DA: Speech on Issues Faced by Canadian Military
Madam Speaker, it is great to be up speaking today. Before I get started, I want to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
I want to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Master Corporal Alfred Barr, who died yesterday in a training accident near Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones at this very difficult time.
The other thing I want to say is that just recently, within the last couple of years, my youngest son has had the chance to join the reserves. Now that I have a family member involved, this subject is more personal. My son joined the Lincoln and Welland Regiment in St. Catharines and had the chance this past summer to do his basic training in Meaford, Ontario. I am certainly proud of Andrew, who is over in Germany right now. I am proud of all my children, but I thought I would mention that.
Turning to the discussion on the motion today, what the Liberals seem to have done is commit a major wrong against our men and women in uniform who are serving and fighting against ISIS in some of the most hostile and dangerous territory in the world. ISIS is an enemy whose members have beheaded people on camera, and just to prove a point, they have sexually enslaved young Yazidi girls just because they are Yazidi or non-Muslim. They brought hellish conditions to hundreds of thousands of innocent people just because they do not believe and worship in the same way. ISIS is a clear enemy that stands against everything that Canada and the civilized world represent.
ISIS must be eradicated through concerted, consistent, and strong effort, no matter how long it takes. This is why when we were in government we committed to doing exactly that. It is why the current Prime Minister is continuing with a similar mission.
ISIS has bought back medieval views, way of life, and treatment of minorities and women in a way the world has not seen in recent times. Its members have conquered territory in Iraq and Syria, and they have enslaved, forcibly converted, sexually enslaved, or killed their victims along the way. Canada and the world have faced many evils in the past, and ISIS is one of those evils that we have with us today. It is why our fight against ISIS is absolutely necessary and critical to win. Canada cannot stand on the sidelines when the rest of the world is committed to fight and eradicate these genocidal fanatics.
Our brave men and women in uniform have contributed and delivered significant results in this fight. For over two years, our Armed Forces have done their part and made tremendous sacrifices that very few of us in this place have made. What is the reward for the incredible service and sacrifice for our country? The reward the Liberals have decided to give our men and women in uniform fighting ISIS is to take away their tax benefits. Some 15 soldiers in Kuwait were told that they were going to lose a tax benefit, which provided $1,500 to $1,800 per month for them and their families, saving more than $9,000 each over the course of a six-month tour.
If that was not enough, the Liberals went ahead and cancelled the benefit for all Canadian troops in Kuwait as of June 1 of this year. This was done, according to the Liberals, because it is not dangerous enough for our troops to receive this benefit while they are stationed in Kuwait and fighting ISIS in Iraq. I have to repeat this for everyone to really hear it, because it is so stunning. The Liberals ended a $1,500 to $1,800 per month tax benefit, essentially danger pay, for all Canadian troops serving in Kuwait and fighting ISIS.
Removing danger pay does not seem wise when the Minister of National Defence’s own parliamentary secretary admitted that “…it is true that our soldiers will be at greater risk”. This refers to the Liberal’s decision of February 2016 to put more troops on the ground in the fight against ISIS. More troops on the ground means greater risk. This was acknowledged by the Minister of National Defence who said, “Our people will be in close proximity to the dangers inherent in the region”. Now we are seeing the defence minister take away danger pay for our soldiers serving and fighting in that very area.
One of our Armed Forces members serving in Kuwait said that he believes that the Canadians are the only ones who will not be getting this tax break. When I first read this I thought that I had not read the report correctly. However, to my shock, I found out that it was indeed true. I could not understand why the Liberals would do this. To serve as a comparison, the United States provides tax exemption status to its fighters that are fighting ISIS. It is no surprise that one of our soldiers said that it felt like “we got kicked in the stomach”.
Do the Liberal government, the Liberal defence minister, and the Liberal members of Parliament want our troops in Kuwait to feel like they got kicked in the stomach by their own government who sent them into harm’s way to flight a murderous, genocidal enemy? Right now, that is exactly the way it feels.
