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House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghan.

Topics

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the number of projects that we have accomplished will take more than 30 seconds to talk about. What we ensure is that the projects, whether they are delivered by the military or our aid workers, are in the best interests of the Afghan people and the local community.

Our roads not only ensure the safety of travel along that road for the military, who are delivering aid supplies and helping our aid workers reach projects, they are also the roads that the farmers use to take their produce to market. They are also the roads that the families use to visit other--

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question will be quick and simple.

The motion states that this would be on the express condition that there is more transparency and true accountability.

How can the government reassure Canadians and Quebeckers that it will actually implement this, so we can really be sure before members vote?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I told the House, and as I have told the public as well through technical briefings, CIDA is taking actual steps. We have committed to regular reports on the progress being made. We have increased the number of CIDA personnel on the ground who can visit sites and projects. We will ensure that there is more accountability by working with greater coherence and coordination with our partners and our NGOs. We have responded to every recommendation in the Manley report that is related to development.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate on Afghanistan today.

I often listen to ministers of the Crown and soldiers in uniform speaking. There is a marked difference when the uniforms come off. There are two perspectives on what is happening on the ground. The ministers of the Crown and the generals tell us that everything is going very well. General Atkinson is one of the officers who give us regular briefings. Unfortunately, it is impossible to find out what is going on with the schools, the wells or the irrigation systems. He always tells us that something really good has happened, that they have built a bridge. The other day, he showed us photos of a bridge from many different angles. Supposedly, army engineers worked on that bridge. From time to time, they show us things like that.

The ministers of the Crown have been telling us the same thing over and over since 2001. They say that we are going into Afghanistan to build schools so that children, especially little girls, can go back to school, to ensure security, and to re-establish agriculture in some way, with irrigation wells. We know what is going on with agriculture at the moment: opium is about the only crop for sale. In short, the ministers of the Crown and the generals who are passing along the information must be wearing rose-coloured glasses.

Later, I will explain the Bloc Québécois' parliamentary approach. Some people like to point out that at various times over the years, the member for Saint-Jean said this, or the Bloc Québécois leader said that. Later on, I will explain that the Bloc Québécois has been guided in its actions by a consistent, logical approach.

Let us come back to what is happening on the ground. It is inaccurate to say that everything is going well. We have other sources of information. We read the newspapers. Reporters regularly go into the field. For example, two weeks ago, the Globe and Mail ran an absolutely disheartening report on what is happening in Afghanistan. No one is talking about that here. Yet what was described in this analysis was terrible. We also get information from major international organizations like the Red Cross, Amnesty International and the Senlis Council. There are many groups in the field that are giving us a completely different picture than the government and Canada's senior military officers.

Let us look at what some of these organizations are saying, because the famous Manley report refers to them. I was talking earlier about the report with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Bloc never hid the fact that it did not appreciate this panel. We believe that the House of Commons was quite capable of creating a committee of members of the different parties in the House, which could have made a recommendation to the government. Naturally, being in a minority position, the government was afraid to entrust this task to a committee of the House. It decided that the committee's report might not contain the things it wanted to hear.

The Manley report tells the government exactly what it wants to hear. I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs about this earlier. Why is everyone in the House, regardless of their party affiliation, saying that this mission is unbalanced? What the government has retained from the Manley report is that Canada should extend the mission and add 1,000 soldiers and that helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles are needed. Once again, everything has to do with the military. That is why we denounced the Manley report as soon as it was released.

For months and even years, we have been demanding that the mission be rebalanced, but the government is jumping on the Manley report and saying that we have to add 1,000 soldiers and deploy helicopters and unmanned planes, supposedly to conduct surveillance day and night and see exactly what is happening. We feel that the Manley report is far from definitive, and we said we did not agree with it.

With regard to the major issues involved, we often hear about the three D policy: development, defence and diplomacy. The minister is telling us that she has sent more people into the field. When I went to Kandahar barely two years ago, there were 2,500 soldiers to handle defence, six people from CIDA and six people from Foreign Affairs.

That was nowhere close to a balance. I am not saying that there should be 2,500 people from CIDA and another 2,500 in the diplomatic corps, but there is a limit. We are told that big efforts were made and, as a result, their numbers have now risen to 20 and are likely to reach 35.

