February 17, 1994

LIB

Nick Discepola

Liberal

Mr. Nick Discepola (Vaudreuil)

Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Finance has the honour, this morning, to present its first report.

In accordance with its order of reference of Friday, February 4, 1994 your committee has considered Bill C-2, an act to amend the Department of National Revenue Act and to amend certain other acts in consequence thereof, and has agreed to report it without amendment.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees Of The House
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LIB

John Nunziata

Liberal

Mr. John Nunziata (York South-Weston)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-217, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act, the Contraventions Act and the Criminal Code in consequence thereof.

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank the hon. member for Leeds-Grenville for seconding the motion to introduce this bill.

During the election campaign Canadians made it clear that they would like to see some fundamental changes to our criminal justice system. It would appear that the Young Offenders Act has acted as a lightning rod for a lot of the concerns in the community. This bill in my view would address some of the very serious flaws in the Young Offenders Act.

The bill has three purposes. First, it would lower the age limits that define a young offender. A young offender would be defined as a young person between the ages of 10 and 15. As a result, 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds would be held responsible for their criminal acts and prosecuted in adult court.

Presently, 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds are subject to the Young Offenders Act and not the Criminal Code of Canada in adult court. In my view, 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds are old enough to understand the nature and consequences of their acts and should be held responsible as adults.

The second purpose of the bill would be to increase the maximum, I stress maximum, penalty for first and second degree murder from five years to ten years. I believe Canadians want to see some changes to the maximum penalty provisions for murder under the Young Offenders Act. Any persons between the ages of 10 and 15 who commit first or second degree murder would face a maximum penalty of 10 years.

Finally, the bill would allow for the publication of the name of the young offender after the young offender's second conviction for an indictable offence.

In conclusion, I believe if this bill is carried by this House it will go a long way to satisfying some of the very serious and reasonable concerns of Canadians with regard to problems in our criminal justice system.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Young Offenders Act
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BQ

Pierrette Venne

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Pierrette Venne (Saint-Hubert)

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-218, an act to amend the Unemployment Insurance Act (excepted employment).

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the hon. member for Laurentides for supporting this bill and would also like to give a short explanation about this legislation.

The purpose of this bill is to exclude from the excepted employment category those jobs that are characterized by a dependant relationship between the employer and the employee.

At this time, the employment of women collaborators is not insurable unless, as it says in clause 3(2)(c) of the Unemployment Insurance Act, these women can prove they would have gotten into a similar work contract had they not been their employers' spouses.

This clause of the Unemployment Insurance Act is discriminatory, because it creates a different burden of the proof, especially for women collaborators.

That is why I hope that my bill will be debated as soon as possible.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Unemployment Insurance Act
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LIB

Marlene Cowling

Liberal

Mrs. Marlene Cowling (Dauphin-Swan River)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(1), I would like to table this petition which has been duly certified by the clerk of petitions.

The citizens of Dauphin-Swan River are asking the federal government to seek approval from the Canadian people for Canada's policy with reference to official languages.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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REF

Randy White

Reform

Mr. Randy White (Fraser Valley West)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(1), I rise to present a petition from concerned citizens of the township of Langley in the riding of Fraser Valley West, British Columbia.

This petition of well over 1,000 names expresses the concern of installing supermailboxes in our heritage community of Port Langley, the birthplace of British Columbia. Supermailboxes would not be in keeping with the historical traditions of this heritage community.

Therefore, the petitioners request that Parliament designate Canadian heritage communities to be exempt from Canada Post's supermailbox program.

This petition is submitted with my full support.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

Mr. Peter Milliken (Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons)

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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The Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions On The Order Paper
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LIB

Fernand Robichaud

Liberal

Hon. Fernand Robichaud (for the Minister of Finance)

moved that a ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act, laid upon the table Monday, February 14, 1994 be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Ways And Means
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LIB

David Collenette

Liberal

Hon. David Michael Collenette (Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs)

moved:

That a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and of the House of Commons be appointed to consider Canada's Defence Policy;

That the document entitled "Review of Canadian Defence Policy, Minister of National Defence Guidance Document", be referred to the Committee;

That the Committee be directed to consult broadly and to analyze the issues discussed in the above-mentioned document, and to make recommendations in their report concerning the objectives and conduct of Canada's Defence Policy;

That eleven Members of the House of Commons and five Members of the Senate be Members of the Committee;

That the Members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs be appointed to act on behalf of the House as Members of the said Committee;

That the Committee have the power to sit during sittings and adjournments of the House;

That the Committee have the power to report from time to time, to send for persons, papers and records, and to print such papers and evidence from time to time as may be ordered by the Committee;

That the Committee have the power to retain the services of expert, professional, technical and clerical staff;

That the Committee have the power to adjourn from place to place inside Canada and abroad and that, when deemed necessary, the required staff accompany the Committee;

That a quorum of the Committee be nine Members, whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken, so long as both Houses are represented and that the Joint Chairmen be authorized to hold meetings, to receive evidence and authorize the printing thereof, whenever six Members are present, so long as both Houses are represented;

That the Committee or its representatives meet on occasions it deems fitting with the parliamentary committee or its representatives charged with reviewing Canada's foreign policy;

That notwithstanding the usual practices of this House, if the House is not sitting when an interim or final report of the Committee is completed, the Committee shall report with the Clerk of the House and that it shall thereupon be deemed to have been laid upon the Table;

That the Committee present its final report no later than September 30, 1994; and

That a message be sent to the Senate requesting that House to unite with this House for the above purpose, and to select, if the Senate deems it advisable, Members to act on the proposed Special Joint Committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to address the House formally and launch the defence policy review.

For the next few minutes I will outline the terms of the process that will be involved in the final product which will be the new defence policy for Canada.

The need for a thorough review of Canada's defence policy is generally recognized. In fact, during the election campaign, all parties called for a review of the present policy to ensure that it really meets the needs of today. The attention given to defence issues should surprise no one. Defence is a fundamental duty of the government and has major impacts in Canada and abroad.

Furthermore, the maintenance and operation of our armed forces account for a considerable share of public spending. Therefore we must have a clear and realistic defence policy which defines what we expect of the Canadian forces and how we intend to equip and train them to carry out their tasks.

During the election campaign, my party maintained that it was urgent to review Canada's defence policy in order to take account of the country's new needs and the financial reality we are facing as well as international instability.

