Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the budget tabled yesterday in this House by my colleague, the Minister of Finance.
Once again, the federal budget bears the trademark that Canadians have come to expect from the Liberal government. This is a prudent and balanced budget for the management of public finances. It maintains the sound foundations of our economic success with well targeted tax measures. It also invests in the real priorities expressed by Canadians.
I am pleased that the budget includes a substantial program for the environment. I am pleased that the government is getting involved in the education of young children. However, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am particularly pleased to see the significant amounts earmarked in this budget to expand Canada's role in the world, in defence and security, in development and, of course, in diplomacy.
Whenever I travel abroad, I am always struck by how Canada is respected and appreciated. Our unique and distinct identity is reflected abroad through our values, our actions and the responsibilities that we assume. Whether it is the contribution by our troops and police officers in maintaining peace and civil order in Haiti and Afghanistan, by our volunteers in Africa, or by our consular officers in the countries hit by the tsunami, that presence is what makes Canada truly different. This identity and the priority that will guide our government's initiatives abroad will be presented in a foreign policy statement which, I can assure the House, will soon be released.
The measures in this budget will allow Canada to assert itself even more confidently throughout the world.
It is a truism that modern foreign policy is a three D effort. Diplomacy, defence and development must all be harnessed together in a single coherent framework. The budget strengthens all three elements. It brings significant new funds for defence and development, and lays the essential foundation for transformation into a foreign ministry of the 21st century, embarking on a path toward a new diplomacy in tune with the aspirations and capabilities of Canadians.
One thing is clear. Canadians want their country to play a prominent leadership role in world affairs. They want us to defend Canadian interests and to promote Canadian values, and to do so with vigour, determination and intelligence. The budget takes some significant steps that deliver on the government's pledge to enhance Canada's place in the world.
To reinforce Canada's diplomatic capabilities over the next three years, we will boost the number of Canada's representatives abroad. Some $42 million will be invested in this over the next five years. This recognizes the essential value of Canada's global network of embassies and consulates to our security and prosperity, and the need to effectively employ the knowledge and skills of our diplomatic personnel on the international stage.
We are also committing some $40 million over the next five years to public diplomacy, which confirms the importance of the international activities of Canadian artists and scholars. We are also working with organizations like the Forum of Federations which will receive an endowment of some $20 million to support its international activities in the Asia Pacific foundations, which will benefit from a $50 million endowment.
Our international assistance will be increased by $3.4 billion over the next five years. This will add significantly to the contribution that Canada is able to make to international development. From this envelope, some $172 million will be devoted to a new Canadian debt relief initiative.
In the area of defence and security, I would like to underscore the important investments that are being made in the Canadian Forces. Almost $13 billion in new money will be spent over the next five years. This is the largest five year increase in the last two decades. It delivers on the commitment to expand the Canadian Forces by 5,000 additional troops and 3,000 new reserves. This will significantly enhance Canada's military capabilities and enable us to project them overseas more effectively in support of our foreign policy goals. The new funding is a mark of our determination to transform the Canadian Forces so it is better structured to respond to the new asymmetric threat environment at home and abroad.
These investments are important because we face a security environment dramatically different than during the cold war. While prospects of nuclear war and tensions between superpowers have diminished, prospects of asymmetrical threats have risen.
Advances in technology have made threats more portable and harder to detect. And, the targets are increasingly innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure.
In a world where we face so many unpredictable threats, the strengthening and adaptation of our 3D, defence, diplomacy and development, approach is essential. If we are to play a leading role in advancing peace and stability, and meet the challenges posed by global terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and failed and failing states, we must ensure we are prepared to respond to emerging dangers.
The budget is an important step in achieving these goals. It contains a commitment of an additional $100 million in each of the next five years for global peace and security, for a total of $500 million. This money will go to funding a number of initiatives that will enable Canada to act decisively and effectively in addressing international security challenges.
These initiatives will include renewal of the Human Security Program and a $20 million contribution to support the African Union mission in Darfur.
