Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton East.
Before I get into my comments regarding the motion before us today, I would like to comment on what we have heard this afternoon from the Prime Minister. I appreciate his being in the House to present this information and his giving Canadians and members a brief lecture on politics 101 and the executive authority of the government in the House of Commons.
I remind the Prime Minister and the executive branch of government that along with their executive decision making power comes something called executive responsibility. The opposition will be holding the government accountable for every action it takes which seems to be inappropriate to the official opposition and to the people of Canada.
With respect to that I have great concerns over the types of troops we have heard are being deployed to the Balkans. The Prime Minister has given us very few details about those troops. He has given us a number of 800 troops, but he has said very little about their role and their missions of operation. He has said very little about all of these things. I get the assurance from the defence minister that he will also speak to these issues.
My point is that the House agrees executive decision making is in the mandate of the Government of Canada as is executive responsibility. We will do everything to make sure the proper troops are deployed and the capabilities are there. We all know the government has reduced military capability over the last five years since it came into power. It will be held to account for all those things. The auditor general has pointed it out. The chief of the defence staff has also pointed out the capability deficit we have now after six years of Liberal dominance in the country.
However, I digress. I rose this afternoon on behalf of the people of Okanagan—Coquihalla to speak to the opposition motion:
That this House calls on the government to intensify and accelerate efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Kosovo through the involvement of Russia and the United Nations, and to urge NATO not to take actions that expand the conflict and stand in the way of a diplomatic solution.
I congratulate members of the Canadian Armed Forces, particularly those in the air force who have done a superb job in executing the sorties and missions they have been given over the last 35 days. All Canadians should take time to thank them for that, and to pray for their safe and speedy return to Canada. All of us want to see a diplomatic solution to this situation.
Therein lies the problem with the motion. In the way it was written it makes it sound as though we have not been concerned about a diplomatic solution. In the newspapers I read on a daily basis and in the media reports I see, the diplomatic flurry of activity surrounding Kofi Annan, the ministers from Russia, our Minister of Foreign Affairs and other interested parties has definitely increased. Canada must show its absolute resolve not to fray away from its NATO allies in this terrible tragedy happening in Kosovo.
The motion lays out some assumptions that the Russians and the UN have been kept out of the negotiations. I feel that is totally false. I would not even want to be sending that message. That is why I cannot support the motion before the House today.
It is also important to note that the UN has been in the Balkans for most of this decade, trying to resolve various territorial and ethnic disputes. There is increased diplomatic activity going on right now, but there has been such activity for the last 10 years. We have tried.
If members of the NDP think this is some whim NATO has embarked upon for no good reason, they are sadly mistaken. We have to remember Canada's involvement. We have a stake in it as well. Eleven of our peacekeepers have died through peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. I do not say that lightly. I am quite concerned about that. Do we have a stake in it? Of course we do, because those people did not die in vain.
NATO has taken military initiative due to the failure of an agreement in the UN to take action against Serb ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Russia and China would oppose UN sanctioned action in the security council. We know that full well. Kofi Annan has even identified that.
It is ridiculous to say that Russia has been excluded. Russia is important. Every media report, everything we see, shows that all the stakeholders are trying to get Russia involved. Russia is seen as an important mediator to end this conflict.
I will remind members of the House and maybe my colleagues in the New Democratic Party of the goals. I am not condemning the NDP for bringing the motion forward. They drafted the motion in the spirit of wanting to find a solution, but I do not think there has been a lot of thought into what they are saying here.
First, one of NATO's goals is to end ethnic cleansing. Second is the withdrawal of Serb forces. Third, refugees must be allowed to return to their homes in Kosovo. Fourth, NATO peacekeepers must be allowed to enter Kosovo. Fifth is a political solution. That is the fifth link in the NATO agreement to which the 19 member states have agreed.
We are already striking Yugoslavia with our NATO air forces to reduce the ability of the Yugoslavian military and paramilitary to commit aggression. This is very, very important and it is working. The evidence shows that this tactic is working.
The comments made yesterday by the deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia show that the political decision making powers are fraying on their side. We cannot allow them to fray on our side. NATO must maintain its resolve to continue the campaign until the Yugoslavian leadership accepts a negotiated settlement.
With this type of motion I would have to ask what kind of message are we trying to send to Mr. Milosevic? He would love this motion, because this motion shows cracks in NATO's resolve. I just do not think that is appropriate at this juncture.
We have successful air operations continuing. We are reducing the Yugoslavian army capability. That is very important and there are signs that a political solution may be found.
I want to also remind people that on April 12 the Leader of the Opposition laid out some principal objectives in supporting the government and NATO. The first was that it attains the moral objective of halting ethnic cleansing. Second was that we achieve the political objective of creating safe homes for Kosovars and stabilize the region through negotiations. Third was that we pursue the military objective of damaging the military capabilities of Yugoslavia to reduce its capacity to practise ethnic cleansing and bring the Yugoslavian government to the negotiating table.
When I was home on the weekend I met up with a World War II veteran and I had a conversation with him. His name is Lieutenant Colonel Harry Kwarton. I said to Harry, “Sir, what do you think of what is going on right now?” He said to me, “At the end of the second world war we told the world that we would never let this happen again, and you bet we are doing the right thing by being there and supporting this”. I think we are on the right track.
I want to congratulate our troops and again remind the government that I for one will be holding it responsible for its executive decision making. It had better make sure that the capabilities it commits are the proper ones and we have the ability to do the job.