Mr. Speaker, let me begin by noting that I will be splitting my time with our deputy leader, the member for Central Nova.
This is a very important issue. Members will recall that during the last election the Liberals tried to denigrate, ridicule and make fun of our very serious proposals to give our military men and women the resources and direction they need to fulfill their vital missions.
Since then, we have witnessed new and even more disturbing examples of the shameful neglect with which successive Liberal governments have treated our armed forces.
As we all know, we have recently had a national embarrassment and tragedy, which, I can assure members, our men and women in uniform do not find amusing or trivial, nor do a majority of Canadians who expect that their government can at the very least ensure the sovereignty of our country and the safety of our society.
The Liberals appear to believe that the world has not changed in the past 30 years, since they started cutting back on the role and resources of the armed forces. The Liberal Party has not changed, but the world situation has.
Canada and its allies face a new global reality, which includes threats of global terrorism, failing states, oppressive regimes and the proliferation of various classes of weapons.
The response of the federal Liberal government to a new security environment which requires vision and vigour has been indifference and incompetence.
In its 1994 defence white paper, this government made a series of critical assumptions. It forecasted a diminishing role for the Canadian military on the international stage. It assumed that the frequency and complexity of future military operations would be lower and their duration shorter.
All of these assumptions have been proven wrong--dangerously wrong--yet the government did not see fit and does not see fit to revisit this policy. While allied countries conducted thorough reviews of their defence policies after 9/11, the Liberal government stubbornly clung to a policy that was already outdated and had been outdated for several years.
Canada is a member of the G-8. Our country ranks second in the world in terms of area. Our system of democracy is respected worldwide. In the two world wars, the Korean war and the numerous peacekeeping operations, our country has earned the admiration and recognition of its allies and of all friends of freedom and democracy.
The sad reality, however, is that we are no longer considered a credible military power. The Liberal government has abdicated, not only its international responsibilities, but its obligations to our soldiers and our national security.
As a lack of policy guidance squandered time and resources, Canada's men and women in uniform have been sent on the widest array of missions imaginable, to every corner of the globe, often without a clear understanding of how their efforts were central to Canada's well-being or whether they had the equipment necessary to carry out their missions effectively.
Over the past 10 years, the federal government has dramatically reduced the capability of our armed forces but at the same time has multiplied its commitments and obligations. In the absence of adequate federal funding, the military has even been obliged to deduct funds from the capital portion of the defence budget in order to pay for basic operations. By 2003, the portion of the defence budget devoted to capital spending had shrunk to only 11.5%, a 50% drop from when this government took office in 1993.
Since it is capital spending that allows the renewal of military capabilities, the future of the military has been sacrificed to pay for its day to day existence. The Prime Minister has recently bragged about his announcements on defence equipment acquisition; however, according to DND's strategic capability investment plan, the Prime Minister's announcements fall short some $20 billion or 75% short of the military's own 15 year defence equipment plan.
The Prime Minister, who likes to talk about everything as “a fix for a generation”, says that he has responded to the crisis in national defence. In fact, the Prime Minister has only approved $7 billion, or 25% of the military's own 15 year, $27.5 billion plan that is loosely based on the government's own 1994 policy and recent operational lessons.
As a percentage of the size of our economy, Canada's defence spending, at 1.2% of GDP, ranks the among the lowest, the second lowest, I believe, of all our NATO allies. Not that long ago, from 1985-87 under a Progressive Conservative government, the Canadian defence budget accounted for 2.2% of Canadian GDP, nearly 50% more in relative terms than today.
We are even more worried by the myopic, clearly minimalist view of military policy that was recently adopted by the government in its discussion of the future role of the armed forces. The Liberal election platform advocated a narrow or niche roles for the military as a whole and there is now every indication that the Prime Minister is seeking to redefine the role of the Canadian Forces on the international stage as one of a mere constabulary operation.
The Conservative Party supports Canada's three long-standing and increasing inter-linked security goals: first, the security of Canada; second, the collaborative defence of North America; and finally, the promotion of peace and security on the international stage.
There is no question in my mind that Canada's military should be increased to at least 80,000 personnel to meet the increasing demands of this security environment.
That is why our motion today advocates a stronger, multi-role, combat capable force to improve Canada's international capacity. To secure the peace in a new security environment, Canada must have multi-role, combat capable forces configured for a full range of military operations from humanitarian support to full combat operations in defence of our national interests.
Notwithstanding our history as one of the most peaceful nations on the face of the earth, the Liberals continue to forget the key lessons of that history, and it is that our identity, our freedoms, our democracy and our values were more often than not won by men and women who were prepared to stand in uniform and pay the ultimate sacrifice.
The world may change, but the nature of humanity has not changed. Today and in the future, our ability to sustain our values here at home and our ability to project those values in a dangerous world will continue to rest on having a strong military. Those are the facts of life, they are the facts of our history, and no sovereign nation can ever forget them.
Let me conclude by mentioning the men and women of our armed forces, who have held up now for decades and increasingly hold up remarkably well under difficult, unfair and extraordinarily dangerous circumstances. But their success is due only to professionalism and dedication. It is not due to the quality and direction of political leadership they have been receiving from this place. They have enjoyed numerous small successes. They have garnered international respect not because of the policies of the government, but despite them.
As we reflect upon the tragedies that have recently befallen at least one of our military families, we need to remind ourselves once again that the men and women in uniform who defend and protect us are always owed as the highest priority by their national Parliament and their national government our priority to defend and protect them.
Madam Speaker, I will begin by congratulating the Leader of the Opposition as well as the mover of the motion, the member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills, who has great practical experience having served in the Canadian Forces himself. I know members present, and Canadians generally, will be listening with great interest to his remarks and the insights he will bring to the debate.
I want to pick up where my leader left off with respect to the position that the Canadian Forces play in the world today, and the capacity in which they are to carry that heavy burden and live up to the expectation that we in this country still expect of those proud men and women.
A historic retrospect, as my leader referred to it, will tell us quickly that this nation really came into its own on the battlefields far from our own country. The blood that was shed on behalf of Canadians in defence of freedom and values should cause us all to pause and reflect very seriously on the danger and the peril these men and women face even today. That same threat exists and arguably has been heightened in the days that we have seen quite recently.
With the rise of terrorism in the world today and the increasing sophistication, there is a need for technology and equipment, but the real human effort remains with those individuals willing to don the uniform and fight to protect our country's sovereignty, freedom and role abroad to protect other countries as well.
The sad reality of the equipment and support that exists today is one which we are attempting to draw attention to through this motion. I would not presume for a moment to speak for members present or for those in the Canadian military, but I suspect that the last thing people want to see in this debate is a pure partisan attempt to score points. What has to be done is the securing of proper resources and support for our Canadian Forces, and to get on with giving them the ability to do the job with which they are tasked.
Clearly, we have seen a decline and a full retreat from the necessary implementation of a plan for the equipment and support that members of the armed forces should rightly expect from their own government. This is not coming solely from the opposition or commentary that is of a partisan nature.
This comes from the Auditor General. This comes from impartial observers, and those with knowledge like Jane's magazine, who keep track of how countries are responding to these global threats. The American ambassador has made comments which should be of alarm to us all about the state of our armed forces. The general security threat around North America is very real and heightened.
We have seen chronic underfunding of our armed forces in the last 10 years. We have not seen an accurate white paper which would even depict the current state of our armed forces to allow us to accurately address where the greatest need is and where the greatest priorities lie. There have been attempts made in the past to put a patch or a bandage over the situation and that has simply exacerbated the situation overall.
Over the course of the last decade we have seen an unprecedented decline in many areas and now those decisions are coming back to haunt us. We had decisions made that were meant to cut corners, to simply put a very thinly veiled bandage over a festering wound within the armed forces.
My colleague from Prince George, British Columbia, referenced the state of housing. That is a deplorable state. We have seen, in fact, a retreat in terms of the numbers of individuals who are currently willing to serve in the armed forces. We have seen an inability to recruit and to train, even to give proper ammunition for live training exercises. Imagine, inadequate rifles and ammunition while we are still spending upward of $2 billion registering hunting rifles in the country, and we cannot give rifles to our armed forces.
By way of comparison, $250 million was spent on a sponsorship scandal and an inadequate amount of money for equipment. There was the purchase and procurement of government jets. And the ongoing charade, perhaps the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on our Canadian military, was the cancellation of helicopters which we are now still mired in a contract dispute.
This shows a distinct lack of priority and understanding by the Liberal government of the dire straits that currently exist within the Canadian military, even so far as to sending troops into a live war zone with inadequate uniforms, forest green uniforms in the desert. We may as well have issued hunters' orange with that type of background.
The sheer danger and humiliation that those soldiers must have felt, having to exchange boots and helmets as they disembarked upon arrival into a war zone. These are real situations that put real lives in real risk and the government has to bear the responsibility of those decisions.
The current state, as was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, and the attempts by the Prime Minister to gloss over what has happened, to suggest that adequate funding is coming, and that help is on the way is simply betraying the reality. When we look at what the Prime Minister has said about fixing the crisis, by all accounts this situation is in further decline.
The Minister of National Defence, who is present, has made statements in the House that would lead Canadians to believe that the government has invested heavily in the military. This is simply not supported by the facts when one examines the budgets and cuts that have been made to his department.
The Prime Minister bragged about some of the acquisition that has occurred. Yet we know that DND's strategic capability investment plan, the Prime Minister's own announcements, falls some $20 billion short or 75% of the military budget for the last 15 years for equipment. That is a 75% shortfall. How does the minister square this reality with the figures that he has presented to the House of Commons and therefore to the Canadian people?
That type of shell game is dangerous. It is putting people's lives at risk and continues to contribute to the decline of our proud Canadian Forces. It is incredible that the Prime Minister would stand in the House and tell Canadians that he has addressed this crisis, as referred to by my leader, that he is fixing it for a generation. What utter bullroar. Absolute nonsense. This is not happening.
