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House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghan.

Topics

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to thank the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North for bringing forward this bill.

I have had an opportunity very briefly to talk to the member. I know that he is serious, sincere, and committed in mobilizing every resource possible to deal with the serious issue of climate change. I know that he believes that in this bill, as his party does, that they are putting forward the mechanism that will challenge the government to in fact enunciate by setting targets a strategy that conforms with the Kyoto protocol, and that in fact will serve as a legacy for future generations.

In that statement of mission, I think that the member and his colleagues are to be congratulated because in that mission we should all very emphatically state that we support the objective. In fact, we can see that the science tells us irrefutably that climate change is going to be probably the most significant threat to civil society globally in the near future.

Even this morning, we were reminded of the juxtaposition of the towns and villages in Nova Scotia that would be affected with just a small temperature change. That cataclysmic effect will be felt around the globe. Therefore, the seriousness of the bill and its relevance to climate change cannot be denied.

However, there are other issues at this particular point we also should keep in mind. The government, through its members, has spoken very eloquently with respect to the most recent action plan statement as a stimulus menu of those areas through research, commercialization and technology and is starting to seriously confront climate change with a template for action.

I appreciate that there are those who doubt what the impact is going to be. In fact, as we look at the very near past many have said that the government de facto had said that we have withdrawn from the Kyoto commitment and others have said that we are the only country in the world to have signed on to the treaty to have unilaterally declared we will not use, for example, the 1990 baseline, or at worst, we will not even try to meet our targets.

That has been suggested and it will be for the government to have the opportunity to illustrate very clearly that it is not true. On this side, we hope it is not.

I just came from the natural resources committee where in a non-partisan way the committee is looking at part of a strategy to deal with climate change across the country from sea to sea to sea with what is called a comprehensive investment in technologies that will be integrated and that will seriously reduce the threat of climate change and contribution to the targets that Canada implicitly at least has said that it is dedicated to.

The members of the committee have been, I think, tremendously impressed with the engineering and practical implications that this has on the future economy in terms of creating jobs, in terms of creating high value added investments, and at the same time dealing with climate change. In other words, we are combining the most important ingredients of sustainable development, economic growth on the one hand, and meeting our environmental challenges together, and not one to sacrifice the other, but both together marching down and meeting our climate change targets.

The reason we are having a bit of difficulty with this bill is we have already been on record, through two acts that were designed as a template to deal with climate change.

Prior to Bill C-311, in its last sitting, this Parliament approved the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which are superior to this private member's bill. If they were seriously used as the template for the mission that has been the subject of Bill C-311, those two acts have within them the mechanisms to deal with the issues and to measure the accomplishments that we discussed at our natural resources committee.

The worst thing in any organization is to have a goal that is very complex in a very large country like ours, which is to achieve sustainable development in our climate change objectives, but never get the feedback and measure what we have accomplished. If we do not stand back every so often and take account of what is happening, then we have this doubting Thomas approach that nothing is being accomplished, which is not altogether true.

A careful reading of those two acts would show us that the opportunity for measurement is encompassed with them. This private member's bill has suggested that we should have periodic reports, with the baseline targets of 1990 and the target of 2050, from either through the Auditor General or through the round table on the economy and development. In fact, those mechanisms are being used under Federal Sustainable Development Act and the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

I have sat on the environment committee when the Auditor General, for example, has reported department by department. She has reported on how the department has met its sustainable development objectives. The committee has an opportunity to suggest what remedial action is required.

At some point we try to separate the politics of environmental sustainability and our strategies to deal with climate change and accurately position us in a non-partisan way with respect to what our mission is and how we have been dedicated to it.

In bringing this bill forward, I know it was not the intent of the member to detract or add a political dimension to it. When we do not use the acts we have passed, which are affirmations of what we believe, then we place ourselves in the position where we may marginalize the issue because of the politics.

I know this is not what has been intended, but if the alternative course had been taken that there are shortcomings to the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act and the Federal Sustainable Development Act, they should have been the subject of the bill, not one that appears to transplant them.

At this point we will be observing very closely what is happening in Copenhagen with respect to establishing those targets and we will support those. However, this bill marginalizes the two acts that are already affirmations of the mission we have to deal with climate change.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, or as it is known, the climate change accountability act.

This is issue is very important to me as a Nova Scotian, as a Canadian and as a citizen of the world. A desire to see meaningful action on climate change is one of the reasons I decided to run for election, and it is one of the reasons I decided to run for the New Democratic Party, the party that first raised this issue in the House over 20 years ago.

