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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forces.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for Ajax—Pickering (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Libya June 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the hon. member on his success in the election as well, which I did have the opportunity to observe more closely, thanks to the magic of televised media across this country.

I can assure the hon. member and other hon. members opposite that the spirit of consultation and of openness that has prevailed so far in this mission through briefings and through debates like this one is one that we wish to continue. Certainly today's debate gives us all the more reason to do so. We must not forget how powerful a tool unity is for the House and for this country when we act together on the basis of unanimity and consensus in this House. It has helped us move other countries in the right direction. It has helped to show determination again to a beleaguered people and it has gone on the best tradition of all parties in the House.

Libya June 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to add my voice to this important debate about Canada's continuing engagement in Libya.

I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mississauga—Erindale, and focusing these remarks in support of those made by the Minister of National Defence, particularly on our military contribution. I am providing a few more details by way of an update as to the nature of that contribution and its effect on the ground, in the air and on the seas off Libya.

I would like to pay tribute to all members who have spoken so far in this debate for the sense of unity and purpose prevailing in this House so far today, and for the constructive manner and frame of mind in which all have come to this debate today.

The contributions by the Canadian Forces to Operation Mobile give them an opportunity to demonstrate their exceptional capabilities once again. This operation proves that the Canadian Forces continue to maintain a high level of operational readiness and to show the utmost professionalism, which has been true for decades.

As the minister mentioned earlier, the Canadian Forces are once again showing their leadership on the international stage by standing up for the interests and values of Canadians. We are making a vital contribution to NATO's Operation Unified Protector, which aims to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973 in order to put an end to violence in Libya.

And it is a Canadian, one of our own, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard—who is also a gifted communicator, as was clearly demonstrated in the interview he gave in yesterday's Globe and Mail—who is the commanding officer.

The Canadian Forces are playing this key role, alongside NATO allies and partners, in protecting Libyan civilians. However, despite that and in spite of this progress, the Gadhafi regime continues to use violence against its own citizens. It is this conclusion that lies at the base of the need for this debate today.

I want to take this opportunity to expand on the remarkable efforts our military is undertaking as part of Operation Mobile. The current contribution includes three task forces. As the minister said, that represents approximately 650 uniform personnel, but they are broken into three main elements: a coordinating team, Task Force Naples; an air component, Task Force Libeccio; and the naval element, Task Force Charlottetown.

Task Force Naples is our national coordination component linking Canadian expeditionary force command headquarters here in Ottawa with NATO's Combined Joint Task Force Unified Protector headquarters in Europe and coordinating our forces' participation, as well as providing staff for Lieutenant-General Bouchard.

Task Force Libeccio, led by Colonel Alain Pelletier, is our air component for the mission. Canadian aircraft is flying out of two NATO bases in Italy: Trapani Birgi in western Sicily and Sigonella in eastern Sicily. Sicily has featured in our military history in the past, so it is certainly not unknown in the annals of Canadian military operations, but, for the reference of members, people going to Trapani fly with Ryanair. Sigonella, as some may remember, was an air base featured in the terrorist incident in 1985 involving the Achille Lauro, a ship that was hijacked on the Mediterranean Sea.

Aircraft currently assigned to the task force include seven CF-18 fighters, two maritime patrol aircraft, two CC-130 Hercules and one CC-150 Polaris air refueller. Our CF-18s operate in pairs with one spare and are high-performance multi-purpose fighters.

The important point is to emphasize the significant role that these assets have played within the NATO effort in the air and on the sea in the roles that they have been given. In particular, our refuelling aircraft, our tankers, have played a vital role in keeping not only Canadian aircraft operating over Libya in surveillance and attack roles but also in search and rescue roles because that is required as pilots enter dangerous parts of airspace and stay in the air longer than otherwise would have been possible.

These are interoperable assets with allied fighters. They are capable of conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. In Libya, they are doing both: enforcing the Security Council mandated low-fly zone above Libya and engaging ground targets, as required, through that very rigorous targeting process led by Lieutenant-General Bouchard, including the authority granted by this House to a government that oversees these operations and throughout the civilian oversight to the military chain of command that NATO is proud to call its own.

Canada is one of only 8 out of NATO's 28 members participating in air-to-ground strikes, which are targeting vehicle and ammunition storage facilities, electronic warfare sites and enemy vehicles. I would like to point out that while the CF-18s are themselves highly versatile platforms, the fact that they departed Canada for Italy in less than three hours after the Prime Minister's announcement on March 18 is testament to the preparedness, responsiveness and flexibility of the Canadian Forces.

