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

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Robert Fonberg  Deputy Minister, Department of National Defence
  • André Deschamps  Commander, Royal Canadian Air Force, Department of National Defence
  • François Guimont  Deputy Minister, Deputy Receiver General for Canada, Department of Public Works and Government Services
  • Simon Kennedy  Senior Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Industry
  • Michelle d'Auray  Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • 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
  • Tom Ring  Assistant Deputy Minister, Acquisitions Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

8:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

We'll now call this 41st meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to order.

My apologies for the delay of a couple of minutes. Some of us were at the National Prayer Breakfast and it took a little while to get over here. The Word was there, but it was a tad late.

Colleagues, the procedure is fairly straightforward this morning. We are hearing witnesses on chapter 2. We will have opening remarks from the deputies who are present, and then we will go in rotation in the usual prescribed fashion until our allotted time is exhausted.

If there are no questions or concerns about the procedure, then indeed we will begin.

Good morning to all our guests. It's a pleasure to have you back here at public accounts, and I know you're all thrilled to be here too—

8:50 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, I apologize for interrupting you, but may I propose, given that the witnesses were kind enough to give us their written comments, that we simply have those as written and pass to questions immediately in order to have enough time? We do recognize that there are eight people here today and we have very limited time for asking a question.

8:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

All right. Let's try to do this quickly. Let me just test the room, then.

Colleagues, there has been a suggestion that we deem the opening remarks to have been received because they are in writing, although I understand that one deputy did not bring a written copy. I don't know why, but they didn't.

Notwithstanding that, I'm in the hands of the committee. Is there agreement?

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

I think it's normal practice that we allow our witnesses at least the opportunity to have opening remarks. I would recommend that we continue in the normal way, and that is to allow our witnesses to have their opening remarks.

8:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

All right. I'm not seeing unanimity.

You have the right to place a motion, but I think you know where that's going to go, given what we've heard. I would suggest that we'll continue in the usual fashion.

Mr. Byrne.

8:50 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

There may be unanimity if we were to allow or ask for just one minute of opening remarks, with the statements as presented tabled.

8:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Let me test the floor on that.

Are there those who are in favour of limiting it to one minute on opening remarks?

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Chair, I think the difficulty is that the witnesses have prepared opening remarks, so to ask them to change that would mean that it's not really fair to our witnesses to have to ad lib, to go off their written opening remarks. I don't think it's fair to the witnesses to do that.

8:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Okay.

Again, same as before, there is no unanimity. Are there further comments on this? Let's not get too bogged down here, folks.

Mr. Allen.

8:50 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

I guess I understand that the government would like the opening remarks, but all I would suggest and ask the government to do, since we need to talk to these witnesses in as fulsome a way as possible, is this. We have Thursday open. I would suggest to the government that if we don't get through all of our questions in the sense of the fullness of talking to all eight witnesses, we actually do it on the Thursday. I would ask the government to think about that—not necessarily decide upon it at this moment.

Let's see where we get. I would be happy to get under way.

8:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

All right.

Do you have the need to take the floor still? No? Thank you.

I'm not hearing unanimity on that and I don't have a motion in front of me, so unless I hear differently from colleagues, I am going to pick up where I left off.

I will proceed in inviting our guests both to introduce themselves and to read their opening remarks. Upon conclusion, then, we'll begin our rotation.

Again, if there are no further interventions, I guess we'll probably start with the Deputy Minister of National Defence. That would make the most sense.

But I leave it in your hands, folks. Please introduce yourself and your delegation and present your opening remarks.

8:50 a.m.

Robert Fonberg Deputy Minister, Department of National Defence

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I can actually speak quickly.

With me I have Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force; Kevin Lindsey, Chief Financial Officer; and Dan Ross, ADM Materiel.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity this morning.

I'll share my time briefly with the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Acquiring major military capabilities is complex. It takes many years.

In his report, the Auditor General underscores the innovative and unique nature of the joint strike fighter program and notes, “There is no single set of federal policies or rules that govern participation in an international initiative such as the JSF Program”. We agree with the Auditor General on this point. We are confident that the government's seven-point plan sets out a strong footing to move forward on the AG's concerns.

The government has been involved with the joint strike fighter program since 1997. With the advantage of hindsight, and with the AG's observations in mind, there are clearly things we would have managed differently in the program and things that all of us could have done better.

On the matter of costing, there are three key components: acquisition—

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Excuse me, Mr. Fonberg.

Madame Blanchette-Lamothe.

May 1st, 2012 / 8:55 a.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

As a francophone, I must ask you to slow down a bit. I think our interpreters are really having trouble following you.

Thank you.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

All right. I think I'm seeing a smile on the face of the interpreters in agreement with that.

So if we could.... Just a bit—not much.