House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Madam Speaker, clearly my colleague was not part of the studies we did on Bill C-391. Maybe he was not at all of the studies, nor did he tour around the country, as I did, and speak to front-line officers and actually travel with them and look at the systems.

I can say that front-line officers are not using the long gun registry. In fact, there was a study done in Edmonton. More than 2,000 front-line officers responded and said they are not depending on the long gun registry.

It is time for us all to move forward. What we need to do is look at ways in which we can truly combat gun crime. I am very pleased that one of the things that is included in the bill is destroying all of the data. We promised to end the long gun registry and that means destroying the data.

As we go forward seeing the bill reach royal assent and seeing firearms owners finally not being criminalized by this Liberal boondoggle, which by the way the CBC said cost $2 billion, we should support legislation that truly combats gun crime, truly supports people who are in need of help, whether from domestic violence or other things, rather than targeting law-abiding Canadians.

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I am following up on questions today with respect to the F-35 because the the government has not at all been responsive to the questions we have asked or their responses did not seem credible or had the ring of truth. In fact, all of us on this side of the House have struggled to reconcile the facts, figures and news emanating from independent and objective sources with the government's facts and figures on the F-35.

The Auditor General's report has provided us with an explanation at last and I will quote at some length from it. In chapter 2 of his spring report, he states:

National Defence did not provide complete information in a timely manner.

Nor did National Defence provide complete cost information to parliamentarians.

National Defence likely underestimated the full life-cycle costs of the F-35. The budgets for the F-35 acquisition...and sustainment...were initially established in 2008 without the aid of complete cost and other information.

It is absolutely clear that this $30 billion and counting file has been mismanaged at every turn by those responsible for the procurement process. Of equal if not greater concern is the government's response to the Auditor General's report. Not one minister has taken responsibility for this mess in spite of the fact that our system of government has as one of its foundations the principle of ministerial accountability.

Further, the government has left future management of this process in the hands of the very people who have so grossly mismanaged the file to this point. The sum total of the self-described comprehensive response to the Auditor General's report is the creation of a secretariat within Public Works and Government Services Canada to coordinate the future procurement of the F-35. There are many problems here but I will list just three.

First, how are Canadians to believe that Public Works and Government Services Canada will exercise better stewardship of this process going forward when it was in no small measure that department's dereliction of duty that contributed to the current situation? The Auditor General clearly stated that by endorsing the sole source procurement strategy, Public Works and Government Services Canada did not demonstrate due diligence in its role.

Second, Public Works and Government Services Canada disagrees with the Auditor General's findings that is failed in its responsibility. If that department cannot acknowledge the errors that it made in light of the stark evidence and categorical findings of the Auditor General, how can it be expected to take appropriate action going forward?

Finally, and perhaps most fundamentally, by naming this new bureaucracy the F-35 secretariat, the government continues, not just a presumption in favour of the F-35 but an explicit commitment to purchase this plane. In so doing, it continues along with the process for the F-35 but the procurement policies can never comply with the Government of Canada's legislation, policies and departmental guidelines for procurement.

Not only has no one taken responsibility for this fiasco as laid out by the Auditor General, but it seems clear that the Conservatives have learned nothing, understood nothing and are prepared to implement nothing that would correct the gross mismanagement of this file that we see to date.

April 4th, 2012 / 7:20 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I am disappointed to hear the hon. member opposite for Beaches—East York, more or less foreclosing on the possibility of the Government of Canada, under its laws, achieving procurement of a next generation fighter to replace the CF-18s that would meet with his expectations. This government and the Government of Canada over generations have shown their ability to do this. The government is showing the ability again with regard to the replacement aircraft for the CF-18s.

There are two great challenges that we have had before us for over a decade. One is to replace the CF-18s to make sure that we have the ability to perform the missions that I think the member and his party agree are important to defend Canada, to defend the aerospace of North America and to operate with our allies abroad, when necessary, on difficult missions such as those in Kosovo and Libya that have seen the CF-18 in action. The second is to develop a joint strike fighter capability, a decision taken by another government in another decade, in 1997, to develop technology that would be cutting edge and meet the demands of the 21st century.

He is absolutely right that as those two programs have gone forward, the Auditor General has seen fit to comment and find some shortcomings in our work as a government. There were weaknesses in the decision-making process. There was a failure to fully carry out the Department of Public Works' role in the procurement process. I am paraphrasing from the report. The Department of National Defence did not provide full information and perhaps underestimated the full life cycle of costs. That is from the report. However, there is also praise. The Department of National Defence took the appropriate steps in managing Canada's participation in the joint strike fighter program to develop the F-35. That is something the opposition generally does not mention because it is favourable, positive and reflects the good work of this government.

There was a recommendation that the Department of National Defence should refine its estimates for complete costs and that we should regularly provide actual complete costs incurred through the full life cycle of the F-35. We have agreed with that recommendation and we are acting. We have frozen funds for the acquisition of a new aircraft pending the establishment of a new process. A secretariat, led by four deputy ministers, will bring forward more complete information from the Department of National Defence, and if necessary elsewhere, to the House to ensure that we know before any procurement takes place how much this aircraft will cost. An independent review is to be undertaken by the Treasury Board using sources of expertise outside government to validate the costs put forward by the secretariat. There is responsibility for Treasury Board to ensure full compliance with the laws of Canada with regard to procurement.

The aircraft has not been acquired and no final decision has yet been taken on acquiring this aircraft. The numbers and prices, all of that, will be in the future. We have heard many hon. members in the opposition talking as if it were in the past, as if money had been misspent. That is clearly not the case, nor has the Auditor General said so. The industrial benefits to Canada and to our aerospace industry across this country have been significant, even before we take a final decision about aircraft, because of our participation in the joint strike fighter development program. They belong to communities like Winnipeg and Vancouver, six provinces across the country, dozens of companies. They include Montreal, one of the centres of our aerospace industry.

I would encourage the hon. member opposite to make his leader, the member for Outremont, aware of the existence of jobs related to the F-35 in the city he represents, probably involving workers who live in his riding. Earlier today in public he seemed to deny that these jobs existed or that these benefits existed. They clearly do and they will continue to do so as we move forward with this procurement.

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I confess that it is very satisfying to see the history laid out and the conclusions reached by the Auditor General over his signature, but in fact there was very little that was surprising or new to those of us who have been following this issue closely.

One of the surprising things, and it goes to what the parliamentary secretary was talking about, the industrial benefits issue, was the finding that the government, in terms of its projections of industrial benefits arising out of this program, had been relying entirely on the prime contractors for the F-35, those contractors who had work provided to them under the program that had existed to date.

Those projections were regurgitated, reiterated by the government wholly in an unqualified and unchecked way. The Auditor General found that those projections were too often overly optimistic. So when the government members talk about how well managed that program was, they omit these very critical details about mismanagement of that part of the program. It seems, frankly, that the government's response to the Auditor General's report is simply another overly optimistic and frankly misleading approach to the F-35.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, we are optimistic. We are confident that the Government of Canada, under the laws of Canada, has the capacity to undertake a responsible procurement for this very large and complicated, complex project that will achieve value for taxpayers' money, defend Canada and help us work with our allies around the world when necessary to meet needs internationally.

We have put in place a new structure as a result of the Auditor General's findings. We are moving to ensure that there is independent validation of the cost, not just the cost of acquisition, but also the cost of the full life cycle of the aircraft, and that these estimates are broadly based and sound.

No purchase of an aircraft will take place, as has been said in this House previously this week, unless and until verified cost estimates are tabled before this House under the supervision of the new secretariat established this week.

7:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:30 p.m.)