Before addressing diplomacy and development, I will start by focusing my remarks on governance. Reference is often made to the Afghanistan Compact. An important element of that compact was actually governance. Do members know what President Karzai is called in Afghanistan? He is referred to as the “mayor of Kabul”. That is because, without international support, he cannot extend his influence and authority beyond the country's capital. The two Globe and Mail reporters I mentioned earlier said they were not even sure that he was still the “mayor of Kabul”. Some might say that he is the master of his castle, where he has dug himself in because the roadblocks put up by factions, warlords and corrupt police pretty much encircle Kabul, which means that anyone who has to drive out of Kabul encounters a roadblock. I am not the one saying this.

When we travelled to Afghanistan, we were not allowed out of the camp in Kandahar. We had to insist that reporters relay to Canada the message that we were prisoners in our own camp in Kandahar. We wanted to go out and visit schools, dispensaries, hospitals, irrigation systems and water wells that allegedly had been dug, but were told we could not leave the camp for security reasons. That is odd, because, when Conservative MPs travel there, they can be seen outside the camp mingling with little children or going down streets in Kabul. They are seen visiting many kinds of sites, but we were not allowed to. That is something else.

The Manley report calls for transparency. This is not complicated. The government and the generals who give us briefing sessions are not being transparent. There is propaganda in what they give us, and everything is designed to show us that everything is just fine, when that is not what our sources are telling us. As well, our own physical presence tells us that they do not want to show us those things. Why do they not want to show them to us? Is it really for some security reason or is it because there is nothing to show? That is the problem. Otherwise, the media would be happy to show us these fine hospitals, clinics and schools that supposedly exist. They are not able to do it, because there are none. That is what we have been speaking out against for a long time, and that is why we want to rebalance this mission.

Everyone says that it must not be military, that there is too much emphasis on the military aspect. The first thing the government does after the Manley report is submitted is increase the number of troops yet again. It says virtually nothing about development and diplomacy.

Let us talk about development now. I have said a little about it. There are no schools, it is as simple as that. We also have a major criticism. When we were in Kandahar, I put these questions to people who are working on the ground. They told us not only that there are no schools, but that there is no longer any accountability to CIDA, something that is even more serious.

We are always being told that Canada will be giving a billion dollars to Afghanistan. Sure. Someone can go and see one of the six CIDA staffers and tell them he has an idea: he wants to dig a well in his village 500 km from Kabul or Kandahar. CIDA will tell him this is a good idea because there is no water in the village and will ask him how much money will be needed. He will reply: $15,000. So the cheque will be signed, but we learned on site—we, members of Parliament—that it costs about $1,000 to $2,000 to build a well. And yet a cheque for $15,000 has been signed. In addition, no one will go to the village in question to see whether the well has been dug. Billions of dollars are fine, but money is flowing like water over there. We hear about roads. Gravel is needed to build roads. We learned over there that the gravel used to build the road we were told about normally costs $5 a tonne, and yet a tonne of gravel is being sold to the Canadians for $80. That is how it works.

It is unfortunate that I could not question the minister, but that is how it is. There is virtually no accountability. So that money is not going to the people at the grassroots, it is going to the people who already have assets, like the warlords, who are getting rich off Canada’s contributions.

We can be told that everything is fine only for so long.

Diplomacy fell by the wayside when a Canadian diplomat was killed early on. It is not complicated. There are jirgas in the villages. Diplomats do not go there. Soldiers are the ones who go and sit down with village elders to ask them what can be done and to engage in dialogue.

Imagine if, the next day, the village is bombed or there is a shoot-out and 6,000 civilians are killed. The next day, army personnel return to sit down with village elders and ask them what they can do, if they can give them Joe Louis cakes, cookies and little backpacks for the children. Well, that is not what is needed. What is needed is real diplomacy, meetings with the governor, with President Karzai, in order to ensure that diplomacy prevails over the military aspect.

We also often hear about international diplomacy. In the case of the countries surrounding Afghanistan, it is important that Canadian diplomats meet with representatives from Iran, Pakistan, China, India and Russia, who all have something to say on the matter. That is not what is happening. That is not what the Manley report suggests. That was not what sparked the interest of the government. Rather, it was the question of adding more soldiers and military equipment. As for the rest, the government says that we will wait, because everyone knows that if there is no security in Afghanistan—we hear this all the time—there can be no development or diplomacy.

Well, this is not working. The insurrection is gaining strength. We are losing control of the territory. Perhaps four or five times more soldiers are needed, yet NATO and other countries do not wish to mobilize any more. I will talk more about this a little later.

