Hon. Ralph Ferguson (Lambton-Middlesex):
Mr. Speaker, in the House on May 13, 1993 I asked the Minister of National Defence if he could tell us why the maintenance work on the Challenger military and executive aircraft was being done in Hartford, Connecticut, and why the government was ignoring our own Canadian skilled workers and letting these jobs go to the United States.
I should point out that the first aircraft arrived in Hartford for maintenance about mid-April 1993, well ahead of when I asked my question.
The minister admitted that the maintenance would be done in Hartford until a new contract was in place, which would be a matter of weeks. Now, almost four weeks later, we are aware this servicing in Hartford may go on until 1994, in fact well into 1994. Consequently the information given in the minister's answer is not correct.
I have in my possession copies of Business Opportunities of November 1992, May 7, 1993 and May 17, 1993. The request for proposals indicated that work would begin April 1, 1993 and end March 31, 1996, with an option for a further two-year period ending on March 31, 1998.
The closing date was amended as of the May 7, 1993 publication and again on May 17, 1993. Business Opportunities revealed that the closing date was amended yet again. In the meantime this work involving several thousand man-hours will take place in Hartford, Connecticut.
Let me refer to the issues. Why are Canadian military aircraft being serviced in the United States when our own skilled persons are facing lay-offs and our facilities are being underutilized? Second, why are we creating American jobs? The U.S. does not permit its aircraft to be serviced in other countries. Third, what are we paying in terms of an hourly rate to have this work done in the
United States? Has the government looked at what it could be done for in Canada?
In light of the fact the Challenger jet was developed and built in Canada, I simply cannot believe we cannot get the maintenance work done in Canada at a cheaper rate than is currently being paid in the United States which would result in savings to our taxpayers. In fact I know this is the case.
Is this a repeat of the Conservative government decision of the late 1950s that resulted in the scrapping of the Avro Arrow and the world's first commercial jet passenger plane? This decision destroyed Canada's role as a leader in aircraft technology. Even today the Avro Arrow would still be a world leader in technology and design.
I would appreciate answers to these questions.
Subtopic: SITTING RESUMED The House resumed at 5.31 p.m.