That spirited advocacy on behalf of our planet continues today with the bill. I am pleased to see the bill returning to the House, after the endurance test that it faced in the last Parliament.

In my work with the Halifax Ecology Action Centre, we watched from a distance as Conservative filibustering at committee kept the first version, Bill C-377, in limbo, from December 11, 2007 to April 28, 2008. When that bill finally passed, I joined with thousands of other Canadians to celebrate in this world first, a victory for climate change and for Canada.

Bill C-311 would mandate the government to live up to Canada's obligations under international climate change agreements. These agreements are not merely suggestions, and governments are expected to have policies in place to bring them into compliance.

While the failures of governments for the last 15 years to deal with climate change are well documented, it must not be used as an excuse to do the minimum when faced with a crisis of this magnitude.

At this point in our nation's history, we are past the debate about whether climate change is real. We are past the debate about what causes it. We are nearly past the point of debate about how we should address it. There is consensus among the world's leading scientists, environmentalists and ordinary Canadians. We know we need targets for reducing greenhouse gases. We know those targets need to be science based and enforced by binding caps. We also know these measures need to be organized through a national emission trading regime.

The government has failed to act on each of these areas, but I am happy to say the bill would provide some real direction on climate change policy in Canada. The reduction targets in the bill are specified for the short, medium and long term, but with built in flexibility to adjust over time. Most important, as others have pointed out during the course of this debate, the bill would introduce legal certainty, as well as government accountability, something we have heard the government aspire to on so many occasions.

With targets set into law, Canada can finally make progress on an international obligation and our already germinating green economy can flourish and bloom.

Our country is filled with great minds who have already been tackling the climate change issue with innovative solutions, many of which I have had the opportunity to see first-hand in Nova Scotia. Industry recognizes that it must adapt or it will vanish, and it is taking steps to get where it should be. All it lacks is a partner in the federal government and some certainty that emission regulations will be predictable and stable.

The climate change accountability act does just that. It sets out these regulations in five year increments until 2050. It is legislation that is the first of its kind in our country and it deserves the support of the House.

Opposition to the bill from the government side has unfortunately relied on that tired argument that we can choose either the environment or the economy, but not both. Previous governments have been trying that one for quite some time and the result is a world that is even closer to catastrophic climate change and an economy that are both in shambles.

Now is the time when we should be taking stock of where we have been and where we want to go. Our twin crises, economic and environmental, can both be addressed with smart public policy that measures sustainability and prosperity with the same yardstick.

Therefore, why the same rhetoric about the economic cost of a bill that would finally take on climate change? There is really no excuse. The economic costs are significantly greater if we do not act now. For every moment that we waste, the greater cost will pass on to our children and our neighbours' children.

It calls to mind a novelty mug that my partner was given as a gift. It has this map of the world on it. When hot water is added, the shorelines change based on rising sea levels, thanks to a warming earth. Suddenly, Brazil is gone. It is bye-bye Bangladesh and so long Indonesia. By the time my tea is cold enough to drink, Nova Scotia has all but disappeared. This mug can get a chuckle out of our guests, but the sad fact is it is an accurate description of what we can expect to happen if emissions are allowed to grow unchecked. It is not a joke. We are only a few years away from a projected 2° temperature rise, after which we may be too late to halt some of the worst effects of the crisis.

In a column in the Halifax ChronicleHerald, Professor Sheila Zurbrigg describes the realities in much more compelling terms. I will quote from her article. She says:

The ultimate irony is that those least responsible for global warming will bear by far the most catastrophic consequences. Most [greenhouse gas] emissions (over 80 per cent) added to the atmosphere are ours, not theirs, and continue to come from the rich industrialized countries.

Yet the gravest outcomes the IPCC scientists warn about are to a considerable extent preventable. The necessary technology and energy-efficiency methods already exist that would allow us to make major GHG reductions right away. But only if we act immediately, intelligently, and together.

Professor Zurbrigg is a medical historian whose area of expertise is the history of famines. The last time she and I spoke, we talked about climate change. She looked me in the eye with such fear in her eyes. She said that a 2° increase would mean widespread, devastating famines unlike we had ever seen in the course of human history. She told me that we needed to act now or we would be unable the world's citizens.

