This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was troops.

Topics

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, what is shameful is this irresponsible motion put forth by the NDP. I do not even think the member listened to what she said. We cannot have peace without security.

I want to ask her a specific question. A recent report by the highly respected group, Human Rights Watch, a group with which I am sure the member opposite is familiar, noted that the Taliban tactics employed in the south of Afghanistan, specifically their blatant attacks against the civilian population, are clearly war crimes. For example, in the Helmand province, Taliban extremists resorted to the use of human shields, specifically local Afghan children, to escape fire. Last week there was a video of a young boy beheading a Pakistani man accused of betraying the Taliban.

The NDP motion calls for a diplomatic solution. I would like to know if this is the same extremist group that the member's party wishes to negotiate with. Can we actually contemplate withdrawing from Afghanistan right now? Is the NDP willing to let Afghanistan fall back into the hands of these murderous tyrants, those who hold public mass executions? Is that what the member wants?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course any civilized person is horrified at the human rights abuses that take place within Afghanistan by insurgents and by others.

I have consistently said that Canada has a role to play. We want it to be an effective role to bring peace and security to Afghanistan.

In terms of peace negotiations and discussions, President Karzai himself said that was the way to bring peace to his country. There must be dialogue and discussion and it must include all of the affected parties.

Winston Churchill himself said, “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war”.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis ConservativeSecretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

I am honoured to stand in the House to discuss our mission in Afghanistan and to speak against this irresponsible and immoral motion.

I am also very proud to stand here today to defend our troops, our aid workers and diplomats who are making a real difference on the ground for the Afghan people.

I wish to share with members some of the remarkable news about the advancement on women's rights in Afghanistan and how Canada is playing a leading role.

Before I talk of the successes, let us recap where women in Afghanistan were six years ago under the Taliban regime.

It was not uncommon for adult women to be beaten by the Taliban's religious police for simply showing a portion of their skin. Women were not allowed to work. Nor were women allowed to go outside unless they were accompanied by a man. Sadly, we know of instances where a woman's bones would break when she gave birth. She was not allowed to go outside and because of that she did not get the sunshine and the vitamin D she needed to support her bones.

Making matters worse, women were not allowed to be doctors and those who were doctors, the Taliban did not allow them to practise. Women had no access to health care. They could not vote. They could not run for public office. They could not express their opinion. They could not own land. They could not own a business. Sadly, young girls were not allowed to be educated under the Taliban regime. This went on for 30 years. An enormous part of Afghanistan's population cannot read and write. I was also disturbed to hear that under Taliban daughters were given as debt repayment.

Thanks to our Canadian troops, our diplomats and our aid workers and the strong resolve of the Afghan people, times are changing.

I returned from Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago. I found it unbelievable, having been there on the ground and spoken to so many women and children, to see what the military presence was doing in allowing them to grow and develop. I was shocked and could not believe the NDP could even possibly suggest that we leave Afghanistan.

Members of the NDP like to claim they support women's rights. That is completely contradictory. They also like to claim they support basic human rights. What do they think we are doing in Afghanistan? The Afghan people cannot have development if they do not have the security. According to the NDP members, the military presence has not prevented any of the criminal behaviour or murders that have gone on, so we should leave as though it will not change. That is ridiculous.

In my opinion, the NDP is a party of hypocrites, a party of neophytes who do not realize that without security there can be no development. They say they support our troops, but not the mission. The Afghan people, our troops, our aid workers and our diplomats are the mission. It shows that the NDP, just like the Liberals, do not see the advances being made for Afghan women.

In February I met with Ms. Siddiqi, the Afghan woman and member of parliament, who I spoke of earlier. She just gave birth to her first baby boy, and I congratulate her on that. She has been a fierce advocate for women's rights in Afghanistan. I find it hard to understand how she can be so incredibly strong, and I admire that. She has a $500,000 bounty on her head because she believes in what she is doing, she believes in what the international community is doing for Afghanistan and she is standing up for women's rights. This bounty exists for her for no other reason than the Taliban want her dead because she is a woman in politics.

How can NDP members, members of a party that brags about the number of women in its caucus, look her in the eye and say that they are not going to help her, that they want our troops home, that they are going to abandon her in her time of need?

