House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aircraft.

Topics

Passport Fees
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I present a petition concerning the deterioration of the state of tourism between Canada and the United States. It calls upon the Government of Canada to negotiate with the United States government to reduce passport fees on both sides of the border.

The number of American tourists visiting Canada is at its lowest level since 1972. It has dropped by five million visits alone in the last seven years, from sixteen million in 2002 to only eleven million in 2009. For example, in the United States, passport fees for an American family of four could be over $500 U.S. In fact 50% of Canadians have passports but only 25% of Americans have passports.

At a recent legislative conference involving 11 border states from Illinois to North Dakota and three provinces, the following resolution was passed unanimously:

RESOLVED, that the Midwestern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments calls on President Barack Obama and [the Canadian] Prime Minister...to immediately examine a reduced fee for passports to facilitate cross-border tourism; and be it further

RESOLVED, that [the Conference] encourage the governments to examine the idea of a limited time two-for-one passport renewal or new application.

To be a fair process, the passport fees must be reduced on both sides of the border. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the government to work with the American government to examine a mutual reduction in passport fees to facilitate tourism and finally, to promote a limited time two for one passport renewal or new application fee on a mutual basis with the United States

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, Question No. 411 will be answered today.

Question No. 411
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

With respect to changes to the Canada Pension Plan contained in Bill C-51, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009 and to implement other measures, passed by Parliament in 2009, as well as anticipated regulatory changes related to penalties for retiring before age 65: (a) what analysis of the impact of these changes has been completed by the government concerning the projected financial cost for Canadians choosing to retire before age 65; and (b) what were the findings?

Question No. 411
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Canada pension plan, CPP, is a jointly managed federal-provincial-territorial plan. The federal government cannot unilaterally change the CPP. To come into effect, a change needs formal approval of at least two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population of Canada.

The reforms referenced were unanimously agreed to by all federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers on May 25, 2009 and followed the conclusion of the mandated 2007-2009 triennial review of the CPP. For more information, please visit http://www.fin.gc.ca/n08/09-051-eng.asp.

Collectively, the ministers unanimously agreed to modernize the CPP to better reflect the way Canadians live, work and retire. The alterations were intended to increase flexibility, modestly expand CPP coverage, and treat workers fairly regardless of the age they take their pension or how they choose to retire.

Once fully approved, the changes will come into effect starting in 2011 and 2012, and many of them will be implemented gradually, over a number of years. Specifically, the proposed changes include: removal of the work cessation test in 2012; an increase in the general low earnings dropout provision; a requirement, starting in 2012, for those who take their CPP before age 65 and work, as well as their employers, to contribute to the CPP; and gradual restoration of pension adjustments for early, between ages 60 and 64, and late, between ages 66 and 70, take-up of the CPP to their actuarially fair levels.

Under the reforms, access to a CPP pension as early as age 60 will not change. Rather, they will gradually restore adjustments to pensions taken before or after age 65 to their actuarially fair values. This change reflects that in most cases those taking up the CPP before age 65 will receive it for a longer period than someone taking it after 65, even though they paid contributions for a shorter time. Additionally, this change also reflects that in most cases someone taking up the CPP after 65 will receive it for a shorter period than someone taking it before 65, although they have paid contributions for a longer period.

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers of finance agreed to move these adjustments gradually, over a number of years, to their actuarially fair values. When fully implemented in 2016, the early pension will be adjusted downward by 0.6% per month for each month that the pension is taken before an individual’s 65th birthday. As a result, beginning in 2016, if an individual chooses to take up the CPP pension on his or her 60th birthday, he or she will receive 64% of the amount he or she would have received at age 65, compared to 70% currently.

The adjustment for pensions taken after turning 65 years of age will be fully implemented earlier, in 2013. When fully implemented in 2013, the late pension will be increased by 0.7% per month for each month that the pension is taken after age 65 up to the age of 70. As a result, if an individual chooses to take the pension at age 70, he or she will receive 142% of the amount he or she would have received at age 65, compared to 130% currently.

This change will not affect current CPP beneficiaries who took their pensions before or after age 65, nor will it affect those who apply for the CPP in 2010, unless those individuals return to work in 2012 or later. In that case, only the portion of CPP benefits based on earnings after 2012 will be affected by the new pension adjustments.