Another signal that the time is right for this bill is the change of administration in the United States. The new President was elected, in part, because of his dramatically different vision for environmental policy. This shift represents a unique opportunity for Canada to act in concert with our largest trading partner.

I acknowledge my hon. colleague from Wetaskiwin who earlier commented about our partnership with the United States. Let us go further. While some states and provinces have gone forward with emission trading markets between themselves, Canada as a country has not acted to promote this sector. It is just one of the ways the bill could help steer our country in the right direction.

We must, as parliamentarians, as Canadians and as global citizens, support the bill. We need to be visionary, bold and innovative and we must act now before it is too late.

Royal AssentPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

March 26th, 2009

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 26th day of March, 2009, at 17:05.

Yours sincerely,

Sheila-Marie Cook

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-21, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2009; and Bill C-22, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2010.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There being no other members rising on debate, I will call upon the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North for a five-minute rebuttal.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the climate change accountability bill is simple: to make the government accountable to Canadians on achieving real reductions in greenhouse gases. Just as important, it makes clear to the world that we in Canada are willing to do our part to prevent a catastrophic rise in average global temperatures.

This bill is based on clear science. It provides for the bare minimum required to save us from disaster. Many scientists say we need to do even more.

Let us review what other jurisdictions have done and their plans for future reductions.

Canadian cities got the ball rolling in Canada. Twenty years ago, Toronto made a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions. Today Toronto, unlike Canada at large, has reduced emissions despite enormous population growth. In fact, all of Canada's big-city mayors have committed to take actions even more ambitious than those in this bill.

Let us look at what some provinces have done. B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have already joined the Western Climate Initiative, which includes most western American states as well. This initiative to control greenhouse gases will be taken up by those provinces and states because of the leadership vacuum of the Bush administration and our federal governments.

The provinces knew they had to act even if our federal governments have failed to do so. Most of the public also know that real action must be taken. Opinion polls keep saying again and again that four out of five Canadians favour strict measures to reduce emissions, so most people and governments have begun to take action in spite of more than a decade of federal government inaction.

Let us look at the role that other national governments are playing. European leadership has long been apparent, and Obama will be moving quickly in the United States.

In island nations such as the Maldives, it is a matter of survival. They have legislated carbon neutrality within a decade. It is equally important for Kiribati, which will soon disappear beneath the waves because of melting ice caps.

They are going carbon-neutral, and praying that the rest of the world fulfills its obligations too, or be the first to lose their countries.

Our government's own scientists are warning of increased frequency of extreme weather: floods, fires, drought and severe storms. Implementing the targets in this bill is not just an ecological imperative, it is also an economic necessity.

Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern concluded that not adopting serious reduction targets now will, in the end, actually cost us much more, perhaps more than any of us can think of affording.

In Canada, the recent Jaccard & Associates report shows that the costs of adopting these targets here will be quite minimal. Canada's economy will still grow at 2% and create over a million net new jobs.

We do not need studies to tell us this. We just have to look at the real-life examples in Europe, in forward-looking countries such as Germany and Denmark that have transformed their economies and stimulated growth in new industries. So we can afford to adopt these targets. We cannot afford not to.

A national climate change policy is the responsibility of the federal government. It is time to assume our responsibilities. This bill gives our government a way to work toward what cities, provinces and Canadians say we are ready to do, what we are all compelled to do.

Just two weeks ago the International Scientific Congress, preparing for Copenhagen, painted a stark picture. Researchers say our worst-case climate scenarios are increasingly likely to come true: melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, acidification of entire oceans, and social and economic chaos on a global scale.

Canada's Parliament passed this bill last year. It sets orderly targets for the next 40 years. It forces the government to publish a plan to achieve those targets. Mr. Dion and the Liberals voted for this bill last year. It did not clear the Senate law when an election was called early, but the problem has not gone away. In fact, it is clear that it is getting worse, and getting worse faster and faster.

This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen to sign a new agreement to avoid dangerous climate change. Will Canada be embarrassed yet again on the world stage, or--

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but the time allotted for his remarks has expired. Of course, I caution him about mentioning members' names, which he did over the course of his speech.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

I apologize for that. I have a few lines to go, may I finish?

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member.

The hon. member's time has expired. I did not get up until then, I deliberately waited. I am afraid the time has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Climate Change Accountability ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 1, 2009, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, March 25, 2009, the House in committee of the whole will now proceed to the consideration of Motion No. 2 under Government Business.