The reality is that he has not fixed the crisis in defence. He has failed to approve the full $27.5 billion that is needed just for equipment. That does nothing to address the shortfall of enrolment and recruitment that we need in the forces to bring our forces to the full necessary capacity of 80,000.
To put this in context, there are more active police officers in the City of New York than we have currently in the armed forces of Canada. We expect soldiers to do peacekeeping, peacemaking, peacebuilding by putting them between warring factions in other countries. They need the proper training and equipment to do so.
Peacekeeping is a fine word. It is one in which we take great pride in this country. Canadians feel very emotional about the state of our peacekeeping forces and yet they are soldiers. They are there to do very dangerous work. Their very lives and their very being is put in peril. Their families are living at home in Canada awaiting their return in substandard housing. Many of them have chosen to live off military reserves because of the state of that housing. Much of that housing puts their own health at risk because of lead, and poor water and environmental conditions.
It is far past the time to address these situations head on. We cannot emphasize enough the immediacy of this situation, the dire straits which our Canadian armed forces personnel continue to face both at home and abroad. There is a real need and expectation from Canadians that the Government of Canada will simply do the right thing to properly fund and immediately address this shortfall.
In conclusion, on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada, I want to personally give assurances that we will both respect, support and continue to fully do our role in opposition to bring this to the attention of the House and to push the government to make the proper investment that is required on behalf of our armed forces. I want to thank those men and women who continue to do this very important work on behalf of Canadians both at home and abroad.
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Central Nova for the introduction of this motion in the House. I look forward to hearing the comments from my critic, the member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills. As was pointed out, he is an addition to the House.
I believe it is important that we have opportunities to do what we are doing today and that we will have many extensive discussions on these important and timely issues in the House. Canadians expect no less. Defence is one of the most important and critical responsibilities of government, something that the government recognizes and on which it is acting.
The military in general and the navy in particular have been the subject of much discussion of late during question period and now in the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. However, I welcome this dialogue today. There is no question that we need to support the men and women of the Canadian Forces as they go about their important work on our behalf.
I entirely support the comments of the Leader of the Opposition about the contribution that our armed forces have made to the history of Canada and to the creation of it. They are responsible for what we are today and we owe them that recognition. We must now take time to think critically about what we as a country expect from our military, and today's debate is part of that process.
It will hardly surprise members if I tell them that I entirely reject the motion's preamble. The member for Central Nova rejected the idea this would be a debate involving partisanship, but he pretty quickly slipped into some hyperbole and false analogies that the member for Elmwood—Transcona, whose memory is good, was good enough to draw our attention to that.
We should all welcome the opportunity to debate the roles of the Canadian Forces and determine what is its security of the nation. I hope to demonstrate to the House that the government is engaged in the very process set out in the dispositive part of this motion.
As my colleagues will know, the government is now in the process of completing a defence review in conjunction with an overall review of Canada's place in the world. It is doing so with precisely a view to addressing some of the observations of the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Central Nova. The very criticisms they have about the capital plan and the strategic capability investment plan are exactly the types of things we should be examining together as we do this critical review.
Essentially, this defence policy review will enable us to set Canada's defence priorities and determine what kind of armed forces we will need in the future. Its primary objective will be to provide an effective and affordable defence policy that reflects the realities of today and tomorrow.
I believe all members of this House will agree that Canada is now facing extremely complex security and defence issues. As the dawn of this 21st century, we are confronting new threats such as international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the danger surrounding bankrupt and near-bankrupt nations. In addition to these traditional destabilizing factors, we see new threats such as environmental crises, civil disturbances and pandemics.
In short, the fine line between security and defence has become blurred and may have completely disappeared. This has a considerable impact on the way we approach national and continental security, our relationships with our closest allies and partners, and how we protect—and project—our interests and values abroad.
All over the world, countries are adapting and transforming their armed forces in order to be able to respond to the strategic imperatives of the 21st century. That is the situation for our NATO allies, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and others.
That is exactly what we want to accomplish with the defence policy review. The review will find an appropriate balance between the domestic and international responsibilities of our armed forces. It will also show us the way to improve the security of Canadians within our borders. This process began with the adoption of our national security policy, the first in the country's history.
Among the options we must now examine are increasing our surveillance and anti-terrorism capabilities and increasing the personnel and resources of the reserves in order to deal with domestic crises.
Now, more than ever, our security and protection must be viewed in a continental context. We are stronger because we work alongside our American partners. That is why the defence policy review will examine new and innovative ways of working with the United States to defend North America from emerging threats.
Internationally, the review will build on the government's multidimensional approach to foreign intervention and will examine how the Canadian forces can continue to participate in a wide variety of international operations.
We expect to conclude the review this fall, at which time we will seek the opinion of the parliamentary committees. I am sure all hon. members will agree that this process will allow everyone to express their opinion and contribute to the debate.
I would like to say I look forward to working with all the members in this House to determine what direction we should take in our defence policy.
As we look to prepare the Canadian Forces for the future, our point of departure must be a recognition, first and foremost, of the skill, professionalism and impressive capability of our current military.
Over the past few years, as Minister of Foreign Affairs and now as Minister of National Defence, I have had the privilege to witness firsthand the outstanding work performed by the men and women of the Canadian Forces in places as diverse as Bosnia, Afghanistan, Haiti and elsewhere.
I am extremely proud of our men and women in uniform. They have consistently met and very often exceeded expectations and, in that spirit, to imply, as the preamble to the motion does and much of the comments coming from the opposite benches do, that they cannot properly do their job is, in my view, to display a lack of respect for the Canadian Forces themselves.
Let us consider for a few moments the nature of their work. I am speaking of the superhuman efforts of our search and rescue technicians whose typical evening might involve going out into the harshest of conditions imaginable to help someone in need right here in our own country. Or, of the young faces of a handful of determined sailors from HMCS Calgary heading off to inspect suspicious freighters in the sweltering heat of the Persian Gulf.
I am convinced that the Canadian Forces are one of the most effective and capable armed forces in the world. There should be no doubt in the minds of Canadians that our soldiers, sailors and air personnel are able to deploy and, when called upon, to fight alongside the best militaries in the world.
Two years ago Canadian troops deployed to Afghanistan and, together with American forces, they fought remnants of the oppressive Taliban regime, as well as al-Qaeda terrorists, in a very harsh environment. Their extraordinary contribution earned them praise from our American allies. I think the opposition would do well to consider that praise and consider the fact that those troops went into a dangerous situation equipped to do the job they had to do and did it well.
We returned to Afghanistan last year to undertake a different but equally important mission. With some 2,000 Canadian Forces personnel in the Afghan capital of Kabul, we were the largest troop contributor to the NATO led international security assistance force. Under the able leadership of Lieutenant General Rick Hillier, Canada assumed command of the overall international mission for a six month period. This was among the most significant commands held by a member of the Canadian Forces since the Suez crisis of 1956.
If I could break here to just remind the members opposite that when they denigrate what is being achieved by saying that they were ill-equipped and not prepared, I just want to say that our NATO allies chose the Canadians to lead that mission. Our NATO allies were willing to put the lives of their troops under the command of a Canadian officer with his troops. That is a demonstration of the international community's recognition of what our troops can do, not a bipartisan attack in this House.
In the Arabian Gulf our navy has been widely recognized for its skill and interdiction operations and shipboardings. In 2003 the Canadian navy led a multinational force composed of over 20 ships from several allied countries in the Persian Gulf.
How could there be any doubt about the capability of our armed forces? I am sure all members of the House will agree that what I have just outlined does not reflect a military with decaying capabilities.
We must do better. Since 1999 this government has invested more than $10 billion of new money in defence so that our Canadian Forces would have the means to function effectively in the 21st century. In the 2004 budget alone, this government allocated $1.6 billion of new money for defence.
This government under the current Prime Minister has allocated more than $7 billion for buying new equipment for the Canadian Forces, including more than $3 billion for new sea helicopters, more than $2 billion for joint supply vessels, more than $1 billion for new search and rescue planes and roughly $700 million for mobile gun systems. I am talking about new equipment.
This new equipment will reinforce the high-tech capabilities the Canadian Forces already have such as our Coyote reconnaissance vehicles, our new light infantry carriers, G-Wagens , our frigates and our first class maritime coastal defence vessels, as well as our CF-18 fighter aircraft and upgraded Aurora surveillance aircraft.
Need I remind the members of this House that our lightly armoured vehicles, the LAV-IIIs, which are built in London, Ontario—our committee chair will be pleased with this reference—are also being sold to other forces throughout the world?
The government recognizes that we can and we must do better for our armed forces. As we conduct the defence review we are not standing still.
In the recent Speech from the Throne the government committed to increasing the size of the Canadian Forces by 5,000 regular force personnel in order to allow our military to assume an even greater role in bringing peace, security and democracy to troubled nations.
We are also moving forward on our commitment to increase the size of Canada's reserves by some 3,000 personnel. In addition to complementing our forces deployed abroad, a strengthened reserve force will provide Canada with much needed capacity to respond to domestic crises, including terrorist incidents, chemical, biological and nuclear emergencies and national disasters.
Taken together, those are most significant commitments to defence and they are the most significant commitments in more than a decade. They are a clear demonstration of the government's commitment to modernizing and strengthening Canada's armed forces.
I would like to make one point very clear. Contrary to what the motion before us implies, expanding the size of the Canadian Forces will not be done at the expense of our existing capabilities. As I have said before, it will not be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The additional troops will be funded through new investment by the government. I am currently working to have these new resources featured in the next federal budget. I look forward to collaboration with my colleagues across the floor so we can ensure that happens.
The government is committed to ensuring that the Canadian Forces are prepared in all respects, that they have the training and equipment they need to perform their respective roles, both through the defence of Canada, of North America with our American allies, and in their missions abroad when called upon to do so by the government.
