March 7, 2011

CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

I am going to stop the member there. The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Public Safety
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CPC

Dave MacKenzie

Conservative

Mr. Dave MacKenzie

Mr. Speaker, this government is actively working with our water sector partners to share information and to address the threat of terrorist attacks.

A 2009 water sector survey conducted by Environment Canada and the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association shows that approximately half of the responding municipalities have conducted risk assessments. I would also like to point out that the survey shows that 92% of these municipalities have a plan in place to deal with emergencies, including terrorist attacks.

We will work with our partners in all levels of government and in the private sector to build on this progress, and continue implementing our national strategy and action plan for critical infrastructure.

This strategy recognizes secure critical infrastructure helps foster an environment that stimulates economic growth, attracts and retains business, and helps deliver on our commitment to build a safer and more resilient Canada.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   Public Safety
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LIB

Bryon Wilfert

Liberal

Hon. Bryon Wilfert (Richmond Hill, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, in November I asked the government a question with regard to the sole-source contract for the new fighter jets that the government seems bent on force feeding to Canadians.

Obviously when it comes to these aircraft, the government is breaking every Treasury Board guideline. We believe in competition. Competition is what the Treasury Board guidelines clearly indicate.

At the defence committee, companies have come forward to say that they could provide new fighter jets for the Canadian Forces.

We strongly believe in new jets for the Canadian Forces. No one is arguing that.

There has been some talk in government circles that the Liberals want to rip up the contract. Well, there is no contract to rip up. The Auditor General said the purchase of the F-35s at the moment could be risky business. It obviously is a concern for the Auditor General.

We are concerned that the rules that are in place for competition have not been followed.

My friend across the way has said before that in 1997 there was a multinational joint strike fighter program to look at the development of this type of aircraft. We participated in that but we were under no commitment to buy the aircraft.

We want to get the best value for the taxpayer. People are looking at rising food costs, rent costs, mortgages, and it would appear we want to borrow about $9 billion-plus, maybe as much as $16 billion or $20 billion, for something which is not, in our view, appropriate at this time.

The government has already put the country into a $56 billion hole. The government seems to be able to announce these things and talk about spending money.

I find it insulting to the taxpayer to suggest that somehow this is the only way to go, because the government knows best. This is utter nonsense.

The reality is that we want the best plane for the dollar, but this is not necessarily the way to go. The former assistant deputy minister of defence, Alan Williams, came to the committee. He was very much involved in this from the beginning. He indicated his concerns about it. Unfortunately there are some, including the parliamentary secretary, who have taken it upon themselves to question what Mr. Williams said. Of course it is his right to question, but I do not think it is his right to malign individuals who clearly have a different view.

Our view is not that we should not get new fighter jets. Our view is that there has to be an open, fair competition pursuant to Treasury Board guidelines. If we do not follow the guidelines on this, what else are we not going to follow?

This is clearly not the way to go. This is clearly not good for the taxpayer. After all, we are supposed to be guardians of the taxpayers' dollar.

A number of companies came to the defence committee and said that they could build an aircraft which would meet Canada's needs in the Arctic for sovereignty and for protection.

We owe it to the taxpayer and we certainly owe it to Canadians to be able to say that we went through a process.

If, at the end of the day, it turns out that the F-35 is the way to go, then we will accept that. However, we cannot accept a process which clearly has been skewed from the beginning. We have concerns about that. I know that my hon. friend will respond as he always does.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   National Defence
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CPC

Laurie Hawn

Conservative

Hon. Laurie Hawn (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I certainly will, but I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the question. What he said was mostly pure nonsense.

As stated in the Canada first defence strategy, the government is committed to replacing our aging CF-18 fleet, which will come to the end of its service life in 2020. Indeed, we cannot eliminate manned tactical air power from our toolbox of military capabilities.

The debate is not between spending and not spending on the replacement of this capability. It is a debate over which aircraft we should acquire and which procurement process we should adopt in order to provide our men and women in uniform with the right equipment while at the same time ensuring the best value for Canadian taxpayers.

Let me say that not a single Treasury Board guideline has been broken, and my hon. colleague is simply wrong in saying that and he knows it.

The government's decision to purchase the F-35 reflects years of rigorous and extensive analysis by military professionals within the Canadian Forces and civilian experts within the Department of National Defence. Moreover, it mirrors the collective wisdom of experts in the other eight countries partnering on the joint strike fighter project, countries that have all committed to replacing their existing fighter fleets with the F-35. There is no coincidence there.

The reason for choosing the F-35s are indeed compelling. As an advanced, multi-role stealth fighter, the F-35 has the versatility necessary to carry out any mission we can foresee while providing superior protection for the pilot. As an aircraft with revolutionary data collection and sensor fusion technologies, the F-35 represents a step forward in intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities. As a common aircraft also operated by our allies and partners, Canada's F-35s will be fully interoperable with those flown by our friends in coalition air operations.

