Evidence of meeting #32 for National Defence in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was main.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Bruce Donaldson  Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, Department of National Defence
  • Kevin Lindsey  Assistant Deputy Minister, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Corporate Services, Department of National Defence
  • Dan Ross  Assistant Deputy Minister, Materiel, Department of National Defence

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Eight.

11:20 a.m.

VAdm Bruce Donaldson

—that the minister used because, when we were talking about the costs publicly, we wanted to make sure that it was inclusive of all of those costs. Does that clarify it for you?

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you. Time has expired.

Mr. Opitz, you have the floor.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Through you, thank you to everybody for coming today.

Ministers, I appreciate you being here. I know the hard work that both of you are doing on this file.

It's a delight to see Mr. Ross again. In my former role at the Canadian Forces College, I know he spent a significant amount of time teaching his craft to many of the officers at the college to give them a better understanding of ADM materiel.

I thank you for that, Mr. Ross, because I often listened to your lectures and learned a lot, and hopefully I retained a lot.

To the veteran in the room, at the back, welcome, sir, to this session of the committee. Thank you for being here.

Minister MacKay, I see that there's approximately $4.7 million in funding requested for enhancing support to severely injured members of the Canadian Forces in what's called the “legacy of care” program.

Sir, can you describe to the committee what exactly this program is and the services that are provided to the injured members of the CF?

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

I thank you, firstly, for your service. I know that you spent a good deal of your life in uniform and in service of Canada.

We have made significant investments, as you know, in recent years with respect to the legacy of care program. I would dare say that the Department of National Defence and that of Veterans Affairs Canada have never been more lashed up when it comes to both the delivery of the service and the important transition that occurs in a person's life when they make the decision to leave the Canadian Forces for any number of reasons. One of those reasons, sadly, can be as a result of injury suffered either in operations or in training, or simply the wear and tear that very much comes from the physical contributions that members of the Canadian Forces make.

We made the decision some years ago to improve both the amount and the delivery of services to the Canadian Forces members. We've made significant investments in treatment.

With respect to the delivery of those services, I would point to the joint personnel support units that are now found right across the country, most often located on Canadian Forces bases. Those are designed, as you know, to bring together all of the various services in one locale to present, I guess, what's tantamount to one-stop shopping—that is, where a veteran or a family member or a serving member can go to find the right program or the right service for them.

We've also intended to and we have increased mental health counselling and the number of mental health providers within the Canadian Forces. This is a very important change and addition, given those who are suffering post-traumatic stress and those who need that counselling.

That's in addition to the important work that our chaplains do. Our military chaplains have, in recent years in particular, taken on a significant role when it comes to assisting members of the Canadian Forces and their families.

We have also enhanced the programs that are designed to support those who have been severely or grievously injured as a result of their service.

These are some of the programs we have implemented during our time in office. I think it's fair to say, and I believe most Canadians would agree, that you can never do enough. You can never, in some cases, replace what has been lost as a result of military service. Yet we do our very best to deliver that each and every time to our veterans.

I commend those in particular who are at the delivery end, who are working daily in hospitals, in counselling sessions, in those joint personnel support units, and working with Veterans Canada to see that those services are there and are available when they're needed.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you for that. I know, and I'm sure everybody agrees, that we can't do enough for our soldiers. I'm delighted that is constantly under review as well, because situations do change.

I would like to put on the record your comment about chaplains. Chaplains are really unsung heroes, who have done yeoman's work across the Canadian Forces in so many different fields outside of their own lane. I would like to put on the record that the military chaplains have certainly distinguished themselves in the service of Canada.

Sir, there's a request for a transfer to the RCMP and Natural Resources Canada for the chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear research and technology initiative. Can you please explain the purpose of this initiative, sir? What threats to Canadian security and safety does this partnership particularly address?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

We've made the decision, as we have on a number of occasions, to work closely with the RCMP, and with Public Safety generally. This is really aimed at sharing resources and sharing services in a way that is both effective and is responsible with taxpayers' dollars.