Indeed, the past few years have seen significantly increased pressures on our forces to respond to events in many quarters of the world. Each response has carried with it its own unique set of challenges, from Afghanistan to Bosnia, from Ethiopia and Eritrea to Haiti.
In rising to these challenges our forces have established an enviable record of bringing the best of Canadian values to help establish security and relieve suffering in some of the world's most troubled places.
Our forces have demonstrated an ability to adapt to different and challenging environments. They work with foreign affairs and CIDA to combine diplomacy, defence and development in an integrated approach that will increase the effectiveness of Canada's actions on the international scene. All of this has made them an indispensable asset in the search for global peace and security.What we have learned from their experience is in fact that the world wants more of their services.
All Canadians can take pride in their contribution. I know that Canadians will follow with interest the debates in the House as we conduct our defence review and establish the policy guidelines that will enable our forces to meet the challenges of the future.
The government is committed to that goal and we back that commitment with the significant new investments that I referred to earlier in my speech. We also recognize of course that, as in the case of all countries that are seeking to transform their military, more needs to be done, but it needs to be done intelligently and it must be done clearly. Their role must be defined. The task of our forces must be set out. The types of future investments in equipment and training must be reviewed. This will be our duty as we continue the important task of the defence review.
Let us therefore begin this task, not with a partisan litany of issues from the past, but rather with a recognition of the great role that our forces have played to date and a collective determination to work together to build on this record, to improve on one of our greatest national assets so that it may continue the role of defending us while contributing to the security of others who live in far less fortunate circumstances than ourselves.
Mr. Speaker, allow me to take a few moments to greet my voters in Saint-Jean. This is my first speech in the House since the election, and I would like to thank them for placing their trust in me a fourth time. I have very little to do with that. Like everyone in Quebec, the people of Saint-Jean have realized that, right now, the Bloc Québécois best defends their interests. I wanted to tell the people of Saint-Jean that I am very pleased with the position they have taken and that I will serve them to the best of my ability in the coming months, however long the House gets to sit before the next election.
Today, I am pleased to outline the position of the Bloc Québécois on the matter before us. In the Projected Order of Business, it is under “National Defence Policies”. The motion brought forward by the Conservative Party does deal with national defence policies that are “out of date”. But in our opinion, there is a contradiction in that motion. While that statement is made in the first paragraph, reference is also made to the need to inject substantial funding to maintain “air, land and sea combat capability”. We can say immediately that we will not support this motion, and I will attempt to explain why.
I have heard the Minister of National Defence and his parliamentary secretary tell us that a defence policy is on the way. I just want to remind the minister that we have been hearing the same thing for a number of years, and we have been waiting and waiting. They may sound serious about it this time, but former minister Eggleton was also serious, and so was John McCallum. Still, the defence policy never materialized.
Now, this motion—we also criticize the government on this aspect of it—is suggesting that more money be injected to upgrade a number of things. Granted, the Canadian Forces lost a great deal of credibility in recent years, probably because of underfunding. We must not forget, however, that the defence budget increased by about 40% these past few years, from $8 billion in 1998 to $13 billion today. This means that money was injected.
This may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but we have always been opposed to the investment of additional funds. Why? Because we do not know where we are headed. When a small family decides to buy a vehicle to commute to work, it will probably not get a ten-wheeler. It may buy a small Volkswagen if it does not need a bigger vehicle than that. A construction contractor who needs a vehicle to carry material for his business may get a ten-wheeler, rather than a Volkswagen.
Here, we do not know what the new policy will be. I remind hon. members that the defence policy is obsolete. It dates back to 1994. In terms of the security of Canadian Forces—and this is true at the international level—September 11 has changed everything. For decades, centuries and even millenniums, armies always fought each other in uniform. We knew the enemy, we could face it in a theatre of operations. We could see its manoeuvres. We studied its doctrines, which were often millenary doctrines, to know more about its concept of a theatre of operations and to find out how it wanted to win its wars. Since 2001, all this has radically changed. We no longer see our enemies. We know who they are. We know that they probably belong to some extreme right or extreme left militant groups, but they do not dress in a specific fashion to show who they are. They do not say, “I am wearing a uniform today because I am defending a cause and I intend to attack you”. This completely changes the doctrines that we have known for thousands of years.
As I said a moment ago, September 11 changed that. The world's strongest army—everyone agrees that it is the U.S. army—is not even able to counter this type of attack. The Americans were not able to anticipate the September 11 events. Investigations took place. Will a space defence shield protect us from the use of aircraft to destroy buildings and hit Canadian, American or European interests?
Will the country with the strongest army, the biggest infantry, the biggest air force, and the biggest navy in the world, in other words the Americans, be able to protect us? No, they will not.
This is why we have been calling for several years now for the policy to be reviewed. In the meantime, we see what the government has been buying. The minister has touched on this, and I have some examples as well. Some $7 billion in procurement has been announced.
There are a number of comments to be made on this. For instance, the purchase of new vehicles, the Strikers, seems to suggest that we are embarking on a more offensive policy, and this is the topic of much debate.
Then there are the tanks. Some people in the Canadian army are not entirely in agreement with the old tanks being scrapped and replaced by wheeled or tracked vehicles that are certainly not tanks.
Much has been said on this topic. We are hearing from a number of lobbyists, “We cannot let the tanks go. Look at what is going on in Iraq. They are needed”. So the situation is far from clear.
What is more, the lobbyists and major armament manufacturers are the ones profiting from this. They are doing their job well, convincing the government to make purchases, even though Canada has no defence policy and we have no idea where we are headed. We see this regularly. The troops heading off to Haiti lacked equipment and it had to be borrowed, for the simple reason that we have no defence policy.
What do we want, and what in particular do Canadian and Quebec taxpayers want? That is important. There have been all these purchases made, submarines in 1998, the Strikers, the Sikorsky helicopters, many things that could be discussed. The taxpayers were not consulted, yet they are the ones that have to foot the bill.
The world has changed, we must admit. It is different, of course, than it was 2,000 years ago, but it is also different in the aftermath of 2001. Before investing in anything, why not take time to collect our thoughts. Do we want strike forces? Do we want to go along with the Americans?
We are hearing more and more about this desirable interoperability with the Americans, but there are consequences for Canadian sovereignty.
Indeed, if we want to interoperate with them and deploy combat soldiers within their battalions, at one point or another, should the Americans decide to go to Iraq or elsewhere, these soldiers may be obliged to go along. We may also be obliged to buy from American suppliers if we want to be completely compatible and operational with them. There are all kinds of impacts.
Having a defence policy would clarify the issues before we embarked on this kind of purchase. Now, we go ahead and buy equipment before deciding on what kind of military force we want.
The danger here is that we might adopt a policy right now because we feel that the current situation makes no sense, that we cannot leave our Sikorsky helicopters docked or on our ships' flight decks because this no longer meets our needs. It would therefore be highly risky to formulate a defence policy on the strength of the equipment we have, given the equipment we have just bought.
That is why we oppose such purchases and announcements. It's not that we are against the Canadian Forces. We think they have a vital role to play. I think that a sovereign Quebec will also need armed forces. But we will certainly have a policy in place before creating any armed forces and we will know where we are headed before buying military equipment. Naturally, I hope that we might get some of the Canadian equipment, but we will broach that subject in future negotiations.
I would like to come back to the subject of equipment. I spoke of helicopters and the Strikers. The throne speech talks about an extra 5,000 soldiers and more than 3,000 reserve forces. Right now there are perhaps 50,000 or 55,000 soldiers. So why should we want any more? Is it to send them on peace missions? Is it to send them on offensive operations alongside the Americans? The throne speech does not say.
The approach is piecemeal. We have bought submarines, helicopters, Strikers and new Jeeps to replace the old Iltis. This may be useful.
If we had a defence policy stating clearly that our troops would be equipped in a certain way to carry out missions as defined in the policy, it would make a lot more sense. We are putting the cart before the horse.
I would like to raise another point and that is the missile defence shield. Once more, we are getting announcements about this issue and we can all confirm that there have been changes in the past two years. I remember that two years ago my colleague and I asked questions about the Canadian government's intentions to join the American missile defence system. The answer was, “Oh, no. We are maybe just having a little discussion with them”. Now the discussions are big time. Moreover, the NORAD treaty has just been modified. This is all part of getting ready to join the Americans—toward the end of November according to the latest rumours.
So, what is the 1994 National Defence policy concerning the missile defence system? The Reagan-era star wars policy was already outdated in 1994. But it still has an impact and growing importance today. And yet it is not in line with the 1994 policies of either Foreign Affairs or National Defence. It is a typical example.
I think our point of view is clear. In Quebec, we come from a pacifist country. As for this kind of weapons, we think there are already enough weapons on earth. We must invest our energy in treaties and conventions that promote disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons. In fact, that is one of the major arguments used to undermine our position against the missile defence system—Canada is breaking its multilateral tradition. In fact, we have agreements with a number of allies. The whole world recognizes the importance of Canada in the international treaties and protocols on disarmament and non-proliferation.
Participating in a missile shield program now means losing this credibility. This presents a danger, because this credibility was long established. It earned Lester B. Pearson recognition, in the form of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him for creating peacekeeping missions. Canadians and Quebeckers are renowned for their contribution to a more peaceful world, not to an increasingly militarized one. We have noticed changes in that respect since the new Prime Minister took office. The way to get closer to the United States is the military way. On that, we can tell the government it is completely wrong. It should focus much more on economic concepts and contacts with the Americans instead of encouraging American military industries and getting closer to George W. Bush on the militaristic path. We have a great deal of difficulty with that. As far as we are concerned, it is no: no to the shield, no also to the acquisition of equipment without a defence policy.
