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House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was libyan.

Topics

LibyaGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, we support the motion.

LibyaGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Green Party votes no.

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6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Conservative Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, did the other members of the Bloc Québécois vote for or against this motion? We heard only one member vote.

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6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I believe he has indicated that all members of the Bloc voted that way.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #31

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6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on the adjournment proceedings to follow up on a question that I asked in the House on June 6 of this year, submitted in the usual way.

The notice stated that I was not satisfied with the answer received, in this case, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence, concerning my question about the government being forthcoming, first, on its plans to continue the mission in Afghanistan and the fact that throughout 2009 and most of 2010 up until November, the Prime Minister had repeatedly told Canadians that our forces would leave Afghanistan at the end of July 2011 in accordance with the motion of the House.

This was repeated again and again over the course of time. In fact, I remember one time the Prime Minister saying that maybe there would be a couple of soldiers guarding the embassy in Kabul, the embassy where the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence once resided.

This was the notion and the comfort Canadians had from the Prime Minister that this would happen.

We know what happened in the fall of 2010. Without even a vote in the House, there was a unilateral decision by the government to continue the mission in Afghanistan. It was stated that it was a non-combat mission that would all happen behind the wire. In fact, on November 16, the Prime Minister said in the House, in answer to questions, that the answer was yes to all those questions, as the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and others had said, that the government was looking at a non-combat mission. It would be a training mission that will occur in classrooms behind the wire on bases.

By suggesting this was a non-combat mission, the Prime Minister said that there did not have to be a vote in Parliament.

We had a vote just now about the continuation of a mission, and that was part of the promises that the government gave to Canadians when they ran for election and part of the commitments that were made that whenever a Canadian Forces mission was in operation there would be a vote in Parliament. For the most part, the government has respected that.

However, it is about whether Canadians are being given the whole truth. We have another example of it now. After hearing about this behind-the-wire story, which was told to the Canadian public by the Minister of National Defence and by the Prime Minister, we learned the other day in the defence committee that we had a dozen places in Kabul where training was going on, involving transportation all over the place. We are not behind the wire. In fact, Canadian Forces were engaged in combat when the attack took place on the U.S. embassy.

There are Canadian forces there. They are exposed to significant risks. We were told this was supposed to be behind the wire in classrooms. In fact, Canadian forces, up to a maximum of 950, for three years are going to be engaged in this combat training mission in Afghanistan, exposed to risks.

Canadians are not being told the whole truth. That is the point of my question. I was not satisfied with the answer I received because we were not given the full facts.

6:55 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as my hon. friend the member for St. John's East knows, because we have been briefed on this subject as recently as last week, there is a training mission under way in Afghanistan. Our government has been clear about its intentions in this regard from the beginning. The combat mission is over.

I am very grateful to have this opportunity to set the record straight regarding the government's intentions for what remains an evolving mission in Afghanistan.

Let me begin by reiterating that the core of the question put by the member opposite is based on leaked information, and it is not government policy to comment on such speculative matters.

However, I can say this. In accordance with the parliamentary motion passed in 2008, the Canadian Forces' combat mission in Kandahar ended in July 2011. The government was very clear and consistent about this. The Canadian Forces carried out their last major combat operation in a rural area of Kandahar in June.

In July there was a handover to a mission transition task force, whose mandate is to ensure that our withdrawal from Kandahar province by the year's end is conducted effectively, while maintaining accountability for our equipment, materiel and personnel. This will allow the Canadian Forces to meet the government's commitment to redeploy fully from Kandahar by December 31, 2011.

Furthermore, a contingent of Canadian Forces members will remain in Kandahar until November 2011 to fulfill their commitment regarding NATO support positions and staff positions. This situation and this Canadian presence in Kandahar were explained clearly during the last committee meeting.

The Canadian Forces completed a smooth transfer of their area of responsibility to other coalition forces in the Kandahar area, and our partners will continue to build on our successes in order to help the Afghan government ensure that country's safety and stability.