As required by the legislation, the Office of the Chief Actuary at the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions prepared the 24th Actuarial Report on the CPP to show the effects of the aforementioned reforms on the long-term financial status of the CPP. For more information, please visit http://www.osfi-bsif.gc.ca/app/DocRepository/1/eng/oca/reports/CPP/cpp24_e.pdf. According to the aforementioned report, the reforms were deemed affordable within the current CPP contribution rate of 9.9% on earnings up to average wages.

Additionally, third party independent observers have reviewed and applauded the reforms as well. For example, an Edmonton Journal editorial noted the “welcome changes…will allow Canadians of a certain age to draw on their Canada Pension Plan benefits and still be allowed to work … the prospect that thousands will be able to discern a horizon when they can not only choose to be gainfully employed but also collect on a pension they paid into for years must come as some relief”. Finn Poschmann of the C.D. Howe Institute has remarked that the “adjustments mark an important sea change in government pension policy's approach to dealing with population aging and, in particular, making it easier for those people who want to work later in life to do so”.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion—National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

November 18th, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government's decision to purchase the F-35 stealth fighter jets without holding an open competition will cost Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars at a time of unprecedented deficits and will create fewer jobs in the Canadian aerospace industry than would be guaranteed through an open competition and therefore the House calls on the government to immediately cancel their plan to spend $16 billion through an untendered, uncompetitive process while there is still no penalty to do so and instead commit to holding an open competition to replace the CF-18s based on clear and publicly disclosed foreign and defence policy requirements.

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie.

Madam Speaker, I do not want you to wonder what this growth is on my face that is sort of passing as a moustache. You will notice that many members of the House are growing moustaches for the month of “Movember”, which is an awareness and fundraising campaign for the Canadian Prostate Cancer Society. You will be shocked when you see the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie get up after my intervention. He, too, is growing a moustache.

However, for Canadians who may be watching these proceedings, they can go on the website ca.movember.com and make a contribution to an individual or a team of men who are doing this for men's health. I did not want viewers to be scandalized and think that I shaved in the dark this morning.

The motion before the House today calls upon the government to immediately cancel the plan to spend at least $16 billion through an untendered, uncompetitive process while there is still no penalty for withdrawing from this announced or intended procurement, and to commit to holding an open, transparent Canadian competitive process to replace the CF-18 fighter jets.

I thought at the beginning I would try to deflate some of the myths that the government has been spreading around the Liberal Party position with respect to this important issue.

First, the government pretends over and over again that it was the Liberal government in 1997 that committed to purchasing the F-35 joint strike fighter aircraft. I will remind the House that the Liberals did not commit to a procurement of the aircraft at a time when they wisely decided to participate in the development stage of the joint strike fighter process. The then minister of defence, in 2002, by way of example, the Hon. Art Eggleton, said, “Ottawa is not prepared to commit to buying JSF aircraft”.

The idea that we commit to participating with a number of allies at a fairly low level in the development process somehow constitutes a binding commitment a decade later to actually acquiring the aircraft is very misleading. The $150 million that the Government of Canada committed to the development stage was a wise expenditure. This has allowed Canadian companies to receive probably close to $500 million of work as part of the development stage of this aircraft. We think that was a wise decision and one with which we would be happy to continue.

However, the idea that the decision was somehow made by a previous Liberal government was debunked in 2008 by Senator Michael Fortier, who was then minister of public works and government services, and Mr. Prentice, who was then the industry minister. They said in a news release in 2008, “This participation does not commit us to the purchase of the aircraft”.

They were again reasserting that the development stage was not in fact a procurement decision.

The current Conservative whip, the minister of state who in 2006 was minister of defence, said, “The participation in this next phase does not commit the department to purchasing the multi-role aircraft”.

The idea that the Liberal government committed to this procurement is simply not true.

Another myth that the Conservatives spread continually is the idea that the Liberal Party is not committed to replacing the CF-18 fighter jets at the end of their useful life cycle at the end of this decade. Again, we have been very clear. The air force needs a fighter jet capacity, and a Liberal government, while doing the responsible, cost-effective thing, not only for taxpayers but for the Canadian aerospace industry, will ensure that there is the appropriate fighter jet aircraft to replace the CF-18s when their life cycle finishes at the end of this decade.

Our leader has been very clear. Nobody in the Liberal Party will ground the air force, as the Prime Minister continually misrepresents in the House. There should be no confusion about our commitment to ensuring that the men and women of the air force have the aircraft they need, but also to do the missions that this Parliament and that the government asks of them, and not simply pursue a particular aircraft for some ideological reason.