I would now like to describe how the government intends to conduct this most important review.

We have had some discussions in the last few months on the issues that have arisen, and the public consultation process is a central priority for this government. In the election campaign this was outlined by all parties that felt that Parliament should take a greater role in the formulation of policy development. Parliament has always historically had that essential role, but in recent years governments have moved away from listening to members of Parliament in a full and timely way in the formulation of policy.

Since we reconvened in this Parliament in January, we have had debates on two very important issues, our maintenance of peacekeeping in the former republics of Yugoslavia, and cruise missile testing.

In this same spirit of consultation, we are proposing today the establishment of a special joint committee of Parliament to consider the future of Canadian defence policy.

In something that will be unique and to avoid unnecessary taxing of individual members who will be very busy with a number of committees, we are going to have the House of Commons membership in this special joint committee mirror the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs to join with nominees from the Senate. That means the same members involved in daily defence related matters, those studying the estimates, will be dealing with the defence review. The most knowledgeable people on defence matters will be carrying through both exercises.

Through this committee we hope to receive the broadest input possible; in other words, not just from experts and interest groups, but from a wide variety of Canadians concerned with this vital national issue.

Ever mindful of the somewhat travelling road show that became a circus on the Constitution which the previous Conservative government put into place a year or so ago dealing with the Charlottetown accord, we would not wish the committee to follow that unsavoury precedent. We would, hopefully, wish the committee to hold hearings in different parts of Canada so that people who otherwise could not afford to travel to Ottawa will be able to get to some regional centres. I hope that does not become an undue expense for the House and that there will be selected communities, large communities across the country, in which representations can be made.

We would like this report from the committee to be made no later than September 30 of this year. Why September 30? We are trying to keep to our red book timetable. I know members of the other parties are going to become tired of the red book. However we have to emphasize to Canadians that they can expect this government to keep its election promises as much as possible. This is one we are trying to keep. We want the review to be completed by the end of the year so that Canadians will at last know where defence policy is going in this very turbulent time.

We will monitor the progress of the public debate as it proceeds in the journals and conferences and in the media. Once the committee completes its work we will study it very carefully. The public component of the policy debate on defence will be conducted as it should be, by the House of Commons and the Senate. That is the true vehicle for public input. If members of Parliament and Parliament itself cannot be the vehicle for expressing the will of Canadians, I do not know what else can.

The report will play a major role in shaping the government's response. By that I mean there will be a white paper on defence probably within a few months of the committee issuing its findings. The completion of this should be at the end of the year. I do not want to mislead hon. members of the Senate and the House. The report they will issue will not constitute the new

defence policy but we will ignore many or most of its recommendations at peril.

As I said Parliament is the unique place to bring a certain dimension to the debate that one cannot otherwise get through private consultations. I hope to engage in consultations with experts, officials and other people in the defence community as well as to have discussions with our allies based on their experiences. All of our allies are going through a similar turbulent period in developing foreign policy and defence policy. I will be having those conversations with them but certainly public participation and the role of members will have a heavy bearing upon the eventual outcome of this policy.

In the interim, government is going to have to make decisions. The world does not stop because Canada is having a defence review and I hope that members will take that into consideration. I can imagine some of the things that will come up in the next few weeks and months. I hope members then do not ask why we do not leave things until the end of the defence review. The fact is we have to make some tough decisions.

A very tough decision we made, which was another red book promise, was the cancellation of the EH-101 helicopters. We have had some difficult discussions with our NATO allies both at the summit in Brussels and over the last few weeks by telephone. My colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister and I have had discussions with our allies on the very difficult situation in the former republic of Yugoslavia and the potential of air strikes. Some of the ongoing discussions have led to lengthy consultations in the House. I mention peacekeeping and cruise missile testing.

One could envisage for example the government being asked to consider how to respond to events in Bosnia, a request to send additional peacekeepers to that location. Obviously we have to make those decisions very rapidly as events occur. They cannot wait.

We will keep Parliament, especially the committee, fully informed of any significant decisions as long as we do not betray any confidences with our allies in the process. We will strive to make sure these decisions which have to be taken on a day to day basis do not prejudice the outcome of the review. We will do all we can to ensure that any decisions we do take on an ad hoc basis in response to developments as they occur will have the broad support of Canadians.

During the same period, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will review Canada's foreign policy. The minister will provide details on this subject to Parliament in a few weeks. Since the country's foreign policy and defence policy overlap in several areas, my colleague and I have developed a process to allow both reviews to proceed in harmony.

Under the terms of reference of the parliamentary committee reviewing defence policy, this committee will meet with the one responsible for reviewing Canada's foreign policy.

I also accepted the invitation of my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to co-chair the national forum on international relations, which will certainly consider questions related to defence.

A national forum on matters, whether they be defence policy, foreign policy, overseas development aid, or trade policy will be hosted by my colleagues, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for International Trade and I in a few weeks. That again is another promise in the red book.

The fundamental issues in the defence review to be considered are set out in a guidance document the government has put together. If I have the agreement of hon. members, I propose to table it in both official languages pursuant to Standing Order 32(2).

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Defence Policy
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Is there agreement to table the document?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Defence Policy
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Defence Policy
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LIB

David Collenette

Liberal

Mr. Collenette

It is the guidance document that will be provided to all members of the committee to help them in their deliberations. It does not set out any prescriptions; it simply identifies the issues and helps them frame their deliberations. It is intended to stimulate discussion and focus the work of the committee on the critical issues to be resolved.

To give members a sense on how the government intends to approach the substantive aspects of the review I would like to spend a few minutes reviewing the broad outline in the document I have just tabled.

The document begins an examination of the Canadian defence issues by setting out the international and domestic context of Canadian defence.

In it we note that the cold war has yielded some very real improvements in international security relations. Since 1989 we have seen an astounding chain of events occur, especially in eastern Europe with the dismantling of the former Soviet Union and the re-emergence of states that have not been independent for many years, in some cases for centuries.

There has been significant progress in arms control and the resolution of some of the long-standing regional conflicts. Beyond this we have the rapidity of events unfolding especially in Europe to caution us as to how we deal with the formulation of defence policy.

The guidance document talks about the unpredictability, the volatility and the violence in the international environment. We see this obviously in the former republic of Yugoslavia and the disintegration of that country. However, it is being played out in

the bordering states, the former republics of the Soviet Union, both in Europe and in Central Asia.

