Madam Speaker, at the outset I believe we should acknowledge that this is a debate that has no right or wrong side or answer. Whether this government endorses or refuses to endorse the acceptance of cruise testing over Canadian territory is, whatever the outcome, neither right nor wrong.
We are discussing today on one level our national role in contributing to the aggregate military technological base of our American neighbours. These tests are part of their military research and development. On another level it affords Canada the opportunity to define these tests, having regard to our national values.
With the end of the cold war arguments either for or against cruise missile testing have quite simply lost much force. Hon. members here will recall the history of the modern day cruise, that it evolved from the buzzbombs of second world war Germany and that the Americans and Soviets engaged in a protracted period of technological one-up-manship which resulted in this low level flying missile.
From the development of the cruise has evolved a technology which has military and technological applications which are quite simply American based. To allow this testing to proceed will without doubt and I say this without putting forward a positive or a negative opinion, ensures that the United States continues in its position of pre-eminence in terms of being the number one military power.
From a perspective of fortress North America it could be suggested that the agreement with the United States in 1983 to allow cruise testing was correct. That agreement was renegotiated, as we heard, in 1993 for another 10-year period, putting us through to the year 2003.
The reason for choosing this Canadian corridor as a test site was quite simple. The terrain and weather conditions in the 2,200 kilometre long corridor is similar to that of the Soviet Union, as the speaker before me noted.
In 1983 NORAD was vitally concerned about the security of North American having regard to the then perceived Soviet arsenal. I would like to pose this open-ended question to members present here today: Are we as North Americans threatened by the former Soviet military?
To allow this test to proceed in my opinion is simply to confirm the political reality which existed in 1983 but has vanished in the intervening years.
From a military perspective what can be the logical explanation for this testing? There is the argument that other countries can and are developing cruise capability which then, by implication, requires the United States to continue to be technically superior. If we, and I say this as a Canadian and as a member of this House, want to allow this testing to proceed then I suggest we should also ask what is the perceived or real benefit to Canada. Is it to counter the former Soviet Union and maintain the security of North America? Alternatively, is it to facilitate the very specialized American-based industries which are dependent upon military programs for their very existence?
The global political reality of 1983 has substantially changed. Canadians must therefore acknowledge this in determining whether these tests should proceed.
These musings of mine reflect the politics of another era, a time when there was an arms race, a time when there was a perceived threat to our national security and a time when NORAD had some continental importance. These factors today have simply either vanished or diminished to the point where they are meaningless.
The other factor I would suggest requires consideration is quite simply this: As Canadians, is it beneficial in any way from a security or economic perspective to allow these tests? This is not a matter of abrogating a bilateral agreement, as has been suggested here today. The agreement dictates the technical and financial terms but states specifically that each test must be approved by the Government of Canada. I ask: "What is the perceived benefit to Canadians?" or more directly and simply, "What is in it for us?"
Yesterday in the House several speakers discussed the humanitarian aspect of peacekeeping, that is in certain circumstances Canadian military peacekeeping represents a positive influence in areas of the world. Many of the opinions put forward yesterday reflected a desire to improve the plight of many people in countries undergoing conflict. Those are very laudable and humanitarian objectives which we, as members of the United Nations, have collectively stated in a global perspective are in the best interests of all nations.
These peacekeeping roles mesh or coincide with the common values shared with other member states of that body. Yet as a Canadian I ask: Where does the testing of a cruise missile fit into the objectives of the Canadian government? Is there a national interest which is being served if these tests proceed?
American governments over a period of several administrations have quite overtly inserted a quid pro quo into their relationships with other national governments. Foreign aid, whether it be monetary or technical, is often tied to events occurring in the other state. For example, the extension of American aid to China was jeopardized by China after the Tiananmen Square incident. The interventions by American forces in Grenada and Panama in the late eighties are also examples of a more direct nature. These actions were simply as a result, in my opinion, of serving the national objectives of the United States.
I therefore ask members present today to reflect on the broader issue of our relationship with the United States and with the Americans. I have heard from many of my constituents on this issue and though I cannot say that I am a member of the third party, I can quite safely say that my opinion is here reflecting the greater consensus that I am hearing in my constituency that in our dealings with our American neighbours in the broadest and most general sense of the word and of the idea, that we must become more self-centred, even more specifically that we must ask "Is it in the Canadian interests"; in the most basic sense "What's in it for us?"
My riding is a narrow wedge of real estate on the Ontario-Michigan border. I would venture to say that 75 per cent of the people in my riding live about a three-minute car ride from the United States. I would also point out that in my riding anyone can purchase a Detroit News , a Detroit Free Press at any corner variety store just as easily as I could buy the Globe and Mail . My riding is the third busiest crossing along the Canada-U.S. border, in fact 15 per cent of all trade between Canada and the United States crosses the border in Sarnia or Point Edward in my riding. Yet despite this overwhelming presence, which we call the American influence, it is abundantly clear to me that we are not Americans. My constituents tell me that. We are not anti-American, we are simply not Americans.
Through a process of national evolution we have stated that our priorities are not always identical to their priorities. We have stated that our national values are not the same as their national values.
As a result, I am aware of Americans attempting to enter some of the health clinics offered by the local health unit in my riding in an attempt to take advantage of the health services and treatment programs offered anonymously to walk-in clients.
Obviously our priorities are not their priorities. I am aware of the significant collection of hand weapons seized daily by our customs officials from American vehicles entering Canada in my riding. Obviously our values are not their values. As a result I must ask once again: Where does the allowance of cruise missile testing over Canadian territory as an objective of American military policy coincide with Canadian priorities and values?
It has been stated that the role of the Canadian military-and I stress Canadian-must and will be reviewed during the course of this Parliament.
As an extension of this objective, I would state that the Canadian government must also examine our national objectives under the 1993 bilateral agreement with the United States relative to cruise testing. Notwithstanding that agreement, as stated previously, we reserve the right to say no.
In the 1992-93 fiscal year the Department of National Defence spent some $148 million in modernizing our air defence systems as well as an additional $175 million for low level air defence systems.
It is possible to conclude that by allowing these tests to proceed we will constantly find ourselves in need of more sophisticated air defence systems as a result of the technologies we are allowing to be tested by the Americans over Canadian territory.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Prime Minister for affording the members of this House the opportunity to speak on this important national issue, knowing that when a decision is made he will have heard a broad cross-section of views from all of Canada.