Receiving less attention, but no less important, are the refuelling aircraft, vital to the success of the overall campaign. As a NATO spokesman recently said:

This is the most diverse and extensive air-to-air refuelling operation in the history of aviation and is a clear example of the strength and cohesiveness of NATO.

The ability to deliver fuel in the air has allowed NATO strike aircraft to simply do more.

Finally, our Aurora maritime patrol aircraft also play a key part in the operation, conducting surveillance and reconnaissance missions. These missions, conducted mostly in the vicinity of Brega, Misrata and Ajdabiya, provide valuable information about what is happening on the ground.

As for the naval sector, Commander Craig Skjerpen and the crew of HMCS Charlottetown have been demonstrating the flexibility of our Halifax class frigates since they arrived in the Mediterranean on March 17. Some 18 NATO ships are patrolling constantly to ensure compliance with the arms embargo. This embargo is having a positive effect, since it is reducing the amount of illegal weaponry getting into Libya and this effect will only increase over time.

While NATO ships are enforcing the embargo, the alliance is ensuring that marine traffic can flow freely, particularly so that humanitarian aid can be sent.

Charlottetown has also supported mine clearance operations in Misrata Harbour. Last month, for instance, Charlottetown escorted Belgian and British mine countermeasure ships while they spent a week clearing Misrata Harbour of dangerous mines that might otherwise have had a devastating effect on civilian maritime traffic. That was crucially important at that time because Gadhafi's forces, as hon. members will recall, had surrounded Misrata on three sides and humanitarian shipments could only enter the city by sea.

It is important to note that while Task Forces Libeccio and Charlottetown are doing outstanding work in their respective domains, they are not working independently of one another.

On April 26, while patrolling close to the Libyan coastline, Charlottetown tracked vehicles firing rockets near populated areas of Misrata. This information was relayed to Canadian Forces members aboard a NATO airborne warning and control system, which was then passed to air operations in Italy. Canadian CF-18s were airborne in response within minutes. The pilots tracked the origin of fire, confirmed hostile acts being committed against civilians and dropped precision guided bombs to destroy two military vehicles.

That is a very concrete example of how, even when targets are not pre-planned, Canadian air and naval assets work flawlessly together in a coalition environment to prevent civilian casualties.

The Canadian Forces are making a considerable, large-scale effort to ensure the success of Operation Unified Protector. We have demonstrated the versatility and effectiveness of our contribution.

Given what we have heard today, we on this side of the House have every confidence that there are unprecedented grounds for supporting the motion today. I would encourage all hon. members, not only to support today's motion to continue Canadian engagement but also to take pride in the fact that Canada's unified approach in this House and elsewhere to this mission has been absolutely crucial in securing the international resolve, determination and effort on the ground that is now serving to protect Libyan civilians across that country and to protect some of the gains of the Arab spring. We know they are not yet irreversible, that this complex process throughout the Mediterranean area is still unfolding, but our operation in Libya with NATO under a UN mandate is absolutely vital to giving hope to a beleaguered population.

Libya June 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the hon. member for St. John's East that the very precise language he has used regarding objectives on the basis of UN resolutions and other multilateral sources of authority for our operations in Libya coheres with the policy and the understanding of this government on what the objectives are.

Countries like Turkey have a role to play.

If Colonel Gadhafi's forces were to make a demonstrable move away from the operational areas where they have been harming civilians, this would very likely have an impact on NATO targeting, including the targeting of bases and barracks.

I would ask my colleague from St. John's East whether he is not reassured that in this mission so far, given the nature of the application of force by Canadian aircraft and others, the very low number of civilian casualties caused by allied forces is an immensely favourable sign, in the early going of this mission at least, and contributing heavily to the chances of achieving the objective that we all share?

Libya June 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her very helpful and constructive contribution to this debate. I have a question for her.

Given the extent of the humanitarian crisis, the number of victims, especially civilian victims, in the country, and the number of people displaced by the crisis, what measures does she think could be taken by the agencies and various United Nations bodies in Libya and in the region? In her very professional opinion, what multilateral measures will need to be taken to better address the various aspects of this humanitarian crisis in the months and years to come?

