Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that the NDP will support the motion before the House today. We support the Canadian military having the best equipment and support possible. At the NDP convention in September, during a plenary meeting on foreign policy, the party supported just such a motion and an even more specific motion, offering support to the men and women of the Canadian armed forces.
What does support for our troops really mean? Does it mean providing the best possible equipment and fair pay and benefits? Absolutely. In the 2005 budget, which my party renegotiated, NDP members supported an increase in military spending. We realized that the Liberal cuts of the past had hurt soldiers and their families and had undermined Canada's ability to carry out humanitarian and peacekeeping missions.
Does it mean providing compensation and adequate support once our soldiers retire? Absolutely. That is why the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, the NDP veterans affairs critic, put forward the veterans' first motion. That motion was passed in the House, but we have had no indication from the government whether it will respect the will of the House. His motion supports getting rid of the so-called gold digger clause so second spouses of Canadian Forces members and veterans have access to pension rights after veterans' deaths.
It supports extending the veterans independence program to all widows of all veterans, regardless of the veteran's time of death or whether the veteran was in receipt of VIP services prior to his or her death. It supports increasing the survivor's pension amount to 66% from the current 50% so military pensions are more in line with the pensions of civil servants. It supports eliminating the unfair reduction of the service income security insurance plan long term disability benefits for medically released members of the Canadian Forces. It also supports eliminating the deduction from annuity for retired and disabled Canadian Forces members. These are excellent proposals supported by a majority vote in the House and the government should move to implement them to really show support for our troops.
I have asked the minister on several occasions, both here and in committee, about support for soldiers who get a pay cut when they are wounded and return to Canada. Members of the forces who are wounded and return from Afghanistan for medical reasons lose their danger pay. Along with the pain and anguish of having a wounded father or mother, families now have to cope with losing money that they were expecting and had planned on when they did their budgeting.
The minister promised he would fix it. He told me in October that it would only be a matter of weeks. Now the weeks have come and gone and there is still no resolution to this problem. The government should show its support for the troops by simply fixing this problem. It cannot be that difficult.
Supporting our troops also means telling our soldiers how long they will be away from their families. There have been claims made that to sustain our commitment in Afghanistan until 2009, we may have to extend rotations from six to nine months. There has been talk of re-rolling airmen and sailors to Afghanistan. In question period I asked the Minister of National Defence to clarify this and to give some assurances to military families about how long their loved ones would be deployed. He gave no definitive answer. He was very vague, in fact.
Does supporting our troops mean supporting each and every mission, without question, where cabinet decides to send the Canadian Forces? I think not. One of our main roles here as members of Parliament is to hold the executive of government to account. We cannot be mere cheerleaders for the spending and misadventures of the executive branch of government.
The most significant decision that any government can make is to send our forces into harm's way in war. The most important role of opposition members of Parliament is to ask the tough questions, to prod the government to ensure that when members of the Canadian Forces are put in harm's way, it is done with good reason. There are many instances in our past where this decision was made for all the right reasons, but that cannot stop us from questioning the decisions of prime ministers to go to war.
Many people may not realize that the military does not get to say no. When the previous Liberal government announced its deployment to Afghanistan, it gave the top generals 45 minutes notice, and they could not say no to the government. Questioning missions and motives is not the role of our soldiers. It is something that we must do as parliamentarians. Supporting our troops should be more than just a slogan. It should be more than just rhetoric. It should be real.