We can also listen to Glenda Lindsay, the mother of one of our affected soldiers, who said that she feels as though her son is being cheated. She said, “They’re cutting corners at the troops’ expense”. Ms. Lindsay has also started an online petition to help rectify this major error on the part of the Liberals. Petition e-882 calls upon the Government of Canada to immediately reinstate and retroactively pay back the tax relief measures for all troops deployed in Operation Impact. I encourage all Canadians watching and listening today to go online and sign their name in support.
Let us face it. As we are sitting here discussing and debating, those soldiers are fighting for our very right to do so. They are defending our right to have this debate in an open, tolerant, accepting society. Our troops will be fighting an enemy that hates these very values and is willing to die to destroy that throughout the world. What do our soldiers get for fighting this enemy? A well-earned and much-deserved tax benefit of $1,500 to $1,800 per month was taken away, just like that. This makes no sense. There is simply no logic to explain why the Liberals are doing this.
Our men and women in uniform volunteer to serve their country against all sorts of threats, in all sorts of dangerous environments, and it is difficult to think of a more dangerous mission than the one now being fought against ISIS. Members of our Armed Forces leave their wives, husbands, boyfriends, or girlfriends to travel abroad to perform extremely dangerous work and put themselves at risk in service to our country. They often miss their children’s birthdays, their own wedding anniversaries, and their kids’ graduations. Family members of those deployed to Camp Arifjan reached out to MPs to express concern and in search of explanations. They said this treatment of our service men and women is embarrassing. Why would the Liberals even consider taking a tax break away from any of our troops, especially those fighting ISIS?
What also shocked me is that the Liberals have known for months that the Canadian Armed Forces members deployed against ISIS have not been adequately compensated for the hardship and risks associated with their deployment. To be clear, the decision to take away this tax credit was made after the troops had agreed to deploy. What this means is that the Liberals have cheated our troops and their families out of hard-earned money, money that our troops and their families expect, count on; and to be very clear, it is money our troops and their families deserve.
If all of this money is being borrowed on the backs of our future generations, why are the Liberals penny-pinching when it comes to our men and women in uniform? Just yesterday the Liberals decided to spend another $650 million in other countries, but they away tax benefits from our soldiers fighting ISIS. I am not sure I can quite understand the logic of that. Do our soldiers need to transfer and serve in the armed forces of other countries to be properly compensated? I do not think that would be the case.
When I first read the reports of our troops losing this tax benefit, I thought it was definitely bad news and something I could not support. To make matters worse, when we brought it up in the House, the Liberals decided that the best solution to this issue was not to restore the benefits but to revoke them for all our troops fighting ISIS. I thought to myself, what about my son Andrew? As I mentioned earlier, he joined the reserves and has been training. What if he had been in Kuwait and he had lost his danger pay because the government did not think it was dangerous enough to fight ISIS? How would all of us in this place think if it were our sons or daughters who were serving? What would we want our government to do if we were in the same position?
When we were in government, a similar issue came up in relation to our troops in Afghanistan. What we did as a government was very different from what the Liberals are doing. We cut through the bureaucratic red tape, and made sure our troops got the support they deserved. We did the right thing for our men and women, and although we are no longer in power, we will continue to do right by our men and women in uniform. We ask the other side of the House to join us.
We have been listening to the families of those affected. We have raised the issue on multiple occasions. The Prime Minister and his Liberal MPs have no excuse. At this time, the Prime Minister has plans to deploy more troops to dangerous missions in Africa. It is very clear that he is interested in winning a seat on the United Nations Security Council. The Prime Minister and his Liberal MPs should not be penny-pinching when it comes to our troops.
Let me end with family members of deployed soldiers at Camp Arifjan, who said in correspondence with their MPs that this is a country worth working for, worth continuing to strengthen and build and worth sacrifice; to have someone pass a policy that impacts their family in such an essential manner without taking into consideration the implications on the families who readily sacrifice is shocking and disconcerting.
We call upon the government to finally do its job, reverse this terrible decision to take away this tax benefit, and start supporting our brave men and women who stand on guard for all of us.