June 13th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, the member really does test this point to its very limit in suggesting that costs were never revealed at earlier stages of this mission when his party was the government of Canada and when in fact this member for Ajax—Pickering was Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan until a negotiation had resulted in an agreement and the agreement met the criteria set by the House and the Government of Canada for an operational purpose being pursued in support of a mission in Afghanistan.

I can say in all good conscience that of all the nations contributing militarily to the mission in Afghanistan, the Government of Canada remains among the very most transparent in revealing costs in a timely manner.

June 13th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood for his interest in these matters. Our ridings are almost neighbours along the coast of Lake Ontario.

On this issue, as on many others, we have a common and shared deep interest.

The hon. member is asking for additional information on a matter that is under negotiation and that is the logistical arrangements being put in place to support the end of the Canadian Forces combat mission and the transition to a Canadian Forces training mission in Afghanistan that will last until 2014.

I am confident that the hon. member would not want the details of a negotiation still under way to be divulged to the House at a time that might adversely affect the result of those negotiations. So I am not in a position to give more detail with regard to the cost of the aspect of the mission that the member has asked about until those plans are finalized.

However, I can assure the hon. member that the closure of Camp Mirage has not had any adverse impact on our mission in Afghanistan.

Since Camp Mirage closed, the Canadian Forces have been able to pursue their combat operations and support the preparations for the new training mission. These operations are receiving a great deal of support, and this will not change.

They are supported through a number of locations in Canada and overseas that depend on routes through the air, on the sea and on land, and are not dependent on any single supply line.

The Canadian Forces are continuously seeking, as the member well knows, new ways to be more agile, efficient, and cost effective in meeting humanitarian and other challenges requiring their involvement. In this respect, the acquisition of the C-17 transport aircraft has already made our Canadian forces more effective and responsive. The training mission to assist in NATO's training of the Afghan national security forces until 2014 will be effectively supported as well.

We are there with over 60 nations and international organizations as part of a UN-mandated NATO-led mission.

We are implementing a government-wide response that includes aspects related to the military, diplomacy, correctional services, development and civil defence.

This effort is delivering real results and making a positive difference to the lives of Afghan citizens across the country. Of course, it involves a level of commitment that does carry significant costs.

The Government of Canada has always been open and transparent about costs. We have committed to submitting reports on the cost of the mission to Canadians and to Parliament on a regular basis.

That is what we have done to this point and we will continue to do so. The costs associated with the mission close-out will be communicated when they are fully known in an appropriate fashion. In the meantime, our Canadian Forces continue work at which they excel, providing security to Afghans and supporting the development of effective and capable Afghan national security forces.

As part of prudent military logistics, planning for the transition of our combat mission to our Afghan and NATO allies is well in hand.

In accordance with the parliamentary motion adopted in 2008, the combat mission in Kandahar will end by the end of July 2011, and all Canadian Forces personnel will leave the Kandahar region by the end of 2011. Thus, Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will shift to a non-combat training mission.

This role is vitally important: the continuing development of well-led, well-trained, and well-equipped Afghan national security forces. That is what will help the government of Afghanistan assume increasing responsibility for Afghan security.

National Defence June 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canada has indeed taken a leadership role in helping to protect innocent civilians in Libya from the Gadhafi regime that continues to attack them. The member is correct about a forthcoming debate. He will be interested to know that the cost to date, as of June 2 of the mission, was $26 million. The incremental costs associated with this mission in coming months will be approximately $10 million per month.

We are extremely proud of the work of Canadian forces members who have been so courageous in reducing the ability of the Gadhafi regime to threaten its own people.

Public Safety June 9th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, our reservists are a key part of our Canadian Forces. And not just the forces' past, but also their present and their future: 20% of our forces deployed in Afghanistan are reservists. Our government was proud to be the first in 40 years to implement a new pension plan for reservists in 2007.

The Budget June 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure in my youth to plant trees in the member's riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley, so I am familiar with the economy of the region.

I would like to ask the hon. member the following question. How many jobs and how many communities would stand to benefit from the free trade agenda proposed by the government and new trade liberalization measures with the Americas, Asia and other parts of the world? That is the only way to generate new jobs and new employment across this country, including in his riding.

Has the member done the math? Has he done the calculations? After having done them, will he not consider supporting this budget and its ambitious trade liberalization regime for those reasons?

National Defence June 8th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, once again, in the context of the strategic review of government spending, of course there will be cuts to the National Defence operating budget.

However, for this important department, the facts speak for themselves: an additional $1 billion in spending every year since 2006 is the most important part of this government's record when it comes to National Defence.