I have become much more alarmed at the pattern of events that are occurring in that part of the world with smaller states potentially having the ability to operate nuclear weapon systems which have come into their hands directly because some republics of the former Soviet Union have them on their soil. However, I must admit I am very happy with the agreement which seems to have been put in place in the former republic of Ukraine, now an independent state, for control in dismantling and dismemberment of these weapons.

Many people have been involved in the arms business and the nuclear development business in that part of the world. We know there are regimes that for whatever reason through territorial expansion or other designs of hegemony in the region want to use nuclear weapons to improve their case. We see a very disconcerting scenario unfolding and that should make us vigilant in formulating our defence policy.

What I am trying to say is that the events, the hope and the euphoria in 1990 and 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet empire has given way to a bit more realism, a bit more pragmatism. Yes the world potentially is a better place. We do not have this terrible arms race between the two superpowers, but the fallout, especially in the Soviet Union, in Russia and that area has created a degree of instability we have to be very mindful of. We shall watch the situation in Russia very carefully. Of course Canada is fully behind attempts in that country to organize itself in the most democratic and fair-minded fashion in its new role as an independent country free from any ideology.

From a military point of view Russia does remain a power. It has nuclear weapons. It still has a large armed forces, much of which has been repatriated from the former eastern European states. Events such as the second coup attempt last October and the outcome of the recent elections are of concern to us. They reflect the precarious state of reform in a climate of serious social and economic problems.

Making long-term decisions about the Canadian Armed Forces is difficult enough at the best of times. It is even more difficult when the future of international security is so complex and so uncertain.

The guidance document reminds us of the importance of the national dimension of Canada's defence. As a bare minimum, under the National Defence Act, the forces are required to take action in situations that threaten public order in Canada. The forces still have a role to play in defending Canada and protecting Canadian sovereignty, and this role includes assisting other departments and other levels of government.

Over the years, the government has asked the forces to assist certain government agencies in search and rescue activities and with relief in cases of national disaster and the protection of our marine resources.

In its deliberations, the committee will have to determine what the appropriate national roles for the Canadian Forces are and what level of capability our military people need to fill these roles.

One of the most significant domestic issues affecting the Department of National Defence and Canadian forces is fiscal restraint. This is addressed in the foreword of the guidance document. I have stressed that we have to develop a policy that is realistic and affordable. I want to re-emphasize that point today. Because of the urgency of fiscal restraint, we must set priorities and focus on plans, procurement and operations that are most essential to our needs.

The guidance document sets out three areas where the committee and Canadians need to think carefully about defence priorities in an attempt to design an appropriate defence posture for the 1990s. However in doing so we cannot forget the cost implications.

In that context I would like to address a comment which has been raised by the other parties and by some of my own colleagues. That is the logic of having a defence review when we are about to cut a massive amount from the defence budget. This is something which again was outlined in the red book.

With respect to defence we agreed to eliminate the EH-101 helicopter program. It was a sound decision. It was a good decision. That particular piece of equipment was too expensive for our needs. We felt that the former government erred. We said so in the campaign and we have discharged our obligations.

At some point in time our need for replacing the Sea Kings to carry on search and rescue and other naval operations for which some of the EH-101s were intended will have to be addressed. Committee members can help us along when they discuss the role for the forces and their policy suggestions as to the kind of capability we need in search and rescue, in maritime surveillance and the naval force generally where the EH-101 was to be deployed.

Our other promise was to cut $1.6 billion from the defence budget. It is there in the red book. It is not a budget secret. This is public. Of course the Minister of Finance when he brings forward his financial projections will obviously take that into account.

That is a promise we will discharge. I am on the record saying that in speeches and I have mentioned it in the House.

In dealing with this urgent fiscal situation, because the savings have to start clicking in April 1, at the beginning of this fiscal year 1994-95, we had two options. We could have decided to curtail operations. We could have decided to, as I have said not facetiously but honestly, do something that would have seen our F-18 fighter planes fly every seventh day.

We could have our great new frigates which are admired by naval experts around the world just give tours of the Grand Banks instead of going any further and, again being somewhat tongue in cheek, having guns without bullets or armoured personnel carriers that do not function.

We cannot afford that because defence of our country and our vital interest is crucial. We must do this in the best way possible. What we decided to do is to try to take the tough decisions that governments have ignored in the past. They have ignored them in a most irresponsible manner.

As the armed forces budget as a proportion of government spending has decreased from about 24 per cent in 1963-64 to about 8 per cent today and going lower, the number of actual uniformed personnel has decreased from 130,000 to about 77,000 or 78,000. It is going lower because of the cuts that were announced by the previous government. Those are working their way through the system.

We have to decide. The government would be interested obviously in hearing from the committee as to how low we can go to have a real credible defence. If one goes too low, what can one do and what can one not do?

Along those 30 years as we were shedding uniformed personnel we were not in a commensurate way dealing with infrastructure and capacity. We have an administrative and physical infrastructure and capacity which is too much for the more modest armed forces we have today.

As anyone in business knows, if one's market share declines radically one has to cut one's overhead if one wants to stay in business. Unlike some in the House who tried to equate exclusively business with government, we do not do that because government is not a business like any other business. It is a unique institution that has to balance many competing interests.

However, we do owe it to Canadians to try to operate ourselves in a most efficient manner. When we announce our defence cuts, we will do so in such a way as to address this infrastructure imbalance, this inflated administrative overhead that does not really conform with the actual role being discharged by the armed forces today.

It will be very controversial. It will impact on every region of the country. I cannot over-emphasize enough the severity of what we have to do. If we do not do this and do this fast, that is in the next few weeks, then we will have to take the cuts in the operational end which in effect will grind us to a halt. It could even mean that we would have to, notwithstanding the decision of the House about deployment in the former Yugoslavia, the government's decision and the views of the House, concede external operations.

I do not think Canadians want to do that. We have to discharge our obligations whether it is there or elsewhere. We have to continue to operate the business, the plant or service for Canadians that the Canadian Armed Forces brings forward.

It would be very difficult. It would be very controversial and I would ask the members not just in the opposition parties but also my own party to understand the difficulty that we have to face.

In doing it we will deal with individuals affected in a way which is extremely sensitive, which will go beyond what is required in terms of collective agreements and with our personnel. I believe that we will be able to put as good a face on what we are going to do from a human impact position as possible, as realistically as we can. With respect to communities that will be affected, this will be very difficult. Some can absorb job losses, some can absorb the decline in economic activity, but others will not be able to do so readily. We do not want to preside over the dissolution of entire communities in the country.