With regard to defence, I believe that I have expressed my point of view. We have 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan. I wish to state that we have nothing against the troops. I trained with the soldiers of the Royal 22e Régiment and was deployed with them to Bosnia in 2001. They do an excellent job. They do what they are ordered to do, and that is fight. Everyone here says that that is not the solution. However, we have 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, plus logistics support, who are fighting. Even General Richards, whom I met down there and who is responsible for all of Afghanistan, said that it did not make sense. We suggested that he tell his superiors. It is all well and good to tell NATO; someone must realize that we cannot continue with the military plan. And yet it is continuing, and this government is going forward.

A while ago, I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs to press NATO on the rotation issue; however, he did not. Instead, he is ensuring that we stay in Afghanistan until 2011. That is what will happen. Additional soldiers will be mobilized. Another nation—we do not know which one yet—will mobilize them. Personally, I am convinced that this has already been decided. The government would certainly not impose this condition if it knew in advance that it would not be met.

I think they are playing games and they want to make us believe that it is difficult. Discussions are already underway with representatives from France, who may send their troops to the south. However, if the French do not wish to send their troops to the south because they are more comfortable with the Americans, the latter will be sent instead. That is what will happen in the end. They have probably already agreed to the helicopters and the UAVs, the unmanned aerial vehicles.

The government will tell us that all the conditions have been met. However, these conditions are not conducive to success. These conditions also include diplomacy and development. If we do not have that, we could have a million soldiers, we could be monitoring every village in Afghanistan, and we would not succeed in earning the trust of the Afghans or in re-establishing governance by having soldiers in every village of Afghanistan.

We have been saying this for a long time now, but no one ever listens. This is what is happening: not only are there no schools and clinics, but we are told that opium trafficking is fuelling terrorism, and I agree. In fact, since Canada has been there, this has continued—and is on the rise. Afghanistan now provides 90% of the world's heroin supply.

I travelled with the Germans to Fayzabad, in the north, and to Kandahar. In Fayzabad, travelling by jeep with the German army, we saw poppy fields everywhere, indeed everywhere. No one is addressing this matter and those who want to deal with it propose eradication. That is precisely what should not be done; the Afghans need to be offered another type of crop, but that is not being done.

The British and the Americans want to spray the fields and completely destroy the poppies. The poor farmer whose family's survival depends on those poppy fields will see his crop disappear. When he wonders what to do next, now that he is left with nothing, the Taliban will offer him protection, assurance and food. In exchange, he or one of his sons will have to take up arms from time to time, since the Taliban needs that type of help. That is what will happen.

In fact, that is what is happening and will happen in years to come. There is not enough vision to come up with another solution. And yet, solutions exist. I even heard that NATO may enter into discussions with the European Union to ensure that the new crops to be developed in Afghanistan will have new markets, for instance, in Europe, a continent that is not far from Afghanistan. I heard mention of that, but then I did not hear any more about it. It is over. Now we are into eradication.

By all accounts, the strategy being used in Afghanistan will not resolve the issue.

I was also surprised in Fayzabad when the Germans told me it was 8 p.m. and they had to return to camp. I asked if it was because they were supposed to go and have supper but they said they had orders not to be out after 8 p.m. It is very strange. Our soldiers in the south are patrolling day and night. So a lot of things are unfair. When I went to the Bundestag in Germany to tell them that, they said they could not introduce it before their Parliament for fear of being defeated if they allowed their soldiers to be out after 8 p.m. It really is unjust.

As is now policy here in the House of Commons, the Conservatives have twisted the mission, as I say over and over. This mission was supposed to be focused on diplomacy and development, but that is no longer true. It is almost entirely a defence mission.

For a whole year the Liberal Party carried the standard for those who wanted to end the operations in February 2009 but now they have surrendered and gone over to the Conservatives. That is terribly disappointing.

The NDP also has its faults. At just about this time last year, a decision had to be made on ceasing military operations in 2009. The Liberal Party voted in favour, as did the Bloc Québécois. To our great surprise, the NDP joined forces with the Conservatives and voted against.

So here we are now facing an extension of the mission, when if the NDP had just been willing to end combat operations in 2009, we would be packing our bags and it would all be over. They took an ideological stance, voting against the motion because it did not propose to withdraw our troops immediately. Here we are now in a worse position with a mission that will no longer end in 2009 but 2011.

We in the Bloc Québécois have been very consistent. Some people told me that I said this and that on this or that date. I want to correct the record. On October 8, 2001, we supported the mission to Afghanistan. On January 28, 2002, we supported it again after further discussions in the House. On November 15, 2005, we supported the new deployment outside Kabul.