I do now leave the Chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole for consideration of Government Business No. 2, Mr. Peter Milliken in the chair)

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I would like to begin this evening's debate by making a short statement on how the proceedings will unfold.

Tonight's debate is being held under Standing Order 53.1, and it provides for a take note debate to be held following a motion proposed by a minister, following consultation with the House leaders of the other parties.

The motion provided for tonight's debate was adopted by the House on Wednesday, March 25, 2009.

Each member speaking will be allotted 10 minutes for debate, followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments. The debate will end after four hours or when no member rises to speak.

Pursuant to the special order adopted yesterday, the Chair will receive no dilatory motions, no quorum calls, and no requests for unanimous consent.

Pursuant to the rules used in a committee of the whole, members are permitted to speak more than once, provided that there is sufficient time. At the conclusion of tonight's debate, we will rise and the House will adjourn until tomorrow.

We will now begin tonight's take note debate. The chair will recognize the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

moved:

That this Committee take note of the International Conference on Afghanistan hosted by The Hague.

Mr. Speaker, before anything else, I think we must take a moment to recognize those Canadians who are working to build a peaceful, democratic and self-sufficient Afghanistan and to commemorate those who have lost their lives for our country or who have been injured in service in Afghanistan.

As highlighted by the tragic events of the past week and the enormous sacrifices we have borne over the past seven years, Afghanistan is an issue that deserves our greatest attention and the solidarity of all Canadians.

Today I would like to say a few words about the context and objectives for the upcoming International Conference on Afghanistan. The event will be jointly hosted in The Hague by the UN, the Netherlands and Afghanistan. It will bring together over 70 governments and all of the key international bodies operating in Afghanistan. I will participate on behalf of Canada.

The Hague conference represents an opportunity for us to reflect on progress made, to prepare for important challenges ahead, and to reaffirm the international community's commitment to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan.

The Afghan government and the international community have a plan that is enshrined in the Afghanistan Compact, in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, and in the 2008 Paris Declaration. The Hague conference will not change this plan. Instead, it will help to renew our efforts to implement it and forge a common understanding of the key challenges ahead. For Canada, this will mean steadfast pursuit of the six priorities that have guided our engagement for nearly a year.

As you will recall, the reconstructing of our mission around these priorities was a direct response to the independent panel on Canada's future role in Afghanistan. Our work to implement the panel's recommendation has fundamentally transformed the way Canada operates in Afghanistan.

We have more than doubled the presence of diplomats, development officials, advisers and police trainers. We have appointed a senior official, known as the Representative of Canada in Kandahar, or RoCK, to manage this expanded civilian presence and to liaise as an equal with our top general in the country. We have also appointed a civilian director to work under this individual as head of the Kandahar provincial reconstruction team.

Since last June, we have moved to focus half of all Canadian development assistance in Kandahar. We have established joint civilian-military planning units to ensure that both sides of Canada's engagement are working in lockstep.

In accordance with the March 2008 parliamentary motion on Afghanistan, we continue to report quarterly to the House on progress in meeting these goals.

This approach is unique in its clarity and transparency and in the systematic monitoring and reporting on which it is based. No other country has released specific benchmarks or devoted its full resources to attaining them. No other country has achieved the same level of integration and cooperation between the civilian and military aspects of its mission. This targeted approach is working.

As stated in the latest quarterly report, Canada is making a real contribution to improving Afghans' lives and their government's ability to provide the Afghan people with basic services.

In the coming years, we will continue to focus our efforts on attaining these objectives and enabling the Afghan government to play an even larger role in managing the country.

Although the agenda for the conference is still being finalized, we are confident that the event will meet three broad goals.

First, it will allow the international community to reaffirm a collective commitment to Afghanistan. Seven years into our mission, we have registered very encouraging advances in areas such as health, education, vocational training and the professionalization of an Afghan army, which I witnessed first-hand when I was in Afghanistan last week. This conference will allow us to take stock of these successes, forge renewed agreement on the key areas where things have not improved and help to focus international attention on those areas where urgent action is required.

Second, the conference will give the Afghan government an opportunity to explain how it has respected the commitments it made in Paris last year.

Some very clear measures have been taken since then to further the implementation of the Paris program. The new interior and agriculture ministers undertook ambitious reforms. The cooperation of the Afghan government with the civilian government of Pakistan has improved markedly. Moreover, this year, for the first time since 2002, poppy cultivation decreased in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, important challenges remain to be met. Bold measures have to be applied to fight corruption throughout the country. The Afghan government must also do more to protect freedom of expression, recognizing it as the cornerstone of democracy.

