause its own destruction by doing that. So, the risk of an intercontinental ballistic missile attack is minimal. Does this risk justify spending money and breaching the Canadian government's foreign policy? We have to think about this.

As regards technical feasibility, we also wonder if it is possible to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile launched from somewhere in Asia or Russia. At this point in time, we think that the technology is not ready. I will explain why.

So far, nine tests have been conducted and five have succeeded. It must be realized that these tests were conducted in ideal conditions. We knew where the missile was launched from, where the interceptor was located, the time of the launching, the trajectory and, despite all this, four tests failed.

So, let us suppose that a missile is launched without the Americans knowing about it. Sure, NORAD will detect it within five minutes. But the problem is what happens afterwards. It will probably take 20 minutes for the missile to reach American soil. Moreover, the time of launching and the trajectory would not be known. Therefore, the ability to intercept a missile a very questionable.

In terms of costs and technical feasibility, it is almost impossible. In fact, most scientists are saying that they do not see why we should invest that kind of money. However, this may be necessary in the future. Today, we must ask ourselves if this is the kind of spending that we want to make in the future. Later on, I will provide an answer.

At present, in the United States, the government and the Pentagon are estimating that the program will cost between $80 billion and $100 billion. However, Nobel economics laureate Kenneth Arrow of Stanford University contends that, for the project to reach its peak, the costs will be between $800 billion U.S. and $1,200 billion U.S. Here in Canada, some may say we are not looking at the same kind of costs.

We will remember that the Minister of Defence has written to his counterpart, saying he was prepared not only to discuss the terms and recommend a mission change to include the whole space shield issue, but also to share some of the costs. The data provides blatant evidence. In fact, we questioned the minister this week about that. He recently awarded a $700,000 interim contract to Raytheon Canada to upgrade our radar in the Arctic and to participate in a way. An American exercise is scheduled for this summer. Nobody is telling us, but I think that Canada is getting ready to participate in the U.S. program, to track missiles and get involved in the whole space shield deal.

There is price to pay for Canada's sovereignty. For years, Canada has been recognized as a peaceful country. Now, we are getting involved in the Fortress North America, an American concept that is being developed.There is need to defend North America, Canada and the United States. The U.S. is telling Canada, “You have to join us if you want to be protected”.

Until now, we have kept our distance, probably because of the big demonstrations in Quebec. We have kept our distance from the Americans in terms of international policy. I understand the reason for wanting to work more closely together but there will be a price to pay if we go too far.

As a sovereignist, I think there is a price to pay in terms of sovereignty. Canada has always maintained multilateral relations. We have good relations with both Europe and with the U.S.

If we want to get closer to the Americans on the economic level, fine, but I do not agree with using the space shield to get closer to them on the military level. This means that the Canadian government is jumping on the American policy bandwagon as far as international relations and world peace are concerned. Canada gained recognition for its lead role in connection with the anti-personnel landmines treaty, even though the U.S. refused to participate.

Why today, under the pretext of rapprochement with the Americans, are we jumping on the U.S. bandwagon and indicating our intention to follow them on the space shield? There is a price to pay for this. We are at risk of weakening our position in Europe and Asia. People will say that Canada has become a puppet of the Americans. They are participating in a project to turn North America into a fortress, protecting themselves at the expense of international policy, at the expense of multilateral international contacts. Going down that road will, in my opinion, lead to a loss of international credibility

This is particularly the case because being part of the shield implies our adherence to the American doctrine of total domination—domination in the air, domination on the land, domination on the seas. Now the U.S. wants to add one more component: domination of space.

It is clear that this is where the Americans are headed. It is also clear that, if the Canadians follow them on this, we are subscribing to their philosophy and compromising our multilateral connections.

Consequently, as far as foreign policy is concerned, we have nothing to gain by sending a Canadian hawk to perch on the same branch as the American hawk. This is not how to solve anything in Canada.

We in Quebec feel it is far from the solution. On the economic level, as I have said, it is fine. On the military, however, I feel it is extremely dangerous to compromise our relations. We stand to gain nothing militarily by sitting on the same branch as the American hawk.

Why is the government doing this? We in the Bloc Quebecois have been speaking out against the policy void in this country for two years now. There is no national defence policy. There is no foreign policy.

What does that mean? It means that the government thinks it can do whatever it wants. Yes, indeed. The national defence policy dates back to 1994. It is completely outdated. We are living in a different world today, especially since the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Today, our enemy is not even visible anymore. Anyone can appear anywhere armed with a weapon of mass destruction and set it off. That is what is going on in Irak at this moment.

Do you think that if the Americans saw someone dressed in an Iraqi uniform and carrying a gun coming their way, they would let that person approach them? That is not what is happening. It is very ordinary people who come and blow themselves up.

It is commercial planes that were hijacked and flown into the twin towers. It is not intercontinental missiles that hit the towers, but commercial planes.

So there is a huge political void. There is no defence policy and no foreign affairs policy. Moreover, there is an enormous democratic deficit in the issue that is before us today. A handful of civil servants, with the foreign affairs minister and the national defence minister have just decided, on their own, to make a radical change in the Canadian stance on foreign affairs as well as defence.