I will conclude on this. As I said earlier, my colleagues and I come from a peace-loving country. Had it not been for us—and I say so in all modesty—I think Canada would have participated in the war in Iraq. The government felt it was important to align ourselves with our American friends. But we denounced the illegality of this action. Today, even the Secretary-General of the UN says that it was an illegal war. I think that, had it not been for Quebeckers, Canada would have followed the U.S. into Iraq. And look at the mess now. We were right before. If we had a defence policy and a new foreign affairs policy, we would have a framework, parameters, procedures to work with. We would have a stronger basis for justifying the acquisition of this type of equipment over that one and participating or not participating in projects that can present dangers for our diplomacy and our peaceful tradition.
It is not surprising that we cannot agree with this amendment. As I was saying earlier, the motion before us today states that the defence policy is out of date. If it stopped there we would vote in favour of the motion, since the defence policy truly is out of date and we do indeed need one—although we have been hearing promises for a long time. However, we have a problem with the second paragraph, which talks about maintaining our air, land and sea combat and peacekeeping capabilities. We do not even know what the defence policy is going to be.
I would also ask the minister to be transparent when he establishes this defence policy. So far, everything has been done in closed circles.
I gave some examples earlier. The minister decides to make an announcement on something, and no one is consulted except maybe the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office, of course, but that is it. A handful of individuals are deciding what the taxpayer will pay for, under what conditions and why. Taxpayers can just keep paying their taxes and this group of individuals will decide for everyone what we will do.
I remind the minister that his policy is completely out of date, unless he buys new equipment and adjusts his policy accordingly. However, we think that would be a terrible mistake. First we have to look at the world we are living in and how we want to take part and then we can buy the equipment necessary to satisfy the conditions of the new defence policy, or the new foreign affairs policy.
For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will be voting against this motion. I find that Quebeckers were right to say no to the war. They are traditional and pacifists. We are very proud of not taking part in the war in Iraq. We are soon going to be very proud, as Quebeckers, to have an army that is much more peace-minded than militaristic.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Saint-Jean for his strong presentation on the need to engage in war only as a last resort, and for his commitment to a peaceful world.
I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion today. Defence is certainly on the minds of Canadians as a result of the tragedy that occurred on the HMCS Chicoutimi. There seems to be a growing consensus in the country that something has been wrong with government support for the military in the past, although there may not be agreement as yet on how we remedy whatever was wrong, because we may not even agree on what kinds of support we are lacking for our military. Nevertheless, there seems to be a growing consensus. If I might put it in somewhat Churchillian terms: Never have so few been increasingly asked to do so much more with less and less resources. It seems to me that this is the view so many Canadians. Even members on the government side have come to realize that perhaps with the best of intentions, fiscal and otherwise, the men and women of the Canadian armed forces have been put in a position where they are being asked to do the work of Canada abroad, in terms of peacekeeping and peace making and other international efforts, and that they increasingly do not feel they have the resources to do that.
There may be grounds for reallocation of resources within the Department of National Defence. Certainly many would make the argument that DND is top heavy and that a lot of money is spent on senior bureaucrats, both military and civilian. There may be room for reallocation, but I also think, and I think all parties agree on this, we are open to the argument that there actually needs to be more money spent in an absolute sense on our armed forces if they are to do the kinds of things we want them to do.
However, what is it we want them to do? That is where we might disagree with each other as parties. I do not see that as partisanship in a bad sense. We need to have a debate in the country and there will be differing opinions. That is not partisan, that is the nature of democracy. What is partisan in the pejorative sense is when we exaggerate the case or when we continue to use examples that we know are no longer relevant. The case arose earlier on the floor today about the Canadians arriving in Afghanistan with the wrong uniforms, I thought was sufficiently put to rest by the military itself when it appeared before the committee sometime ago. I do not think it actually serves the debate very well to keep bringing those kinds of things up. That is a form of partisanship we could do without.
Sometimes we see parties agreeing with each other. We saw that yesterday. We have had a lot of back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives on the floor here today. One would think they do not agree on anything. It is quite the contrary. Yesterday, in the foreign affairs committee they agreed to combine together to defeat a motion supported by the NDP, and presumably the Bloc, to hold public hearings on the question of whether Canada should participate in the national ballistic missile defence system that George Bush is proposing for the United States and is proposing Canada be a part of that.
Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Somehow there is this great divide between the Liberals and the Conservatives. However, when it comes to the single most important decision that Canada will have to make in the near future with respect to foreign policy and defence, they are one. They are one not only in substance, but they are one in process. They are one in substance because it has been clear from the beginning that the leader of the Conservative Party is in favour of Canadian participation in ballistic missile defence. If he has changed their position, members on the other side are free to get up and tell me that this is no longer the case and that they are now on the fence or something like that. However, they are certainly not against it.
When it comes to process, as I said, yesterday the Liberals and the Conservatives were as one in the committee on foreign affairs in denying members of the Canadian public the opportunity to come before that committee throughout the country and express their opinion on whether Canada should be part of this.
If the government has another view of how Canadians are to be consulted on this it should say so. It agreed to a motion, an amendment to the throne speech, that said this decision would be taken only after a vote in the House of Commons and after all the relevant public information was available. To whom will this be available? How will Canadians have an opportunity to react to that information, presuming that it is adequate and that we do in fact have all the relevant information? Will it be a kind of in-house exercise, as so far the international policy review of the government has been, or will we actually give Canadians a chance to express themselves on this? We have the time. There is no rush. We could do this.
With respect to the Conservative motion itself, it says that Liberal policy is seriously out of date. This is true. The 1994 white paper is obviously out of date. I do not think even the Minister of National Defence would want to rise in this place today and say that it is an adequate description of the world and an adequate description of what Canada's role in that world should be.
It may be that the 1994 white paper was never an adequate description of what the world was like, but that is more for a debate on the historical side. However, it is true that we now live in a completely different world, and some people have already alluded to this. We certainly live in the post September 11, 2001, world. We live with new geopolitical realities, with the United States having emerged as the one global superpower. We live in a unipolar world instead of the bipolar world of the cold war. We live in a world where terrorism is abundant, terrorism of many different kinds, not only the kind that we find in organizations like al-Qaeda. We live in a world of failed states and proliferation of nuclear weapons.
We still do not know the location of all that nuclear material that existed in the former Soviet Union. Where is it all? There are some attempts by Canada and other countries to decommission nuclear facilities and weapons and find out where that stuff is or ensure it does not fall into the wrong hands, but there is all kinds of it all over the world and we do not know where it is. Even though we are back from the nuclear abyss in terms of the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, it could also be true that we live in a much more dangerous world in terms of the possible use of nuclear weapons by all kinds of non-state actors, the names of which we do not even know, as well as their locations.
We also live in a much more dangerous world because we now live in a world of pre-emptive war doctrines, the doctrine adopted by George Bush. I believe it was on September 27, 2002 when he made a speech and said that from here on in the United States would act pre-emptively whenever it had a belief, and it could be the wrong belief, that someone is about to attack the U.S. This changes the whole strategic environment in a way in which the Canadian government has yet to respond. We need to respond to that because we are so involved with the United States in terms of the defence of North America and in terms of its expectations as to what we will do as a neighbour.
Of course we have a changing world in terms of the increasing polarization between rich and poor, not only within countries but between countries as a result of 20 years of globalization, free trade, deregulation and all the other things that have contributed to an increasingly unstable planet in social, environmental and economic factors, not to mention global warming.
Not all things are obviously related to defence, but I just want to set out what I think is the changing world to which we need to respond.
With respect to the Conservative motion, it is rather odd. It sets out, perhaps unintentionally, a dichotomy between peacekeeping and combat operations that I have often heard Conservatives criticize. In other words, it is not uncommon to hear Conservatives and others, and quite legitimately so, point out that peacekeeping is not what it was when we went to Cyprus. Often, it is not like there is a peace to keep. There is a peace to make and to enforce. Peacekeeping has morphed over the years into peacemaking and peace enforcing and often that involves our troops in combat situations.
Therefore, this motion, one could claim, seems to have been drafted without any knowledge, or at least without having that knowledge impact on the drafting of the motion, of situations like the Medak pocket, where Canadian peacekeepers actually had to have combat capability in order to defend themselves and to defend others.
I find it somewhat ironic that we have a motion from the Conservative side of the House which appears to reinforce this dichotomy, because it is important from the point of view of the NDP as well as from the point of view of many, I would assume, that our peacekeepers do have this combat capability, because they are going to need it in the increasingly difficult situations that we send them into.
Peacekeeping is not what it used to be. That means that our forces, when they are sent into these situations, need to have that capability. That has been demonstrated in a concrete way on a number of occasions.
Perhaps that is what the parliamentary secretary meant when he said, although I think it is a quote he probably does not want to distribute, that “peacekeeping is war by another name”. I thought that was an interesting thing for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence to say. Perhaps the Minister of National Defence could elaborate on that at some point as to what his assistant meant.
I see smiles breaking out over there, so perhaps they will want to have some research done on exactly what was meant.
An hon. member: Get those BlackBerries working.
Hon. Bill Blaikie: Mr. Speaker, when it comes to Liberal defence policy, there is much to criticize. Of course the first thing that comes to mind is the absolute scandal of how long it has taken, and the way in which it was dealt with, to replace the Sea King helicopters. I was here in the House when the debate about the EH-101 helicopters took place. I think there were legitimate positions to be taken on either side of that debate, but it also had a political dimension in the negative sense of what it means to be political.
We were critical of that purchase at the time, but I can tell the House, at least from my point of view, that if I had thought, by killing that helicopter contract, that 11 years later Canadian Forces personnel would still be flying around in Sea Kings and there would be 30 hours of maintenance or something like that for every hour in the air, I might have had a different point of view. I had no idea that even Liberals would do that. There is always a long lead time with Liberals. I think it was something like 42 years between the first promise on medicare and when they kept it, but I thought with helicopters they might be able to do better than that.