Even though the government's financial means are severely restricted, we will work with provinces and communities, members of Parliament affected and businesses to try to ensure that the very good plant and capacity that we have in many of our facilities-office buildings, bases, other structures-are used for other purposes. Whether it is business, community projects or provincial government works, we will try as best as is possible to ensure that the economic activity in those communities is not gutted but is maintained to some degree.

Having said that, there will be no more Summersides. We cannot afford it. The former government-no disrespect to my colleagues from Prince Edward Island, there may be one or two in the House today-closed that base and there was an outcry. I understand the outcry. The compensation that the people in Prince Edward Island received was generous by comparison with what we can do today. We just do not have the hundreds of millions of dollars to replace the economic activity.

I want to take the opportunity in this debate to tell my colleagues why we are proceeding in this way. We have to do it now to preserve the fighting edge of the forces, but not to prejudice the outcome of the defence review.

If we mothball equipment and curtail operations, it is still going to mean jobs. If when the defence review is complete, the members have worked hard in their committee and they advocate a certain direction, we may have to say: "Well, we cannot do that any more because we got rid of that piece of equipment, we cut out that unit from the armed forces and to restore it is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars".

By acting now I believe we are going to preserve the ability of the joint committee and others participating in the review process to effect policy in a meaningful way and at least be able to have a fighting capability at the end of this year that can discharge any obligations the committee thrusts upon it.

I would ask for the co-operation of members when we announce our budget cuts. My colleagues and I will be available on a regional basis to explain what we are doing and to try to mitigate somehow the impact. We will do everything we can to help various communities. But the time has come to address some of these very difficult questions and it must be done now. It cannot wait.

I am going on a little bit longer and I must apologize to my critics on the other side. I have probably told the House more than I have told the cabinet. It is meeting upstairs and I have to go and face the music, which is somewhat unusual in the sense of the House hearing a longer speech on defence than cabinet has already heard. It is meeting now and I apologize to my critics because I will not be here to listen to them. My parliamentary secretary is here. As members know, he is a former distinguished member of the Canadian navy. He will be making notes, plus our officials will be watching the debate on television. Everything that is said here today certainly will be brought to my attention.

In conclusion, the government wants to hear about every aspect of defence policy-our multilateral relations, NATO and NORAD. I think NORAD is up for renegotiation in 1996. We want the committee to be completely unfettered in what it looks into. We want it to be reasonable, obviously, and I think the members will be reasonable. We will be meeting jointly with the foreign affairs committee. I see my colleague from Toronto, the parliamentary secretary of foreign affairs, listening to the debate. There is obviously overlap in some areas but we could hold joint hearings to make sure there is no duplication of work.

I have confidence in the quality of the members that I know are on the House of Commons committee from the three parties. They are knowledgeable, they have spoken in the debates on cruise missile testing and on Bosnia and our role in peacekeeping. They are knowledgeable people and they are sincere. They want Canada's defence policy not to be one of partisan bickering but something upon which we can all agree and something about which we can all feel the kind of pride that we should feel.

The Canadian Armed Forces has a terrific reputation. It goes back decades. It goes back to our participation in world wars, the Korean war and all our peacekeeping ventures. We have just sent over a fact finding tour led by people from foreign affairs. We have one of our senior military people assessing the situation in Bosnia because we have to make a decision very quickly about our engagement. The comments about the conduct of Canadian troops are absolutely outstanding.

I hate to quote one of the belligerents, but one general on the Serbian side when talking about our troops in Srebrenica said: "We want the Canadians to stay. We trust them. We like them". That is probably the only thing the three factions agree on in Bosnia, that the Canadian troops are probably the best that are deployed there under the UN command.

We have a proud institution, terrific people. In many respects it is a shame that we have allowed our armed forces to work hard without having paid much attention to them over the years. The last government dealt with the armed forces in a most reprehensible manner in terms of policy. It issued a white paper without public consultation. It slashed here there and everywhere with no military, operational or logical reason to do so. It certainly shocked the morale of the armed forces.

However, we have professionals. They know what is coming in terms of defence reductions but they have a real faith in this Parliament and the changing attitudes of the Canadian public and the government to try and be fair and honest with them so that they can discharge their obligation in the best interests of everyone in this country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Defence Policy
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BQ

Jean-Marc Jacob

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Jean-Marc Jacob (Charlesbourg)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by congratulating the Minister of National Defence on his presentation. In the course of my speech, however, I will show there are a number of points on which we differ with the minister.

I am not sure whether we should be grateful to the government for initiating a review of our national defence policy, as part of a motion to appoint a special joint committee to consider the document from the Department of National Defence entitled Review of Canadian Defence Policy.

I do not intend to dwell on the pros and cons of appointing a special joint committee. The role of the Standing Committee on National Defence happens to be to deal with the items that together form the mission of this new committee. Without wishing to seem repetitive, is this not just another form of

duplication and overlap, a waste of time better spent making the decisions that are so important to Quebecers and Canadians?

The new committee will have the same consultative powers: the power to summon witnesses, to hire consultants and to print documents. It will also, as the minister said, adjourn from place to place inside Canada in order to get the advice it needs to make informed decisions.

Everything in the committee's structure and operations is a duplication of the Standing Committee on National Defence, thus generating additional costs that, although not necessarily excessive, will not be well received by the Quebec and Canadian public.

It has been said repeatedly that we must reduce public spending, make government more effective and, what all taxpayers would like to see, simplify the parliamentary process to make it productive and cost effective. And lo and behold, here we have one more addition to the government apparatus, and I find that very difficult to accept. All members in this House should try, to the best of their ability, to reduce all unnecessary spending, even the smallest amounts, to prove to our constituents that we realize the financial situation is very serious and that our actions must reflect the commitments made by all parties to their constituents.

I am afraid that, all things considered, I cannot accept the duplication of time, energy and money this special joint committee will represent. The Minister of National Defence said earlier that hon. members were very busy, and now he wants to make them even busier by striking another committee that would have the same mandate as an existing committee.