For weeks, we have been questioning the cabinet ministers about this, because we are concerned by the turn of events. Brigadier General Findley just said that this was a done deal. This does not square with what the foreign affairs minister has been telling us for a long time, “We are gathering information before deciding”. But the officers are telling us it is a done deal.

We have a huge democratic void, to the point where the opposition, through the Bloc Quebecois, has to move a votable motion on this issue today. Finally, we will know the real intentions of each member of this House.

I have to tell you that the Bloc Quebecois will make the vote on this issue a free vote for its members. They will be free to vote according to their conscience. I hope the other parties will follow suit. During the take-note debate on Tuesday night, I heard Liberal members say they were in total disagreement with the present Canadian position.

We will make this a free vote. We have no choice but to condemn the democratic void we have now. I could go on and on, and I could talk about the solutions to our security problem, such as disarmament, diplomacy and international assistance to eliminate poverty.

To conclude, I would like to ask in what kind of world we want to live. What kind of world do we want to leave to our children and grandchildren? Do we want a world in which we will be able to show our children the great open skies and tell them they have a future in space, a world where they will be able to hold their head high? Or do we want a world where deadly devices will fill the skies, so that our children will walk with their heads down for fear that the sky will fall?

I urge my colleagues to vote with the Bloc Quebecois tonight so that we will have a brighter future than the one held out to us now.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault Liberal West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member ended his speech asking what kind of future we want. He also spoke about strengthening our economic ties with the United States.

He is asking if it is honest to say that we will have an economic relationship with a country while refusing to participate in some form of a mutual defence system.

Would it not be more honest for us to admit that we already share a mutual defence system with the United States, that we have been participating in a common defence plan for some time now, with NATO and Norad, and that we see this new initiative as an evolution of Norad?

It is no longer a question of protection against large countries. These days, we must recognize that terrorism and intercontinental ballistic missiles could come from terrorist groups and not from states.

We should discuss that issue. If we do not agree with the weaponization of space, which we all share, are we not better off to be present at the table with our partners and neighbours?

That is my question for the member.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a good question. I want to thank my colleague for asking it.

With regard to security, yes, we agree. However, when we talk about security, we are also talking about threat. I think I was eloquent enough earlier, when I talked about the threat of a commercial aircraft hijacking, of the launching of a cruise missile or the introduction of a weapon of mass destruction in a container. Indeed, this is much more important. In this regard, we are following the Americans. We want to work with them. I do not think this is putting into question the multilateral and international relations that we have always had from the beginning.

As for taking part in a space shield project, which Europe, Asia and Russia are not totally in agreement with, this would put our international relations at risk. This would also put at risk the international reputation of Canada, which is a peace promoting country. Indeed, if we did so, we would be joining in a project that I would qualify as offensive.

The government is trying to convince us that it is a defence project, but when a country has absolutely nothing to fear, it can take all the offensive measures it wants, because it knows it will not be attacked.

As for security, we are following the Americans in everything that has to do with antiterrorism. However, we should not follow them in this missile defence shield initiative.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin with the good news and congratulate the member and the Bloc Québécois for bringing forward this motion, in the sense that, as I said during my remarks a couple of nights ago when we had a take note debate on this very issue, although we differ in our position, I do believe it is incumbent upon Parliament to have a free vote of all members and all parties on this issue and allow members to represent their constituents' views on this important issue.

Two nights ago, I laid out my support for Canada's involvement in the ballistic missile defence shield, so I doubt that I will be speaking today other than on questions and comments, because some of my colleagues would like to address this issue. That addresses the issue of the free vote.

Secondly, I want to raise a concern about the motion itself. I notice that it says we should have no more discussions with the Bush administration. As I pointed out two nights ago, there is an election looming in the United States, as there is in Canada. I wonder why the Bloc Québécois would not have said, if that is its intention, that we should not have any more discussions with the Americans, because after November it might not be the Bush administration. It might be the Kerry administration. Will we then have a whole other debate on this subject and another free vote?

It tends to make me a little suspicious that this motion is all about anti-Americanism and anti-Bush rants rather than getting to the true issue of the defence shield. I am opposed to the motion because it says there should not even be discussions.

My other point is, what evidence can the member provide to the House that this is the burning issue in Quebec? I do not believe that it is.

SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, it has been said that this is an anti-Bush campaign, but for us, this is not the issue at all. It is an anti-antimissile defence shield campaign. If the new administration that will take over after the next election in the United States, whether democrat or republican, maintains its approach as far as the space shield issue is concerned, I can tell my honourable colleague that we will keep on opposing it. It is the principle that we are against, not the Americans. We would still oppose it if the French or the Brits were developing it.

I can tell the member that the largest demonstrations against the war in Iraq took place in Quebec. I have started out by saying that I was from a different country where people are fighting for peace. I can guarantee that Quebeckers will always be against militarization, be it on land, at sea or in space.

In fact, we will prove it to you because we are currently campaigning throughout Quebec and we will table the opinions of Quebeckers on that issue. I think that they support the position of the Bloc Quebecois.