Finally, and this may be what is most urgent, President Karzai and the leaders of the opposition must continue to work together in order to find a solution to problems related to the timing of elections.

We cannot afford to lose ground between May, when the president's term officially ends, and August, when the next elections occur. We will use our voice at the conference to encourage a speedy resolution to this issue, as we have through our interaction with Afghan officials on the ground.

In short, the conference will help to ensure the Afghan government remains accountable to its international supporters for taking concrete action where it is most needed.

Third, the conference will provide a venue for the U.S. to announce the results of its strategic review of Afghanistan. Let me be clear, however, while Canada worked closely with the U.S. and contributed to this review just last year, as my hon. colleagues should all be aware, we already undertook a comprehensive review to better focus our efforts in Afghanistan and through this review in the summer of 2008, we set our priorities and objectives until 2011.

The U.S. will deploy 17,000 troops to southern Afghanistan this year. Many of these troops will head to Kandahar. As U.S. deployments to the regions progress, we intend to partner more closely with them to deliver on crucial governance, reconstruction and development work. This coordination will go beyond our respective military efforts. Indeed, Canada's ongoing cooperation with U.S. civilian agencies in Kandahar is set to grow as further U.S. resources arrive in the province.

This intensified U.S. focus is a welcome development. Over time our hope is that an influx of troops and resources will help to improve the security situation, particularly in the south.

In the context of these broader goals, Canada will use the international conference in The Hague to advance its own objectives. We will provide our assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and in particular, in Kandahar.

Working with our allies at this event we will help to identify the areas that are moving in the right direction. We will also not be shy to speak out about those we feel require greater attention from the Afghan government, the international community, or both.

We will also take advantage of the conference to inform our partners about the most important results achieved by Canada during the past eight months, results which have been submitted in detail to the House in three quarterly reports.

Finally, we will join the international community in reaffirming our ongoing commitment to Afghanistan and welcoming the sustained growth in international investments and military contributions.

The March 31 conference will be an opportunity to turn toward the future. It will help the international community to manage change and ensure that it produces the best possible results for Afghanis, their region and the safety of all of the planet's inhabitants.

There are some members across the way in this House who, for whatever reason, would like to sow dissension between us and our allies. This should not be done in times of war. This is a time for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brave men and women who are defending our values and interests in the most dangerous place in the world.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for being available this evening. In today's debate, there is no question of the mission's relevance. We all agree on that, and I thank him for recognizing the work done by our troops. It is important to do so. That said, he will come up against one fact at the NATO conference. While we will reaffirm our commitment to this mission, there remain some unanswered questions.

There are differences between the north and the south, as he knows. There also are differences among countries, which are not conducting the same missions as the Canadians, the British, the Danes or the Americans. If greater success is to be assured, consistency is essential.

And so I would like to ask the minister first if an effort will be made to bring greater consistency to the mission, given that, for example, the German mission is not the same as the Canadian one or the Turkish one. The minister has also spoken of the Afghan government. In fact, it looks like an accounting, an attempt to see how the Afghan government has acted over all these years.

Pakistan, in its Waziristan region, for example, is a problem as well. It is an unoccupied zone, where the Pakistani government does not interfere. It is where the Taliban go to muster. This is a fact. There is even talk of applying sharia law there now. The Taliban are pretty much left on their own there. I would like to hear what the minister has to say about this Pakistani Afghani situation, and in particular as concerns this tribal area.

Finally, I would like to put another question to the minister, one that is not unimportant. It is fine to have a civilian head, to have someone who is empowered to negotiate at the same level as the general. I would like him to tell us why Canada has no special envoy, given the situation. I myself was the Prime Minister's special advisor for Haiti, and know very well that a full delegation of powers at all levels brings greater strength. The solution in Afghanistan has to be political. So why is there no special envoy from Canada?

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his questions which are, overall, quite relevant. Concerning the first question on coordination, I agree with him entirely: it is of primordial importance that the allies forge the necessary coordination together, in order to attain not only NATO objectives, but also the objectives of the member partners. As he knows, Canada identified a number of issues within the six priorities.

However, I also wish to reassure him and say that on a regular basis, whether at meetings in which my colleague the Minister of National Defence takes part with our NATO partners, or at meetings I have had the pleasure of attending with other ministers of foreign affairs, this highly important matter of coordination has been raised.

