House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rail.

Topics

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, when scandal breaks, the first question needing an answer is: Who knew and when did they know it?

On the F-35s, the Minister of National Defence has provided an answer. He said that the whole cabinet knew about the full costs of the F-35 and knew about the two sets of books, one for internal use and another for the public.

The Prime Minister is head of cabinet. Why did the Prime Minister allow his ministers to present figures to Parliament that they knew were wrong by over $10 billion?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again the leader of the NDP is simply mixing apples and oranges.

The figures he is quoting are figures, of course, that have to do with the acquisition and sustainment; the operating costs are a different figure.

Of course there are not two sets of books. The Auditor General, no one else has said so. The minister has not said so, and no such thing is true.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, that is the exact term the Parliamentary Budget Officer used.

The Minister of National Defence has admitted that cabinet was fully aware of the cost of the F-35. He said that cabinet approved his approach, which both the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General himself have criticized.

Rather than stubbornly defending a minister who has lost control and a process that is out of control, why does the Prime Minister not act like a good public administrator for once and reset the entire process for replacing the CF-18s and, this time, do it according to the rules?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the minister said that cabinet had set the budget for the procurement of these aircraft and that is true. Clearly, the government is going to respect that budget to ensure better oversight and a more transparent process.

We have responded to the recommendations made by the Auditor General, and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services has already announced the steps that will be taken in this regard.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont
Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, there has to come a time when common sense prevails over stubbornness on the F-35. The plane is years late, billions over budget and does not meet Canada's requirements. The Auditor General said there was no due diligence. Years have already been wasted on a rigged process.

Responsible civil servants are now reportedly recommending a reset of the entire process, something the NDP has been suggesting all along. The Conservatives have accepted to change the name of the F-35 secretariat, and it is a start.

Will the Prime Minister also confirm that the F-35 is not the only option to replace the CF-18?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again the leader of the NDP asserts a whole bunch of statements in his preamble and attributes those to the Auditor General, which are things the Auditor General never said.

What the government has said is that it is responding specifically to the recommendation of the Auditor General. The government is going beyond those recommendations in ensuring we re-examine all aspects of this to ensure that before we spend any budget, because we have not yet spent any budget on acquisition, we make sure we have all the answers that cabinet requires.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, of course, the Auditor General also said that they made a decision in 2008 on the F-35 without any supporting documentation.

Having one set of books for internal use and another for Parliament is simply not acceptable. I know the Minister of National Defence is having a tough time under fire for his role in the F-35 fiasco. He testified yesterday it was cabinet that approved the misleading cost estimates.

My question for the Minister of National Defence is as follows. Does he stand by his comments that all of his cabinet colleagues were aware of the misleading statements about the costs of the F-35?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as is the case with the leader of the opposition, the preamble is all wrong. All of those premises are wrong.

What I was responding to were questions about process, which is exactly what I answered. The process is such that it flows through cabinet.

We have taken decisive action. We have put in place a comprehensive plan to review future procurement. As the Prime Minister has stated, there has been no money spent on acquisition. We will continue, under the guidance of Public Works, to look at this project for the replacement of the aging CF-18s.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the minister has a poor track record when it comes to giving clear answers.

He told the House that no money was spent on the F-35, yet $335 million has been spent. Somehow or other, there is a freeze on this non-existent spending.

He told Parliament the F-35s would cost $75 million per plane. His own officials testified at committee today that these planes will actually cost a lot more.

DND says they are full speed ahead on F-35 procurement, but Public Works is renaming the secretariat. What is really going on here?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, once again, as is so often the case with this member, it is a fact-free question.

What I have just said is that we will continue to move forward, with the guidance of Public Works, in a comprehensive review of this important procurement. There is a process now in place that will inject greater transparency, greater communications with Parliament and the public, and independent oversight, and this secretariat will provide the answers that are needed by Canada and by the country to ensure we have the right aircraft at the right price for our country.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, another amazing contradiction was revealed today in the public accounts committee when the deputy minister of National Defence said that the Auditor General “got it wrong” when the Auditor General discussed budgetary matters in front a committee last week.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister this. We are now in an extraordinary situation. The government says it accepts the report of the Auditor General and it accepts the conclusions of the Auditor General, as well as the recommendations. Mr. Fonberg, the deputy minister of National Defence, says he rejects the findings of the Auditor General.

Who speaks for the Government of Canada with respect to the findings of the Auditor General?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again that is a complete miscategorization of the deputy minister's remarks.

The government has been very clear that it accepts the report. In fact, as the Minister of Public Works has made clear, the government has proceeded with an oversight committee and a multi-step process to ensure that, before we spend any money on acquisition, we have all the questions answered that need to be answered.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is not a trivial matter, because it has to do with the overall position of the Government of Canada with respect to what the Auditor General said.

The Auditor General said that not all costs had been fully divulged. He said that to compare the training costs on the F-35 with the training costs and the maintenance costs on the CF-18 was completely unrealistic. He said there was no accounting for the question of attrition and the number of jets that would be lost over the life cycle. He said that life-cycle accounting had to be done.

We now have the deputy minister of National Defence saying to the people of Canada that the Auditor General is wrong. Who speaks for Canada? That is the question we are asking with respect to this matter.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again that is simply not an accurate representation of what the deputy minister of National Defence said.

The government has accepted the recommendations of the Auditor General, in particular his core recommendation that the government take a re-examination of all of the costing and reassess that. We are going to do that and other things to ensure we have full transparency and facts before proceeding.

Democratic Reform
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only would the Conservatives' Senate reform result in the same parliamentary impasses we see in the United States, and not only would such a reform be unfair to Alberta and British Columbia, which would be under-represented in an elected Senate, but also, Bill C-7 is unconstitutional because changing the nature of the Senate requires the agreement of the provinces, a right that Quebec would justifiably exercise in court.

Why will the government not forget about this ill-conceived reform, thereby avoiding costly and futile constitutional quarrels?