But here we are 11 years later and we still do not have those replacement helicopters. That is an absolute scandal. I am sure it is the internal politics of the Liberal Party that got in the way, as so many other things have been obstructed by the internal politics of the Liberal Party: who is going to get the contract, which friend of who is going to make the money off this particular thing, and on and on it goes. It is not just when it comes to advertising and sponsorship scandals that internal Liberal Party politics get in the way of things.
However, it is not just the Sea Kings. It is also the way in which the Liberals have treated the armed forces, both the civilian and the military personnel in the armed forces. I think of ASD, alternative service delivery. It sounds really nice. It sounds like something good is happening.
What was happening, of course, was that people who were unionized and being paid decent wages to be the civilian part of the military family on a long term basis were laid off and gotten rid of so that others, or perhaps even the same people, could be hired back on the next day by firms that had the previous service contracted out to them, such that people could come back and do their old jobs for half of what they were being paid before. Probably the person who ran the company the service was contracted out to had some relationship with the military or perhaps was a retired military person or someone like that.
On and on it goes in regard to the way in which ASD was used, allegedly to save money but in a way that showed contempt for the loyalty and the quality of service that had been provided to the Canadian armed forces over the years by their civilian personnel.
Another good example of what has been wrong is what has happened to our reserves, our Canadian reserve army. I have never heard anyone, in 25 years in the House, ever get up and say they were against expanding the reserves. In fact, for 25 years everyone has been for expanding the reserves. There has been no political price to pay by any government for expanding the reserves, yet it has never happened. Why is that? Partly, I think, it is because the regular army itself stands in the way of expanding the reserves.
Our reserves have been allowed to deteriorate. If we go into some of our armouries, we see that it is the only place where we can walk in and feel that time has stood still. I used to go into Minto armouries in the 1960s when I was a cadet and when I belonged to the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. When I go into armouries today, nothing has changed.
There are some things I do not want to change, but there are other things that are not working anymore. I asked some of the people down there about it and I was told, for example, that they cannot use the rifle ranges. What is an armoury without a rifle range? And when they do get a rifle range, they do not have bullets. They have no ammunition. One cannot practise and learn how to use a rifle when someone says, “Here are your two bullets for this month”. It just does not work. It just does not cut it.
This is the kind of indignity that our armed forces have been subjected to under the reign of the Liberal Party, so I am glad to see that in the throne speech there is a commitment to proceed with the third stage of the expansion of the Canadian army reserve. I hope that actually goes ahead.
The other thing I want to comment on again has to do with the Tory motion. I talked about the dichotomy between combat operations or combat capability in peacekeeping, but in the same motion the Tories also seem to set up a dichotomy between the creation of this new peacekeeping brigade that the government has said it wants to create, this increase of 5,000, and combat capabilities. I think it is too soon to judge whether or not what the government has in mind is creating a peacekeeping brigade that does not have combat capabilities. If that is what it is doing, then that brigade is not going to be of much use to the international community.
Ultimately, our vision is of a Canadian armed forces that is a meaningful resource, at the ready, that can get there when it needs to get there, with the equipment it needs, to be a meaningful resource to the United Nations or in other international situations where the Canadian government deems it appropriate, not as an interoperable arm of U.S. foreign and defence policy, which is what the United States wanted us to be when they went into Iraq.
It was good that the Liberal government of that day decided not to go into Iraq, but these ad hoc decisions, even when they are good decisions, are no replacement for an overall foreign policy which integrates the need for a strong Canadian armed forces that gives us respect in the world and makes us a meaningful resource to the international community but is integrated with an appropriate development policy, because ultimately good international development policies are a form of prevention.
The government likes to talk about the right to protect, but there is also an obligation to prevent situations from becoming the kinds of situations where we have to go in and protect people. We can do that by having the kind of development policies we used to have. We could do that by spending more money on development instead of spending less money on development, which is what has happened over the years with the Liberal Party. I have talked about defence, development, and diplomacy. The external affairs department has been cut back and does not have the resources it used to have.
We also need concerted work on disarmament, on getting rid of nuclear weapons, number one. We had an opportunity after the cold war to get rid of nuclear weapons. We have blown that opportunity, but it is never too late to refocus the world on the need to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether and other weapons of mass destruction. That means going after them where they are, not where they are not, in Iraq.
Mr. Speaker, until the end of the cold war, the two military blocs, NATO and the Warsaw Pact, established a stable international order through their overwhelming military strength and influence with client states around the world. With the fall of communism, international stability quickly evaporated. The long suppressed underlying tensions unfortunately resulted in failed states, ethnic cleansing and terrorism which continues unabated today.
In 1994, the last time the government took a serious look at defence policy, it did not anticipate the threat focus shifting so much so rapidly. The force structure flowing from this flawed policy and the desire to secure a peace dividend resulted in armed forces that are not properly structured, equipped or manned to meet the challenges of today or the challenges in the future. On the contrary, our military capabilities are in a state of ever increasing decay. The forces simply cannot meet the range and size of the tasks assigned them.
To do what the Canadian Forces are currently being asked to do requires a steady state of funding of somewhere between $18 billion and $19 billion a year. The government is currently spending $13.5 billion, or about $5 billion less per year.
For the last 10 years the government has knowingly underfunded the military, preferring to reap the so-called peace dividend in a world that is less peaceful. This benign neglect has consequences which we are living with today.
During the last election campaign the government complained that our party was putting too much emphasis on the military. At that time we committed to restoring the credibility of the armed forces by significantly increasing funding and restoring personnel levels to where they were about 10 years ago.
Our plan included investing in new equipment, ensuring that the current equipment was properly maintained and military personnel had the necessary individual and collective training needed to maintain combat capabilities. This reality is well explained by Liberal Senate defence committee chair Colin Kenny, who stated the following on September 8:
||--the Liberals won the recent election with a defence platform that almost seemed pacifist when compared with what the losing Conservatives offered up. Paul Martin's people took a shrewd, calculated risk that most Canadian voters would not see the country's military decline as a priority issue.
Having depicted us as war-like, the Liberal government tossed out the suggestion that it was going to establish a new 5,000 person peacekeeping brigade. This would somehow solve the myriad of defence problems and permit us to play effectively on the world stage.
Although the armed forces desperately need more manpower, the Liberal government's suggestion of creating a peacekeeping brigade is flawed. When we dispatch troops to offshore deployments involving failed states, ethnic cleansing and terrorism, they must be prepared to conduct combat operations to enforce peace and to protect themselves from attack.
Classic peacekeeping was possible during the days of the two large military blocs because they were able to suppress much of the tensions in the client states. This type of action can only occur where there are two sides that can control their forces and they are willing to work toward a political settlement.
Given the conditions in the world today, this type of operation is becoming more and more rare. The majority of offshore deployments involve peace restoration. When our military is involved in peace restoration or stability operations, they must be prepared to threaten the combatants with the use of force, and if hostilities continue, they must be prepared to use force. A soldier standing by with a blue beret and a rifle encouraging people just to talk and resolve their problems will not restore stability.
The proper way to prepare members of our military for their tasks is to train, equip and support them for the most difficult role, which is combat. With very little adjustment they can do lesser roles like peacekeeping. To use a civilian analogy, a security guard can protect a building, but he cannot participate in a police SWAT team. On the other hand, a SWAT team member can guard a building.
As well as believing that the concept of a peacekeeping brigade is a flawed idea, I also believe that the government should not be creating new military formations when the remainder of the forces are underequipped, undertrained and undermanned.
The 5,000 personnel and the money needed for their equipment, some $2 billion, should be used to restore current combat capabilities. To use an analogy, it is like someone spending money on a cottage while his house is crumbling and his car is broken down
The real challenge for the military is not that it lacks a peacekeeping brigade, but that the Liberal Party has starved it of funds over the last decade. It is hard pressed to fulfill any of its current roles because it does not have enough personnel, it is not properly equipped, nor is there adequate logistic and infrastructure support.
The Canadian Forces have an authorized strength of 60,000. It is estimated that it is currently paying about 62,000 military salaries. Because of severe problems in the recruiting and training system, it only has an effective strength of about 52,000. This means that 20% of military manpower is not available for employment. That is an extraordinary amount.
The reserves, which play an important part in meeting our commitments, have for years been promised by the government that they will be expanded and properly equipped. Altogether they number about 20,000 which is inadequate for what they have been asked to do and their numbers have been essentially the same for years.
Overall, the Canadian Forces are too small to meet current defence policy. An example is our over-tasked army. The effective field strength of the army is about 13,500 although some will argue that it is more like 12,500. It is hard pressed to meet its national and international commitments. Each time the government commits a battle group of 1,000 soldiers to some stability operation, the army must identify three additional battle groups to support the commitment.
Once the six month rotations are in training, one battle group is in theatre, one is returned home undergoing rest, retraining and reassignment, a third battle group is conducting collective training and briefings in anticipation of future deployment, and a fourth battle group is assembled to carry on the sequence. If anything less than four battle groups are involved, the soldiers rotate out of country too often and this affects their home life and their desire to stay in the military.
In a field force that can establish at most nine battle groups, one commitment of a battle group involves four. The field army is simply too small to meet the current tempo of offshore deployments and that is why we are pulling back from many of our previous commitments.
As with the navy and the air force, the army manpower has to be substantially increased so that it can meet domestic and foreign tasks. Overall the regular force needs to be restored to the 75,000 to 80,000 range while the reserves have to be expanded to the 40,000 to 45,000 range.
Because of the tempo of operations and the lack of adequate funding, much of the collective training within the armed forces is not being conducted. Most of the training effort and funds are committed to ensuring that individuals achieve their required skills. As a result, group or collective training has suffered.
