House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was code.

Topics

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the House what the Native Women's Association has to say:

NWAC is concerned that the difficulties surrounding ongoing funding are not only curbing the success of the movement but also causing unnecessary pain to the families directly affected by this issue. NWAC hopes that the federal government will recognize this unique situation and work with the organization to make the right decision. NWAC looks forward to further collaboration with the government on new, ongoing and additional projects that will enable us to continue the work we began almost six years ago.

Unfortunately the government has no long-term national strategy to address violence against aboriginal women. The government needs to stop playing games and urgently begin to address the crisis aboriginal women are facing in their communities. Proper housing, shelters, child care, education, health care are good places to start.

Aboriginal women need a government that is willing to invest in their priorities.

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is false. In fact, the Native Women's Association of Canada called this a very significant investment. We have introduced new law enforcement databases to investigate missing and murdered aboriginal women. We have also included new funding to boost victim services and support the creation of community and educational aboriginal safety plans.

On this side of the House, we plan to work with everyone to ensure that aboriginal women are recognized. The NDP has always voted against this. I do not need to take any lectures from that member.

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government likes to talk tough on crime and terrorism and it never loses an opportunity to advertise its trademark bravado. But I suspect, like in all things with the government, that when it comes to preventing terrorism, it spends relatively more time on photo ops and self-promotion than on action to guard against potential threats to our communities.

I was at a water conference in Montreal last fall where I heard a presentation by a British security expert who is involved in protecting Europe's drinking water systems from attack. Through a fascinating presentation he showed conference participants the water systems he and his professional colleagues have protected against tampering by terrorists or other criminals. When I asked him if Canada's municipal water systems were similarly protected almost 10 years after 9/11, he answered that Canada still has not taken the necessary steps to shield itself properly from those who might wish to wreak havoc by sabotaging drinking water sources.

I remind the House that the government has been in power going on six years now. Because I believe this is an important issue by which we can measure the government's accountability and foresight in protecting Canadians' safety, I asked about this security lapse in question period on December 3 last.

The least I can say is that I received a completely unsatisfactory answer from the House leader who took the question. In fact, I did not receive an answer at all, which is why I am rising in tonight's late show to afford the government a second chance to take this matter seriously and inform Canadians honestly about the security of their drinking water systems and what the government is or is not doing to protect these systems.

6:40 p.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the member for Lac-Saint-Louis listens to what I have to tell him here tonight.

I can assure the hon. member that this government is committed to protecting Canada's critical infrastructure, including our drinking water systems.

In keeping with this commitment, on May 28, 2010, together with the Ontario and Alberta governments, the Minister of Public Safety announced a national strategy and action plan for critical infrastructure. This strategy helps us to manage risks and respond swiftly when terrorist attacks and other disruptions occur.

I would like to point out that we have already achieved meaningful progress in this area. For example, in November 2010 Public Safety Canada published its “Risk Management Guide for Critical Infrastructure Sectors”. This guide is based on an international standard and provides practical guidance to our critical infrastructure sectors on conducting risk management activities.

I would also like to assure the hon. member that Public Safety Canada and Environment Canada are actively working with our partners in the water sector, including the Canadian Water and Wastewater Association, to protect our drinking water systems from terrorist attacks.

For example, on November 30, 2010 our water sector partners hosted a national water utilities security workshop. During this workshop representatives from industry and all levels of government discussed how we could build on our existing efforts to secure our drinking water systems. This workshop included a briefing from the RCMP on intentional threats to water utilities.

I would like to take a moment to talk briefly about the role of the public safety portfolio and our commitment to delivering a more coordinated and strategic approach to strengthening the resilience of Canada's critical infrastructure.

Public Safety Canada is responsible for exercising national leadership to protect critical infrastructure. The department undertakes its leadership activities as part of a team with our portfolio partners, which includes the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Public safety portfolio officials work together to develop and share critical infrastructure information, such as security briefings and intelligence products relating to our vital assets and systems.

The RCMP, for example, has a specific section dedicated to collecting and disseminating information and intelligence on threats to Canada's critical infrastructure.

This section of the RCMP has developed the suspicious incident reporting system, which is an online mechanism to receive information on suspicious incidents from critical infrastructure sectors.

This information contributes to the RCMP's national security criminal investigations and the development of analytical products. These products are shared with the private sector for its risk management activities.

The public safety portfolio approach reflects a team effort that forms the core of the Government of Canada's actions to strengthen the resilience of Canada's critical infrastructure.

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that interesting answer.

Back in November I was at the conference here in Ottawa, that he mentioned, where there were discussions about matters of drinking water system security. At that conference I did speak to an RCMP official who delivered a presentation. I asked him about the situation. He mentioned that the suspicious incident reporting system which the hon. member mentioned had not received funding to apply that system to the drinking water sector.

I am interested in knowing if this system was applied, as the member seems to be suggesting, after I asked the question in the House.

We talk about municipal water utilities being under provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government does have the power under the Canada Water Act to enter into agreements with provinces where there is a significant national issue in water management.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

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.

March 7th, 2011 / 6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

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.

6:45 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

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--

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

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.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

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.

6:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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.)