This has been a collaborative and integrated approach every step of the way. It is only because of the seamlessness that we have been complimented by allies, including the United States, for ensuring a smooth transition under difficult and challenging circumstances.

Although the Canadian Forces' combat mission in Afghanistan has drawn to a close, our commitment to Afghanistan remains long term. We will maintain a whole-of- government presence in the country, through our governance, development and military training work, until March 2014.

We are there at the request of the Government of Afghanistan, working alongside many NATO international partners. We are also committed to supporting Afghanistan, above all, building up security and governance institutions required to bring peace and prosperity to its people. Training the Afghan National Security Forces has been an integral component of our mission to date, and Canada's military trainers are recognized as among the best in the world. That is why, in November 2010, the government announced that forces would continue to support Afghan National Security Forces training through a contribution of up to 950 personnel in both training and support positions within the NATO training mission in Afghanistan.

This mission, centred on Kabul, is at several locations in Kabul, as the member opposite noted correctly, because the Afghan national army and police are being trained at several locations. We will also include smaller training locations in Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and Herat in the west. It will focus on training and mentoring the members of these institutions in an institutional setting. Well-led, well-trained, well-equipped Afghan National Security Forces will enable the Government of Afghanistan to assume increasing responsibility for Afghan security.

I must reiterate for the benefit of this House that the attack reported to have involved Canadian Forces last week was a serious attack for Kabul, but if and when Canadian Forces respond to an attack, they will be acting in self-defence. That is an entirely different context to the combat mission that we had under way earlier this year and in previous years.

6:55 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, of course it is no secret. The Minister of National Defence acknowledged that combat in this House on Friday.

The idea that the government has been clear, which is what the member said just now, is exactly what the Prime Minister said in 2010. In January and June, he said that the government could not have been more clear that the military mission would end and all of our soldiers would be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2011.

That is the kind of language that the Conservatives use when they try to assure Canadians that they are being perfectly clear. Every time the Prime Minister or the government says that they are being clear, we need to watch out, because sometime down the road we will find out that the exact opposite might happen.

That is the point of this question. We were given assurances as far back as 2003 that the primary objective of our mission in Afghanistan was to provide training and that it was expected that the Afghan national army would take over all operations in 2005. Here we are in 2011, and the government wants us there until 2014.

7 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has been clear and consistent. The combat mission is over and a training mission is under way.

It is no surprise that a training mission continues. It has been in existence for several years under NATO auspices. Canada has joined, on a large scale, a mission that we are scaling up at the time we re-committed to Afghanistan with a focus on training. It has never been anything but a widely recognized reality that Afghan National Security Forces, to meet the scale of the challenge they continue to face, need equality on a level that the Canadian Forces, with its experience in Afghanistan, are ideally suited to provide.

We are proud of this mission. We have never hidden any of its aspects. We will continue to inform this House and our committee of its progress.

The only issue that is not clear to this House is whether Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, in the face of the NDP, has any commitment left to Afghanistan whatsoever, because whatever we commit to do seems to come under question and seems to be called into doubt by the member opposite at every opportunity.

7 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise at this point in our adjournment procedures to pursue a question that I initially asked the hon. Minister of the Environment on Wednesday of last week, September 21.

The issue of ozone monitoring and threatened cuts to key scientists who perform these functions was also raised by the Liberal environment critic and by the environment critic of the official opposition. I am pleased to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment here this evening for pursuing this matter.

It is complicated. What we have been able to determine relates to a number of very key senior scientists for whom it would not be possible to imagine an easy replacement, scientists who have decades of expertise in working at monitoring ozone, which at the stratospheric level protects all life on earth from ultraviolet radiation. Without the ozone layer, there would be no life on earth, and we are very fortunate that Canadian government leadership led to the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer back in 1987.

Since that time, Canada has always been respected globally as a country that has really taken the lead, done the good science and been prepared, as with all countries. It was a great success story that the Montreal Protocol has resulted in countries around the world reducing and phasing out their reliance on chlorofluorocarbons and other chemicals that destroy the ozone layer.

