Mr. Svend J. Robinson (Burnaby-Kingsway)
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing the 20-minute time at my disposal with the hon. member for Saint John.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to participate in this debate. I congratulate the members who have spoken immediately preceding me, the member for Sarnia-Lambton and the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, on the courageous position they have taken.
I believe that it was the leader of the Bloc Quebecois who suggested that this debate today was in a sense a charade, that the government's real purpose was not to let the United States test cruise missiles and that this debate would give the government an opportunity to say "no".
I think the agenda is precisely the opposite. I think the leader of the Bloc Quebecois is profoundly mistaken. The agenda here today is in fact that the government is prepared to say yes to cruise missile testing and is laying the groundwork for that by betraying in a very profound way the promises that were made in opposition by the Liberal Party of Canada and by leading members of that party to say no to cruise missile testing for the reasons so eloquently set out by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
I want to take exception not only to the process here because I think the fix is in. I think in fact that the decision which has been made and communicated to the United States government is that yes it can go ahead but there is this little nuisance that came up last week when one of the members from the opposition stood up and reminded the government of the commitment that it made while in opposition.
What was that statement that was made by the member for Winnipeg South Centre? It was this. He suggested in a question to this House on February 15 that:
Given that many Canadians, particularly citizens of the north as represented by the Northwest Territories government, the Dene Nation and the circumpolar council, have strongly opposed any continuation of these tests, why has the minister wilfully proceeded with this agreement contrary to the wishes of these Canadians without any form of public consultation or public parliamentary hearings?
Public parliamentary hearings. This parliamentary debate is not public parliamentary hearings. The voices of northerners, the voices of aboriginal peoples, the voices of peace groups who want to be heard on this issue are not being heard in public hearings.
I note that the representatives from the Northwest Territories, the member for Nunatsiaq and the member for Western Arctic, are both strongly opposed to the testing of cruise missiles. Yet their constituents are denied an opportunity to be heard in public hearings.
I might ask parenthetically where is the voice of that eloquent defender of progressive thought in the Liberal caucus, that ardent advocate of an end to cruise missile testing, the member for Winnipeg South Centre? I am waiting to hear his contribution to this debate.
This debate is not just about the testing of the cruise missile. I might say that the position we have taken as New Democrats on this has been to oppose the testing of the cruise from the time it was first started in 1983. It is also fundamentally a debate about political integrity, about honesty and about the credibility of the governing parties.
I say that because I think we have to look at the record. Yes, in 1983 it was the Liberal government that approved the first 10-year agreement to allow for cruise missile testing over Canadian soil. But in 1984 the Liberals went into opposition. Of course Liberals in opposition tend to be a little more progressive than when they are in government. What did they say in opposition? Well the Liberal Party of Canada in a convention in November 1986 said that it would ban cruise missile testing.
The hon. member for Papineau, who was then external affairs critic, suggested that cruise missiles would be destabilizing and that cruise missile technology would have a disastrous effect. I quote the Minister of Foreign Affairs: "The government persists in playing hide and seek on the policy it will adopt with respect to testing of the new cruise missile, this dangerous cousin of the present missile that is faster and better able to escape detection.
Letting such a weapon in Northern Canada would raise the stakes even more."
He was right in 1988; he is right today. It is really sad that the member for Papineau was more progressive then than the members of the Bloc Quebecois are today on this issue. It is really sad that the very strong and powerful voices of the peace movement in Quebec are not represented here in the House by the Bloc members, who talk about the importance of supporting our great American allies. It is really sad.
We have heard the glowing statements of the minister of the members in opposition. We have read in the fabled red book that Liberals believe Canadians want their national government to play a more active independent internationalist role in this world of change.
What did the Liberal Party of Canada promise to the people of Canada in writing in September 1993? It said this in response to a questionnaire from End the Arms Race: "Liberals have opposed further testing of the cruise missile since 1987. We will bring this testing program to an end". That was the promise of the Liberals in September 1993. They did not say they would bring it to an end if George Bush was re-elected. There were no parentheses. There were no asterisks. They said they would bring it to an end.
What has happened? A month later they gave approval in principle for the cruise missile testing to continue.
Let us be clear about what the issue is here. The issue is not a question of breaking a contract solemnly entered into. I was astonished to hear the very distinguished member for Vancouver Quadra suggesting we would be in breach of our solemn undertakings if we did not allow cruise missile testing to proceed. I would have hoped that member would have read the agreement, because of course the agreement itself makes it very clear.
I quote from the agreement: "Either the Department of National Defence or the Department of Defense in the United States may refuse any testing project proposed under this agreement".
It is utter nonsense to suggest, as the member for Vancouver Quadra has done, that in some way we would be in breach of our commitments under this agreement. The agreement provides for consent and it provides for withholding that consent.
The issue is about the testing of a dangerous new missile, a destabilizing new missile, the stealth missile, which has first-strike capability. It is nuclear equipped. The reason the Americans want to test it over our soil is that our terrain is similar to that of Russia.
I have the original background document from the first agreement in 1983. In response to the question why test in Canada it said that it was suitable for operational testing of air launched cruise missiles over representative terrain and realistic route lengths. Representative terrain. Representative of what? Representative of Russia. Realistic route lengths. What are they? Some 2,200 kilometres, about the time and about the distance it would take to fire those cruise missiles into the heart of Russia.
We have heard it suggested that because Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a very dangerous man, is now in a position of some influence in Russia we should be testing this nuclear weapon. I say that is another reason for us to say no to the testing of the cruise missile.
In 1992 Boris Yeltsin said they would stop testing the cruise missile. He has appealed to the nations of the world to join in that. If Zhirinovsky is able to use the argument that we are testing the missile and it is aimed fundamentally at them, how on earth does that help in the pursuit of peace?
It is time we recognized the real enemy. The real enemy is surely poverty. The fact is that 40,000 children die every day on this planet. The real enemy is the crushing debt burden and the increasing gap in wealth and power between north and south. The real enemy is environmental degradation.
I would have hoped the Liberals would have shown leadership on those issues. But, no, they are prepared to say yes to the old ways of doing things. Why not allow the defence and foreign policy reviews to take place before we agree to go ahead?
By saying no we will be sending a powerful signal, not only to the people of Canada, not only to the Pentagon, but to the world, to the community of nations, that we are prepared to take a lead in the pursuit of peace.
It was the member for Winnipeg South Centre who asked this question in February 1993: "Whatever happened to the fresh new thinking about defence matters since the cold war?" Indeed, whatever happened to that fresh new thinking? Let us hope that voice and that view will prevail; that we will take bold new steps to create a nuclear weapons-free zone in Canada; that we will say no to low level testing over Innu lands in Labrador; that we will create a common Arctic security zone, as the member for Yukon has suggested; and that we will respect the wishes of aboriginal people such as the Canoe Lake people as suggested by the member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake.
The time has come for new thinking. The time has come to say no to the testing of the cruise missile in Canada.
Subtopic: Cruise Missile Testing