I repeat that it is the responsibility of the Standing Committee on National Defence to review the document tabled by the hon. minister and to make the best possible recommendations. The standing committee can invite any expert on military or foreign policy issues, and ask pertinent questions so as to develop a defence policy and submit it to the government. Again, members of the standing committee who will sit on the joint committee will have access to the same experts, will ask the same questions and, no doubt, will get the same answers. If this is efficient decision making, then I understand why Canada's debt is so large.

However, the tabling of this motion has one definite advantage: it will force members of this House to discuss the motion itself, but also Canada's defence policy, which is often criticized by the public, the media, some elected representatives, as well as the Auditor General.

I think we all want an exchange of ideas, but also an in-depth review of the role of our national defence establishment. We must look at every aspect of defence policy. Commitments to NATO, the United Nations and the United States are all important elements in this review. Some major changes have occurred on the international scene in recent years; all NATO allies have modified their defence policy and the United States, Great Britain and France have adopted new approaches. Canada has, to some extent, followed the same process by coming up with a new defence policy statement in 1992.

This trend has triggered three patterns in the readjustment of defence policies. First, all countries reduced their defence budgets, which translated into reduced demand and production for the defence industry. This situation severely affected arms producing countries, including Canada, where thousands of jobs disappeared. Quebec also paid a heavy price, since a good part of the Canadian defence industry was centralized in the Montreal region.

The second pattern is more of a strategic nature, since it has to do with evaluating possible external threats, following the reduced risk of east-west conflicts. This risk being now almost non-existent, the threat of regional and even local conflicts has taken a new importance which defence policies must now take into account. Canada shares this view with its allies.

The third pattern is the progressive transformation of international institutions such as the UN and NATO, whose political and strategic missions are being fully reviewed.

In the context of our relations with other countries, we must remember that the role of Canadian peacekeepers was examined during those long debates on the situation in Bosnia and on Canadian peacekeeping missions. The Minister of National Defence also referred to that role in his speech this morning. Consequently, I will not discuss this issue at length.

Other aspects concerning the review of our national defence policy are just as important, but they affect us and our constituents much more directly. I am referring to the national and financial aspects.

The national aspect has to do with internal activity. What role do we want our military personnel to take on inside the Canadian territory? Will our armed forces play a more significant role to ensure our internal security? Will they be called upon to patrol the Canadian coastline to protect us against possible intruders? Will they be called upon to play a more active role in the fight against drugs? Will they be called upon to help monitor fishing activities in our territorial waters? Will they be called upon to be more involved in sea and mountain rescue operations? Will they be called upon to help the public in case of a natural disaster?

Only when the role and the mandate of the Department of National Defence are clarified will we be able to determine the human resources and the material required to fulfil that mandate.

It would be premature to evaluate and analyze possible changes in our defence policy until the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in co-operation with the Minister of National Defence,

takes a close look at our commitments to NORAD and NATO, and also at our involvement in UN peacekeeping missions. In fact, the minister said earlier that officials from those two departments would meet to discuss those issues. So, until the House is informed of the outcome of these meetings, it is difficult to predict what Canada's new defence policy will be.

Only then we will be able to determine the personnel required. Moreover, future needs should be determined in co-operation with military authorities. Given the circumstances, we should not focus on major policy directions, but rather on administrative aspects, in order to find out what the real implications are.

For starters, the Bloc Quebecois suggests that reduction programs already initiated be evaluated. This includes an evaluation of the decision to cut back on staff, reduce the number of officers and close certain bases. We should know why military equipment is being procured or maintained and determine, with the help of the military, whether such equipment is relevant. We have to make the necessary choices and avoid spending billions of dollars to procure equipment solely for regional development purposes. Often, the costs are higher than if we had relied solely on ability and expertise. Finally, as the Auditor General has repeatedly pointed out, the minister should be made to completely rethink his military procurement policy.

At this juncture, I cannot help but give several examples of this procurement policy which has cost the taxpayers dearly. If this policy is not amended, it will prove to be even more costly.

Take, for instance, Litton Systems of Toronto which was awarded the contract to modernize destroyers, even though it had no expertise in shipbuilding. The $2 billion contract awarded to Litton Systems represented a waste of money since this company was unable to fulfil its commitments owing to its lack of expertise in this field.

Logically, why was the contract to modernize these destroyers not awarded to MIL Davie of Lauzon, the company that built these ships, was totally familiar with their components and had the necessary expertise to fulfil the terms of the contract?

Another example is the $250 million contract awarded to a British Columbia firm for the construction of tracked vehicles. The company based its design on a Swedish model, whereas Bombardier has been building this type of tracked vehicle for decades now. Had these contracts been awarded to companies with expertise in these fields, the government would have saved money. This is what it should be aiming for.

In his 1992 report, the Auditor General refers to major operational problems, in particular with regard to the weapons management policy or military equipment procurement programs. Because of the numerous problems and difficulties that arise, the processing of proposals is delayed and a large number of staff are tied up. Several recommendations make mention of staff problems and specifically, of DND's defence program management system.

In section 17.25 of his report, the Auditor General is openly critical of the program management system, noting that in addition to being ineffective, it generates an enormous amount of work for staff. The Auditor General proceeded to say, and I quote: "The first problem relates to the enormous staff workload needed to implement this cumbersome process. Our analysis of all projects over $10 million identified in the defence services program as of February 1991 revealed that it takes an average of 1,109 days from the time a project is first identified in the DND database until the statement of capability deficiency document is approved. It takes an average of 1,107 days for the program planning proposal to be approved, 1,608 days for the program development proposal, 1,332 for the program change proposal, and 394 days for effective project approval by the Treasury Board. These average times between individual stages of the defence program management system and the number of times these documents are amended and recirculated provide a good indication of the amount of staff effort involved".

Considering the many pitfalls and obstacles, the Auditor General estimates that only a very small percentage of projects proceed through the entire, amazingly ineffective process.

He pointed out, among other things, that all the change proposals to the defence procurement program -and there are many; just think of the frigate contract and the disputes between National Defence, St. John's Shipbuilding in New Brunswick and MIL Davie of Lauzon, in Quebec- are making even more cumbersome a process which already takes too much time and costs taxpayers too much.

The costs associated with such a management process cannot be considered in isolation. Large amounts are involved and, instead of making things easier for the government, it is making things harder, so much so that the government is now avoiding this complicated process and granting gainful contracts directly to companies, like Bell Helicopter of Mirabel for the tactical transport helicopters and Western Star for the light off-road transport vehicle.