That was when we started laying down conditions. The longer things dragged on, the tougher our conditions became. On May 16, 2006, the Bloc Québécois proposed a motion in a session of the Standing Committee on National Defence. We had been asking the government for a long time to change things and it did not want to. We proposed a motion, therefore, asking it to tell us how much longer the mission would last, what the state of our troops and equipment was, what proportion of the mission was combat and what proportion reconstruction, and what the evaluation criteria were. The next day, the Conservative government introduced the motion to extend the mission until 2009 without answering any of our questions. That was when we started to say we were finished with all this.

Our positions have always been very logical. We have always been responsible. We took these positions on the basis of the information available to us at the time.

I will conclude by saying that we were in perfect sync with the desires of the Quebec people. The Conservatives, Liberals and NDP will find us in their path in Quebec during the election campaign.

We will tell Quebeckers who was there for them, who listened to them, who is defending their interests and values, and that is the Bloc Québécois.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, while my colleague had a couple of good points, for the most part, truth and that member are ships passing in the night. Thank God that the real representatives from Quebec to the mission in Afghanistan are people in the Van Doos who deserve our credit and all the accolades we give them.

The member misrepresented many things. He presented the Senlis Council as having been a true spokes-group for what is going on but it clearly misled the defence committee on its activities over there.

The member said that there were no clinics and no schools. Is he calling the Department of National Defence a liar? Is he calling the Chief of Defence Staff a liar? Is he calling all Canadian Forces members, CIDA members and DFAIT members, who are in Afghanistan doing these things, liars?

The member talked about the ratio of 2,500 military personnel to 20 or so civilians and how that means the mission is imbalanced. Does he have any idea what those 2,500 military members are doing besides carrying arms and engaging the Taliban, as they must do? Does he have any idea who is building the bridges and the schools, who is operating the clinics, starting irrigation systems and turning on the electricity? It is a good portion of the 2,500 uniformed Canadian men and women. He clearly has his own agenda with respect to what he is presenting in the House today and that is very unfortunate.

I would like to ask the member a question about governance. He talked about the lack of progress, which, there is no question, is a challenge and always will be when we are building a country from the ground up. I think he knows about the strategic advisory team in Afghanistan. Could he give us his assessment on the work that SAT is doing in Kabul and whether he thinks it is a worthwhile contribution to the mission, bearing in mind that it is being done by men and women in uniform who are stepping outside of their normal combat-related duties to do things that involve reconstruction, development and capacity building? Does he have a comment on the work that SAT is doing in Kabul?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot use the word “liar” because it is unparliamentary. I do have to say that the ministers of the Crown, this government and the military are distorting reality, and it may be in their best interest to do so. Propaganda has always been used as a military tactic and, in fact, the winner may well be the one with the best propaganda.

The SAT is a good example. What is the SAT? It is a strategic advisory team to President Karzai, and it is comprised of military officers. Again, that is symptomatic. In fact, it is an inconsistency within the government. Why have only the military advising President Karzai? Perhaps having a few people assigned to development and diplomacy on the team would help broaden the focus beyond an exclusively military vision. The SAT is doing a fine job, but if it included members from civilian teams, it would provide a much broader picture than the one this group of military advisors to the President of Afghanistan is providing.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his presentation last week, the parliamentary secretary told us that 4,000 schools had been built in Afghanistan since the Canadian soldiers arrived. According to our information, there was a time when only 6 of the 2,500 soldiers on the ground were assigned to reconstruction.

It is well known that the first casualty of war is the truth. I would like to congratulate the member for Saint-Jean on his speech and for his good work, and I would like to ask him if it is reasonable to believe that so much reconstruction work has been done over there by so few people, as the Conservatives claim.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas raises an excellent question. We are hearing more contradictions. Indeed, we recently heard the figure of 4,000 regarding schools. This afternoon, listening to the Minister of International Cooperation, she talked about a few hundred schools. We see that even the government has a hard time reconciling its resources and information. Many are then surprised that people like Bloc Québécois members, who want to pursue it even further and uncover the truth, throw their contradictions in their face. This is one of them.

Speaking of other aspects that I explained earlier, how is it that the members of the Standing Committee on National Defence, when they were in Kandahar, asked to see schools, clinics and other things that would be considered social and economic development, and their request was refused? We therefore concluded that it was probably because there are none. Thus, there are some contradictions in the government's discourse. Some people will even use propaganda, saying that there are 4,000 schools, even though the Minister of International Cooperation herself just told us there are a few hundred. That is indeed a contradiction.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I need to go back and correct my colleague. No one has ever said that there were six staff members doing the construction.

