Madam Speaker, to respond briefly to the member's comments, it has been announced that the orchardists will have to wait until after they get their income tax returns which could be considerably down the road.
I rise on behalf of the people of Okanagan—Coquihalla to take part in this debate on the Liberal government's pay more and get less budget. I say pay more and get less because Canadians are paying more in taxes but getting less in services like health care than they were before the Liberals took office in 1993. They are paying more and getting less and that has been a consistent theme by this Liberal government.
There have been a lot of excellent speeches today on health care and taxes from the official opposition and other members, but I have chosen to spend my time on a national institution, a very proud institution, the Canadian Armed Forces.
Recently while conducting some research in my office I came across a lead story from the Globe and Mail . The date of article was February 28, 1951. The article was entitled “Canadians jubilant over orders to go to Korea”. This article detailed the decision of the Canadian government to contribute significant troops to the conflict in Korea.
The articled stated that Canadian soldiers were excited because they were proud and indeed Canadians from coast to coast to coast were proud of the contribution the Canadian Armed Forces could make to the Korean conflict.
The other article I point out was also from the Globe and Mail , dated February 21, 1959. The article announced Diefenbaker's decision to scrap the Avro Arrow project due to budgetary considerations. In another article that day by the Globe and Mail there was an editorial deploring the decision to force the Canadian government to purchase high tech equipment from the United States.
These two articles reminded me that in the 1950s Canada had a significant military establishment for a middle power, a place that we should hold today on the international scene.
The decision to scrap the Avro Arrow cost Canadians 13,800 jobs mainly in the province of Ontario. The Globe and Mail pointed out that despite the cost of the Avro Arrow program, these 13,800 workers were Canadian taxpayers. The money spent on the project would remain here in Canada.
The editorial concluded by stating: “And now what? Now the brilliant array of engineering and technical talent which built up this great Canadian industry will be dissipated. Now these highly trained men and women, the one national asset, will probably go”. The editorial asks where. The answer was to the United States. They did go and they formed the backbone of NASA.
Their exit from Canada foreshadowed today's brain drain of skilled workers who are leaving Canada due to high taxes in this country.
I bring up these two historic issues of the Globe and Mail not to reopen the debates on the decision to send troops to Korea or to scrap the Avro Arrow but to point out that Canada in the 1950s was taken seriously as a middle power. We had a serious military establishment, one that we as Canadians were very proud of.
When the call came in 1951 we were ready to go, not to maintain the peace but to fight a war. Our armed forces totalled 120,000 personnel. We contributed a brigade group, ships and aircraft to the UN sanctioned war in Korea. By 1959 we had a serious aerospace industry providing Canada with its defence requirements. Defence was taken seriously enough that the defence spending budget accounted for 20% of federal spending.
During the 1950s and into the 1960s our armed forces contribution to peace and security helped earn Canada a premier place among the world's nations. By the 1970s this started to change with the election of another Liberal government, Pierre Elliot Trudeau's government. I remember those days well because I was a young leading seaman in the Canadian Armed Forces serving on a Canadian destroyer escort. I watched firsthand as Trudeau's cuts did devastation on the Canadian Armed Forces.
By the late 1970s our soldiers were the best paid in the world. However, I remember numerous incidents where our ships were docked in Halifax and Esquimalt due to a lack of fuel. To make matters worse, training was hampered due to a lack of ammunition.
Under today's current Liberal regime things are much worse. Since 1993 the defence budget has been slashed by an additional 28% while the demands placed on our troops in the Canadian Armed Forces have increased.
At just over $9 billion defence spending accounts for only 6% of the federal spending, down from 20% in the 1950s and a minuscule expenditure compared to the $42.5 billion spent each year paying interest on the national debt.
Canadian defence expenditures account for 1.1% of GDP while the average defence expenditure for our NATO allies is 2.4% of their GDP. Again, we are out of whack completely when we spend 1.1% on defence spending.
The result of this Liberal government's cuts to defence spending has been dramatic. We have seen our troops drop to 60,000 from 73,000 in 1993. We find it impossible to meet Canada's stated defence policy objectives. Hardest hit is our army, our land forces. Most army units are manned at only 65% of their authorized strength. Despite the Canadian population hovering somewhere around 30 million we can barely muster 800 troops to send to Kosovo. Even then they will be poorly armed.
In April 1998 the Auditor General of Canada reported to the House of Commons on the state of the Canadian Armed Forces equipment and expressed grave concern about the deterioration of equipment that was preventing our forces from fulfilling Canada's defence policies. In terms of the army the auditor general pointed out that operationally it had not kept pace with technology to modernize equipment, leaving it vulnerable to threats. Its infantry and armour could be detected, engaged and defeated long before our personnel even knew the enemy was present.
This cannot be taken lightly. The auditor general has unequivocally stated that the money for capital funding would decrease even further due to the high maintenance and operating costs of servicing aging equipment, as we see daily with stories about our Sea King and Labrador helicopters, the Aurora aircraft, but enough of the facts and figures.
Canadians know that this Liberal government has decimated the Canadian Armed Forces, leaving Canada at best a freeloader on the backs of our allies and at worst utterly incapable of fulfilling our defence policy objectives, including protecting our own sovereignty. This is a national embarrassment, a disgrace not only to our troops but a disgrace for this government.
Providing for the defence of its citizens is one of the prime responsibilities of any federal government. Here as in other areas the Liberals have failed.
For decades now the Canadian forces have done more for Canada than meet the call to arms. They have been a national institution that cannot be ignored, a national institution that should be used by this federal government to build unity from coast to coast with our militia units, with our reserve force and with the pride that our service people serve with around the world.
We do feel that pride: Canada's World War I victory at Vimy Ridge, our role defeating Nazi Germany, Italy and in France in World War II, our record as premier peacekeepers around the world. Notice I said “our”, our victory, our role, our record. They are our armed forces, our Canadian Armed Forces. Despite the best efforts of the Liberals Canadians are proud of the men and women who serve in our forces.
I urge the Liberal government not to ignore the Canadian Armed Forces. The minor and minuscule increases are not enough to keep our combat capable forces in place today.