The military, to be effective, does not act as individuals, but acts as a collective in organizations like naval task groups, air squadrons, and army battle groups and brigades. If this neglected elective training continues the Canadian Forces will slowly lose its ability to conduct meaningful military operations.
Currently, somewhere around 12% to 13% of departmental funding is committed to equipment upgrading and replacement. This is far too low a contribution to achieve the equipment requirements on the long term plan of the department which needs an investment greater than 20%. This means that over time more equipment will have to be abandoned resulting in a much less capable military that will be under increasing strain.
Ironically, the Prime Minister recently bragged about his announcements on defence equipment acquisitions. However, according to the DND strategic capability investment plan, the Prime Minister's announcements fall short by some $20 billion according to the 15 year plan. It is incredible that the Prime Minister can tell Canadians he has fixed the crisis in defence when he has failed to approve the full $27.5 billion plan required for military equipment.
To be clear, the Prime Minister has only approved $7 billion or 25% of what the military needs to meet the policy requirements. By contrast, the Australian cabinet last year approved its military's 10 year, $50 billion equipment plan based on its 2000 white paper and its 2003 defence policy review. Australia recognizes that it needs an effective military. With one of the biggest economies in the world among G-8 nations, should Canada do less?
The lack of investment in new equipment means that much of the current equipment in service in the Canadian Forces is nearing the end of its useful life and beyond. This means that extraordinary maintenance and servicing has to be carried out to keep it operating. This ever increasing demand for funds diverts money from the capital program. The military is caught in the law of diminishing returns. More and more effort is being committed to maintain this shrinking armed forces.
A prime example is the air force, which in 1994 had approximately 700 aircraft with an availability rate of 85%. In other words, at least 580 aircraft could theoretically fly on any one day. Currently, the air force has about 300 aircraft with an availability of 55%, or 165 aircraft available for flight. The air force currently has less than 30% of the capability that it had 10 years ago.
Another example of equipment underfunding is the navy's 12 maritime coastal defence vessels which were originally sold by the government as a means of dealing with mines placed by an opponent near our harbours. Unfortunately, not enough money was assigned to the project and the vessels do not have this capability.
The lack of modern, reliable air and sea transport handicaps Canadian Forces deployments and national policy independence in an era when operations are conducted in far off places. Rapid transport assets are a critical factor for both deployment and sustainment of forces. A few years ago the Canadian Forces took six weeks to deploy 900 soldiers and light equipment to Afghanistan. This is far too long a period.
Support for the Canadian Forces requires that sufficient spare parts, transport, medical personnel and supplies, and knowledgeable technicians are able to service every piece of equipment. Without adequate support even the best combat soldiers cannot perform as required. Unfortunately, all of these categories of support are critically short and the problem increases with each operational deployment due to personnel attrition and aging equipment.
As with equipment, military infrastructure is in a serious deteriorating state. The department typically plans that buildings and structures will last 50 years. As a result, the department must invest about 2% of replacement value per year to keep infrastructure in overall serviceable condition. This standard has not been met for a very long time and therefore the department is facing a bow wave of infrastructure replacement and servicing demands.
Married quarters are a prime example. There are thousands across the country. The great bulk of them are 50 years old or more and need refurbishment and replacement, yet the government does not seem to know whether it should keep them and invest or abandon them. Meanwhile, they continue to deteriorate.
The restoration of Canada's military capabilities will not be without challenges. We believe that the branches of the armed forces should individually and collectively retain or acquire those capabilities that are relevant to current and anticipated missions. We reject the concept of mission roles for the military, like peacekeeping because it is unworkable in practice given the range of demands governments will always place on our forces.
Any attempt to reduce the military to a constabulary force is inconsistent with the demands of the new security environment. A force configured for light policing and humanitarian relief work would be unable to cope with armed groups threatening the stability of a state, to say nothing of terrorist organizations or dictators bent on territorial aggrandizement.
Finally, we ask the government to provide our forces with clear policy direction in the future. As well, it must provide the funding necessary to ensure that the manpower, equipment and support is there to ensure that our military is combat capable to take on the range of tasks that a great nation like ours must do.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate today on the opposition motion. I have listened with great interest to my colleagues on both sides of the House.
I am certainly pleased to see some of the new members in the House of Commons, such as the defence critic for the opposition party with his obvious expertise and experience in the Canadian Forces. I believe a commitment exists in all parties in the House to try to do the best we can for the men and women in the Canadian Forces.
At the outset I want to thank the men and women of the Canadian Forces for their hard work and commitment on behalf of Canadians, both here at home and in working for peace and stability in what is surely a dangerous world.
I have a few observations about the tone of today's debate and the tone of the larger debate that is taking place and needs to take place in this country, whether it be in the Standing Committee on National Defence, in the media or in the public generally.
The tone of the debate is very important. I feel the best efforts of members ought to be directed toward trying to keep their comments as non-partisan as possible. I understand this is a competitive place and that it is partisan by nature. I know we will seriously disagree from time to time and perhaps even vehemently on various points related to defence or anything else.
However, given that we are talking about the Canadian Forces and doing the best we can for the men and women who risk their lives, often daily, in the service of their country, I think it behooves all of us to tone down the rhetoric and the volume a little. It has been pretty loud in here today already. Maybe we could be a little more respectful and tone down the debate, not by any means deleting our disagreements or watering down our points. We were elected to come to this place to make those points but I hope we tone down the rhetoric and volume just a little so that in the spirit of cooperation on both sides of the House we can look to what is the future that this country wants for its Canadian Forces and the resources they need to carry out the tasks with which we charge them.
I want to now make reference to the fact that members opposite, primarily from the official opposition, have made the point that the previous Liberal government significantly cut spending on national defence. That is true. I was elected in 1993. I was not enamoured of the fact that we were cutting as deeply as we were, but the reality is those cuts were made. I honestly and sincerely believe that we cut too deeply but I believe we are turning the corner on that now and that we need to turn it more quickly.
I want to recall for my friends opposite that this did not start with the previous Liberal government. Many of my colleagues know that from 1984 to 1999, under the previous Conservative and Liberal governments, there were, I believe, 15 straight years of cuts to the military budget.
What I have been hearing from the other side, which is called a selective recall of history, with all due respect, is that the cutting started 10 years ago with the 1993 Chrétien government coming to power. The fact is that it actually started at least back in 1984, or perhaps sooner, when the governments of various political stripes cut the defence budget significantly and, I would agree, probably too deeply.
I will maybe put a little more of a non-partisan perspective on the fact that if we want to point the finger of blame about cutting defence in this country, we have to point in several directions and not just in one.
I would like to make a point about some of the hyperbole or exaggeration that I have been hearing and have heard from members of Parliament in the debate today and in past debates, within the Liberal caucus and within the opposition caucuses. We hear this hyperbole or exaggeration in the media from time to time and I certainly hear it from various members of the public when I go out and hold my regular town hall meetings in my riding in every season of the year. I am sure my colleagues, when they interact with their constituents one way or another, would probably acknowledge that they hear some of this exaggeration or hyperbole about the state of the Canadian Forces and the state of the equipment.
I think the opposition motion moved by the opposition critic is well-intentioned. However, we must look at some of the wording and look for some of the hyperbole. The motion states that the forces “have been permitted to decay”. That sounds as if they have been destroyed or that they no longer exist, which is not, I believe, what the mover intended. In days past I had the opportunity to teach and one of the subjects I taught from time to time was English. I find there is a very clear connotation in the words that would suggest that if the forces have been permitted to decay, they are rotten or they have been destroyed. I do not believe for a minute that is what my hon. friend intends but it is very important. Words have power and meaning and it is very important that we focus on that.
Let me talk about that point. I do agree that the Canadian Forces have been in decline, probably for the past quarter of a century or longer, in decline in the sense of probably we are under-peopled in the Canadian Forces. I think there is an acknowledgement of that. I believe there is an acknowledgement in the current government that we are falling behind in terms of replacing our infrastructure. Some of our equipment needs have to be and have been addressed very recently and will be addressed in the next budget and in future budgets.
It is far different to acknowledge that there has been a decline in the Canadian Forces, which ought fairly to be laid at the footstep of past governments of different political stripes and not just past Liberal governments, and that the decline needs to be addressed and is being addressed. That is very different than saying that they do not exist or that they are total non-functional. I wanted to make that point because I know that is not the intention of the mover's motion but it is a proper understanding that one could take.
The reality is that since 1999 there have been some $10 million of new funding directed toward the infrastructure needs of the Canadian Forces. The reality is that I was chair of SCONDVA, the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. I am honoured again to have been elected chair of that committee and am pleased to be working with some of the colleagues in the opposition and on the government side who are really committed to doing good work there.
The first time I had the opportunity to chair that committee was in 1999. We produced a report, largely under the chairmanship of a former colleague of mine, Mr. Robert Bertrand. I became defence chair toward the end of the study on quality of life. The report was considered by most as an outstanding report. I was told this repeatedly by people in the military, not the generals but the ranks, the troops, some of whom I personally know and some of whom I taught in a former life. They said it was an outstanding report and, if it is, it is because it is their report. Members of the defence committee went coast to coast to coast in Canada. We went overseas to engage the men and women of the Canadian Forces. We said that we did not want any military brass in the room, that this was their chance to tell us what was really on their mind or they should not complain in the future. Well, they did. They laid it out in spades. The result was what is now considered an outstanding quality of life report on the state of the Canadian Forces and the challenges they and their families face.
It was in the 1999 budget when we saw the first increase in at least 15 years in the Canadian Forces. It was directed at trying to improve a very badly needed and deserved salary increase, and more funding to recognize the housing challenges. It was a direct result of their work that we were trying to do more to improve the situation of our men and women in the forces and their families.
I believe we began to turn that corner in 1999. Every budget since has seen some new money for the Canadian Forces. We need to turn that corner more quickly, but we have to acknowledge the facts of the matter. There is a strong recognition and commitment by the Prime Minister and the government to seriously reinvest in our Canadian Forces.
