Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join this debate on government Motion No. 2.
I do want to follow from you, Mr. Speaker, your recommendation to all members that we take the tone of the debate down a bit. This is in fact a serious issue that needs to be contemplated by the House. I would apply this to all members on all sides of the House, that when we are dealing with issues fundamentally about sending our men and women into combat, that we give it the seriousness it deserves, that we do not engage in excessive rhetorical flourishes but that we debate the issues that are before us.
This gets me to some of the comments that I have heard from all sides of the House. I want to use the time I have been given to contribute to this particular debate, to look at the principles that had been enunciated by our leader, now the Prime Minister, when we were originally debating the decision on whether Canada should commit military resources in the fight against ISIL, against the Daesh, and also to look specifically at the details of the government's motion before the House, namely the five elements of the things we are attempting to accomplish.
I go back to the comments from my friend from Durham. To be fair, he clearly enunciated the fundamental principles that guided the decision of the Liberal Party, now, of course, of the government, in terms of whether we would support the motion that was presented in October 2014. The four principles that guided us in terms of how we decided not to support the government of the day's mission to send six CF-18s into combat were the following: first, whether Canada had a role to play; second, whether there was a clear and defined mission; third, would there be a clear debate; and fourth, was this the best use of Canada's resources? On those particular elements we felt, at least on some of the principles, that the government of the day did not fully make the case.
With respect to the first issue of a role to play, it was fairly clear. The government had set out that it would be providing a contribution to the proposed air campaign from the coalition and that we would be providing military trainers on the ground.
The second element became a bit more difficult for us at that particular time. It was the nature of whether there was a clear mission. One of the things we were struggling with as a caucus was whether there was a defined end point. What were the actual objectives of the mission? It would say that the obvious objectives of the mission were to stop and degrade the advancement of ISIL in claiming territory throughout Iraq and Syria. However, from our perspective, what was not clear was whether there was a specific end point to the proposed mission advanced by the government.
The third issue was on a debate. I am going to deviate a bit. I want to again express my appreciation to the government of the time for giving parliamentarians the opportunity to debate this matter. This is why we have done the same today. However, there has been a suggestion from the other side that the decision by the Minister of National Defence and by the executive council was somehow demeaning to Parliament, that by making the decision to end the military mission a few days ago with respect to withdrawing the six CF-18s, we were essentially debasing Parliament. I would object to that from the point of view that with respect to both debates, it is important that parliamentarians express their views. However, it is ultimately an executive decision with respect to whether we go into war or participate in this type of activity; the decision is one that is ultimately made by the political executive.
Fourth is the element in terms of principles that primarily drive the conversation, and that is whether this is the best way in which Canada can contribute to degrading and ultimately stopping this threat of ISIL or Daesh. This is the primary reason we took the position that we could not support the government of the day's motion back in October 2014. We did not feel that the case had been made that contributing six CF-18s was appropriate, as we felt that there were better resources that Canada could put into the field as part of our contribution to our coalition partners.
This brings me to the five elements that form the basis of the government's motion that is before the House today.
The first element is refocusing the mission. Canada is not withdrawing from the fight; it is simply redeploying its forces. Part of the natural evolution of all situations where there is an engagement in theatre is that different coalition partners will change the nature of the assets they put into a particular field of endeavour.
The second element is that we want to make more significant contributions to improve the living conditions of the affected populations, namely in Syria and Iraq. That is why we have made significant ongoing and additional contributions to support that particular region.
The third element is ensuring that we invest in humanitarian assistance. Again, Canada is stepping up in ensuring that it provides the necessary supports to those who have been displaced by this unfortunate situation taking place in that part of the world.
The fourth element that we are advancing is the importance of engaging the political leadership and putting more diplomatic resources into the region. I want to talk about that particular element a bit more in a moment.
The fifth element is Canada's very generous response in welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees who have been displaced by the conflict.
I want to go back to the fourth point and get into a broader discussion of the issue of risk and of Canada's approach to foreign affairs broadly. I want to use this debate to frame that issue, which I think is an important one that we need to put on the floor of the House of Commons. If I have any fundamental or ideological opposition to the approach of the former government, now the official opposition, it is that it had a clear ideological view of the world. That ideological view of the world meant that it made certain policy choices that increased risk globally.
I will provide some specific examples. I tried to highlight them in some of the questions and answers I had asked the parliamentary secretary for international development.
