House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

The Budget
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, there will be no reductions in seniors' pensions. In order to ensure the stability and sustainability of OAS, the age of eligibility will be gradually increased from 65 to 67 starting in 2023. It will be phased in over six years. That is a long way out. Right now, no seniors will have their pensions cut. Anyone who is near pension age will not see any change.

The hon. member across the way should stop fear-mongering among our seniors.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in establishing its priorities the government always makes a point of saying that it wants to do the best for men and women in uniform.

Given that today is Mental Health Day, given that this week the report of the Mental Health Commission of Canada is being released, and given that 20 serving soldiers committed suicide last year and cuts are being made in services for mental health by the Department of National Defence, how does the government justify that at this particular time?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that the government has an obligation to make sure that those brave men and women who served this country so bravely have the services that they need. Our government is proud that in every one of our budgets we have taken measures and adjusted our policies to ensure that our veterans have the services when and where they need them.

Specifically, with regard to mental health that the leader of the Liberal Party raises, I am also pleased to point out the fact that mental health services for Canadian soldiers are at a greater number than any of our NATO partners. We are delivering for our soldiers. They deserve it because they are the bravest and the best.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the minister cannot deny the reality of the situation. This year, the government will be cutting services to veterans returning to Canada with serious illnesses. Veterans have to wait four, five or six months for services.

How can the minister justify such cuts to services at the very time when the Mental Health Commission of Canada is insisting that improvements be made and that the federal government show leadership?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, there are simply no cuts being made to direct services to veterans. They need these services, and the services will be there for them because Canada asks the most of our veterans.

We will continue to have these types of services in each budget. We will continue to keep our promises, make investments and implement policies that protect the needs of our veterans.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, very empty words at a time when those people have served the country so well. Their time of deepest need for those services is when they come back to Canada.

I would like to ask the minister a final supplementary question with respect to the visit to Canada of the UN special rapporteur on the right to food. I wonder if the minister could explain the embarrassing situation. We are the first industrialized country that the UN rapporteur has decided to visit because of complaints that he has received with respect to food services in Canada, with respect to nutritious food and with respect to running water.

How does the minister feel about that particular situation?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, without question, it is a fact that Canada has made extraordinary strides under our government in providing those core services to aboriginal Canadians both on and off reserve in housing, health care, education, food and water.

We look forward to the visit to brief the UN and to make the point that our government has delivered and is delivering. We will continue to deliver in the future. We are making sure that we have results. We want to make sure that it is clear not only to all Canadians but to the entire world that Canada is leading the world when it comes to protecting core services for all of our citizens.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, instead of following its own rules and providing a detailed formal statement of operational requirements to justify its decision to go with the F-35, the government preferred to use a letter with only 160 words—which, incidentally, was kept from parliamentarians—to confirm its decision to spend $25 billion. It used a letter—with spelling mistakes no less—to justify its decision not to run an open, transparent competitive bidding process. It is completely ridiculous.

Can the entire Conservative selection process really be summed up in three paragraphs?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member opposite that the Government of Canada has taken action to ensure that all due diligence, oversight and transparency are firmly embedded in the process to replace Canada's aging fighter aircraft.

Moreover, we are following a seven step action plan to fulfill and exceed the Auditor General's recommendations. This includes freezing the funding and establishing a separate secretariat outside of national defence to lead this project forward.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, trying to justify the sole sourcing of the multi-billion dollar purchase of fighter jets on the basis of a 160 word letter is not acceptable.

However, there is more to this story. Today, a retired assistant deputy minister from National Defence released a book. It is about how the F-35 process was botched. It is a disheartening and shameful story of Canadians being misled by their government and of a government that would do anything to hide from accountability.

Why will Conservatives not listen to reason and put this contract out to tender?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove
Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the government has said repeatedly that we accept the conclusions of the Auditor General and we are working to implement his recommendation. What he has asked is that the Department of National Defence come forward with updated and accurate cost estimates for the F-35 and table those in Parliament.

We are actually going much further than that because we think that a purchase of this size needs the utmost transparency and due diligence. Therefore, we have created a secretariat outside of the Department of National Defence. We expect to review all of the process to date, and all of that will be independently validated.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is astonishing that the Department of National Defence justified its decision for the F-35 based on this 160 word letter. The letter was produced as justification on the day that it was requested. It mentions the term “fifth generation fighter” four times in one paragraph to try to convince Public Works that the F-35 is the only plane for Canada. However, the Auditor General notes that the term “fifth generation” is not even a description of operational requirements. We know it is really just a marketing term.

Why did the Department of National Defence do a sales pitch to Public Works instead of providing a complete and documented justification for its decision?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, to repeat, the Government of Canada has taken action to ensure that due diligence, oversight and transparency are fully embedded in the process to replace Canada's aging CF-18 aircraft.

We are following a seven step action plan. As was stated earlier, we are fulfilling the wishes and the recommendation of the Auditor General. From this point forward, this includes a number of steps that will mean freezing the funding. The secretariat, outside of National Defence, will be the one to oversee this process.

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, not only did the Department of National Defence use this 160 word letter to justify one of the largest military procurements in our country's history, it engaged Public Works far too late in the game and provided no supporting documents explaining why the F-35 was the only aircraft.

Will the Minister of National Defence finally take responsibility for failing to follow the rules and commit now to an open and fair competition, like he did in the House in May of 2010, six weeks before the F-35 decision was announced by his government?

National Defence
Oral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove
Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, our government has been clear that we expect more transparency and increased due diligence before any purchase is to be made. We have frozen the funding. The Auditor General has said that no funding has been misspent because there has been no funding spent on the acquisition of any plane. No purchase will be made until all of these steps are taken into consideration.

We have set up the secretariat. I am glad to note that the Auditor General says that the government is going in the right direction.