I think that if the Auditor General points out serious deficiencies, it is worth looking into the matter. Why is the Liberal Party not acting? No business could survive such methods, it would go bankrupt.

The abnormally high number of higher ranking officers in the Canadian Armed Forces is another example of an overly liberal

and incredibly costly process. How can we justify having 32,999 corporals and 7,631 captains when there are only 9,370 soldiers in our armed forces? There are just about as many captains as soldiers. With only 9,370 soldiers on a total strength of 77,975, the Canadian forces are the most top heavy in the world, relatively speaking, and also the most expensive to maintain.

Would we not be justified in questioning the suitability, the desirability of such an expensive top level? Would it not be better to have fewer officers and to apply the savings to equipping our soldiers? Unquestionably, such a situation calls for corrective budgetary action.

I would now like to move from the personnel problem to the infrastructure problem, specifically to the closure of military bases. This is not the first time in our history that the government has had to close down military bases. Several were closed after the second world war, and again in the sixties, in the seventies and, more recently, in 1988-89 when the Conservative government closed over 13 bases and stations across the country.

In spite of it all, the defence infrastructure remains far too big for the size of the forces. With a strength of merely 78,000 members, the Canadian Armed Forces are maintaining from coast to coast facilities that could accommodate 140,000. Obviously, more cuts are needed, especially since several of our bases are obsolete and increasingly expensive to maintain. Also, their strategic value is not the same as it was at the time they were built. So, for all these reasons, the government will have to make a choice and impose a new round of closures.

During the last days of its mandate as the Official Opposition and again during the election campaign, the Liberal Party took a stand for base closures in return for real, concrete guarantees to the communities affected by these measures. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Defence said a few words earlier about the applicable procedure.

Promises were made in the red book to convert surplus military bases in Canada to peacekeeping training and staging centres. The Liberal defence conversion plan reflects a strategic direction based on Canada's foreign policy, a policy in which peacekeeping is viewed as a political basis that the Liberal Party will rely heavily on.

The plan to convert surplus military bases to peacekeeping training and staging centres seems to be an important part of the Liberal Party's foreign policy and their March 26, 1993 press release was very explicit in that regard. So, this policy direction should not be overlooked and action in this area is to be expected.

It is important at this point to denounce holding a special debate on Canada's defence policy when the government has not yet tabled its new white paper on defence.

This position applies not only to the issue of cutting military bases but also to that of training centres for peacekeepers.

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, cannot approve the peacekeeper training centres initiative for several reasons.

First, it would be unrealistic to believe that countries from around the world or NATO members will send their troops to such centres for training. Who will pay the travelling expenses of international troops coming here to train and the costs of transporting their equipment? The UN does not have the resources to pay such costs. Furthermore, these international missions always have extremely tight deadlines. How can one reconcile these deadlines with a stay in Canadian training centres that will cause even further delay?

Second, as the minister was saying earlier, it has been demonstrated that Canadian peacekeepers are among the best trained in the world. So why create a training centre when our troops already enjoy exceptional training conditions on their existing bases? Why should we spend new money to move our troops, who are already training in the field, at less cost, for international missions?

Third, it is dishonest and hypocritical to argue that the creation of a training centre does not entail extra costs for the Canadian government. How can we say that, on one hand, we are cutting spending by the Department of National Defence and that, on the other hand, we are keeping military bases which should no longer be in use open for peacekeeper training. This contradictory message deserves to be challenged by the Bloc Quebecois.

Fourth, Quebec's military bases, Valcartier in particular, play a very important role in preparing Canadian troops for international peacekeeping missions. Encouraging the creation of training centres for peacekeepers-in Cornwallis, for example-effectively means the end of this type of activity on Quebec territory and the loss of significant economic resources. We have no choice but to oppose such measures, for the very foundation of defence department activity on Quebec territory may be affected.

The real solution to compensate communities that will be affected by defence spending cuts remains the establishment of defence conversion committees. The success of these conversion projects is totally dependent on local people taking in hand the economic resources offered by the government to compensate for losses caused by the termination of defence activity and to stimulate the economic diversification of the region affected by these changes.

We are proposing that priority be given to local and regional stakeholders in the military base conversion process. These local stakeholders are in the best position to know how to optimize resources and how to decide on economic diversification projects. We are also proposing that a plan be developed for the economic reallocation of buildings and facilities that will be closed by the Department of National Defence, and then that existing infrastructure be integrated into economic renewal projects put in place by local stakeholders.

Program management, preparation and planning must be transferred to local stakeholders to prevent the federal government from over-centralizing once again. In any case, it is likely that projects favoured by local people would be more valid than those coming from the federal government. In fact, a centralized approach may lead to excessive costs and again to the bureaucratization of government action. The federal government's action plan should not hinder local and community initiatives.

In conclusion, the Bloc Quebecois is reiterating its commitment to the cuts that must be made in the defence department's budget. In my speech, I pointed out several questionable expenses in a costly and demanding management system, and it would not be unreasonable to believe, like the Auditor General, that drastic changes must be made in this area.

Finally, the list of criteria for military base closures was compiled many years ago. Such closures must be done in a rational and irreproachable fashion. When we look at infrastructure, it is important to remember that Quebec only has 13 per cent of the defence department's capital assets. It would then be ill-advised to believe that Quebec bases can be reduced even further, as this would only aggravate Quebec's current disadvantage in this area. In addition, the bases in Bagotville, Valcartier, Saint-Jean and Montreal are operational and essential to military operations as they represent the minimum needed in Quebec.

In closing, I want to state once again my disagreement with the motion to create a joint committee. I would urge instead the government and the department of defence to simplify, instead of complicating, the defence policy review process.

I hope that the minister will have the political courage needed to rationalize the management of his department with intellectual honesty and the enlightened co-operation of all stakeholders.

I would like to commend, in closing, the commitment made by the hon. minister in his speech to carry out the rationalization everyone is hoping for.

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REF

Jack Frazer

Reform

Mr. Jack Frazer (Saanich-Gulf Islands)

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the Minister of National Defence on his presentation this morning and my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois on his presentation, although I must say there are some portions of his presentation with which I disagree.

I would like to reiterate the Reform Party's support for the conduct of a defence review. We think it is long overdue and vitally necessary that our country revisit the requirements of Canadian defence.

We also support the establishment of a joint committee of the House of Commons and the Senate. It is my understanding that there would be two committees dealing with this matter if it were not for the consolidation into one.