When I talk about this hyperbole, I want to go back to the comments earlier today of the deputy leader of the opposition party. I took him up on them a little, trying to do it in a cooperative way. I think maybe he took umbrage. The reality is there are some serious problems with the Canadian Forces and we acknowledge that. They need to be addressed. The government is trying to address them and I hope we will do better in addressing them in the very near future, in the best spirit of cooperation on both sides of the House. However, as my friend the defence critic from the NDP indicated, it serves no one to perpetuate falsehoods about this.
I do not think the deputy leader intended to mislead the House, but perhaps he was not aware of the statements of Major General Leslie at the SCONDVA around last April or May. That was when the whole issue, which got so much play in the media, was overblown about our poor troops having to go into desert action without tan camouflage uniforms and that they were sitting out there in an unsafe situation or they were a target because they did not have these proper uniforms. That is simply not the fact.
Do not take it from me. Take it from Major General Leslie who was our commanding officer in Afghanistan. I have his testimony here which I could quote. I could table it if anyone wants it. He came to our committee and very clearly said, “We had tans for most of the soldiers”. He said that it was his choice that they not use them. He very clearly explained why he made that choice. He talked about much of their action being at night and that they were better off in the green uniforms. He talked about wanting to distinguish Canadians from other troops there, so many of whom were wearing the tan uniform. There was no distinctive look for the Canadians and the Canadians wanted to have that. It was very positively reinforced by the population that they recognized the Canadians instantly.
We have heard the word nonsense many times on both sides in some heated exchanges. Let us stop the nonsense where we play the partisan game, and let us not continue to say something that we know is wrong. We acknowledge there are real challenges that exist for the Canadian Forces and we need to deal with them. However, let us not continue to perpetuate something like the myth that our troops in Afghanistan did not have tan uniforms, because it is not true and Major Leslie was very clear in pointing that out.
I simply bring this point back up because I do not think the deputy leader, in answering my earlier question, answered it at all. He then went on to say that I was blaming the military. I was not blaming the military. I was recalling the testimony, which I am prepared to table, of Major General Leslie at the SCONDVA around last April or May. Those are the facts he gave us.
It would behoove all of us to tone down the rhetoric, tone down the volume, tone down the hyperbole, acknowledge the real problems that exist and work cooperatively to try to address those. When we have new facts that put a different light on something which has been stated incorrectly, let us be candid enough to acknowledge that, get past it, and move on.
I agree with some of the points made by the hon. Leader of the Opposition. He made some good points, but again he gave into the temptation for hyperbole. How? He stated in the House pretty much something to the effect that Canada sent troops around the world on missions where they were unsure of their purpose on those missions. I invite the hon. Leader of the Opposition to go into the field and talk to the men and women of the Canadian Forces on mission. I did so in Kosovo along with colleagues on both sides of the House.
Mr. Jay Hill: You guys make up the rules of engagement to go along with it, and you know it.
Mr. Pat O'Brien: Perhaps. I understand that the opposition whip feels strongly about this, as do I. I want to encourage him to let me say my piece and I will listen very carefully when he has his chance to say his, as we have normally done at the SCONDVA committee.
The point I am trying to make is this. If we go on mission and talk to men and women in the Canadian Forces, my experience is that their morale is extremely high and they know exactly why they are there. They believe in what they are doing. They may wish they had a little more up to date equipment, no doubt, and I acknowledge that. The reality is it is simply an exaggeration and an unhelpful piece of hyperbole for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that our men and women, when they are in the field on a mission, have no sense of their purpose. I simply do not believe that.
Mr. Jay Hill: He didn't say that.
Mr. Pat O'Brien: He said something very close to that. I originally said that he said something to that effect.
Mr. Jay Hill:You guys are talking about hyperbole. Don't use it.
Mr. Pat O'Brien: We can have a look the blues, but that is clearly what the Leader of the Opposition was suggesting and, quite frankly, he is wrong in that. My plea for toning down the rhetoric is falling on deaf ears.
Mr. James Moore: You started that.
Mr. Pat O'Brien: It will not dissuade me, because I feel every bit as strongly about the Canadian Forces as members across the floor. Some of them over there know it because we worked together. They should tone down the rhetoric, because I will have my say whether they like it or not. We can holler. We can turn up the volume too. It serves nobody. Let us all tone it down and show some respect as colleagues. I do not interrupt other members and I do not expect to be interrupted when I am speaking, so do us all a favour.
I want to talk about equipment, because much of the hyperbole we hear revolves around equipment. We hear it in the press, we hear it from members of Parliament on both sides, I am sorry to say, and in my own caucus, and we hear it from some of the public, that all the Canadian equipment is junk. It is too old, it is junk and it is inadequate. I invite people who feel that way to come to my riding of London—Fanshawe and visit a plant now owned by General Dynamics, formerly General Motors, on Oxford Street East. I know the defence critic is well aware to what I am referring. I do not suggest that he has made the “all the equipment is junk” statement, but members of his party have. At that plant, the very latest state of the art light armoured personnel carrier is produced. It is leading edge equipment and is the best in the world. The Americans think so highly of it, and they have an enormous military budget, that they are spending some $6 billion to purchase this equipment. It has been exported to various countries around the world. It is the very best piece of that type of equipment. It is not a panacea. It does not solve all our needs in a military vehicle, but it is excellent for what it does, what it is built to do and it is leading edge.
I will attempt to wrap up by simply saying that the defence review is under way. I believe it is certainly high time that it go to the defence committee. I look forward to participating in that review. The Irish rock start, Bono, said that the world needed more Canada. He was right. That means the Canadian Forces as well, working for peace and security both here at home and around the world. We ought to acknowledge the outstanding work the men and women do. We ought to admit we have shortchanged the Canadian Forces over the past probably quarter century, both Conservative and Liberal governments. I acknowledge that. I believe we cut too deeply. We have turned the corner. The Prime Minister and the government are seriously committed to reinvesting in the Canadian Forces, have done so, and will continue to do so in the very near future.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Oxford.
I would like to begin by congratulating the member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills for the motion that he has brought forward on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada. On this supply day our party has picked the topic of debate and put forward a motion that will be voted on.
It is important to recognize in the House that we have somebody, out of the 308 members of Parliament, who has the expertise that is needed to bring meaningful debate and actual facts to the House of Commons on the state of our military. I welcome that member for his contribution not only to our party but to the debate in this country on the state of our military.
I would like to go back to September 11 a couple of years ago. I believe it was a wake-up call that went around the world. From that day on, the world changed. I also believe on that day that people in the military around the world, whether it was the Department of National Defence in Canada, the minister, or the chief of staff suddenly realized that we as a nation have cut our military to the point where we may not be able to defend ourselves against that kind of action.
This is not a traditional war or confrontation situation. This is terrorism. These people do not attack in normal ways. We must be able to defend the citizens of our country. First and foremost, the duty of a government is the safety and protection of its citizens. I believe on that day the alarm bells started to go off, particularly in Canada, to say that all of the cuts to the military over the last number of years have put us in a position where we fear that we cannot protect our citizens.
This motion today is a great opportunity for all members to rise and talk about what we would like to see done. That is where I would like to focus my comments.
Some of the parties in the House of Commons do not support the military to the degree that we would like to see it supported. I do not think anybody does to the degree that my party would. We want to see our regular forces increased; we want to see our reserves increased. We want to see a substantial increase in the funding that would go toward capital replacement.
I have had two occasions to be involved with the military on visits in North America. On one occasion I went to Norad headquarters in Colorado Springs and actually went inside Cheyenne Mountain where the operations took place on September 11. A Canadian was in command.
I also had an opportunity to go from air force base Trenton to Alert Bay on a Hercules resupply mission. It was a three day trip. It took a couple of days to go up and a day and a half to come back. It was an experience that I will never forget. The resupply mission that goes there on a weekly basis, particularly in the wintertime, is the only connection the people on that base have with the rest of the world.
Our men and women in uniform were on a Hercules cargo plane that I was able to get on that had over twice the flying hours recommended for that air frame. It had been re-winged and new motors were installed, but the plane had 40,000 hours that was only supposed to be on duty for 20,000. People are expected to get into those planes every week to take those supplies into that air force base. That is not the only situation. The people on those bases depend entirely on this aging fleet of airplanes to bring in their goods and supplies.
I know full well that the crew on that airplane, from the two loadies in the back up to the pilot, the captain, the navigator and the engineer, were excellent, qualified people. They knew that equipment. Nobody moved until the engineer said that plane was safe. Thank goodness for him.
I learned a few things about how the military operates. I will never forget that crew and how dedicated they were. They did not complain. They knew I was a member of Parliament and they knew they had an opportunity to say some things. They were very open with me but not once did they say they regretted joining the military. They enjoyed that life. However they were disappointed to some degree with the respect they were receiving from some quarters but they did that job week after week and were proud of the job they did.
When we looked at the throne speech it was shocking to see the support the government expected to give to the military. There were three critical words in the speech: the military needs to be smart, strategic and focused. I agree with all those things but it bothers and worries me that they might just be code words for just more of the same, that we do not need to re-invest, that we need to somehow re-conform the military into a smaller, less capable command.
I think we need to keep those words in mind as we go through this next year and the next budget process. It will be our job as the official opposition to hold the government's feet to the fire and ensure that it properly funds the military to the degree that Canadians are expecting. More and more Canadians realize that it is our military personnel who will have to protect us from terrorism.
We just have to think back to yesterday when Ambassador Cellucci from the U.S. indicated that Canada could be, not has been, a launching pad for terrorism to anywhere in North America, including Canada. We have to be very aware of that.
One of the issues that keeps coming up is the funding. Let us get to some facts. The Prime Minister indicated that his defence equipment acquisition is what the military is asking for and that the Liberal government will take care of it. The actual fact is that it has only approved $7 billion, which is only one-quarter of the military's own 15 year request of $27.5 billion. This is based on the 1994 policy and recent operations.