That is not the Conservative way, and that is certainly not the Canadian way, to cut and run when the going gets tough.

When I hear the NDP and the Liberals question why we are in Afghanistan, I remain astounded at their fundamental lack of understanding or appreciation of the good that we are doing. When I think about why Canada is in Afghanistan, I think of just how clear our mission is and how it has been from the very beginning.

The purpose of our mission is to help a democracy take root and support its people, the very people who have lived under 30 years of conflict and oppression and have asked for our help. They have asked us to be in Afghanistan to help rebuild their nation.

When I was in Kabul only a few weeks ago, I met a widow from the rural provinces outside the city. She travelled over seven hours to see me, and not by car. She had eight children, four girls and four boys. Her husband, like many, was killed by the Taliban. The family became impoverished, since women were banned from working. She was so poor that she could not afford her children and had to give the four girls up to the orphanage so they would not starve.

When the international community cleared the Kabul area of the Taliban and started micro-financing initiatives, she took out a micro-loan from an agency, in part funded by Canada. Canada is the leading donor for the micro-finance program in Afghanistan. She bought a cow. She used the cow for milk. She makes cream, yogourt and cheese and she sells this at the local market now. She has repaid the loan. She bought another cow and now she has enough money to support her family. She has told me that at the end of this month she will be able to get her girls back from the orphanage and then they will be able to go to school for the first time.

This is proof of progress. If we leave, as the NDP suggests and as the Liberals hint, then the Taliban will simply come in and end this progress. Under the Taliban, women could not own businesses nor could girls go to school. I wonder if anyone in the NDP sees this connection. Without security, these kinds of success stories cannot happen. Let us not forget that 5.4 million children now go to school and one-third of those are girls.

I had an opportunity to visit a school when I was in Afghanistan. No less than 20 girls, all around the age of 13, were for the first time going to school. What did they say to me? The only words they could say in English were “thank you”. What an incredible experience for me. Those girls will become a new generation of literate young women who will help lead their country. What does the NDP think will happen to those girls if the Taliban are permitted to once again take power?

It is time to stop the rhetoric of supporting our troops, but not supporting the mission. The troops are the mission. The international community believes in this mission. It is UN-sanctioned and NATO-led. Sixty countries developed the plan for Afghanistan. The Afghanistan government asked us to be there to implement it for them.

As I conclude, let me quote from a member of the House, who said:

It's not a question of should we be in Afghanistan. Yes, we should; we need to be...

Who said that? It was the former NDP leader, the current foreign affairs critic and member from Halifax. I agree with her. We need to be there. Perhaps her caucus should listen to her.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the member speak to the situation in Afghanistan.

I am continually in communication with the member for Halifax, who is our foreign affairs spokesperson. She said exactly what the member said she said, and I say exactly what the critic for foreign affairs said. We have never ever advocated abandoning the people of Afghanistan. I do not know how much more clearly we can say that.

We have always said that we were opposed to the counter-insurgency, search and destroy mission that Canada is involved in right now. We do not believe it can bring peace and security to the people of Afghanistan. We say that, recognizing that security is an element of what is needed in Afghanistan, but not through the barrel of guns, tanks and bombs from airplanes. There are better ways to do it. Canada has demonstrated better ways of doing it in the past. We can do that again.

She talked about the women in Afghanistan. One of the women in my riding is from Kandahar province. In fact, she is an OB/GYN. She grew up in Kandahar, was educated there and left when the Soviets invaded. She has family in Kandahar province right now. She came to see me to talk about the escalating insecurity for her family in Kandahar now and how much less security and less peaceful they felt right now while the Canadians ware there.

I ask the member to take off the rose-coloured glasses and address, in a real way, the situation of the women in Afghanistan.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must be hitting the right buttons for her to accuse me of seeing through rose-coloured glasses.

Again, I will talk about some of the women who I spoke with in Afghanistan. One in particular, Rona Tareen, is a women's advocate within Kandahar city. Unfortunately, her predecessor was assassinated just a few months ago and now she has stepped into this leading role. Her predecessor was assassinated because she was a woman standing up for women's rights in Kandahar.