If he will listen very carefully I will say it once again. Out of the 2,500 uniformed men and women over there, the bulk of the work is being done by hundreds of members, not six members. Yes, six people could not build 4,000 schools, nor could the Canadians build those by themselves. That is the entire country.

Those members refuse to recognize that the mission in Afghanistan is not the entire country. They think it is just Kandahar but it is not just Kandahar. The mission across the entire country is very well balanced but it needs to be more toward development and reconstruction, which is the direction that we have been working along with our allies right from the start.

I would really appreciate if the hon. members would stop deliberately misrepresenting what is being said.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the government is the one misrepresenting the facts. Our information does not come from strictly government sources. The government has a role to play and it plays it well when it says that everything is great, everything is wonderful. This is the Parliament of Canada. Of course we are going to talk more about Kandahar. I could talk about the north, the west and the east, but Canadian troops are in the south, and they are the ones Parliament is responsible for. And this is very important. We no longer want to hear that we are against our troops when we are against the mission. We are against the mission. The soldiers over there must follow orders. They are following the orders of the Parliament of Canada. We are members of the Parliament of Canada, and it is our right to tell the government that it is on the wrong track and that we are headed towards a dead end. We said it once and we will say it again, and that is why the Bloc Québécois will rise on Thursday evening, unlike the Liberals, and vote against extending the mission until 2011.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week I attended a meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, where observers of the conflict in Afghanistan were telling a different story. What I heard made me further question the direction this government is taking with the mission in Afghanistan. The Manley report, for example, was described as entertaining—I do not know exactly what was said—instead of something that actually redirects the mission. This report was heavily criticized. If we keep going in this direction, nothing will be changed by 2011. There were two experts at the table, one who specializes in military disarmament and one who has worked for CIDA for over 15 years. There was also a retired soldier who said the same thing as my colleague, the Bloc's foreign affairs critic. It was said by various people.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the list of witnesses my colleague is referring to. They are highly qualified people. There was Rémi Landry, who often appears on Radio-Canada as a defence commentator, Ms. Peterson and Ms. Banerjee. These people are adding their voices to say that the picture in Afghanistan is not as rosy as we are led to believe. The Bloc Québécois has the most responsible, most balanced solution, as we will demonstrate on Thursday evening.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this morning to participate in the debate. We are dealing with a government motion, crafted by a Conservative-Liberal marriage of convenience, to extend the Kandahar counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan for three more years from the time when we find ourselves debating on this occasion.

I want to make reference to the acknowledgement, widely shared and widely expressed, that there is no military solution to the devastating problems that are plaguing the lives of people in Afghanistan today.

That is not a recent idea that has come from the New Democratic Party. It has been acknowledged repeatedly over a period of several years, including by members of the government, by the UN secretary general, by the NATO secretary general and by the President of Afghanistan himself when he spoke in this place two years ago.

What does it mean to say that there is no military solution? It means that Afghanistan has serious political problems and that those problems can only be resolved through political solutions.

From the perspective of many people who have studied those problems, it requires that we shift from what is primarily a military counter-insurgency effort. The dollars that Canada expends and how we distribute those dollars indicates how overwhelmingly this is a military mission to which Canada has committed itself. We must shift on to what needs to be a comprehensive, complex peace-building mission.

Unfortunately, the Liberal modified Conservative motion, which we find ourselves debating today, simply fails to recognize that fact and all of the evidence that backs up that position.

The problem with the mission is not that more time is needed. We need to be clear that this motion would extend the military mission to 2011, three more years. The problem with the mission is that it is flawed and, because it is flawed, it is failing in some of the most fundamental ways that matter most to the people of Afghanistan.

I do not want to take all of my time to talk about the six courageous, articulate women members of Parliament from Afghanistan who were here visiting last week, but I too had the opportunity and I welcomed the opportunity to talk to those six members of Parliament from Afghanistan, as I have other members of Parliament from Afghanistan.

Yes, they understandably pleaded the case for Canadians not to turn their backs on the people of Afghanistan. I welcomed the opportunity to make it absolutely clear that it has never been the view of the Canadian people nor the New Democratic Party, as has been disgustingly suggested again and again by government members, to cut and run, one of the most vile terms that could possibly be used to characterize the view of Canadians and my party. As a representative of my party, I deeply resent that representation, not just because it came out of the mouth of George Bush and was immediately parroted by Conservative members of Parliament and now by Liberals, but because it is such a pathetic misrepresentation and distortion of what the view is, which is that there needs to be a comprehensive, robust, diplomatic effort if this series of political problems are to be solved and the people of Afghanistan will be able to get on a positive constructive course to build their lives.