Since I had the opportunity of going to Afghanistan two weeks ago, I know that the most important issue there now is to increase security. No matter where you are on the planet, whether in my colleague's riding in the Montreal area, or in my riding or elsewhere, the people who live there are constantly looking for security and quality of life. There is no denying that this is a primordial objective for the citizens of Afghanistan. I know that the members of ISAF as well as those of NATO are working to achieve this.

As for Pakistan, and more particularly the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Canadian contribution is extremely important. Among other priority objectives, we are seeking, through what is commonly known as the Dubai process, to get the parties together to begin a dialogue. In fact, an important meeting is supposed to take place next weekend in Dubai. Both Pakistanis who are concerned with these border issues and representatives from Afghanistan are to meet for a third time and attempt to devise an action plan. We are following this very closely. The member is absolutely right when he states that we must make all necessary efforts in this regard.

Finally, concerning the special envoy, certain countries have chosen to designate a special envoy. Italy, France, Germany and the United States have decided to proceed in this way. The approach laid out in the report of the independent commissioners would lead us to create a cabinet committee which would determine the actions to be taken, and review our strategy and commitments, both civil and military. Negotiations are currently taking place.

According to the nature of a given meeting, we may designate either David Mulroney, the deputy minister assigned to this file, myself, or the minister responsible for international development who chairs this committee.

Basically, we must be able to view these questions in a useful and practical way. When the specific need arises, according to the agenda that will have been set, we will act accordingly and determine—

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Chair NDP Denise Savoie

Mr. Minister, I would like to give other people a chance to talk.

The member for Saint-Jean.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Chair, I would like to thank the member for his presentation. I would like him to explain something he mentioned in his speech. For two years now, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for an international conference with top officials from the countries neighbouring Afghanistan. At the time, the minister and his predecessor flatly rejected our proposals. On March 5, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested holding an international conference on March 31. Now, all of a sudden, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is saying that it is a great idea.

When the Bloc Québécois suggested it, it was not a good idea, but the moment the U.S. Secretary of State responsible for foreign affairs announced an international meeting on March 31, the Minister of Foreign Affairs jumped on board, calling it an excellent idea. Why?

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Madam Chair, I am sorry. It is true that the Bloc Québécois made that suggestion and that Canada cannot function without the Bloc Québécois' suggestions. But they have to understand that there might be more important people out there. I do not want to offend the members of the Bloc Québécois, but there are probably more important people than those in the Bloc Québécois who have considered this issue. I do not mean to sound arrogant. It was a suggestion. People made a lot of suggestions.

I would like everyone to bear in mind that a motion was passed in the House that clearly outlined what the Government of Canada intends to do on the ground in Afghanistan. The motion set out priorities and programs—major job-creation programs—and so on.

As I mentioned, we also had the Paris conference and the Afghanistan compact. There has been a series of measures. Every measure was decided on at the appropriate time to move this file forward. At this point, it is extremely important to coordinate regional efforts, thereby building an awareness that I hope will result in significant renewal for the country and long-term stability in the region.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Madam Chair, like my colleagues, I think this debate is extremely useful, and am very pleased that we can have it before the conference at the end of March.

As I said from the start, this debate is not about the relevance of the mission. I think we must send this message of solidarity to our troops and tell them just how much we support them and their families. We grieve when these young men die in uniform, in the name of peace, liberty and democracy.

Still, today, I think it essential to have this sort of debate to prepare the future exit strategy for our soldiers. It also serves to raise relevant questions as to the progress we have made and whether our efforts in the area of development are making a noticeable difference.

I was pleased to note that the Prime Minister said we would not win the war against the insurgents. We have known from the outset that the solution in Afghanistan was not a military one and that we had to reorganize accordingly. This was done subsequent to the Manley report. It was not done quickly enough in my opinion, because we have a 3D strategy in Canada—development, diplomacy and defence. It is time now to move on to another stage.

I must say that the article in Spiegel in which the Germans say “Afghanistan is on the brink of chaos” reads like a message from the local leaders.

It states:

--the US military and development workers in the troubled country. The elected government, they warn, can no longer compete with the Taliban.

We have a situation and the time has come to think and use that conference to make sure that we take the right decision, to make sure that we accompany the Afghan people to find a real solution for their needs.

As a country, as a citizen of the world, we have a duty to intervene when people are suffering, but at the same time it is important that we keep in mind that we are not there as a protectorate. We are there to accompany the Afghan people and we have to take some very important decisions.