In fact, of the several aircraft models examined by our experts, only the F-35 satisfied all of the mandatory criteria contained in the Canadian Forces' statement of operational requirements for the next generation fighter capability.

Given this stark truth, where is the logic in calling for a competition when there are no viable competitors to the F-35 and when we already know which aircraft will win? Such a competition would rightfully be considered an expensive sham and a waste of taxpayer money.

On this issue of the cost to taxpayers, those who call for a competition as a means to save money are actually advocating a procurement policy that, ironically, would end up costing us more than the direct method we have selected for the purchase of Canada's F-35s.

As a member of the joint strike fighter partnership and a signatory to the production, sustainment and follow-on development memorandum of understanding of 2006, Canada has the option to purchase F-35s under very favourable terms. Purchases made through the MOU are exempt from the foreign military sales fees and research and development recovery charges levied on purchases by non-partner nations. On Canada's purchase of 65 fighters, these exemptions amount to a saving of between $850 million and $900 million.

Every one of the signatories to the MOU agreed, however, that they would not apply industrial regional benefit policies to the purchases of the F-35s made through the MOU. Therefore, if we were to hold a competition and insist on guaranteed IRBs, we would not be able to buy aircraft through the MOU, which is the most cost-effective procurement method.

As the only aircraft that meets all of our mandatory requirements, we know that the F-35 would indeed win that competition. Therefore, the only effect of going through the motions of holding a competition, the result of which we already know, would be the purchase of the F-35 at a cost of nearly a billion extra taxpayer dollars.

The F-35 was chosen after years of rigorous analysis done by experts in Canada and eight other countries confirming the soundness of our decision to purchase the F-35. Let us add Israel to that list of countries. It does not mess around when it buys military equipment.

With substantial savings to be realized by buying our aircraft directly through the joint strike fighter MOU and through economies of scale, and with the full suite of lucrative industrial participation plans in place to keep Canadian companies and their tens of thousands of employees on the cutting edge of the aerospace industry for decades to come, the government's F-35 decision minimizes the risks inherent in all military procurements while maximizing best value for Canadian taxpayers, economic opportunities for Canadian industry, and operational capability for our men and women in uniform.

This money is not borrowed. It will not start to be spent until about 2015 or 2016 and will be spread over 20 years, and it is all part of the Canada first defence strategy. It is all programmed, not borrowed. That is simply false and my colleague--

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   National Defence
Permalink
CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member for Richmond Hill.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   National Defence
Permalink
LIB

Bryon Wilfert

Liberal

Hon. Bryon Wilfert

Mr. Speaker, my colleague would suggest that what I said was nonsense. Is it nonsense to follow procurement policies as outlined very clearly in the Treasury Board guidelines, which I had quoted another time to my hon. friend? Is it nonsense to want to save the taxpayer money? Is it nonsense in an ongoing recession to be looking at a situation where we are not getting the best value?

My colleague has not been able to produce one document showing why this is in fact the best airplane to go with.

It is not nonsense to say we should have a competition, because that is the cornerstone of what governments do in this country. They would look for the best aircraft in this case, not sole-sourced competition.

Again, we have not seen what led the government to this particular decision. It says, “Just trust us. Don't worry.” I do worry for the taxpayer. I do worry for the forces. Again, if he says that the F-35 is the only fifth generation aircraft, then it is the only one. However, there are others on the market of a different generation that we may want to look at.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   National Defence
Permalink
CPC

Laurie Hawn

Conservative

Hon. Laurie Hawn

Mr. Speaker, I will tell the member what is nonsense. It is nonsense to pretend that someone is doing something for altruistic reasons to get the men and women of the Canadian Forces the equipment they need at the best price for Canadian taxpayers and the best value for Canadian industry. It is absolute nonsense to do that for purely partisan political reasons and to mislead the Canadian public on when money has been spent and what work has gone into determining that this is the correct answer.

The member has heard from members of the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence. They have laid out all the evidence that says why this airplane is the only one that will meet the requirements. Liberals just do not want to hear it because it does not fit their political agenda.

Anybody who comes before the committee of course will say that he or she has an airplane that will meet the requirements. That is why we have had people looking at this for almost the last 10 years, as have 9 other countries, including Israel. They have all come to the same conclusion that it is the F-35. That is not a coincidence. These people are motivated simply by the requirement to get the best equipment and the best value for Canada, for our men and women in uniform and for Canadian taxpayers. That is what they have done, and the member should pay attention.

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   National Defence
Permalink
CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:55 p.m.)

Topic:   Adjournment Proceedings
Sub-subtopic:   National Defence
Permalink

March 7, 2011