Statement made on 31 March 2009 by Senator Colin Kenny
Hon. Colin Kenny:
Honourable senators, last week Senator Wallin criticized an op-ed article that I wrote regarding underfunding of the Canadian military. Senator Wallin made an emotional reference to the deaths of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. She linked me to the Fox News slanders and said that I had "profoundly insulted" four of our troops who had just lost their lives by suggesting that Canada has a "just pretend" military.
I become emotional about soldiers dying too, but my response is to move beyond simple emotion by trying to do something useful to reduce these deaths. Sentiment should never be allowed to disguise the fact that Canada's military is not sufficiently funded to give our soldiers the support they need.
If Senator Wallin refuses to listen to her fellow senators, who have followed these issues for several years, she should have listened at least to the head of the army when he appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence on March 9, 2009. General Leslie told the committee that the army will likely have to cease foreign operations for a year after our combat role in Afghanistan ends.
That military pause would be Canada's second in six years, which is unprecedented in an industrialized country. Such pauses reflect burnout of soldiers, their equipment, their military infrastructure and, most important, their families, all of which is caused by lack of funding.
Long before the Manley commission, your committee addressed the problem of escalating deaths from roadside bombs. We fought hard to push the government for better support from helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs. Some of us like to think that this public criticism helped to deploy these pieces of equipment where they were needed. Unfortunately, some new members of the committee are determined to see that the government is never criticized, no matter what the cost is to our soldiers.
For that reason, I challenge Senator Wallin: If Conservatives like Senators Michael Meighen, Norman Atkins and the late Michael Forrestall were brave enough to offer honest criticism to Conservative governments; and if Liberals on the committee were brave enough to do the same during the days of the Chrétien and Martin governments, can she not muster the courage to tell Stephen Harper that this current government's spending plan will doom Canadians to a just-pretend military?
That is all I said in my op-ed. Given Senator Wallin's reputation as an unbiased journalist, that is what she should be saying, if she has the interests of our troops and their families at heart.