I was a cabinet minister myself when we discussed that issue. The reason why we did not go to Iraq but we went to Afghanistan was exactly that, that multilateral issue. It is important that we all keep together and reaffirm that commitment, to be generous but not naive. It is important that we find a way to define if the triple Ds are properly put in place.

When I put questions to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, it was in this regard. We can have one conference to reaffirm our commitment and one to ask the Afghan government what it has done.

It is a very corrupt government. President Karzai is even known as the mayor of Kabul, since over 60% of the country is uncontrolled. The situation in southern Afghanistan is difficult, as it is even now in the area of Wardak, west of Kabul. Kabul itself is even under attack. We are faced with this reality.

I want us to be happy. I am pleased because, with Mr. Obama, it seems there has been a revival and there will obviously be more troops. It feels like a new approach is on the way. Napoleon said that geography dictated politics. There are glimpses of a new geopolitical reality on the horizon. We must have a strategy for Pakistan, and Iran must certainly be watched, because the situation there needs watching. It is fine to say that production of poppies and opium is down, but it is a huge scourge and a problem.

Quite honestly, I would have appreciated the minister telling us, despite his eloquence, that we are not going there just to report on what is in the Canadian government's three latest reports. I would have liked him to describe his strategy. We are not going there just to reaffirm our commitment. An update on the current situation must be achieved, along with a plan for our activities in the next two years.

When the Prime Minister said that we could never beat the insurgents, if had he gone on to present our strategy, things would have gone a little better. Unfortunately the fact that he said it in the United States obviously distressed some people, but, more importantly, the fact that he did not go any further once again caused a problem with the perception of the mission. Many people sent me emails saying we had no business there. I say we do. We have things to do there.

It is a many sided situation, and if we eventually want to tackle Darfur and other countries, we have to recognize that we have a role to play as citizens of the world.

I believe that the role of those in power and officials, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of International Cooperation or the Prime Minister, is really to make it known that it does not stop there, and that the state of things must be taken into account.

Therefore, the exit strategy will be essential. It will make it possible to tell our soldiers that we are proud of them and that they did not fall in combat for nothing. After 2011, we will not be there in a military role, but, as in other operations, we will have a role in the humanitarian and diplomatic aspects.

I like the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but he has other fish to fry. He has more than one file to deal with. This way he can be asked to study a particular file, if we remind him that today, for example, is Afghanistan day.

We can say that also for our Minister of National Defence. He can say, “Today you take care of Afghanistan. We need you there”. The reason why we need that special envoy is exactly for that purpose. That person will have the full authority of the Prime Minister and all the delegation of power from all the departments. When we will have negotiations to take care of the situation of Afghanistan to apply those triple Ds, that person, because I have been a special adviser for IET, will have the kind of political authority which provides a solution eventually.

I could have talked more about national defence. There was discussion of equipment and the need for tanks. Of the 100 tanks bought, 40 or 60 are in Europe and 40 are at the Longue-Pointe base and are not yet organized.

Perhaps if I send a message to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, he could eventually explain to us why these tanks, so vital to the mission in Afghanistan, are still not ready. I think our 20 German Leopards had a few jolts and will probably be needed from now to 2011. We could have asked another question as well. In the name of the mission in Afghanistan, billions of dollars of equipment was bought, which is still not ready. The government was in such a hurry, that, in the name of national security, it bought equipment without bids, and it is still not in use today.

In these times of economic recession, it might be reasonable to ask ourselves how contracts were handed out. That said, I think we should talk more about the conference in The Hague. I hope that the Prime Minister and the minister will take our questions there and that, instead of adopting a wait and see attitude, they will be proactive and decide what will be done in the next two years in connection with the military.

International Conference on Afghanistan in The HagueGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Chair, I thank my colleague for his most eloquent speech. I acknowledge his verve and ability, and would just like to reassure him that yes, there is a strategy. We will have the opportunity to revisit all of this not only when we are in Afghanistan, but everywhere, including the Hague.

My colleague has travelled around Afghanistan and had the opportunity to see for himself what is going on there. Was he able to see a change for the better? Did he, for instance, see the reconstruction, see new schools being built? Was he able to see that the Afghan military and police force is increasing in size, was he able to see that we are helping to rebuild the Dahla dam?

Since he has been in this House for some time, he was here at the start of the conflict. I would like to know whether he is in a position to say that things are changing for the better.