So many of the decisions that we take today—where the stakes are so high, where security is the central issue, where the protection of Canadians, their health and well-being, and their very lives—are what members of the Canadian Forces are tasked with daily. It's what they do in concert with other agencies, as we saw, for example—and you would be familiar with this operation—at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

It was a prime example of what the Chief of the Defence Staff calls here the “home game”, that is, what we're doing to protect Canadians, working closely with members of the RCMP, or in the case of Vancouver, the Vancouver Police Department. We also saw similar efforts in Toronto and in Muskoka around the G-8 and G-20 efforts, where Canadians very likely didn't see the effort because so often the work that was being done was in a support role. They were not front and centre, but I can assure you that there was a tremendous amount of cooperation, coordination, and security provided by the Canadian Forces during that very high-tempo period in Canadian history.

Just to reference your question, when it comes to the type of radiological equipment and response, if needed—and thankfully it has not been needed—this is where the CF and the RCMP share those resources, when needed, to respond to emergency situations or occasions where radiological leaks might occur. The same can be said of other emergency responses.

We've seen the Canadian Forces, for example, responding to things like floods, forest fires, and severe winter storms. People like Mr. Norlock, who served in police uniform, know that there is really a common cause and a common purpose when it comes to those who serve. It would include paramedics and medical personnel as well in responding to those emergencies when needed.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Agreed. That's a lot of inter-agency joint training.

I hope CBRN is never needed, but that kind of vigilance is hugely important.

As you know, we've been studying readiness. I'm going to direct this to either minister. As you both know, this committee is currently studying the overall readiness of the CF. I see here in the estimates that there are provisions for land and joint maritime and aerospace readiness.

Can either of you perhaps delve into what some of these provisions entail, first of all. Why is funding for readiness so important to your department? My last question is how has the Government of Canada improved the overall readiness of the CF over the past five years?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

I'm going to give the associate minister an opportunity to speak to some of the specific investments that we've made in equipment for readiness.

Readiness, as you know, sir, as a former serving member, includes the training and the preparation. That includes investments in infrastructure, in bases where this training takes place. But the readiness I would describe as the critical piece. This allows Canadian Forces to deploy when needed, to respond, to be physically, emotionally, and mentally prepared to face the challenge, whether it be in a combat mission as we saw in Afghanistan, whether it be in a training posture where we currently find ourselves, whether it be in a different type of mission and a technically advanced mission as we saw over Libya and off the coast of Libya, or responding to humanitarian crises, as was the case in Haiti.

All of this involves many moving parts in terms of equipment, logistics, command and control, and in many cases, using highly technical equipment as was the case with UAVs and now, in some cases, satellite technology and human intelligence.

All of this requires investment, training, preparation, and results in the readiness that Canada needs in order to be able to rely on those men and women to perform incredible feats on behalf of our country. Perhaps to speak to some of the specific readiness, I would defer to Associate Minister Fantino.

March 13th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the opportunity to be here with you.

In my own experience over many years in law enforcement it's always a question of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. That's what emergency services are geared toward. They equip and train to that level, and it's no less important for the Canadian military.

In that respect the quality of equipment is critical, not only to ensure optimum opportunity for our men and women to succeed in the very dangerous missions to which they are assigned, but also to do that in a safe environment so they can come home safe and sound at the end of their missions and duties. To that end, right now we have some 20 projects ongoing where various aspects of equipment are in the process of going through the system. They are all geared to ensure we do what we have said we will do in terms of the Canada First defence strategy. The wear and tear on equipment is obviously quite considerable.

That to me is a very important and critical aspect of our preparedness and readiness. It also ensures we do what we are supposed to do in providing our men and women the tools they need to do the job as safely as possible.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you. The time has expired.

With our last 10-minute question we have Mr. McKay.

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you, Chair, and my thanks to the minister and our witnesses for being here.

I have three series of questions relating to three fiscal years. I don't anticipate that you'll be able to answer all of them, so please feel free to respond in writing.

The first series of questions has to do with the final fiscal year 2010-11. The Public Accounts of Canada show that the Department of Defence walked away from $2.4 billion in lapsed money. You can imagine something like that happening occasionally, but cumulatively, over the last four or five years, it's amounted to a significant sum of money, somewhere in the order of $5 billion or $6 billion that the department has secured through budgetary processes and then had to give back at the end of the fiscal year. I'd be interested in your comments. I don't know whether this is an inability to manage contracts. I don't know whether this is a problem with forecasting. It leads one to be concerned about announcements running way ahead of delivery. Out of that $2.4 billion, can you, in some detail, tell the committee what was left on the table when the department walked away?

