Hon. Art Eggleton (York Centre, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Davenport, although I suspect we may have some divergent views on the issue before us.
I do support the ballistic defence missile program that our government has now decided to sit down and discuss with the United States.
However I think the member for Don Valley West, who spoke earlier, had a valid point when he took on the word “any” in this resolution. His concern was that this might open it up to the question of weapons in outer space. I would counsel the member who is the sponsor of the motion and her party to consider an amendment that would say “excluding weaponization of outer space”. That is already the policy not only of the government but it is a treaty we have signed.
Surely we will not abrogate our treaty or create some confusion about that treaty. We are simply, as per that treaty and as per government policy stated on many occasions, against the weaponization of outer space. Getting involved with this program does not, I would suggest lead us to that other program.
There are those who will say that it is a slippery slope. I do not buy that argument. We just decided on the campaign against terrorism to draw a line. We said that we would go to Afghanistan. We said that we would fight terrorism in many different respects. However we did not agree with the position of the Bush administration with respect to Iraq. We made a decision that we felt was right for us.
We know when and where to draw the line. Weaponization of outer space is something that we should continue to oppose and that word “any” will create some confusion, and we could well clear up this confusion with an amendment.
I will get to the main substance of what we are talking about, which is Norad and a ballistic missile defence system that would operate from the ground or from water perhaps, but certainly earth based as opposed to space based.
I believe we should go this route. Why? We are dealing with the safety and security of Canadians. We are expected to do what we can to defend our country and our safety and security.
Is there a threat? Yes, there is a threat. It may not be imminent. It may not be something that is immediately around the corner. These things take time to plan out. They are still testing the system of being able to hit a missile with a missile. We are looking at perhaps a few years down the road where this threat could become very real.
What are the signs that this is the case? The signs are the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. If we look at the statistics, many more countries are possessing these kind of weapons nowadays and with technology advancing as it is, it is possible for this technology to spread around.
There was concern when the Soviet Union broke up that many of the scientists were spreading their capabilities and selling their capabilities in many different parts of the world. We cannot take that lightly. It may not seem like it is around the corner or that it will happen today, but we have to plan these kind of defences out in advance.
Indeed let me point out that it is a defensive system. This is a non-nuclear missile that we are talking about, totally defensive, totally for the purpose of knocking down an incoming weapon that may have a warhead of mass destruction, and doing that quite far out from the atmosphere of the earth so a disintegration of the weapon occurs.
If we can develop such a weapon or be part of the United States developing such a weapon, why would we not? It is an entirely defensive matter. It does not lead to what is called star wars at all. We make a decision based on this project and its merits alone. That is really what is before us at this point in time.
There is more testing that needs to be done. People may question that. However I can state that the technology is feasible. They will get through the testing. They will be able to make this happen.
What is being asked of us in this regard? We are not being asked to contribute any of the capital costs. We are not being asked to contribute land. We are being asked if we would support what the United States is doing. Since it is in our interest, because the Americans are talking about defending the continent, I believe we should be a part of it.
In fact we have a logical bilateral institution that should be taking responsibility for the operations of this system, and that is Norad. Norad already has the responsibility for detecting anything that comes into North American air space, whether it be a missile or a jet fighter, a bomb or whatever it may be. Also, it already has the responsibility to intercept, except the inventory of what it has to use to intercept will not cover every such possible intrusion in future. Jet fighters will not stop an ICBM if one should be coming into our continent.
Even if it is not aimed at our country, there are a lot of border cities that one has to consider could be at risk. If there is an accidental launch or a rogue regime launch, maybe not likely at this point but could happen somewhere down the road, who is to say the accuracy would be so great that we could be sure it would not come into Canadian space?
I believe when it comes to the defence of North America, Norad is an example of where we work in a cooperative way with the United States. The U.S. puts a lot more money into it than we do. We get a bargain for what we put into it, and yet we are right at the table. The deputy commander is a Canadian general and Canadians are in the operations room. I have been there. I have been in Colorado Springs and in Cheyenne Mountain. I have seen the operational systems and Canadians are very much at the centre of that system. In fact, Canadians were in the control seat on September 11 and on many other occasions. There is a very suitable integration in defence of our common continent between our two countries, and that is the logical institution for control and decision-making on the system on an operational basis day in and day out.
If we decide not to become part of the ballistic missile defence system, I believe Norad will be marginalized because we will have decisions being made only by Americans, which could affect us. I do not believe that is right. We are far better off being inside the tent, as is being said, or inside the room at the table. We are far better off knowing what is going on, getting all the information we need and being part of the decision making that flows back to our government as well as the U.S. government. It works that way today and it should continue to work that way with ballistic missile defence.
It does not solve all the problems in terms of the threats. Obviously, ballistic missile defence would not have stopped what happened on September 11, but that should be a warning and it should also be an understanding of the kind of concern our American neighbours have about the threat to them.
Therefore, let us be a part of a system that is in our security interests.
Topic: Government Orders