This is an incredibly brave woman. She told me what it was like in Kandahar under the Taliban before we arrived. She told me about how her little girl, who is 13 years of age, could not go to school. Now, for the first time, her daughter goes to school, and she is so proud of that. She told me how me she appreciated what we were doing.

Members should not kid themselves. Afghans know exactly what is going on. They know there is a certain element in the political parties and the NDP saying we should not be there. They do not understand and are actually a little nervous about it. They do not want us to leave. They do not want us to turn our back on them. That was the message I got from the women.

What does the hon. member say to a woman when she asks that we not turn our backs on them? Maybe the member could answer that question for me?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I point out for the secretary of state that the woman about whom she spoke, the advocate for women's rights from Kandahar, Afghanistan, was the same woman who asked for protection and did not receive it. This is a very clear example of where the mission is not working.

I listened to the member's comments. She has said that we are in Afghanistan to defend democracy, equality and women's rights. It seems very incongruous to me that on that basis the Canadian government is spending ten times the amount on the military mission than it is on aid and development and reconstruction. Canada has spent now over $4 billion on the military effort.

The leader of the NDP pointed out earlier, as did the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, who has done a great job on this issue, that the government is now in confusion and chaos about its mission. We get different strategies and timetables about when Canada will be exiting. Why is the secretary of state not answer those questions?

There was a motion in the House—

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Sorry, we have to give the secretary of state some time to respond.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, other incredible progress is going on in Afghanistan, having had a chance to speak with no less than nine women who have been recipients of the micro-finance program. Again, Canada is the leading donor for micro-finance.

When we see micro-finance set up in other nations and developing countries, it usually takes 20 years for the program to be sustainable. The one in Afghanistan will be sustainable in five years. The Afghan people are at three years now and they tell us they will be on track for five years.

What does that say about the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women? Some 98% of the loans, on average about $100 Canadian, are repaid. Of all those loans, 72% are for women. They can now feed their families and children. Some of those women walked seven to eight hours to say “thank you” to me. They asked me to take a message back to Canada, asking us not to leave. They also know what the NDP and the opposition are up to here. They do not understand from where the parties are coming.

I go back to Rona Tareen, who was very clear in her message to Canada. She thanks us and appreciates everything we are doing. She wonders why we are having this conversation.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleagues, I stand here today to say—without hesitation—that I will not support this motion put forward by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth. This motion is based on an erroneous assumption. It assumes that development and diplomacy can be undertaken successfully in Kandahar without the crucial support provided by our Canadian Forces.

In the Afghan compact, which we signed along with the government of Afghanistan and members of the international community over a year ago, we recognized that success in this mission would require efforts along three lines: security, governance and development. The document said that progress in each of these three areas was crucial, and must happen concurrently.

In fact, the document called these three areas critical and interdependent. It says that security, governance and development are all pillars of this mission, implying that together they hold up the mission. And if you pull one of the pillars out, the mission will collapse.

Because we are pursuing efforts on all three fronts we are making progress in Afghanistan. Infrastructure is being rebuilt; the economy is growing; the government is establishing its authority and women and children are enjoying freedoms they were not allowed before. These signs of progress are a result of the security that our troops are helping to provide.

So when the member for Toronto—Danforth proposes that we put an end to the Canadian Forces contribution to this mission, he is essentially proposing that we undermine the pursuit of diplomacy and development in Afghanistan as well.

However, let us now listen to what other Canadians have to say on this matter. Appreciation for our Canadian Forces efforts in Afghanistan is being expressed across the country. From Bedford, Nova Scotia, a young boy wrote to our troops in Afghanistan. He said:

I am 10 years old, and in grade 5. What I want to say is, tonight I am at home, enjoying my book, my playstation, and my family. I am very comfortable. I know you are away from home, away from your things, and very uncomfortable. I want to say thank you, from me and from my family, for all that you do. Keep safe.

From Bradford, Ontario, it is just a simple message and straight to the point. It states:

Thank you so much. Afghanistan is now getting the help it needs to become a safer and better country. You guys and girls are amazing.

From Vancouver, B.C., the message states:

I have moments of deep frustration; I see the desolation and poverty on my streets, and I wonder why the government has chosen to put our brave soldiers in a war on foreign soil, when we have so many lost battles here. Then I realize that there are battles that only soldiers can fight and battles that only civilians can fight. Thank you for fighting the war that I cannot fight...My faith in the importance of protecting freedom is firm.