It was a great shock to discover through the media and elsewhere that a number of key scientists had received a letter to suggest that their positions with Environment Canada were in doubt. They received a letter saying that they could be affected by changes in work assignments, and that this was, as the Minister of the Environment explained to me privately, pursuant to directives that are required by Treasury Board in the workforce adjustment directive.

I will just explain the position of these key scientists. One is the manager for the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. It is absolutely essential, and there is only one manager. That person has received a letter and may be laid off.

There is also a person who is responsible for the ozonesonde program, which allows weather balloons to be let go once a week in 17 locations across Canada, maintaining a very good record of ozone level measurements, which, by the way, tell us about tropospheric ozone as well. Ironically, while stratospheric ozone protects all life on earth, ground level ozone is a pollutant, and in fact measuring ground level ozone is a good way of maintaining monitoring of oil sands operations in the region. I will get back to that point as well.

The other person who has been threatened is the person who does the scientific assessments.

My question is for the parliamentary secretary.

As I look at what we have heard so far, the Minister of the Environment said in the House, “We are not cutting any ozone monitoring services”. In contradistinction to that, the Environment Canada assistant deputy minister, Madam Dodds, has said to the media, “We don't really need the same level of ozone monitoring”.

I would like some guidance from the parliamentary secretary. It seems that certainly within the scientific community there are deep concerns that we will lose key capacity to protect the ozone layer and monitor what is happening with its protection, and at the same time lose the ability to monitor pollutants at ground level.

Who was correct? Was it the Minister of the Environment in the House, or was it the assistant deputy minister when she suggested that these key services could be lost?

7:05 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to have the opportunity to address my colleague for the first time in the House on this lovely fall evening. Let me reiterate what the Minister of the Environment has repeatedly told the House.

Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone. Our plan is to ensure Canada's strong track record of atmospheric ozone measurement continues to deliver sound science within budget. We acknowledge that Canada is a world leader in atmospheric ozone science and has been for 50 years. Many of the measurement methods used globally were pioneered by Canadians. In fact, Canada also holds the longest record of ozone observations in the Arctic in the world at Resolute Bay where regular ozone measurements have been carried out since 1966.

At present, Environment Canada uses two different methods to measure ozone, the Brewer network, and as the member opposite has mentioned, the ozonesonde network. However, as the member opposite is well aware, technologies and methods of measurement change and improve over time. Our plan, rather than what the member opposite has suggested, is to optimize and integrate these two networks. This will include a review of existing network sites in terms of their scientific validity in order for Canada to fully meet its requirements for surveillance of ozone holes and the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

Canada shares its ozone network data internationally via the World Meteorological Organization, the WMO, and for many years has maintained the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. The WMO supplies the data to other weather centres and agencies in Europe and in the U.S.

Environment Canada is not closing the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre, which we have successfully hosted for many years. Environment Canada will have staff dedicated to both of these activities and will continue to achieve quality results.

I repeat, Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone in the upper atmosphere. We will not close the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre.

7:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, like my friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, I also enjoy being able to engage in an exchange with her in the House this evening, but I am afraid her answer does not quite deal with the key issue.

We now know that the ADM for Environment Canada has said that we will reduce ozone monitoring. The Brewer network system and the ozonesonde system measure different things. We categorically need both. The Brewer system measures only in daylight, so it is useless in the Arctic during the winter when it is dark. The ozonesonde network measures ozone at all levels of the atmosphere in both daylight and darkness. We cannot afford to lose either. There is no way to streamline or optimize or pretend there is new technology. Both systems must be maintained, and that is still in doubt because the manager for the ozonesonde system has received this notice.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, to be perfectly clear, Canada's environment remains a strong priority for our government, even in times of fiscal restraint. Environment Canada will continue to measure ozone and maintain its strong track record in this area.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:10 p.m.)