House of Commons Hansard #108 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

The Environment
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are doing away with environmental assessment processes by making cuts to various departments and agencies. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is no longer involved in the protection of the marine environment, and communities that depend on the fishery must rely on the advice of ministers—this government's ministers—rather than scientists. And that does not even include the elimination of the oil-spill response centre.

Why does the minister want to do away with the scientific dimension of environmental protection?

The Environment
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Environment Canada's and our government's key objectives have not changed at all. We remain focused on providing Canadians with an environment that is clean, safe and sustainable.

However, like other departments and agencies, Environment Canada is doing its part to assist in deficit reduction. We will do this by streamlining our operations and by eliminating or reducing low-performing programs that do not contribute directly to the department's mandate.

The Environment
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see the Minister of Natural Resources has passed along his speaking notes to the Minister of the Environment.

This week the world is gathering in Montreal for the International Polar Year 2012 Conference. In addition to top scientists from around the world, this year also features government babysitters assigned to follow Environment Canada scientists and record their conversations. Is this 1984 or 2012?

Why is the minister putting a gag order on Canadian scientists?

The Environment
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Environment Canada will be sending between 30 and 40 scientists to the conference in Montreal. They will be involved in the presentation of papers and question and answer periods, which the media will attend.

There is nothing new in the email that was sent to attendees. It is established practice to coordinate media availability. In fact, many of our younger scientists seek advice from our departmental communications staff. Where we run into problems is when journalists try to lead scientists away from science and into policy matters. When it comes to policy, ministers address those issues.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, on page 27 of his recent report, the Auditor General graphically demonstrates how the government was keeping two sets of books on the F-35s, one for its own internal use and the other, with false totals, for use publicly. The government did not tell the truth about the costs or the lack of competition or the fact that it never had the contract it claimed to have.

Now that opposition parties have forced a parliamentary committee to hear this matter, will the government guarantee there will be no restrictions on witnesses to be called and no secret meetings behind closed doors?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it will not come as a surprise to the member for Wascana that I do not fully accept the premise of his question.

Committees are the masters of their own domain. The member knows that.

With respect to the F-35, let me be very clear. Canada has not signed a contract. We have not spent any money acquiring the F-35. We will not proceed with the purchase until the seven steps that we outlined are completed and developmental work is sufficiently advanced.

The government has clearly communicated the budget that we have to replace Canada's aging CF-18s. We will stay within that budget.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the government mocked the Parliamentary Budget Officer, but now he has been vindicated by the Auditor General.

While Conservatives were calling the PBO's figures flawed, they knew full well their own totals were very close to his.

For that $9 billion allegedly frozen for airplane acquisition, what will Canada actually get? How many planes? Will they have engines? Will they have retarder parachutes and night vision? Can they land in the Arctic? Is pilot training covered? Are replacement planes, parts and new technology included? What exactly will Canada get?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I hope we will get a much better acquisition than when the Liberal Party bought used submarines. That was a disaster for the Canadian people.

What we will not do is go to a garage sale to buy equipment for the men and women in uniform. What we will do is follow the seven steps this government has laid out and ensure that those seven steps are followed so that we can provide our men and women in uniform with the best equipment to do the job the Canadian people and the Government of Canada ask of them.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not just the fighter jets. This government has made a mess of all military procurement since 2006. Whether we are talking about the F-35s or, more recently, armoured vehicles, whether we are talking about the Chinook helicopters—the price of which continues to skyrocket—search and rescue aircraft or military trucks, this government has completely botched all military procurement.

What exactly are the Minister of National Defence and his procurement officer doing?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a little rich for the Liberal Party to talk about the acquisition of equipment for the men and women in uniform. When the Liberals were in power we saw a decade of darkness. It is not a Conservative Party member who said that. That was said by General Rick Hillier, whom the Liberal Party appointed as Chief of the Defence Staff.

We are working diligently to ensure that we provide the men and women of the Canadian Forces with the equipment they need to get the job done. What we will not do is turn the clock back and go back to the dark days when the Liberals decimated our men and women in uniform and our armed forces. We will not do that.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is now clear that the defence minister was fully aware two years ago of the true cost of the F-35s but chose to keep Canadians in the dark. He spent the last two weeks making up bogus excuses for his mishandling of the fighter jet procurement, further confirming that the government has lost all credibility on the file.

Will the minister stop hiding the truth from Canadians and finally take responsibility for this fiasco?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, far from being a fiasco, this procurement is moving ahead on the basis of a plan that was identified in the House repeatedly. Canada has not signed any contract. It has not spent any money on acquiring a replacement aircraft for the CF-18s. We will not proceed with such a purchase until the seven steps outlined by us over the course of recent weeks, as the member opposite knows full well, are completed and developmental work has sufficiently advanced. We have communicated a budget for replacing the aging CF-18s and we will stick to it. Our numbers cover the acquisition costs for replacement as well as the operating costs for this aircraft.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, that is funny. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence both said they had a contract.

Here is what the defence minister said on the cost of the F-35s in 2011, and I quote. “Many figures have been circulated on the cost.... I have no idea where [they're] coming from. They’re simply made up — or they’re guessing.”

Was the Auditor General guessing in his report when he showed it was the defence minister repeatedly misleading costs for months on end? Was the Parliamentary Budget Officer simply making things up when he accurately estimated the costs?

When will the government stop making excuses for deceiving Canadians?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we do not apologize for the fact that Canada is following its laws and policies on procurement in securing a replacement for the aging CF-18s. There will be an independent review of the costs. The funding envelope is frozen. A new secretariat is being established. We are going to continue to identify opportunities to participate in an important developmental program. We are going to provide annual updates to Parliament and continue to evaluate options, and the Treasury Board Secretariat will review the sustainment costs of the F-35 to ensure full compliance with the procurement policies of this government. We make no apologies for any of that.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, underestimating the total cost of the F-35s by $10 billion is not an accounting error; it is ministerial incompetence.

The Conservatives have hidden information and mismanaged the file, and now they are refusing to take responsibility for this fiasco.

Even worse, history is repeating itself, but this time it has to do with close combat vehicles. Changes might be made to the procurement process and the initial cost of $2 billion could increase.

When will the Conservatives start showing some transparency when it comes to military procurement?