Another myth is that there was a Canadian competition to choose this plane. The 2001 competition that the Conservatives constantly allude to was a competition arranged by the Pentagon and Great Britain. Canada was merely an observer in that process and, at the very most, was perhaps able to offer suggestions to representatives from various companies that were participating in the American competition. But to say that a list of suggestions provided by an observer is a Canadian competition is certainly no way to tell the truth in the House.

Alan William, former assistant deputy minister responsible for military procurement and an expert in this area, was very clear. He said that the idea that there was a Canadian competition was “an insult to our intelligence”.

The current process is full of contradictions and, we think, unnecessary risks for the Canadian taxpayer.

On May 27, the current Minister of National Defence said that replacing the CF-18s would be done through an open, competitive and transparent process.

He said that this year. Now the Prime Minister is saying that a competition took place in 2001. The Minister of National Defence said one thing in May, and the Prime Minister is now claiming that Canada participated in the Pentagon's competition in the United States. I think it is completely misleading to tell Canadians that that was a Canadian competition.

Furthermore, the government said it considered other potential aircraft, but once again, we know that is false.

Kory Mathews, vice president of Boeing's Super Hornet program, for example, told the Standing Committee on National Defence that the Government of Canada never received the full complement of Super Hornet performance data.

The Government of Canada never asked the U.S. navy for a list of that airplane's technical characteristics. For the government to claim that it compared planes and ultimately chose the F-35 is again false.

The same is true for the company that makes the Rafale. Yves Robins told the committee more or less the same thing, saying that the last time they met with representatives of the Canadian government and air force was on February 22, 2006. Thus, it is completely false to say that the government compared the F-35 to any other planes in the last few years.

One of the main reasons that we bring this motion today is our concern about the cost of the F-35s. Members will remember that the initial price tag was supposed to be $50 million per airplane. Now we are hearing the Minister of Defence and others say that the cost of the airplanes would be in the mid-$70 million range. Other countries have said that it could go as high as $100 million per airplane.

Without any hope of getting further precision or lowering the costs in the short-term or mid-term, we think that is an unwise expenditure at this time for the Government of Canada.

Robert Stevens, the chief executive officer for Lockheed Martin, said that his company will, “examine the need for more time, more people and more dollars”. This can hardly be a cost controlled process. That is why the Pentagon revoked from that company the right to control the costs.

In the Chinook helicopter purchase, which, as members will remember, was undertaken by the Conservative government, the Auditor General identified exactly the same scenario: cost overruns, unreported maintenance costs, underestimating the acquisition costs and possibly misleading ministers with respect to the true cost of the acquisition. Those are exactly the same factors that the Auditor General sees in this procurement, which is why she said that it was a risky process.

We do not think this is the right time to engage in this reckless spending. Canadians have other priorities. We will have an open Canadian competitive process to replace the CF-18s.

Opposition Motion—National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it will be a little difficult to make a short comment because there were so many inaccuracies but I will make a couple of comments.

First, not only did Canada look at all of those options but so did the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Israel. Ten highly-advanced countries looked at the same challenges and came to the same conclusion, which was that the F-35 was the airplane that met their needs, at the best cost and with the best industrial benefits package.

Are all of the experts who examined this at a very highly-classified level in all of those countries wrong or stupid? This in not just a coincidence. These are not third world nations.

Opposition Motion—National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should be careful before equating stupidity with third world nations. I think he gets carried away in somehow pretending that nations are more intelligent because of their economic circumstance. He should be careful in describing it that way.

Opposition Motion—National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Nice try.

Opposition Motion—National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

The parliamentary secretary thinks that we can somehow outsource our competition and Canadian sovereignty because other countries may or may not have gone through a competitive process or done a more thorough evaluation than the parliamentary secretary's government has done—

Opposition Motion—National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Nonsense.

Opposition Motion—National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

—and we should accept their conclusions. The men and women of the Canadian Air Force deserve better.

He forgot to say that many of those countries have also reduced or delayed their procurement decisions because they are concerned about the spiralling cost of this aircraft and some of the development problems. It is too bad that the parliamentary secretary and his government are blind to those realities and simply want to follow the leader with something as important as $20 billion borrowed from Canadian taxpayers to buy an aircraft.

Opposition Motion—National Defence
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

That's nonsense. That is not true.