For a long time, I have had significant concerns about the decision of the previous government to fold CIDA into the Department of Foreign Affairs and to reduce our foreign policy engagements around the world. From my perspective, that was a fundamental mistake. It is a fundamental mistake not to make strategic investments in areas of the world that may become future hot spots or areas of political conflict. I will contrast that to some of the decisions made by previous Conservative and Liberal governments to make those strategic investments, which I think have paid long-term dividends to Canada as well as ultimately improving stability around the world.
I will give some examples. For example, I had the privilege of travelling, in late 2014, with the member for Calgary Nose Hill and the Governor General to Chile and Colombia. On that trip, one thing I noted was that Canada had made early investments, particularly in Chile, as well as in places like Colombia, and had invested heavily in terms of assistance, particularly in the Chilean case over 20 years ago during the transitional period away from the dictatorship of General Pinochet.
Those long-term investments we made on the ground in providing humanitarian assistance, dealing with adjustments regarding the transformation of its economic conditions, and dealing with the ultimate reconciliation that took place within Chilean society ultimately paid significant dividends for Canada. Now we are one of the significant investors in that particular region, but, more importantly, we have gradually been able to infuse the values that all of us in the House espouse, which are the Liberal democratic values that drive all of us in terms of trying to promote that around the world.
I use that as an example and look at the situation, for example, where the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, the hon. John Baird, engaged in Canada's decision to participate in the coalition to throw out Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. I raise that particular instance because I think one thing we failed to do is recognize that it is one thing to displace governments that we ultimately do not agree with, but we need to think very carefully about the consequences of those types of actions. That was one where I felt Canada acted far too hastily and, as a result, we now have another failed state.
As we are dealing with the motion before us, we need to think more broadly about what kinds of engagements we need to make not just as a government but as Canadians writ large in making sure that we do not get in other situations that we see now in Syria and Iraq. How do we get down to the root causes of actually allowing that kind of situation to arise?
I think of many other places around the world where already those conditions are starting to brew. That is where I think I have a significant fundamental objection with the previous government in terms of its choice of investments or its choice of its actions in withdrawing from certain parts of the world. We will be less able to have influence in those particular areas. In the long run, we will actually contribute to greater instability that could lead to the situation in which we now find ourselves in Syria and Iraq.
It is really important, from my perspective, that we have a clear sense of where we want to go. That is why I ultimately support this motion. It recognizes that it is not a simple black and white issue. It is not a simple function of bombing them to stop them. Yes, we will contribute in terms of participating as part of the coalition, providing our strategic assets. We have decided to provide strategic assets in terms of additional military trainers, we will continue to leave our surveillance aircraft in the field, we will continue to leave our refuelling aircraft in the field, so we will continue to make an important contribution.
What matters to me, and why it is something I feel we ultimately need to think carefully about, is making sure we have a broad-sectored approach that deals with the fundamental root causes that lead to this kind of instability. We need to also think about how we place ourselves in the post-conflict environment.
By working hard together with all of our coalition partners, it our hope and aim that we will ultimately defeat ISIL. However, it is also important to think through the post-conflict scenarios and how we as Canadians, within an increasingly multipolar world where there are different players in the mix, have the capacity to influence the decisions and actions of those great powers.
We have to be mindful of the role that Canada can ultimately play. We are admittedly a small middle power, and so there are limited resources that we can put in the field. I recognize that my friends on the other side have argued that the air contribution we made is significant, given our relative size. We are not arguing against the important contribution that our Royal Canadian Air Force has made today. It has been part of that particular contribution. However, from my perspective, we have to have a clear sense of what the end game is. That is why I think the decision the government is making in terms of refocusing and rebalancing our mission, and putting different assets into theatre, is important.
Ultimately, we want to have an important role today with our coalition partners, but we also need to have a role in the future in terms of influencing the kind of post-conflict scenario that will be facing this region. This is why we have a multi-faceted approach. It is one that adopts a series of steps, which involve investments on the ground, taking in refugees, and also diplomatic and humanitarian actions on the ground and in the broader region in terms of trying to make sure we will have a continuing influence in that post-conflict era.
I will wrap up my comments by saying that the motion before the House today is an important one. Again, I would go back to the beginning of my comments and urge all members to adopt a more civil tone in debating the important issue of sending our men and women into combat or into an area of the world where there is significant risk. There will continue to be significant risk despite the fact that we have now rebalanced this particular mission today, and I think it is incumbent upon all of us to recognize that, and recognize that this situation will continue. I would urge members to be mindful of that, regardless of how strongly they may feel about the government's position here today.