From Winnipeg, Manitoba, it states:

Watching our country's recent rededication of the Vimy Ridge Memorial, what moved me the most was near the end as the camera panned the crowd and there was a soldier--possibly retired--holding a picture of relatives in WWI military attire, possibly survivors of Vimy. Our country has a long history of helping others, even if sometimes it means laying down our lives. All of you in our Armed Services deserve our gratitude, our respect. Thank you.

From Yukon, it states:

You are all the ultimate “Team Canada”! There aren't words enough to describe my deep gratitude for your courage and personal sacrifice in the service of our country. All I can offer is a sincere and heartfelt thank you!

These are messages that have been sent to our troops in Afghanistan. These have all been written in just the last few months.

Canadians recognize that the security being established by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan is ultimately connected to the security we enjoy here in Canada. They recognize that the diplomatic and development efforts that are improving the lives of Afghans are possible precisely because the Canadian Forces are there. They recognize that some jobs in this world, unfortunately, require military force. They recognize that this mission continues a long Canadian tradition of helping others in need. And at the end of the day, Canadians just want to say thanks.

If members of the House still question the need for the security provided by the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, they do not need to accept the words of those Canadians either. Appreciation for the vital contributions of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan is also voiced by experts, diplomatic experts, in fact. Nigel Fisher, the head of UNICEF Canada said just last week that “a strong international military presence is needed now” and he said it will be needed for years to come.

Allow me to provide a substantive example of exactly how the work of our men and women in uniform is improving the daily lives of the Afghan people. For the last two weeks Canadian troops have been supporting an operation called “Op Achilles”, ISAF's largest operation with the Afghan national security forces to date. The intent of Op Achilles is to disrupt Taliban plans and establish security in the area of the Sangin Valley, a part of Helmand province that borders Kandahar province.

For the people of Afghanistan, the impact of security and, sadly, the impact of insecurity is very real. For instance, just north of the Sangin Valley is the Kajaki dam and powerhouse. The Kajaki dam is the largest dam in Afghanistan and it is the prime source of hydro electricity for the south. The hundreds of thousands of Afghans who live in Kandahar City, among others, depend on that dam for power and water.

In the fall and early spring, the dam's power output was wavering, but due to ISAF efforts, the supply of electricity to Kandahar City was sustained and now work can proceed on the dam's refurbishment project. This project aims to almost double the dam's electrical power output and triple irrigation capacity in the region. The Kajaki dam project is expected to benefit almost two million Afghans.

The economic and social impact of such a project will be enormous, but this project can proceed only if ISAF follows through on its commitment to provide the necessary security for the engineers and labourers to do their work. So when members talk about pulling the Canadian Forces out of Afghanistan today, they will jeopardize countless projects just like this.

Reconstruction and development cannot happen without security forces in place to help provide that necessary security. We do not want to leave the Afghans without light, heat and water, and we certainly do not want to leave them to live in a region that will be retaken by murderous insurgents. We do not want to leave them to suffer more bombs in the markets, more mines hidden cunningly on the side of the road, more gunmen terrorizing the streets, but that is exactly what we would be doing if we pulled our Canadian Forces out.

If we pull our military out now, the impact of the resulting insecurity would be heart-wrenching. For the sake of the Afghan people and for the sake of the Canadians who want to help them, I cannot support this motion.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member to comment on what his understanding is in terms of when this mission will end.

As he is probably aware, in May 2006 there was a vote in the House of Commons to extend this mission to February 2009. It was very narrowly approved by a vote of 149 to 145, so it was a very close vote. A number of Liberals, as we know, voted with the government. We have that on the record.

However, since then we have had very conflicting information from the Minister of National Defence and from military officials who are planning to extend this mission beyond 2009. We have heard 2011, 2015 and even beyond that, so I think it is very important in this debate.

We are calling for withdrawal now, but we would like to hear from the government a very clear position regarding the exit strategy. Is it 2009? Is it beyond that? We hear of these other plans that are in the department that the Minister of National Defence is not able to clarify and provide adequate information to Canadians.