We can compare that to Australia, a country smaller than our own, that has spent $50 billion on equipment replacement over a 10 year period. It just goes to show where we are positioned in the world regarding our military capabilities.
The chairman of the defence committee mentioned decay. What we are indicating is that it continues to decay, not that it has decayed to nothing but that it is in a decline in terms of its capability and equipment.
As our critic mentioned earlier, every time there is a deployment and our equipment is moved around the world or within Canada, it gets more worn out, more run down and more in need of replacement. We are not keeping up to that need.
We can look at the money needed for capital replacement and infrastructure repair. When I was on the air force base at Trenton it looked to me like it had been a magnificent place at one time but that it needed some serious upgrading. They were only simple things. The lawns were in disrepair, the parking lots needed repair and the buildings needed painting.
When I went into the operational buildings there was the look and feel of them being rundown. It was not because of the men and women in our armed forces who work there every day. It was because they did not have the capability, because of budget cuts, to do what was needed.
We also need to look at the numbers. If we are going to do a proper job of defending Canada against terrorism, we need the numbers. Right now our recruitment process is so bunged up it does not work properly. We have people who are lining up to be in the military but they cannot because the system is not capable of doing that.
Those are a number of the areas we need to address before we can properly stand in any forum, whether it is the House of Commons or anywhere, and say that we are doing our utmost to keep Canadians safe.
Madam Speaker, I have listened to a number of the speakers today and I find it rather hard not to be partisan. I take it that is the nature of the facilities here. I am only an old policeman, not an English teacher, so sometimes my words may not fit what he would like.
I stand before the House today to discuss yet another issue that has plagued our military and brought undue embarrassment to our country and to the government. Yesterday, the chief of defence staff and the admiral for our navy appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs to explain why Canada needs to have a submarine capability for our navy. What was truly apparent was what I equate to buyer's remorse. It is like me buying a used car and the salesman neglecting to tell me about the three or four accidents the car has been in, only to have it pointed out when a mechanic is changing the oil and has a look at the vehicle.
In 1993, the British navy pulled the four Upholder class submarines from the water because they were duds. Nothing on these subs operated properly. They were filled with design faults bad enough to frustrate one of the greatest maritime nations in the world.
As a new member of Parliament, I still feel my observations are from the outside looking in. These great military men who appeared before the committee yesterday were essentially gagged and unable to say what they really felt was wrong with the sub program.
I would venture to go as far as saying to the Canadian people that there is no doubt there is a need for submarine capability in Canada's navy. Why would these more than qualified servicemen rally around these four flawed submarines? I feel that it is because the government of the day followed what the rest of the world was doing in a former era. Aside from cutting the guts out of our health care system, it could not put the knife down and, like a crazed butcher, pounced on Canada's military.
We did not buy the subs because they were good value for the money. As the hon. Sheila Copps attested to last night on CBC, if the subs were such a good deal, then why were they still around five years after they were dry docked. Where was the bidding war? Saudi Arabia declined, Spain declined and the Australians decided to build their own subs.
The reason the navy pursued these subs was because it convinced the cabinet of the day, a cabinet, I might add, that was led by our current Prime Minister and then finance minister. However, the navy was told to find something cheap or, as the Liberals would say, cost effective. In other words, the navy was given a budget, told to forget what we need, to forget about worldclass equipment and to just go out and buy the best subs it could with one-tenth of what it needed to accomplish the task.
Our military has a motto. It is known as the “can do” approach and, because they are such good people, they compromised and took on these subs that presented them with challenges even the British navy could not conquer. What was even worse was watching the most recent information about the Chicoutimi disaster on the news networks last night.
We have service people who are risking their career advancement to make sure Canadians know the truth of what happened on that doomed sub. Lieutenant Bryan was described by the Halifax centre as being casual on the phone. What did they want, mass hysteria? Perhaps he was exhausted from what had just happened hours earlier. Lieutenant Bryan states that he had good reception on his satellite phone and that everything he said was repeated back to him, including the words “major fire”. Halifax command said that the reception was not good and yet they could hear the word “fire”, the number of casualties and the fact the sub was dead in the water. However, when they went before the media they called the fire minor.
Lieutenant Bryan also stated that there was a great deal of concern on the other end of the phone line and that he felt that by them repeating everything he had said back to him, it left him with no doubt his words were understood. So imagine, Halifax did not log or record the phone call. How ironic, a case of their words over another.
It is not like the Chicoutimi reached the call centre trying to sell some carpet cleaning services. I say that with all due respect to those in the call centre industry. They were talking to experts in the field of navy operation so how could major be interpreted as minor? It is now up to a military inquiry to determine if the navy did indeed downplay the fires and, if so, whether it was intentional or merely a bad case of communications. Or, perhaps there was political interference to downplay the already plagued sub. Perhaps the government wanted to control the situation to ease the cloud of doom that was being cast over its choice of flawed submarines
Touchy as my statement is, I feel it needs to be debated. It would not be the first time that politics got in the way of the truth. Just look at that napkin contract for the sale of shares in a golf course.
The party across the way has no bounds when it comes to its contempt for the intelligence of the people of this country. The solution to the sub crisis in the country has yet to be discovered. From what we know now, it is clear that Canada should be looking to purchase a fleet of six new off the shelf proven subs, such as those built in Germany. These subs are NATO friendly, environmentally friendly, diesel operated and are being built with an AIP system that will allow them to go under the ice of our northern coast.
When my party is elected to government in the next election, we will remove the gag order on military officials and let them speak freely and allow them to react to our financial constraints. What we need now is a full military review. Underfunding of our forces has taken its toll on our service personnel and our national pride. It has left our forces on the brink of disaster and that is no exaggeration.
Today, after some $850 million spent on flawed subs, we are without a sub program. We have no heavy lift aircraft capability to move our military operations around the world. Rust out threatens nearly every vehicle we own. We have also learned in the last several days that we cannot even supply our soldiers in Haiti with gloves, flak jackets and proper boots. I recall a report that it took nearly 12 years to decide on the purchase of a backpack. And we wonder why we have poor recruitment numbers for our military of the future.
In the last campaign the government said it would add 5,000 new troops to our forces. A quick estimate shows that it takes two years to train a soldier at a cost of nearly $2 billion per year for those members. When have we ever seen the Liberal government increase the defence budget by $2 billion per year? It will not happen. It will go down as just another broken election promise. I say we have to look no further than across the House because that party has gouged the life out of our military.
When it comes to our NATO allies, only Luxembourg spends less GNP on its national defence than Canada does. That says it all about the Liberals' regard for our service people and the defence of our nation. Their decade of cuts and failure to increase the defence budget in significant numbers is a disservice to every soldier that has paid the ultimate sacrifice for our beloved country.
Madam Speaker, since this is my first speech in this 38th Parliament, I would like to take some time to congratulate you on your appointment as Acting Speaker of the House and to thank my constituents, the voters of my riding of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles for re-electing me.
On June 28, 64.9% of voters reaffirmed the trust they had in their MP for the third time. That is a clear sign for me to keep up the good work. It shows me that they approve of what I do in this House and that they support the work of my colleagues, the members of the Bloc Québécois. I would also like to thank and congratulate my colleagues from northwestern Quebec, my seatmates, who provide us with moral support during our speeches.
Please excuse me, I forgot to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma.
Enough thank yous and compliments, let us get to the heart of the debate. The Bloc Québécois and I are against this motion, not because it is bad, but because it asks to invest money in national defence when there is no national defence policy. The same is true for Canada's foreign affairs policies—there is no policy.
The last time national defence policies were reviewed was in 1994. I wonder if DND still uses these policies. If so, it should consider changing them because the concept of defence and military armament has changed dramatically since September 11, 2001.
We no longer have an army to contend with, we have to deal with people we call terrorists, who have not been identified and whose methods we do not know. Consequently, this government absolutely must establish a defence policy. In the meantime, it should invest money in the living conditions of our service members.
I have, unfortunately, had occasion to provide support to young men and women the age of my own son, who have returned from war or peacekeeping in Bosnia with post-traumatic stress syndrome. They have come home as human wrecks, a harsh term perhaps but they are greatly in need of psychological and psychiatric help. Unfortunately, we turn a blind eye to them.
Some of these young people in my riding have to spend time at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue regularly, daily or weekly. Unfortunately, they need more help than that. Let us not lose sight of the fact that these young people, like all our military personnel, have been to war or on peacekeeping assignment in order to advance the cause of democracy. That was their role.
The dangers that await us if we invest in our armed forces without any national defence policy is that these investments are likely to be wasted. I will give a few examples of this.
Hon. members will recall that, in 1998-99, the national defence budget was $8,964 million, while it will be $13,400 million in 2003-04. That is a lot of money. Ordinary people's dreams of winning the lottery never exceed a million. So this is an increase of 49.5% in national defence spending since 1998.
What did that money go to? Let us think back to 1993, when the government over the way spent $500 million to cancel the helicopter contract. Or back to 1998 when, without consulting the House, it announced, just like that, the purchase of four used submarines from Great Britain, ones that had been in mothballs since 1993. They were purchased in 1998 for $800 million, apparently to protect our coasts, the Arctic and the far north, but the submarines were not equipped to operate under northern ice.
Since then, several hundred million dollars have been invested in those submarines. The total has reached nearly $1 billion in expenditures on those four submarines, now all in dry dock. Unfortunately, for that to happen, Lieutenant Saunders had to lose his life in the incident aboard the HMCS Chicoutimi.
While waiting for my colleague to take his seat, I would just like to add that we spent another $174 million needlessly on a communications satellite that has not been used. That is one of the things the auditor general pinpointed.
With that I shall pass things over to my colleague for his ten minutes.