Mr. Dave Nickerson (Western Arctic):
Mr. Speaker, before I get into my presentation I want to convey some intelligence from the Hon. Member for Scarborough West (Mr. Stackhouse) in respect to the Maclean's magazine article which was referred to before. He tells me, Sir, that he was interviewed by the magazine and his point of view was, like mine and that of most Members on this side of the House, very positive. We believe that the Government is doing what is right in this acquisition program. But, for some reason or other, anything in a positive light, a positive vein, was neglected to be printed in the Maclean's article. Perhaps that gives Hon. Members some idea of the objectivity of that particular publication.
The motion before us today asks that the Government delay its submarine acquisition program until after the next election. It is my view that this matter was decided at the previous election. I remember standing on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in 1984 handing out leaflets which provided a description of the PC defence policy. The fact that I was elected, along with 210 of my colleagues on this side of the House, would seem to indicate to me that the PC defence policy found favour with the electorate of Canada.
At that time we promised to guard Canadian sovereignty on the land, in Canadian waters and in Canadian air space. We wanted to give our military the tools with which to do that job. We wanted to defend the northern parts of Canada which hitherto had been neglected. There was overwhelming support for this policy.
The NDP ideas of getting out of NATO and NORAD were rejected. The Liberal policy of allowing our military forces and military equipment to decay were rejected by the people of Canada. Not only at the time of the election but also about a year ago, at the time of the publication of the White Paper on national defence, that overwhelming support was again there.
If we ask ourselves the question, do we need a Navy, and answer that question in the affirmative, as just about everyone here would, then the next question becomes this: what should become the make-up of that Navy? What can do the best job for the money available?
July 14, 1988
The Liberals allowed over a period of years for our Navy to deteriorate. Virtually what we have left is a bunch of rust buckets. Really what we are doing is starting from scratch. We are in the process of acquiring a number of new vessels. We did not have one minesweeper in Canada. We are in the process of acquiring 12 new frigates. I guess, to give the Liberals credit, that acquisition program started under them. It is our proposal to buy some 10 to 12 nuclear propelled-not nuclear armed but nuclear propelled-submarines over about a 25-year period.
The Liberal plans, when we came in to office, although they had not been put into the process of implementation, were to acquire some 18 frigates, about six more than we are going to get. These things cost about half a billion dollars apiece. Frigates do not come cheap. They do not come in boxes of corn flakes.
The Liberals were also going to acquire a fleet of conventional submarines. The price-tag over the 25-year period would have been about $2 billion in excess of what we plan to spend. It would not have done anywhere near as good a job.
The former Liberal Defence Minister, the Hon. J. J. Blais, as quoted in a newspaper article yesterday, admitted that he was a supporter of the Conservative acquisition program, that nuclear-powered submarines were three times as effective as a destroyer, or three times as effective as a conventional diesel electric submarine.
The Oberon submarines that we have are old. They have to be replaced. They are dangerous and we cannot use them any more. We have to buy a new model.
Who in their right mind would go out in 1988 and buy a brand new Model T automobile? One would not do it. If one is going to buy a new automobile, then one is going to go and buy the latest model available, the most fuel efficient, et cetera. Diesel electric submarines when submerged have to use batteries. We have had described to us the environmental hazards of diesel electric and battery-operated submarines. They can only go for two hours at maximum speed while submerged. What chance is there of a diesel electric submarine catching a nuclear submarine or getting away from a nuclear submarine? There is no chance at all. We would be submitting submariners to inappropriate and great risks by putting them out to sea in times of potential hazards in Model-T submarines.
The nuclear-powered submarine's range under water, under the ice, is virtually unlimited. These days no other country buys diesel electric submarines. The United States has several hundred submarines and it has three diesel electrics left. They use them for target practice because the Soviet Union still has a few diesel electric submarines.
The U.S.S.R. has a much more ambitious nuclear submarine acquisition program than ourselves. One of the Members
Nuclear Powered Submarines
earlier pointed out that it is acquiring submarines at a rate of one every five weeks.
If we buy these submarines, as the Government proposes to do, we can have a three-ocean Navy instead of a two-ocean Navy. For most of the year our Arctic Ocean is covered with ice, and conventional submarines cannot be used under the ice. A conventional submarine has to surface to recharge its batteries.
Furthermore, we would be unable to move submarines from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean without going through the Panama Canal. "Please, Mr. Noriega, can we use the canal? We want to get a submarine from Halifax to Vancouver". Whereas, nuclear powered submarines can be moved through the North West Passage in our own territorial waters without having to ask any one's permission.
In the Arctic the nuclear-powered submarine is the only one capable of operating there. That is my backyard. My constituents as Canadian citizens want to be as well defended as Canadians who happen to live in Vancouver or Halifax on the Pacific or the Atlantic. I feel that they have a right to be properly defended. The first responsibility of Government is to provide for the collective defence. I cannot accept any policy where the first response to any invasion would be to abandon northern Canadians to the enemy.
If we do not have submarines, we will not stop nuclear submarines from being present in the Arctic. There will be nuclear submarines there. The question we have to ask ourselves is, do we only want American ones there, do we only want Soviet ones there, or do we also want Canadian submarines in the Arctic?
If we do not have them we are abandoning our defence. We are abandoning our sovereignty to the Americans. That is the policy of the NDP and the Liberals. They want to abandon the defence of northern Canada to the Americans and let them do what they want, and let us have no say in how that defence is to be conducted. That is not our position. Our position is that we are quite prepared to take on the responsibility that goes with an Arctic power of some measure.
The proposed acquisition program of the Government makes eminent sense to me. With it we will be able to protect Canadian sovereignty. We will be pulling our own weight in the defence of North America. The acquisitions will be cost effective. On an annual basis they will amount to 2 or 3 per cent of the defence budget. It will not disrupt in any way other military programs, as the NDP have stated. These vessels are the most effective available. The acquisition is in keeping with the wish of the Canadian public as expressed in the last election, and as I am sure will be confirmed at the next election.
Subtopic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-MOTIONS NATIONAL DEFENCE SUGGESTED DELAY IN ACQUISITION OF NUCLEAR POWERED SUBMARINES