I would ask the hon. member to tell his constituents and all Canadians when this mission will end.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point I would like to underline is that the motion we are discussing today is a reckless motion regarding the safety and security of our Canadian Forces and their operations in Afghanistan.

Our government brought before the House a debate and the House voted on extending the mission until 2009. We will respect that vote that was taken right here in the House. In terms of what will happen in 2009, that is two years away. We are focused on the here and now.

I have already listed some of the accomplishment that we have realized in Afghanistan. My colleagues have spoken about the re-establishment of security, the rebuilding of facilities, the rebuilding of villages, and stabilizing the economy. These are all pluses that are occurring thanks to our participation in this mission and the participation of other countries. As we proceed, we will continue to evaluate.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I will try and keep this very short and allow my colleague time to address my concerns.

The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam from the NDP was saying how in her assessment this mission was senseless and that it was misguided. Somehow the NDP seems to be living under this illusion that we can somehow deliver aid and assistance to the Afghanistan people without providing security.

She also said, and I wrote it down because I wanted to make sure I got it accurately, “There are better ways to achieve security”. That is what she said.

I know my colleague had a long and distinguished career in the Canadian Forces. I wonder whether, with his experience, he would be able to identify any ways that the Canadian Forces could actually achieve security through better ways than what they are attempting to do now because the NDP has failed to do that in the debate thus far?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague pointed out, I did serve in our Canadian Forces for 20 years in the army. In order to respond to his question I would like to say that there is no better way to establish security in Afghanistan than the way in which we are doing it now.

We are working with our Canadian Forces. We are working with the forces of other nations. We are working with the Afghanistan security forces to bring about physical security within Afghanistan.

Within that umbrella of physical security, we are able to deliver important projects. We are able to deliver food aid, launch vaccination programs, rebuild bridges, schools and road networks. It is under this umbrella of security that we are able to accomplish what we are accomplishing today.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I am somewhat puzzled by this motion on the part of the NDP. I started wondering why, after voting down a specific end to the combat role of our mission, it would bring forward a motion that it knows for all practical purposes is not going to be approved by the House. Obviously it is either a pursuit of some ideological purity, which baffles me, or some partisan calculations to do some damage control for having voted against the Liberal motion last Tuesday.

As we well know, in May 2006 Parliament voted to extend Canada's mission in southern Afghanistan until February 2009. The Conservative government rushed that motion through the House and gave parliamentarians little information and only six hours of debate. The Prime Minister's desire to play politics with this very important issue played a large part in the way that motion was handled by the Conservative Party.

This past Tuesday, as I said, Parliament voted on a Liberal motion that sought to ensure the departure date of 2009 was honoured. NDP members have made it clear how they feel about Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Clearly, they want the combat mission in southern Afghanistan to end.

In light of that, they had a choice to make last Tuesday. They could have voted for that Liberal motion and, with the Liberal opposition, sent a clear message calling for an end to our combat role in southern Afghanistan by the end of February 2009.

I should note, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Richmond Hill.

Obviously if the Liberal motion had passed Canadians would have clarity on when the combat role was going to end. Our NATO allies would have clarity as to what arrangements they might need to make in case other troops from other jurisdictions might be needed. The government and people of Afghanistan would also know that our combat role would come to an end. This does not mean that our mission would come to an end in February 2009 but that our combat role would.

However, that did not happen, because the NDP voted to support the Conservative government in defeating that motion. The NDP knows realistically that the troops will remain in Afghanistan until 2009. As long as NDP members continue to vote with the Conservatives to oppose our efforts to put a deadline on the combat role, that combat role will continue until 2009. As well, the government is not at any time soon going to bring forward a motion to end the combat role any earlier than 2009.

As a result of what the NDP has done, what may in fact happen is that the government may bring forward a motion to extend this combat role for our troops beyond 2009. Of course, that means the government, as it wishes, would have an open-ended power to continue the combat role beyond 2009 if it so chooses.

Today the NDP has put forward a motion that calls for Canada to break its word to Afghanistan, as I have said, and to our NATO partners. It knows that this motion has no chance of success. I must say with a great deal of regret that this is highly irresponsible and unrealistic.