Senate expertise as evidenced in the 1993 Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs report on Canadian involvement in peacekeeping is but one example of the expertise the Senate brings to bear and can offer. Within reason more heads, particularly knowledgeable heads, are invaluable. It provides for broader input.

The committee at the moment is skewed somewhat eastward, in that there is a lack of western representation on it. I am hoping that perhaps in the representation from the Senate we will see some more western representation to provide a more national mandate.

We are very much in favour of the document's support for consolidation with other parliamentary committees. We think it is important that defence be taken in conjunction with foreign affairs. Obviously it is an adjunct to it. We also think a consolidation with the industry committee to involve defence conversion will best benefit Canada in the conversion from our current defence posture to a different one.

With the end of the cold war, as the minister said, there was great relief throughout our country and throughout the world because it appeared the great menace that had faced us for many years was gone. That to a large measure is true. The Warsaw pact collapsed and there was no hovering menace that appeared to be ready to consolidate or to take over the west.

However more recent happenings have indicated that is not quite the case. We now have a much more volatile world. Nationalism has risen in many areas, including the previous Soviet Union, and there is danger that local conflicts or extended conflicts could erupt in that area.

We have seen the dire consequences of ethnic and religious clashes. They are going on at this moment in the former Yugoslavia. It would be a misnomer to say the world is a safer place now. In fact it is probably more dangerous without the iron fist control we used to see in the Warsaw pact.

A rising threat which we must be concerned with and take account of is the terrorist threat. With the sophistication of modern weapons and the ability to distribute those weapons throughout the world by countries which are a little lacking in foreign exchange and therefore vulnerable to offers of remuneration for the weapons, they are virtually everywhere or can be virtually everywhere in the world. We as an independent country

have to be very conscious of this point and prepared to deal with a terrorist threat.

I guess we should be asking ourselves the following question right now: Are we entering an era of continued instability, or are we simply transiting a time of turbulence and discord? The answer to that question is not readily available. I think we have to await the outcome to see just what is going on. I fear that it may be a more extended period than we would wish.

Traditionally Canada's defence priorities have been, first sovereignty, then mutual defence alliances, aid to the civil power, peacekeeping, and search and rescue. In this defence review nothing should be sacred. Everything should be examined to decide whether or not we want to continue with it, whether we want to reallocate priorities, and whether we can afford to do what we say we are going to do.

For instance, search and rescue is almost a given. People consider that if we have defence forces they will be there to help people at sea, to help people who are lost, to help survivors of air crashes, and so on. However, is this better done by the military, or could it possibly be done by contract with a civilian agency in a cheaper fashion? I think that question must be considered.

We must consider Canadian national needs: the ability to control our air space, to detect and monitor people who enter it, to control our seashores and the approaches to them, and to control our borders. We must be able to provide protection from smuggling, from deliberate pollution, from illegal immigration, from drug trafficking and from overfishing. The question we must deal with is: How much of these tasks must be accepted by the armed forces and how much can be assigned or co-operated with other agencies?

We must look to Canada's international needs and desires. Our mutual alliances come to mind. We have been involved in NATO since 1949. It has been a very successful involvement because in my mind this is what brought the Warsaw pact to its knees. It is what stopped the encroachment into western territory from the east. Although NATO could be recognized as a large relatively inefficient and very expensive enterprise, it has accomplished its purpose. It should be recognized as that.

NORAD is almost considered by some to be an agency we no longer need. We must be very careful in our assessment of NORAD because it also has a space adjunct to it that I think we would ignore at our peril.

Going to the proliferation of various weapons of sophistication in the world right now, there is a very great likelihood we will see strategic missiles in hands we would prefer not to see them in. While NORAD is not in the business of providing a defence against it, it could certainly plot the launch of these missiles and the projected strike zone, where it is going to hit. This was used to some effect in the Persian gulf war when the Scud missiles were tracked from their launch. Their impact was passed as information to our naval vessels in the Persian gulf.

We have to look beyond those two mutual defence alliances to our burgeoning involvement in the Pacific Rim. Is it going to involve a requirement for Canada to join in with some defence alliance with the people in the Pacific Rim area?

Since the beginning we have been involved in UN peacekeeping activities. Probably Canadians in the majority would vote for continuation in these activities. But we have to question very seriously in which ones do we wish to be involved. How much are we willing to commit in funds to providing those? Those funds not only involve the actual deployment of the people who are there. They involve the cost of training those people, of transporting them and of looking after them after they come back.

Again referring to the gulf war and other commitments we have had, we have had naval vessels in the Persian gulf, in the Red Sea, in the Gulf of Aden, in the Indian Ocean, and currently we have vessels deployed in the Adriatic.

It is important to realize that at this moment there are over 700 submarines employed by over 44 different countries in the world today. There are another 150 being constructed at this moment.

The submarine has become the weapon of choice for many nations because it is relatively inexpensive to operate and relatively devastating in its ability to control what goes on. For instance, in the Falklands war, one British submarine tied up the entire Argentinian fleet and kept it out of the action.

Therefore we have to very seriously consider when we deploy our naval forces into other spheres whether we go there as an independent nation capable of providing our own protection or with a force that can add this protection to us. That is a decision we have to take.

We are involved at the moment in a humanitarian assistance mission in the former Yugoslavia. There are many misgivings among many Canadians about the mandate, the effectiveness and the actual involvement of Canadians in this type of theatre.

Finally, of course, we must consider the requirement for Canadians to intervene on ideological grounds where we see a human rights violation situation going on in a country and our

people think there is a requirement for Canadians to be involved. The mission in Haiti at the moment comes to mind.

Finally, we have to consider the terrorist threat that I referred to earlier. It is very likely that at some time there will be a serious terrorist threat posed not necessarily against Canada but perhaps against one of our neighbours or our allies. It could also be posed against us and we must be prepared to deal with that.

To paraphrase from the guidance document, the question that we need to examine in this defence review and answer is should Canada establish and maintain at the lowest possible cost a combat capable total force of naval, land and air forces which is adequately equipped, appropriately supported and properly trained to protect Canadians, their values and their interests at home and abroad.

I suspect the answer to that is going to be yes, although we may be seeing a change in the priorities that we have allocated in the past to those that we will allocate at the finale of this defence review. Our aim should be to give Canadians the defence forces they want and are willing to pay for.