I should also mention another measure closely focussed on the security of Canadian citizens: the $59 million in funding for increased security at our missions overseas. This money will ensure that Canadians working for our country's interests do so in the safest possible conditions.
There is no greater responsibility for this government than the security of our citizens and the defence of Canada. That is why, almost one year ago, we put in place an integrated national security strategy that addresses the full spectrum of threats to our security, whether it be in Canada, within North America or internationally.
We have supported this comprehensive approach with major investments in our security and defence infrastructure. In fact, since budget 2001, we have invested over $8.3 billion—not including today's numbers—on security and defence priorities ranging from border security to intelligence to emergency preparedness and air security.
The Government of Canada also understands the importance of a strong partnership and collaboration in providing the security of North America. We have a long and proud tradition of cooperation with the United States in the defence of North America. In this regard, the budget confirmed an investment of some $433 million over the next five years in border security.
Whether it is on the Smart Borders Action Plan or in strengthening Norad, we have worked closely and effectively with our U.S. partners because we are deeply committed to our own security, the security of North America and to our partnerships.
That collaboration goes beyond North America because we know that ensuring our security must start well beyond our borders. Canada and the United States are partners overseas cooperating to address the challenges posed by terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and failed and failing states.
In Afghanistan and Haiti, we have worked side by side to promote stability and security. In the Middle East, Canada is providing training. In Iraq, we are providing reconstruction assistance. We are also collaborating on efforts to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Iran is a case in point.
This cooperation with the United States will continue. Indeed, the government's decision to invest in the Canadian Forces, as we demonstrated in yesterday's budget, will reinforce our ability to contribute to joint security initiatives. At the same time, it is important that the government weigh its priorities and review them carefully from the perspective of Canada's national interest.
There has been one other security issue which has attracted considerable attention in recent years, but which is not referred to in the budget. I am referring to the question of whether Canada will participate in the United States ballistic missile defence system. I would like to take this opportunity to inform the House of the government's position on this important subject.
The government has been studying the issue of missile defence for some time. We have been in close contact with our counterparts in Washington. The U.S. has weighed the risk to its citizens and territory against available resources, and has decided to proceed with deployment of a missile defence system. This is their right, and we understand and respect their decision.
Canada, however, must act in its own interests, and must determine where its own priorities lie. We must determine where investments will bring the greatest tangible results. After careful consideration of the issue of missile defence, we have decided that Canada will not participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence system at this time.
This will not in any way diminish our ongoing cooperation with the United States. Security remains our shared priority. As part of the renewal of Norad, the government is exploring new and innovative ways to work with the United States in defence of North America, including a more integrated approach to countering maritime threats, development of a more comprehensive plan to deal with threats and emergencies affecting our two countries, and new military-to-military arrangements for the support of civilian authorities during crises.
We will continue our efforts to enhance the protection of North America, as set out in the new partnership statement that President Bush and Prime Minister Martin announced on November 30. We will work closely to build on the success of Smart Borders and engage Mexico to join our defence and security framework so that we may better align our roles, priorities and interests.
We will consider all options carefully, and we will pursue our priorities vigorously. We have already identified areas like border security and maritime security requiring enhanced binational cooperation and new resources. And, as we demonstrated in yesterday's Budget, we are committed to investing in these areas.
The government understands the importance of working with the United States on continental defence, and in the pursuit of peace and stability internationally. These are priorities for us and we will continue to make decisions that serve these goals. In doing so our guiding lights are and shall remain: Canada's interests and the security of Canadian citizens.
I call on all parties in the House to explain to our fellow citizens on both sides of the border the considerations our country has given to this decision. We must also respect our neighbour who has decided to move forward with the ballistic missile defence. On this side of the House, we believe we have made this decision based on policy principles and not on sheer emotion.
The message of the 2005 Budget is very clear. The government is making a critical investment in Canada's international stature. It shows that the government is listening to Canadians and understands that they want their government engaged actively and making a difference in the world.