One of the things that is deeply disturbing is the distortion that is created about the position we have consistently advocated. It does such a disservice. It is so insensitive to our troops who are serving as they have been asked to serve by their government in a mission not of their choosing and not of their creation, but one in which they respond to the call of duty. Our troops have never done otherwise. They have always served courageously and competently in carrying out the duties assigned to them.

Clearly it needs to be recognized that NATO is not a diplomacy agency. NATO is a military alliance. It is not multilateralist military alliance either in any global sense or even regional sense that has any relevance to the region in which Afghanistan is located. NATO is primarily a war-fighting machine. It does not have the competence, mandate or experience to be involved in the kind of multilateralist mission to get us on a path to peace. That is why there is a growing crescendo of persons who are involved in the international development field who have long experience in peace building, in peace seeking and peacekeeping who say we need to shift that mission from one that is NATO led to one that is lodged within the purview of the United Nations.

The Manley panel itself identified again and again the lack of coordination that is taking place under the NATO umbrella. The problem with the Manley commission report, as I see it, is that much of its analysis and many of its conclusions were actually quite accurate. The difficulty is there was a huge gulf between the panel's analysis and conclusions, and the recommendations it made. Essentially the panel said that the approach is not working, that insecurity is becoming even more of a problem, that it is not coordinated, and let us do more of the same for another lengthy period of time. That is exactly what the Liberal-Conservative motion on the floor of this House today is prescribing.

It is time to acknowledge Afghanistan for what it really is. It is a conflict among Afghans and other regional actors. Our role is to find a way to contribute to ending that conflict, not prolonging it or, worse still, becoming a party on one side of the conflict. It requires a shift from the role of combatants on the front line in the so-called war on terror to peace support professionals in a dynamic interstate conflict that is in a multilateralist framework. That means reorienting the current strategy away from combat and toward a coordinated diplomatic, developmental and peace support mission.

In the absence of a concentrated political effort, coordination of the military, diplomatic and development strategies in Afghanistan has been severely hampered by internal divisions. This has been hampered by duplication and sometimes competing objectives in terms of various initiatives. This has been hampered by a failure to address Afghan's most pressing needs as outlined in the Afghanistan Compact. Canada must channel its contribution through new and different avenues to support a comprehensive, intelligent peace process and real nation building efforts.

The path to peace has to be organized around institutions that are designed for such tasks. The UN constellation of agencies, the very raison d'être of the UN, is surely in the best position to host those vital roles and initiatives. There are roles for UNICEF and the United Nations Development Fund for Women. Heaven knows we have a major problem to find the way to support and protect women in that society. There is a role for the United Nations Development Programme. Our development contribution has been outstripped 10:1 in terms of the resources allocated for Canada's current mission in Afghanistan. There is a role for United Nations Disarmament Commission, and there may be a role for the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which is led by a proud, distinguished Canadian woman who served this country as a distinguished CIDA official, as a long-time UN official doing effective peace building in a number of countries.

At least two years ago, former deputy minister Gordon Smith stated before the foreign affairs committee, “What is needed is a process of substantial conversation or reorientation of anti-state elements into an open and non-violent political dynamic”. This means placing our diplomatic weight behind peace initiatives at the local, regional and international levels in a coordinated fashion.

We need to be using the considerable skills and expertise of Canadians to help bring the various actors who are parties to these conflicts in Afghanistan to the table. Taking the path to peace through diplomacy also means involving the regional actors who are now excluded and often are contributing in devastating ways to the problems of violence in the region.

More than just new diplomacy, we also need better aid and development. Time does not allow me to talk in detail about this in the context of this debate, but we must do a better job in meaningful development work. There are some good, positive results where we are doing that in some parts of Afghanistan. We should acknowledge that and build on those strengths. What is needed is greater civilian oversight of the Canadian development aid, not more military engagement in a role that does not belong lodged within the military.

Given the decision the government has made to extend the current mission with the support of the Liberals, we are in danger of turning some of that good work that is being done in Afghanistan through the development effort, but not enough of it and not accompanied by a robust peace building effort, in the wrong direction.

It is very worrisome for those who have experience on the ground both in Afghanistan and in other conflict zones that the Manley report and the government apparently advocate directing more of our international development efforts into so-called signature projects.

What people need in Afghanistan is meaningful international development initiatives that will change in a positive way the lives of Afghans, not more Canadian flags to try to gain more Canadian support and approval for what we are doing in Afghanistan that is so deeply flawed.