Whatever one may think of the way in which the mission was extended to 2009 or the way the Conservative government has handled this mission, the fact remains that Canada made a commitment on the world stage to the people and government of Afghanistan, to our NATO allies and to the rest of the world. Such a commitment cannot be taken lightly. No responsible political party can ever or should ever lightly turn its back on any international commitment signed by Canada and approved by this Parliament.

What the Conservative government did in the way it rushed the extension was not to my liking. I voted against that extension, but the fact is that we have given our word to Afghanistan through a legitimate government of our country and we cannot go back on that word.

We need to provide some notice to our NATO allies. If this motion passes, arranging a replacement force in the wake of an immediate Canadian departure, as the motion demands, would be nearly impossible. NATO and our other allies require notice. We have to work with them to deal with this issue.

The behaviour of the NDP lays bare its willingness to give the Conservative government a pass, as demonstrated in the last federal election, even if the end result is to produce an outcome absolutely contrary to its policies and its stated values. In the last election, a right-wing Conservative government took over. In the way that NDP members defeated the Liberal motion by supporting the Conservative government, they have given a blank cheque to that government for an open-ended mission, possibly beyond 2009.

NDP members can criticize the mission and they can say that troops should be withdrawn immediately, but when they back the Conservative government and risk indefinite extension of the mission in the process, anything else they say rings hollow. The talk does not match the actions. That party does not live up to the responsibility a responsible political party should have.

The NDP is not standing up in an effective way for what Canadians want. Those members obviously do not have respect for Canada's word on the international stage. They had a chance to join with the Liberals and the Bloc Québécois to deliver a clear message on behalf of the Canadian people to the Conservative government, but they failed. They stumbled.

Now they are trying to undo the political damage that they may have done to themselves n their own constituencies. The NDP chose to risk the extension of the very mission it opposed beyond 2009. That is a possibility. Given the NDP's position on this mission, it is incomprehensible to me why those members did what they did with respect to the Liberal motion.

A Liberal government would clearly commit to ending Canada's combat role in Kandahar in 2009 and would immediately inform NATO of this deadline to ensure it would be able to locate a suitable replacement for Canada. We feel that this is the most responsible approach under the circumstances and that it strikes a balance between the extreme approaches of the NDP on the one hand and the Conservatives on the other. Therefore, I will be opposing this motion.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hardly know where to begin to address the comments by the member for Vancouver South.

As for the Liberal motion that was before the House on Monday night and on which we voted, it would continue, unchanged, the search and destroy mission, the counter-insurgency mission, that the member has said he opposes, the exact mission that he voted against last year.

He was critical of the Conservatives for only offering a six hour warning of the debate on the mission in Afghanistan, yet his own government, the Liberal government that took us into this counter-insurgency mission in the first place, only gave the Canadian military a 45 minute warning that they were going into this counter-insurgency mission, in opposition to advice the Liberals had been given by the leadership of the Canadian military.

Let us make no mistake about it. This is a Liberal mission. Until a month or two months ago, it was operating under the mandate that the Liberal government gave to the Canadian Forces as a counter-insurgency search and destroy mission.

I want to ask the member for Vancouver South a couple of questions. First, surely he is embarrassed by his own caucus when the vote went down last year by only four votes and so many Liberals failed to show up in the House of Commons to vote on extending the mission. Second, how does he answer the questions about the detainee transfer agreement when, again, that agreement was signed under defence minister Bill Graham, who continues to defend it, even in--

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. The hon. member knows she cannot refer to people by their given names. The member she spoke of, the former minister of foreign affairs, is still in the House. In any event, the question has been asked.

The hon. member for Vancouver South.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been many questions, not just one.

Let me go back to the facts of the extension of this mission. There is no doubt in my mind that the Prime Minister played politics with this issue at that time. We all understood that. Parliament, and in a free vote on the part of the Liberals, decided the mission would be extended. We accept that. We gave our word on the international stage.

However, the fact is that now we have NDP members who want to end the mission today, who know this motion will not pass, and who defeated the motion that would put a specific end in February 2009 to the combat role. I fail to understand how that serves their purposes.

Ultimately, our objective with the motion we brought forward was to put an end to the combat role in 2009, to respect our word, which we have given to the international community, to respect our commitment to the people of Afghanistan, and to ensure that our NATO allies are able to find a replacement if they need one.

