Canadians have demonstrated once again and will demonstrate many more times in the future the capacity that no other people on the earth have – a capacity to overcome the deficiencies of their government.
We have been witness today to a remarkable event. We are three weeks into a war of epoch-defining significance. We are six months into the controversy that led to this war, the growing international controversy. This is the fourth motion of the House to debate this particular war and this particular issue, after several debates in all of the months leading up to this. Yet this is the first time the leader of our country, the prime minister, has come to actually speak to one of these debates.
Today is D-Day, but ”œD” is not as we used it on the beaches of Normandy. The ”œD” is for ”œdamage control.” That is why the prime minister is here today.
The prime minister addressed in a cursory manner all of the anti-American remarks and slurs made by members of government and the gov- erning party. The prime minister dismisses all this by saying that after 40 years in the House, he has discovered the merits of freedom of speech of members of Parliament.
I can predict this: if the words said about President Bush were being said by members of the government about the prime minister, I would suggest that this enthusiasm for freedom of speech would have rapidly diminished in the PMO.
The real question is why the prime minister himself has not distanced himself from the remarks made by members of his government and even his own Cabinet.
What now? What do we do today? Having come to the House of Commons, we say why now and what now? The prime minister still does not really address this issue as an issue – not as a moment which will define this era and have an immense impact on global security in the years to come.
Instead we have today just another communication strategy, another cynical motion, another image repositioning.
All the buzz words have changed in the Liberals’ speech. Three weeks ago it was ”œindependence” and ”œnot being told what to do by the Americans.” It was the ”œUnited Nations.” It was ”œnon-justification.” It was all about the supposed deficien- cies of President Bush.
Today it is ”œshoulder to shoulder.” It is all about the United States and the United Kingdom”œ; our friends”; ”œsupport for the aims of the war to fight terrorism”; and of course, to congratulate the president for all of his hard work.
The prime minister’s motion is an embarrassment. It is not based on principle. What this motion says to the House, and to the Canadian peo- ple is, ”œThese are Liberal principles, and if you did not like those of the past three weeks, well, we have some new ones today.”
Let me go through very carefully, just to document the change in position of the government over the past few weeks. This is important.
I have stated many times the various controversies, the various contradictions in which the government has been engaged. One example: stating that Resolution 1441 was enough to justify action in Iraq, certainly saying nothing to the contrary; then condemning our friends and allies for taking action under that resolution; now supporting the action, in a sense, once it is clear they are winning.
Let me give specific examples. On January 27, the prime minister said: ”œIf the Americans or the Brits have great evidence that Saddam Hussein [who is no friend of mine] is not following the instructions of the United Nations…of course Canada will support an activity in there.”
On the same day, January 27, the prime minister said:
”œIt is in the interest of the world that Saddam Hussein comply completely with Resolution 1441…In doing so, he will avoid a war.”
January 27, the same day, he said: ”œa resolution was passed unanimously and must be complied with. The resolution set out what must be done if he does not respect the conditions.”
The next day, the prime minister said, ”œEverybody is seeking the enforcement of the resolution.”
The same day, January 28, he said: ”œIf Saddam Hussein fails to comply with resolution 1441, not only the US but its allies too will be there to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are removed from Iraq.”
Three days after that, January 31, the prime minister said: ”œResolution 1441 will authorize action.”
Then, probably the most important event in all of this, on February 11, a motion of our friends from the Bloc Québecois, demanding that the government have a second resolution before acting. The prime minister and his government come to the House and voted against that resolution.
On February 24, the prime minister said, ”œI think some weeks should be given to Saddam to comply very precisely with resolution 1441.”
On the same day, the prime minis- ter said: ”œWith resolution 1441, we are telling Saddam Hussein that if he does not comply with this resolution, there will be very serious consequences.”
On March 17, as President Bush was about to deliver his ultimatum to Iraq, suddenly the prime min- ister rose to his feet with a pre-prepared statement in Question Period and said to our allies: ”œWe have always made it clear that Canada would require the approval of the Security Council if we were to participate in a military campaign….If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate.”
There it is. Today we have a motion in front of us from the prime minister that says we will not participate except to the extent that we are actually participating and want the coalition to win.
This is a serious business.
The lives of our friends and allies and the future of the planet are at stake. This is not a game. Let me give another example of this flip-flop; for regime change in Iraq, then against regime change, then apparently not against regime change.
These words are all recent. On February 28, the prime minister said, ”œI’m surprised to hear now we want to get rid of Saddam Hussein…If it is a changing of regime, it’s not what is 1441.”
On March 18 he said, ”œthe position of changing regimes in different countries is not a policy that is desirable any time.”
On March 25 the prime minister said, ”œThe question of changing regime is not a policy that is acceptable under the United Nations charter.” The next day the prime minister said, ”œchanging the regime is not the right policy.”
However, on March 27, he said, ”œThe war has already begun and it is now clear that we want the war to be over quickly and that we want the Americans and their allies to be successful.”
On April 6, the deputy prime minister said, ”œThere should be no mistaking the sympathy that we have for the ultimate success of the coalition,” all leading to today’s motion, hoping that the coalition will be successful in achieving its mission " its stated mission, of course, being regime change in the Republic of Iraq.
I do not have time and the world does not have time to listen to all the contradictions of the government, but let me just mention a couple more. The government condemns those who express support for our American neighbours, including those in this party, but fails to rebuke the anti-American bigotry in their own ranks. I will go farther. Regarding some of the comments made by personnel in the Prime Minister’s Office and in the Cabinet, there are too many of these to be accidental. At one point the government thought that playing the anti-American card was a strategy. But it misunderstood how Canadians feel about their American neighbours. Another contradiction is condemning Saddam Hussein for war crimes and genocide, yet failing to remove Saddam’s diplomatic front men from Canada.
However, as I say, the greatest of all these things is to have Canadian troops in uniform, in the war theatre, without the full support of their government. I say to the prime minister: this has not only embarrassed us, this is something that no prime minister has done before, and I hope no prime minister will ever do again.
The lack of leadership on this has not been restricted to the prime minister. I will point out that not a single Liberal member of Parliament, notwithstanding some who have said they do not agree with everything the government is doing here, has at any point stood in the House to vote against the government’s position on any aspect of this motion. So much for all the confidence that these men and women have about the free speech that would be tolerated from the Prime Minister’s Office.
I want to point out that this flipping and flopping and being on both sides on different days – and simultaneously – is not a position that has been characteristic of other parties and other people in the House of Commons, including those with whom I vehemently disagree. The New Democratic Party has, from the outset of this conflict, taken the position that it does not support a war on Iraq, period – not with the United Nations, not on Tuesday, not on Wednesday, it is just not for it. We all understand that.
Nor is the position of the Bloc Québécois ambiguous. It is a position against the war, and that the stance stems from their interpretation of international law.
Its support, or lack of support for this war in the case of the Bloc, is clear. It is clear why it does not support it. It is clear under what positions it would support it. And it has, like the NDP and like ourselves, demanded that the gov- ernment’s actions, its treatment of our own troops, be consistent with the position that we are supposedly taking.
The leadership that has been lacking here from the Liberal government is going to be needed in the future. These are not easy days ahead for this world – not just in international affairs, but in domestic affairs. Let me end in making one last appeal to the government to do the right thing. I believe that the government knows, and many members of the government know, that supporting our allies is the right thing to do. They should know this because if they had not known, then they would never have let our troops go into that theatre in the first place.
Similarly, they know that anti-Americanism is wrong because if they think about it for a second, whatever their feelings about the Bush administration, they know that in so many ways we are close to, and depend on, our American friends and neighbours.