October 12, 2004

LIB

Anne McLellan

Liberal

Hon. Anne McLellan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is probably aware that the Minister of National Defence had the opportunity to meet with his British counterpart. I think those were useful and informative discussions for both sides.

I also want to reassure everyone in the House that a military board of inquiry has been instituted. It has commenced its work. A number of important questions will be addressed and answers provided during the course of that inquiry.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, that inquiry can look into the events on the north Atlantic last week but this government is supposed to be able to answer for its own responsibilities in this Parliament.

The former navy sub commander said that the government just wanted to get the subs and that acquiring parts and personnel training it would get around to later.

We know the Prime Minister shortchanged the sub retrofit program by $54 million. This was a deliberate budgetary decision he took. Is it not true that the Prime Minister's decision left the navy without adequate resources to properly train and equip the sailors?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

Keith Martin

Liberal

Hon. Keith Martin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the sub was certified by the professionals in our navy.

I should probably make a comment and quote Captain Luc Pelletier, the commander of the Chicoutimi , who said “Of these submarines this was the only one that was able to start sea trials when it did start and go through”.

This sub had been in sea trials since August. The submarine was certified ready to go. We had all the confidence that the sub was capable of carrying out its duties at that time.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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CPC

Stephen Harper

Conservative

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions about the government's own policies and its own actions. It is time these guys stopped hiding behind the men and women they are putting in jeopardy.

During its maiden voyage last year the Victoria had an escort at sea in case of any problems. Why did the Chicoutimi not receive the same attention during its first—

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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The Speaker

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

Keith Martin

Liberal

Hon. Keith Martin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition should know that the Chicoutimi and all three other subs crossed over the Atlantic without an escort.

The opposition must let the professionals do their job. The professionals in this matter are the members of the navy who have been tasked to get to the bottom of this and the bottom of this will be the answers that come out of the inquiry.

We will let the professionals do their job and the opposition should do the same.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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CPC

Gordon O'Connor

Conservative

Mr. Gordon O'Connor (Carleton—Mississippi Mills, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, there are reports that pressure on funds and artificial delivery deadlines forced the department to cut corners with respect to submarine training. A former submarine commander referred to the training program as the great dolphin giveaway. He said that there was a shortage of candidates and that sailors were awarded qualifications without completing their training.

Will the Minister of National Defence confirm that the required number of personnel were trained for the submarine service and that all were provided with all the approved training?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

Keith Martin

Liberal

Hon. Keith Martin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as the critic from the opposition knows full well as a former military officer, there is no way the military would put a sub out to sea before it was sea ready. In fact Commander Pelletier made it very clear, as did Commander MacLean, the head of our navy, who is also a submariner, that the sub was ready to go and that he had every confidence that the sub met all certified requirements, as did the people on that sub.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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CPC

Gordon O'Connor

Conservative

Mr. Gordon O'Connor (Carleton—Mississippi Mills, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I interpret that the minister is telling us that all the appropriate training was provided.

However we have the statement of a senior officer involved in the submarine service and the DND chief of review services report that says that program delays adversely impacted training.

Will the Minister of National Defence acknowledge that shortcuts in training were taken to meet the expediency of the government?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

Keith Martin

Liberal

Hon. Keith Martin (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I will not reiterate the comments that were made by the head of the navy as well as Commander Pelletier but I will assure the House that an inquiry is taking place, an inquiry that will be--

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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The Speaker

Order, please. We will have a little order. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence is attempting to answer the question that was asked and he is entitled to be heard. We will have a little order, please.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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LIB

Keith Martin

Liberal

Hon. Keith Martin

Mr. Speaker, the responsible thing to do is to allow the professionals to do their jobs. The professionals are those on the inquiry who will get to the bottom of this and who will get the answers that all of us in the House want, particularly the widow of Lieutenant Saunders and the men on the Chicoutimi . We owe them the answers and the answers they will get.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   National Defence
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, on September 16, the Prime Minister announced that the October 26 meeting would deal with equalization and the “other financial pressures” facing the provinces. However, according to federal public servants, Ottawa only wants to discuss equalization. As regards other transfers, negotiations are out of the question.

Does the government intend to negotiate in good faith, not only to improve the equalization program, but also to address all the other financial pressures that Quebec and the provinces are facing, something which everyone except the federal government calls the fiscal imbalance?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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LIB

Ralph Goodale

Liberal

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the principal purpose of the meeting on October 26 is to look at equalization. No doubt other issues will be discussed.

I would point out that the Government of Canada has already committed in terms of relieving financial pressures on the provinces an incremental $41 billion to help with health care and an incremental $33 billion to help with equalization.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, Quebec, the provinces, the territories and all the opposition parties in Ottawa agree that the fiscal imbalance must be eliminated.

Therefore, will the federal government commit not to discuss, but to negotiate, on October 26, a comprehensive accord on the fiscal imbalance, an issue which only the Liberals stubbornly keep referring to as “financial pressures”?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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LIB

Ralph Goodale

Liberal

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the provinces have significant financial pressures to deal with in their jurisdiction.

The Government of Canada has significant financial pressures to deal with within its jurisdiction. We have a number of agreements back and forth to assist each other: health care is one; equalization is another; early childhood development is another; housing is another; infrastructure is another.

The Government of Canada contributes enormously to the well-being of all Canadians in all provinces.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, as has been the case every year since 1997, the Minister of Finance's surplus forecast, which stands at $1.9 billion for 2003-04, is, based on preliminary indications, well below the reality. The actual figure is more likely to be somewhere between $5 billion and $8 billion.

Will the Minister of Finance admit that his little underestimation scenario is just a strategy allowing him to deny the existence of the fiscal imbalance faced by the provinces and to show up at the first ministers meeting without providing the true figures that should serve as a basis for discussions?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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LIB

Ralph Goodale

Liberal

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the hon. gentleman because I did not quite get the gist of his question.

However I can assure him that the Government of Canada always looks carefully at all requests from those who have ideas and suggestions to make about the programming of the Government of Canada, most especially the provinces.

I have indicated very clearly that we transfer literally tens of billions of dollars per year to the provinces to assist them within their jurisdictions.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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BQ

Yvan Loubier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Loubier (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, the minister asked the chief economist of the Bank of Montreal to advise him on how to make budget forecasts. We have a suggestion for the minister, if he is open to it.

Will the Minister of Finance admit that we would be much better served by an independent body accountable to the Standing Committee on Finance to get informed advice, rather than relying on just one individual who will be accountable only to the Minister of Finance and whose advice will only be made public by the minister to the extent that it suits him?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Taxation
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October 12, 2004