However, now we have the extreme approach of the NDP. Those members want to end the mission today, yet they support the Conservative government, if the government chooses to extend this mission beyond 2009, in possibly--

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

We have one more question.

The hon. member for Nanaimo--Alberni.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member a question as well. He seems to ignore that in fact it was the Liberals themselves who sent our troops into Afghanistan. We are part of a coalition of some 36 nations working to help this developing nation. Why is it that the Liberals now are so determined to undermine the good efforts of our Canadian Forces over there?

The military is giving their greatest effort ever, or at least in modern years, to establish this new country, working with developing Afghan security forces and our NATO partners. We are putting millions into relief efforts and our Canadian aid agencies working over there, with micro-finance programs helping women and women and girls getting education for the first time in a generation and perhaps in many generations. We are working to establish infrastructure in that country. We are giving hope to a nation that is just developing in the modern world.

Why are the Liberals in such a rush to undermine the good efforts that we are making and to send a message to the Taliban that if it puts our troops at risk and if it hammers our troops a little harder, maybe we will do just what the NDP wants and pull them out tomorrow rather than complete the mission and--

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Vancouver South.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the mission the government undertook when I was part of that government would have ended in February 2007, this year.

It is that member's party, when it formed the government, that brought forward a motion, in haste, to extend the mission, when it could have waited some months so that we could have had more experience under our belts. Now the fact is that we have made a commitment to the world.

Our combat mission must end in 2009. That is our position. That does not mean we will abandon Afghanistan.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

An hon. member

But why must it end in 2009?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal Vancouver South, BC

It is the combat role. There are many roles. Our troops may have many other roles as well in Afghanistan. We have the reconstruction and development work, which has been virtually neglected by the government ever since it has taken over.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate today. I have to say that it is interesting to hear the catcalls from the Conservatives and the NDP.

The NDP motion is unrealistic. Surely, if the NDP members had done any research they would have known it was unrealistic. To suggest that somehow we would have an immediate pullout from Afghanistan is not practical. It is not practical because we cannot take 2,500 troops out of Kandahar overnight. We cannot do that without informing our allies and indicating what this side of the House has been asking for from the beginning, which was in the Liberal motion, that we want to see a rotation at the end of February 2009.

During the rotation in 2003, when we were active in security in Kabul, from the beginning of that mission we sought with our allies a replacement at the end of one year. Turkey stepped up to the plate as the replacement.

If we were to take the NDP position, we simply would leave regardless of whether or not there was a replacement. The position of the Conservatives is they do not want to seek a replacement. In fact the NDP, by voting against the Liberal motion the other day, is playing into the Conservatives' hands.

I heard some of the catcalls earlier from some Conservative members which would suggest that we should be there beyond February 2009. If the Conservative government were honest, it would come clean and say that it intends to stay longer, and Canadians would know where it stands. We do not really know where the government stands because the NDP propped up the Conservatives the other night by saying the NDP was not going to necessarily support the February 2009 deadline.

I am a bit surprised by the NDP position. The NDP members say they support development. I would point out that since 2001, millions of Afghan children have gone back to school. Having visited Kandahar and Kabul in May 2006, I can testify to the fact that there were young girls, and in fact now there are over five million children, including young women, going to school, learning trades, being educated. Less than one million were going to school under the Taliban. That is a success.

If we were to take the NDP position, we would need to say that we support those things but we are not prepared to support them at the present time in terms of having our troops there. Troops are needed in order to continue with the development work that needs to be done. That is the position of this party, but it is not the position of this party to suggest that we continue beyond February 2009. We may take on a different role in Afghanistan.

If the NDP and indeed the Conservatives had heeded the Liberal position, we also said that this particular NATO mission is underfunded and undersupported. In Kosovo we provided twenty to one in terms of international troops to support the effort. In Bosnia and in Afghanistan, it was only two to one. We need to do more. In the meantime, instead of constructive ideas, the motion before the House is not realistic and it will not pass, given the position of the government and certainly our own position.

What could we do in the meantime? We have talked a lot on this side of the House about more emphasis on development issues, particularly in the long term. We are seeing success in the short term in the building of clinics and schools, but often three or four months later they are destroyed or burned. We need a long term strategy with our allies.

