Mr. Chair, I would like to join my colleagues and speak as part of this take note debate.
Canada is currently participating, with its allies and partners, in the military efforts deployed in support of the United Nations Security Council's resolution 1973. This resolution authorizes members of the United Nations to take the necessary measures, including imposing an arms embargo and no-fly zone, to protect the people of Libya.
Time was running out for all the Libyans who wanted to be rid of the unbearable burden of Gadhafi's dictatorship. As we saw over the past few days, Colonel Gadhafi's forces were regaining ground. We therefore feared the worst for all the courageous Libyans who had dared to defy the murderous authority of their current rulers. The actions taken by the Gadhafi regime in the past suggested that there could be massacres of opponents based in Benghazi, among other places. The situation required a rapid and determined response and, fortunately, the international community fully understood the urgent nature of the situation and responded.
Resolution 1973 opened the door for concrete action to help the Libyan people. And then 24 hours later, France convened a summit in Paris to bring together leaders of the international community, including the Prime Minister of Canada, who had resolved to take action to enforce resolution 1973—leaders of allied and friendly countries, the United States and Europe, and also the Arab world. The Prime Minister and his colleagues laid out the terms of their military engagement in Libya. The imposition of a no-fly zone will make it possible to put some limits on Colonel Gadhafi and reduce the violence raining down on the Libyan people.
This rapid and determined response also came from our Canadian Forces. In the last few days, the Canadian Forces have demonstrated an impressive state of readiness and speed of action. Even as the crisis began, in support of the efforts of the entire government, our military deployed two C-17 strategic lift aircraft and two Hercules C-130J tactical lift aircraft. Those planes were used to evacuate hundreds of Canadians and nationals of other countries who were fleeing the violence in Libya.
On March 1, the Prime Minister announced the deployment of the frigate Charlottetown to support efforts underway in the region, and barely 24 hours later it left the port of Halifax. On Friday, only a few hours after the Prime Minister made the announcement, six CF-18 fighter jets from the base at Bagotville were en route to Libya to support United Nations resolution 1973.
The Canadian Forces are ready to respond at any time, in all circumstances and with the speed and effectiveness that deserves our admiration. This is certainly not owing to chance. It is rather the result of exemplary dedication and true professionalism.
The men and women who wear the uniform of the Canadian Forces do so with pride, with enthusiasm and with passion. They ask for nothing more than to answer the call. They are among the best trained military personnel in the world.
Our military’s state of advanced readiness is also the result of the major investments the government has made in our Canadian Forces. The government is committed to modernizing the Canadian Forces to provide them with all the tools they need to perform the duties we entrust to them.
Almost three years ago, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence announced the “Canada First” defence strategy, under which the government would allocate $490 billion to defence over 20 years. That long-term commitment to modernizing the Canadian Forces is already paying dividends. In recent years, we have announced a number of equipment purchases: transport aircraft and helicopters, new F-35 fighter planes, 24 of which are deployed at Bagotville, tanks, armoured vehicles, trucks and ground combat systems.
We have also invested heavily in defence infrastructure across Canada. Over the past year, the government has announced investments exceeding $750 million in the infrastructure of bases and wings from coast to coast, such as training areas, roads and a variety of other facilities that allow military bases to function as they should.
We have also made massive investments in the support of heath care services offered to members of the Canadian Forces: $140 million in a health information system that will help improve the care available to service personnel who need it, and $52.5 million to establish a legacy of care by delivering better support to seriously injured men and women coming home from Afghanistan.
These investments in equipment and infrastructure, as well as in support services and health care, have a considerable bearing on our military’s preparedness. For the members of the Canadian Forces in Gagetown, Edmonton, Esquimalt, Halifax, Trenton and Winnipeg, these investments mean more comfortable and more modern facilities, safer and more effective vehicles for the upcoming mission, enhanced care and perhaps even a speedier return to work. For the men and women based in Bagotville, the base our CF-18s took off from on Friday, these investments will have a tangible impact. The pilots and support staff who set off from Bagotville bound for Sicily and Libya have left a flourishing base behind them.
Over the last few years, our government has made major announcements regarding Bagotville. In 2007, we announced that the 2 Air Expeditionary Wing of the Canadian Forces would be based in Bagotville, thereby increasing the presence of the Canadian Forces back home. In 2008, I was with the Minister of National Defence when he announced that a $17 million contract had been awarded to rebuild one of the military base’s runways. Last fall, I once again accompanied the Minister of National Defence when he announced initiatives related to the establishment of the 2 Air Expeditionary Wing and the renovation of a section of the base’s health care centre, as well as the government’s decision to base the new F-35 fighter jets in Bagotville; excellent news that will guarantee the ongoing viability of the Bagotville military base for decades to come.
Finally, last month we announced the establishment of an integrated personnel support centre at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville.
A personnel support centre in Bagotville will link up with 24 other such canters across the nation in order to better respond to the needs of our military. The investments the government is making in Bagotville exemplify the investments it is making across the entire Canadian Forces. These investments provide our servicemen and women with comfortable amenities, support, modern work facilities, adequate tools and flexibility, all key elements in the rigorous preparation of a military force that must guarantee the rapid deployment of equipment and personnel, also crucial to the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces. The Canadian Forces members deployed in support of resolution 1973 can count on our government’s unconditional support. That is the very least we can give them; their mission will help save lives.
I would like to conclude by saying that our thoughts are with their family members. We all hope to see them back here in short order, and I hope to soon shake their hands on the tarmac at Bagotville.