Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part today in this debate on Afghanistan. It is a debate that will have significant impact on future generations, the direction of future international relations, and determining the role that Canada should play in our relations with other states with respect to a process that requires that there first be peace.
Today, as the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, I have the pleasure of rising in this House on behalf of the approximately 105,000 citizens whom I represent and proudly opposing the extension of this mission which, we believe, should end in February 2009.
This is not the first time we have had such emotional debates in this House. I remember the debate about whether or not Canada should participate in the war in Iraq. The Bloc Québécois was the political party in this House that was vigorously opposed to Canadian participation in the Iraq conflict.
I also remember the vote of May 17, 2006, on whether or not to extend the mission in Afghanistan by two years. I remember that in the hours before the vote, I asked myself four questions. Although they were simple questions, they allowed me, as a parliamentarian, to take a decision on whether or not we should extend the mission.
The first question I asked myself on May 17, 2006, was: is Canada's intervention justified, realistic and useful? My second question before voting on May 17, 2006, was: what is the exact nature of Canada's commitment—military or humanitarian? The third question I asked myself on May 17, 2006, was: are the people who are going to risk their lives appropriately equipped to succeed at the mission we want to give them? And the fourth question was: is there a specific strategy for this mission?
Those were the questions I asked myself, as a parliamentarian, before voting in this House on the need to extend the mission in Afghanistan by two years. What was the answer from the Bloc Québécois and the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie? The answer was no to extending the mission.
In reading the questions we asked ourselves at the time of the vote, we find they are echoed in a certain number of reports—published today—on the progress of this mission. The Manley report is very critical of this government's military approach. It clearly says:
It is essential to adjust funding and staffing imbalances between the heavy Canadian military commitment in Afghanistan and the comparatively lighter civilian commitment to reconstruction, development and governance.
Accordingly, our concerns of May 2006, have been validated by the Manley report, which recognizes that there is an imbalance between the military and humanitarian aspects.
In the meantime, should we do nothing? No. We should send a clear message in this House that this mission must end in February 2009. We must pressure this government to take some decisions. First, the government must advise its NATO allies of its intention to withdraw from Afghanistan in February 2009. The message to our allies must be clear. There is no room for compromise.
Canada will leave Afghanistan in February 2009, and our NATO allies need to be informed as quickly as possible.
Second, we need an exit plan. The government must develop a plan, because we cannot just pick up and leave Afghanistan, as though we are packing up our tent after a weekend at Mont Tremblant. That is not what we should do. A responsible government must immediately present a plan for the withdrawal of our troops in February 2009.
Third, in the meantime, we must rebalance the mission to put more emphasis on development assistance resources. According to DND reports, the operating costs for Canada's mission in Afghanistan are upwards of $7.718 million, from 2001 to 2008. We need to reallocate this money to humanitarian assistance. We need to develop capacities for the citizens and for civilian populations. We need to give them the means. In so doing, we will not only succeed in transferring and giving capacities to Afghanistan, but by transferring the money from the military sector to the humanitarian sector, we will also most certainly be able to meet the objective of 0.7% of the GDP for development assistance. This is yet another commitment that Canada is not currently fulfilling.
We must therefore inform our NATO allies that we want to and will withdraw from Afghanistan in February 2009; establish a plan for withdrawal and introduce a plan for immediate withdrawal; transfer and rebalance funding from the military sector to the humanitarian sector; place greater emphasis on diplomacy, because political discussion, dialogue and the exchange of ideas are most certainly where Canada should be focusing its efforts, not only regarding the problems in Afghanistan, but also regarding solutions that Canada should consider to resolve the conflicts.
We must be clear on this. The approach we favour would allow Canada to assume its responsibilities. However, we must bear in mind that there are limits to Canada's responsibilities. Canada's firm commitment, which involves withdrawing from Afghanistan by February 2009, is in our view non negotiable. I would remind the House that the Conservative motion extends the Canadian mission in Kandahar until 2011. In light of the debate here today, we see two forces at work. We see not only the Conservative force, which wants to keep our troops in Afghanistan, but also the Liberal force, which decided to side with the Canadian Conservative military approach in order to resolve this conflict.
I do not think this is the approach that Quebeckers want. We are a peaceful people who wish to see a speedy resolution to the conflicts through dialogue, diplomacy and political discussion.