We also know that a great deal more accountability is needed. Although this Liberal-Conservative motion to a large extent misses the very point of what is needed, it has to be acknowledged, and this is a positive thing, that there has not been the transparency and accountability and we need to build those in. In that respect there is some progress in this otherwise inadequate and flawed motion that is before us.

There were six women members of parliament here from Afghanistan. I was not surprised to hear both the foreign affairs minister and the CIDA minister say that they were just cheerleaders for exactly what the government is doing.

It is very tricky to have a debate here about the true sentiments of women who know what kind of punishment can be meted out to them for speaking out either inside or outside of parliament, especially outside of one's country.

We know what happened with Malalai Joya, also a courageous woman member of parliament. She told the very same truth that was acknowledged by the six women members of parliament that women are at severe risk not just at the hands of the Taliban, but also at the hands of warlords and drug lords, and in some cases the northern alliance and even male members of parliament. For speaking out, Malalai Joya was not only evicted from parliament, but the protection she needed for her life to be safe was removed. This makes her at even greater risk.

I listened to those six members of parliament respectfully, and I welcomed the opportunity to do so. There were three points on which they expressed considerable interest and support. I thought one was quite interesting.

The leader of the NDP, the Afghan ambassador and I met with them. We raised the question of the UN getting on with the diplomatic effort and meaningful development. They looked us straight in the eye and told us that we needed to do that because they were too busy dealing with what needs to happen around working in compliance with the Afghanistan Compact and other important work.

They did not reject at all the notion that there needs to be a great deal more in terms of meaningful humanitarian aid and development effort. They indicated, and these were their words, that many of the people are being drawn into the Taliban because they are starving, because they are desperate, because they do not have jobs, because they do not have income and they cannot feed their families. Those people are easy prey for bribery or being paid so they can feed their families. How many times have we heard that from others? Who is in a better position to confirm that than those six members of parliament?

An increasing number of voices are speaking out about getting on the path to peace and getting off the war effort. They want us to begin to seriously undertake diplomatic and development work. I start by quoting the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan who several months ago stated:

--there is a cry for peace in Afghanistan, from the civil society...and there are possibilities for peace.

It is obvious that among those who support the Taliban and even among those who support their violent actions, there are...people who are tired of war and who respond to the cry of the people for peace. We from the United Nations will certainly support peace talks because the insurgency cannot be won over by military means and we have to keep the door open for negotiations.

Ernie Regehr, a much respected internationalist in terms of peace building and progress to peace, stated:

A comprehensive peace process is required to address the fundamental conflicts and grievances that remain unaddressed in Afghan society. This is a process to build a relationship of trust between the southern Pashtuns and the rest of the country, in the context of respect for fundamental rights and addressing the conflict that fuelled the civil war that predated the October 2001 U.S.-led invasion and is--

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Edmonton Centre.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax should wait until 7 o'clock tonight because what we are debating today is this: “That the House take note of the on-going national discussion about Canada's role in Afghanistan”. I realize they are related.

She talked about members of the military responding to the call of duty. Yes, they do. I can tell members that the hundreds of military members I have talked to also have a very clear assessment of the NDP's position on this. I could repeat it, but it would be using decidedly unparliamentary language so I will not.

The member talked about having NATO leave and having the UN come in. Who the heck does she think the 39 members of ISAF are? Who the heck does she think the 60 members who signed the Afghanistan Compact are, if not members of the United Nations?

She also displays a complete lack of understanding of what NATO does besides military operations.

She talks about military-only operations. Nobody has ever suggested that this is a military-only mission. What she is talking about by taking out NATO and taking out protection is that she in effect would be committing to massacre thousands of aid workers from the UN who would go in there without security. No responsible government is going to do that, and certainly not ours.

She talks about the 1:10 ratio of aid to war fighting. Again, she fails to understand or fails to acknowledge that a very large proportion of that number of 10 is made up of Canadian soldiers carrying out aid operations and reconstruction operations such as rebuilding and so on. The NDP members completely disregard that because it does not fit their socialist ideology.

However, I have a question for the member. She talked about the conflict in Afghanistan being between the Afghan people and regional players and said that if we take the side of the Afghan people we somehow are being biased. Does she honestly believe that the Afghan people, the democratic government of Afghanistan, is on an equal footing with a terrorist organization such as the Taliban, which has brutalized that country and brutalized those people for so many years? If that is what she honestly believes, then the assessment of the military members I have talked to is, regrettably, accurate.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, after all of the member's assertions, I have to say that I have some difficulty with the question itself. However, let me say this. I think we have a responsibility to acknowledge that the Afghan government, as all indications would suggest, has actually had a serious erosion of confidence in its ability to do the job. That is assessed to be in the range of 30%.

