Mr. Speaker, this is the second time this week we have entered into a debate about ballistic missile defence, so let it not be said that the House has not had adequate opportunity to debate the matter.
In terms of the vote, we will have a vote on this before any decision is made by the government because the Bloc vote will occur next Tuesday. In terms of a free vote, I venture to say there will be more freedom on this side of the House than we will probably see on that side because I know there are people on this side of the House who do not necessarily favour the position that I am favouring, which is that I oppose this Bloc motion. I very much agree with the remarks that have been made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
We have to bear in mind that in the period since the end of the cold war there has been a proliferation in the world of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. We have seen a dispersal of technology throughout the world and the ability to use that technology to develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. We just heard in the last few days about nuclear secrets leaking out of Pakistan. In just the last year or two we have seen the development of longer range two stage missile systems coming out of North Korea, not just for their own use but perhaps for sale to others, as has been their past practice.
If this trend continues it is quite conceivable that over the next few years we could see the launching of a long range ballistic missile against a city in North America, and one carrying a nuclear or some other kind of warhead on it. It could be a deliberate action or it could be an accidental situation. I would think if that were to occur nobody in this room or in this country would object to sending up a defensive missile to destroy the incoming missile before it destroyed the city it was aimed at. I cannot imagine anybody being opposed to that.
That is what we are talking about here today. That is what the issue is all about. We are talking about a defensive missile. A defensive missile does not have a warhead on it. It would be launched from land or sea and would hit the incoming missile at such a high speed in outer space that the missile would be destroyed before it could hit its target, killing a lot of people and damaging a lot of our cities.
There have been tests on this new system, and that has been pointed out. Some have been successful and some have failed, but there is no doubt that the technology is on its way to being perfected. The most recent tests have been more successful, even using decoys, which is a more sophisticated system.
The kind of system we are talking about is not star wars. It does not lead to an arm's race. It is entirely defensive. It does not lead us down the path either of the weaponization of outer space. It is completely a defensive response to an offensive weapon.
I do not believe we will see the Americans go the route of weapons in outer space, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs has said, certainly for quite a number of years. However, even if they ultimately did, there is no reason that we have to be with them. In fact, we should not be there with them on weaponization of outer space because we oppose it. It is clearly a policy of the government.
There are those who will say that if we go down the path of ballistic missile defence, it is a slippery slope leading to the weaponization of outer space. No, it is not. We clearly indicated in the war on terrorism that we would go to Afghanistan with our American allies but we did not go to Iraq. We made a decision that we felt was in our national interest. We went to one; we did not go to the other.
Similarly, we can support land and sea based defensive missiles but not weapons in outer space. Nor do we have to go with any substantial capital expenditure. The Americans have not asked us for that kind of assistance. They have already provided the capital costs in their budgeting for this system and, quite frankly, we could not afford it in any event. There could be some costs with respect to administration, such as operational issues or having additional personnel at Norad, but we should not be participating with any substantial capital costs.
People will ask about all the other terrorist threats, such as people bringing in anthrax in a suitcase or countries sending in a cruise missile, which is not a ballistic missile or the same kind of thing.
Yes, those possibilities are there, and yes, action, needs to be taken and has been taken since 9/11 to better protect against them, but that does not make a ballistic missile defence system any less valid. It is one of the possible threats that we could face.
If it sounds like this system is a fait accompli, in terms of the United States, it is. However it is not something that was invented by the Bush administration. I know the leader of the NDP likes to talk about it in that regard. In fact, it is the subject of legislation, the national missile defence act, that was passed in 1999 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The current president has said that he will implement it and that he will deploy a limited number of missiles in Alaska and California starting this fall.
I think there is a need to get on with this discussion with our American allies because if they are going to make decisions that affect the safety and security of the people of North America, then it is in the interests of Canada to be at the table. Being at the table, to me, as a former defence minister and one knowledgeable about this entity, involves Norad.
This joint agency between Canada and the United States has existed for over 40 years. It monitors anything that comes into the airspace of North America. It can detect aircraft, any object coming from space and incoming missiles. Originally it was designed to detect strategic bombers coming in over the North Pole from the Soviet Union as it existed in those days, but today it still plays a very important role in detecting anything happening in or over our continental airspace.
On September 11, 2001, Norad was vital. It quickly moved to protect our airspace. In fact, there was a Canadian general in the command position at the time of the disaster. Make no mistake about it, Canada does play a key role in Norad.
Norad can detect anything coming in but it only has jet fighters, like CF-18s, to respond to whatever comes in. Defensive missiles are a missing component of its capabilities.
Finally, we need to work this out in a Norad context. If we do not, then the Americans will be making these decisions on their own and we will be left standing outside the door. It will, I assure members, marginalize Norad. We cannot afford to have this happen. We need to be there. We need to be part of the information sharing, the consulting and the decision making process. This is in the interests of Canadians and it is in the interests of our safety and security.