The second series of questions has to do with the supplementary estimates (C). I suppose in a perfect world we wouldn't have to be looking at March madness, but it is March madness and what is curious is that you're taking $214 million out of capital, and you're profiling $151 million into operations in Afghanistan. This begs the question: why didn't you know at this time last year that the operation in Afghanistan was going to require $151 million, given that you had a decent track record of expenditures in Afghanistan over the last 10 years? There is a lot of moving around within the capital envelope, so some are up and some are down. The overall question here is if, in fact, we didn't have this $214 million in supplementary estimates (C), what would we be getting? What is it that we are actually walking away from in capital expenditures? The secondary question has to do with the $733 million in the reduced area. Is that going to be, in effect, lapsed money, or is that, in effect, just the first installment on lapsed money? That is my second series of questions.

My third series of questions has to do with the main estimates. If we've learned anything on this readiness study, it's that the whole business of cyber-security is extraordinarily important given that the Russians and the Chinese seem to have a fondness for Canadian intelligence. Some of the witnesses have said they're not sure that this security operation should be housed within National Defence. What does this transfer to the Communications Security Establishment mean? What does it mean in money, in operations, in the contribution Defence will make to this intelligence information, and in the improved access that Defence would have to that intelligence information? My sense of it is that there is something buried in there. I just don't know what it is. Maybe ministers can enlighten us on what it will mean. The second question on the main estimates has to do with the transfer of $305 million to Shared Services Canada, which is essentially a transfer of money from one department to another and to Public Works.

I wonder what that means for the purposes of procurement. Is this an acknowledgement that the procurement process out of Defence has not been handled as well as it could have been? Given the history of moneys lapsed, maybe the government is addressing that issue. I'd be interested in your thoughts on that.

Then the final question has to do with the $232 million of major capital equipment in infrastructure projects, which are being walked away from. What does that mean? What are we walking away from when we knock $232 million off the budget?

The other thing that jumps out at me is on page 248, and that is the reprofiling of money with respect to NATO. On one line you're down $5.3 million; on another line you're up $12 million. On the third line it's straight-lined, so to speak. So what does that mean in terms of our obligations and ongoing commitments to NATO? I appreciate that those are a whole series of questions. It's entirely intentional on my part, because I get one shot at this—that's it—and I'd be more interested in factual responses than political, if I may.

Thank you.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. McKay.

I do appreciate the time parameters we're working with here, so I will undertake to give you more fulsome and specific information.

Working back to front with some of your questions, first, I would say we are not lessening our commitment to NATO, the monetary commitment does go up as a result of Canada's overall contributions. That is reflected there. Certain programs and certain missions, of course, do involve a financial commitment from Canada—that is, there's pool funding and then there is specific funding. As you know, with the changed role in Afghanistan, we are spending less vis-à-vis that particular mission. The “pop-up” mission, for lack of a better term, in Libya, which was also a NATO mission, was a specific contribution. So those are reflected in our overall contributions.

With respect to Shared Services Canada, I want to assure you that this has nothing to do with procurement. This has to do with the servers, the email process, and the databank that DND uses, as do other departments. We are now sharing or pooling resources with respect to that overall computer system for internal government use. It's not to do specifically with procurement.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Excuse me, please.

One of the things we've heard about readiness is, if you will, an “air wall” of intelligence security. In other words, the hacking has become so sophisticated that the concern is hacking into DND. How will that play through with your transfer of some of these services to Public Works?

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

That's a very good question.

The high-level, top-secret information will be protected. There will be more than an “air wall”, I assure you for that confidential information, particularly that which we would receive from, for example, the Five Eyes community, or information that would be of interest to some of those countries that you mentioned and others as well.

CSEC—and our new commissioner of CSEC is with us—can also give you some information on how DND and other high-level government information is protected. With respect to your question on CSEC, this new stand-alone agency is still under the auspices of the Department of National Defence—and I don't want to put too fine a point on it, but it's a bit like, you will recall, when CSIS was taken out of the RCMP and given stand-alone status. That's what is occurring here.

It essentially is still very much part of the DND establishment, but it now has a separate entity, separate budget, and that accounts for the money you're seeing here coming out of the DND budget.