My perception of our task in this defence review differs somewhat from our colleagues in the BQ on one item and maybe with others. I do not know. The bottom line as far as I am concerned should be that within those forces and within the budget that Canadians approve, Canadian defence dollars should be spent on defence and not on ancillary items.

The social benefits traditionally associated with defence establishments which come from employment and military payrolls must take second place to defence requirements.

Finally, the outcome of the defence review should be to answer the needs of Canada as a whole, not those of any one area or region within the country. To my mind we are trying to establish the requirements for Canadian defence forces from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland and from the American border to the North Pole.

We should concentrate on achieving what we think is needed and what we can afford to do. That should be our final game. It is my hope that when the white paper is produced some months after the conclusion and the submission of our final defence review, it will reflect very closely the findings that we come up with in this review.

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LIB

Ovid Jackson

Liberal

Mr. Ovid L. Jackson (Bruce-Grey)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to participate in this debate and to say to members opposite that I appreciate their input.

The last intervention by the member from the Reform Party was quite good. It was balanced. It said that there were imperatives that we have as a nation whether it is an insurrection, smuggling or looking after our territories or whether or not search and rescue is something that the military should have or whether it should be privatized. Canada has a unique tradition with respect to its role as played in World War I, World War II and in conflicts. I think our size, our economic base and our geography along with those traditions have placed Canada in a particular position that cannot be ignored, and that is that we are well-known for our peacekeeping roles. Some people would ask if it is peacekeeping or peacemaking. Whether or not we want to get into that argument is really not a problem since our major role is probably to help stop conflicts.

The member opposite made a very good point when he spoke about submarines. Submarine warfare as well as cruise missiles and F-18s have changed the way that wars are traditionally fought. The Suez Canal was something very strategic until there were submarines. Submarines could be in any place in this world. There is something called MIRV which comes out of the water with a propeller and rocket fire. It can break into seven warheads and each one can be independently guided. That changed the whole perception as to whether or not a base was needed in any particular locale.

I for one would like an answer to the question of the hon. member, what exactly is our role, and then try to deploy our people based on that role. Of course that role would involve not only the defence standing committee but also military experts.

The minister of defence said that we do not operate our system like a business. He was right. I listened to the member opposite who said that we should not be engaged in deadly war equipment. It is a fact of life that for our own protection we may have to do it and since we have a surplus, we sell to people globally. Then there is a fight within the country about whether it goes to Montreal, Quebec City, British Columbia or Ontario. That is probably something that should not be in this debate since we are talking about what our position is, what kind of equipment we require and how are we going to carry it out in the realities of the amount of money we have.

I would like to make one point and I hope that it is considered. The member for York South-Weston and others have looked at defence spending and have said that it is top heavy with generals and people in the upper echelons.

We hear the argument that these people are required since our standing army is not very large and if we have to get up and go, these people can train troops, that they are in positions strategically in order to make that happen.

One suggestion that is probably appropriate involves the great tradition of taking people from the private sector who were in the military, taking their years of experience, counting them in the pension funds and so on. That is one area where the private sector could probably help. Strategically we need those people. However, in reality I do not think we can pay for generals and so on. To keep these people motivated, they take exams and keep moving up, so there is a top heavy army. One innovative technique might be to let them be in the private sector and do their managerial work which involves some of the skills we need, whether it is logistics or whatever special expertise they

have, and allow them to interact with the military from time to time to keep them combat ready.

I applaud members opposite for their interventions. I know there is another subcommittee. I am not sure why that is happening. As far as I am concerned I do not care which committee studies it. I just hope the focus is on the reality.

Bismarck said once that countries should only make alliances with countries of their own size. Once you start with one bigger, you are going to get into trouble. You cannot go around saying that you are neutral. You can be neutralized but you are never neutral. It is the brutal reality about power and power relations in this world. Canada is unique. We do not want to fight with anybody. We happen to be next to the United States which is a global force and deploys itself. Because we are in the global spaceship called earth, everything is interconnected with everything else. There might be a hot spot and it may be that the conflict could spread, which we have seen happen time and time again, and then it affects us.

We have to look at it strategically and come to grips with that within our own reality. I think that is the way we should go.

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REF

Jack Frazer

Reform

Mr. Frazer

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there was a question there. It was mainly a comment. I would agree with much of what the member said.

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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. John Williams (St. Albert)

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to comment on the points raised by my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois who argued against creating another committee because it was duplication. Last week they were taking the exact opposite point of view when they said: "Let us form another committee to examine the waste and duplication in government". Now they are opposed to the creation of a committee that is going to do some additional work.

I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence-

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?

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I would just like to remind members that in the question and comment period, comments or questions can only be directed to the last spokesperson. In this case the member for Saanich-Gulf Islands was the last member to speak to this motion. So I would ask the member for St. Albert if he would direct his comment or question to his colleague from Saanich-Gulf Islands.

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REF

John Williams

Reform

Mr. Williams

My question therefore is for the last speaker. The riding of St. Albert where I live is on the edge of a major military installation, CFB Edmonton, which employs approximately 3,300 people. That is a major installation.

I would like to give a bit of a background on how much is actually involved in that installation. The base provides administrative and technical support not only for the elements of air command but for those units located in Edmonton from the National Defence Headquarters, Land Forces Command Headquarters, Maritime Command, Training Systems Headquarters and Communications Command. It is a tactical aircraft centre for the Canadian Air Forces as well as a parachute training centre.

In addition, it is the home of such units as the Canadian Airborne Centre, Parachute Maintenance Depot, Survival Training School plus four flying squadrons. Not only that, but the search and rescue for western Canada for the the north is located in Edmonton.

A couple of years or so ago we had a horrible crash in Resolute Bay where we were unable to get our search and rescue people in to perform a rescue without the loss of life. I think it is absolutely important that we have a military installation in Edmonton that can serve the north.

The Minister of National Defence has said that there will be major cutbacks announced within the next few weeks prior to the defence review taking place. I would like to suggest and ask my colleague from the Reform Party who was speaking whether he agrees with me that no cuts should be made, especially on a major military installation of 3,300 people, until such time as a defence review has taken place and we can find out whether or not this is really needed. How can it be decided that a hub of military installations that serve all of western Canada, employing 3,300 people, is no longer relevant?

I would like to ask the member for Saanich-Gulf Islands if he agrees with that point of whether we should wait until the review is finished before we make any major decisions of that kind.

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Subtopic:   Defence Policy
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February 17, 1994