Mr. Bud Bradley (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence):
Mr. Speaker, if a Canadian Government implemented the substance of the motion as proposed by the Hon. Member for Cowichan-Malahat-The Islands (Mr. Manly), funds earmarked for defence would be diverted to official foreign development assistance. On the surface no one can, if one assumes the world is perfect, argue against such a well-intentioned objective. I reinforce the fact that I honestly feel that the motion is well-intentioned. However, the world is not perfect. It would appear that the motion and most of the foreign and defence policies of the Hon. Member's Party seem to come from the same naive idealistic base.
I would argue that the support accorded by the NDP for such policies conveniently ignores the historical, current, and future realities governing world affairs. They conveniently deny the existence of Canadian defence and economic priorities which have and will continue to be fashioned in a manner that reflects the fact that Canada exists in an interdependent and imperfect world.
In the real world in which we live, Canada need not apologize to anyone on the level of development assistance provided to other countries. However, up to very recently, June 5 to be precise, this was not quite the case for Canada's defence effort.
From a situation where Canada had firmly established itself as a credible actor on the world stage, through collective defence efforts in World War I, World War II, Korea, and NATO and NORAD in the post-war era, and through a multitude of diplomatic initiatives, many through the United Nations, Canada's international reputation became tarnished because of the defence policies of the previous Government. This is the situation which the present Government is correcting.
For over 16 years Canadian defence policy was underfunded. As a result, equipment in the Canadian Armed Forces is inadequate in quantity and quality. Even when the former Government belatedly decided to embark upon a re-equipment program, it made no long-term commitment for funding. How could the defence planners work in this environment when it can take more than 15 years to implement fully the acquisition of major weapons systems? The previous Government had no sense of vision when it came to defence policy.
On June 5, when the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Beatty) tabled the Government's White Paper, a visionary defence policy was set out. It was based on the realities of the world and Canada's role in it; on the only sound concept for the country, that of collective defence; on the economic abilities of our country; and on the will of all Canadians to defend our democratic way of life.
September 25, 1987
How can the Hon. Member suggest that funds should be diverted from the defence budget? I would assume that he has consulted with his colleague, the Hon. Member for Brant (Mr. Blackburn), or indeed his own Leader. When the Hon. Member for Brant announced his Party's position on defence matters last summer, no cuts were proposed. In fact, evidence shows that defence spending would increase under an NDP Government. 1 think this reinforces the NDP's position of consistently being inconsistent.
It was admitted at that time that indeed the previous Liberal Government had underfunded the defence effort and had left defence policy in shambles.
1 should like to say a few words on two other key elements of Canadian security policy-disarmament and development assistance. The position of the Government regarding the relationship between disarmament and development is well established. It was made clear by the Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. Clark) at the UN Conference on this subject which was held in New York last month. Both remain major commitments of the Government. We continue to view both as fundamental policy objectives but as distinct processes related only through security. As the Secretary of State for External Affairs noted in his statement to the General Assembly, "Progress toward development and progress toward disarmament can both contribute to that security, but their relationship is not simple".
The approach to both must be global in scope and involve all countries. Both must be pursued together, recognizing that Governments are unlikely to disarm at the expense of what they consider their security in order to divert funds to development. We must accept that the level of a nation's security is the main criterion against which efforts for disarmament must be measured. Security is the touchstone. The reality is that each nation will judge its own security in its own terms.
In this sense security involves not only a military dimension but a state's economic and social well-being. A nation's security is the main criterion against which efforts for disarmament must be measured, not the level of economic gain. Development in its broadest sense can contribute to security by helping to create a stable international system. This will in turn diminish the importance of military strength as an element in a nation's security. Collaboration at all levels will be the mainstay of this process. It will remain necessary to continue to support and to further, as we are dedicated to do, existing global and regional institutions and agreements which promote disarmament and development.
In respect of the particular proposal made by the Hon. Member, the Government continues to believe that the idea of any prescribed transfers of funds saved through disarmament is unrealistic. Such savings when and where they occur can be used to support broad development objectives in numerous ways, such as debt reduction, stimulation of trade, investment and economic growth. These decisions are primarily for sovereign Governments to make in accordance with their own
assessments of circumstances and events. Rather than specify particulars, we believe the accent should remain on a practical approach to these issues. It is a question of political will and of giving support to existing development and disarmament institutions and negotiations.
A further difficulty with the motion is more fundamental. Disarmament and development each constitute basic and longstanding government commitments whose importance has been consistently reaffirmed in annual expenditure reviews by Cabinet. The notion, therefore, that Canadian defence expenditures should be reduced for the purpose of transferring funds for development in the Third World ignores the fact that the level of such expenditures is decided in accordance with over-all security considerations.
Furthermore, Canadian development assistance is provided in accordance with well-established socio-economic criteria which, in the Government's view, must remain the principal guide. Even if any potential recipient country were to reduce military spending by 1 per cent, we would not wish to provide development assistance to a country on this basis. The Government would continue to insist that socio-economic determinants for the allocation of development assistance be given priority, if only to ensure that official development assistance is allocated in the most effective way.
In advocating this approach we do so from a position of strength and achievement. We have since 1949 provided $24 billion in official development assistance. Unlike the situation in some other parts of the world, none of this has been used for military assistance. The global ratio of military spending to official development assistance stands at about twenty to one. In Canada, the ratio is four to one, among the lowest in the world.
In disarmament, we continue to participate actively in all multilateral arms control and disarmament forums where our contribution is well established and of long standing. We make our views known at the bilateral level.
We are set on a course of action dedicated to the enhancement of our security and to international security in its most basic sense. This is consistent with both our policy on disarmament and our commitment to development. The motion put by the Hon. Member does not support this purpose.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS-MOTIONS DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE SUGGESTED ASSISTANCE TO COUNTRIES WITH DECREASED MILITARY BUDGETS