At the moment there are 26 countries involved in Afghanistan but only six fully participate. There are covenants with regard to countries like Germany. The other countries need to step up and do their full share. This is not solely a Canadian mission. It is a NATO mission. As a NATO mission all need to be fully engaged in the war that is going on there, and the rebuilding and redevelopment of Afghanistan.

I do not think anyone in this House does not support our troops, not one. What we need to do though is to say that it is not realistic to assume that what is already going to be the longest military mission for Canada will continue. That is what I fear is the position of the present government, that the Conservatives would extend it even longer.

The government and the NDP should be supporting the Liberal position, which is that there be more emphasis on diplomacy. We should work with our NATO allies and make sure that they do their full share. They are not doing their full share. The NDP members know that our allies are not doing their full share. The government knows that our allies are not doing their full share. Yet the NDP position is simply to leave. Obviously, the successes that have occurred particularly in the northern parts of Afghanistan would be subject to tremendous stress. Our leaving would present an opportunity for the Taliban.

Let us also keep in mind that particularly in Kandahar province we see great instability. We see a growth in instability in the Pashtun region where the Afghan Taliban are particularly successful. Because of the unfortunate porous border with Pakistan, even though there are 80,000 Pakistani troops on the border, it is a hot bed. It is not a hot bed for the north. It is not a hot bed in Kabul. It is not a hot bed in Herat and other places. We know that in this particular region and in neighbouring Helmand province where the British are there is instability.

I would only agree on this point, that we need to review our strategic approach. We need to review what is it that we are doing in carrying out the mission. Until February 2009 we clearly need to support our troops on the ground. We need to increase our diplomatic efforts with NATO, Pakistan and others. We need to have more accountability and a longer term focus on the issue of redevelopment. It is extremely important. We need to continue to see more.

There are seven million children still not going to school in Afghanistan. I think we could do better with our allies and with the Afghan government. That is something we need to continue to do. If we believe in schooling children, young women and the micro-credit programs that are currently in place and succeeding in Afghanistan, then we do not want to see that disappear. Again, this is not a solely Canadian mission.

Better coordination with our allies on the ground militarily, diplomatically and in terms of development is important. That continues to be the position of the Liberal Party. We need to make sure that the government pushes on those two fronts. The government clearly is pushing on the military front. We need to redouble our efforts on redevelopment and on the diplomacy side. If we do so, then the very people we say we are there to support will have a better future. No one in the House that I know of wants to see the Taliban or al-Qaeda regain control in Afghanistan.

There are obviously different approaches. We have an approach. The government has an approach. Today we are listening to the NDP approach. I suggest that at the end of the day we have to not show division, but we need to show that we are united, not only in terms of our troops, but also in terms of ensuring that we put the necessary diplomatic pressure on our NATO allies. They have to do their fair share. We have to set up a rotation. The longer we delay on that, the more likely it is the government will come back to this House and say that there is no rotation in place so the mission will have to be extended.

That is why we set one up immediately in 2003, and in 2004 Turkey came in on the rotation. I do not think that is unrealistic. I did not hear that when I talked with the troops in Kandahar. They expected that at some point they would be leaving and there would be a rotation.

In conclusion, the Liberal Party will not support this motion. We will continue to support the efforts of our troops on the ground and other diplomatic efforts.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I hope when people read these debates historically and they read the Liberal Party's participation in them, that they will be very careful to note the date on the newspaper or Hansard, because no other position has changed with the regularity that the Liberal position has changed.

The NDP has been absolutely consistent. It does not support counter-insurgency actions that have been taking place. The Liberals have ensured that those counter-insurgency activities will continue to 2009. They had an opportunity to get our troops away from that counter-insurgency and a whole bunch of Liberals got voter virus and were not here for the vote. If they had been here, which was the responsible thing to do, the motion to extend the mission to 2009 would not have passed.

I would like to know how the member would explain the fact that so many of his party's members were not here when they had an opportunity not to extend this activity to 2009. Now they are standing up and saying that they are the people who want to get the troops out. How does the member explain the change in position and the absence of his party's members when they could have made a difference in what is happening there?