Therefore, we have to understand that there are problems which have created and contributed to that. They have to do with the flawed mission, the mission which fails to recognize that the people of Afghanistan need to see not more Canadian flags: they need to see that the Government of Afghanistan exists for the purpose of delivering to the people of Afghanistan a better life.

When Canada says our role is going to be overwhelmingly tied to a counter-insurgency mission in Kandahar and that we will outspend military dollars to development dollars by 10:1, we are missing the point of what would actually make a difference in paving the path to peace.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Quit misleading the House. Just be honest for a change.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do not need any lectures from this member about how military people observe the NDP. He can hurl all the insults he will, as he is doing, but the fact of the matter is that I proudly represent what I think is probably the largest military centre in the country on a per capita basis.

Yes, some of them support the position of the New Democratic Party, and some of them do not, but I think, to try to characterize the NDP's commitment consistently to get us onto a path to peace, that it is not something rejected by the military but actually is what military people would want to see from their government and their elected officials.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, we agree wholeheartedly with our colleague from Halifax that Canadian soldiers are giving dedicated service, especially since they are serving as a result of a decision by the House of Commons. We agree completely with that.

My question has two parts. First, does she not recognize that her party's position is irresponsible when she says that soldiers should have been withdrawn immediately, when the House had to make that decision? Moving soldiers is not like moving people in a campground. Second, does she not recognize that when she voted with the Conservatives last year to end the mission in February 2009, she actually contributed to extending the mission until 2011?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I heard this fiction reported again today by the Bloc defence critic. Usually, I have to say, I respect him in terms of his points of view, but I do not know who could actually believe that advocating we should move immediately toward giving notice for the safe and secure withdrawal of our troops after 2007 would be somehow an act of irresponsibility. The Bloc has come to understand why this is the course that needs to be pursued. The Bloc, in trying to suggest that the one party that has been absolutely consistent on this point--

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I interrupt the hon. member for Halifax. When we return to the study of the motion, there will be four minutes left for the hon. member for Halifax under questions and comments. We will now hear statements by members.

Lake SimcoeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize our government's efforts to help clean up Lake Simcoe.

Last month, the Minister of the Environment announced $18 million to help preserve Ontario's precious Lake Simcoe. This funding is in addition to the $12 million that was announced last year and brings the Conservative government's total investment in Lake Simcoe to $30 million.

Lake Simcoe is a drinking water source for eight municipalities, including my riding of Barrie. It is known for its recreation industry, which generates more than $200 million in annual revenue.

These funds will have a positive impact on reducing the high phosphorus levels that impact marine life and cause excessive weed growth in Kempenfelt Bay.

In addition to the $30 million, the government has also banned the dumping of sewage and other waste from watercraft, implemented ballast water control and management regulations protecting Lake Simcoe from invasive species, and moved to virtually ban phosphates in detergents, which harm the lake.

Kempenfelt Bay and Lake Simcoe are environmental jewels within Simcoe County. I am proud that these funds will help protect them for future generations.

Timiskaming District Secondary SchoolStatements By Members

March 10th, 2008 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Timiskaming District Secondary School in New Liskeard on being selected by the British Council in Canada to take part in a significant international Arctic expedition next September. This journey will focus on the impact of climate change in the Canadian Arctic.

This unique opportunity will enable students from Timiskaming District Secondary School to carry out a wide range of scientific experiments and research while traveling on a ship through the Canadian Arctic. Their findings will then be shared with other schools within the local community and the province as a whole.

Furthermore, this international Arctic expedition will provide significant contributions, such as educational films and photography, to curriculum planning across Canada.

Once again, I wish to congratulate the staff and students at Timiskaming District Secondary School of New Liskeard for their initiative, their creativity, their community spirit and, most importantly, their recognition of the significance of the Canadian Arctic to all of us.

Outdoors CaucusStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, millions of hunting and fishing enthusiasts of all ages pump more than $10 billion into the economy every year.

Established in March 2006, the outdoor caucus is one of the largest non-partisan caucuses on Parliament Hill. Its mission is to bring together MPs and senators who wish to promote activities such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching, walking, cycling, sport shooting and trapping in order to preserve these activities, promote safety and protect wildlife and natural habitats.

I therefore urge all members who wish to promote these interests to join the outdoors caucus so that all citizens may contribute to the preservation of natural spaces of unparalleled beauty and practice traditional, environmentally sustainable activities, all the while respecting provincial jurisdictions.