House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

Would the minister please repeat his answer? There appears to have been no translation.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Madam Chair, I answered that no choice has been made about this matter.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Madam Chair, if we really do need stealth aircraft, what imminent threats is Canada facing that point to the need for a stealth aircraft?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Vaughan, ON

Madam Chair, I believe that we are all people of the world. We should, therefore, be wise and aware of the threats that are inherent out there, but moreover, we have an obligation to ensure Canadian sovereignty. We have obligations with NATO and Norad and other circumstances that require us to have a fully capable, competent and effective military service, which includes our Royal Canadian Air Force.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Madam Chair, if it is a question of defending Canadian sovereignty, then why are the Americans buying Super Hornets instead of F-35s?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Vaughan, ON

Madam Chair, these are rhetorical questions. We are not here to respond for the rationale employed by the Americans or any other nation.

We are endeavouring to act responsibly with respect to Canadians issues and with respect to Canadian sovereignty, and of course in response to the Auditor General's recommendation in following through with the seven-step action plan to fulfill his mandated requirements.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:05 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Denise Savoie

I will now ask the hon. parliamentary secretary to speak.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

May 9th, 2012 / 9:05 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Chair, as all members know, one of the roles that these estimates allow the Canadian Forces to play is to contribute to international peace and security and project Canadian leadership abroad. As the Prime Minister said, words alone will not suffice to make this possible.

As a government, with these two ministers at the forefront, we have been engaged in rebuilding Canada's armed forces to be a modern, state-of-the-art fighting force to protect Canada's role of influence in the world and to allow us to do our part when the international community decides to act and military capacity is required. Today's investments are tomorrow's capabilities.

On a day like today, May 9, the anniversary of victory in Europe, we would do well to reflect that the last three years have brought us to an operational tempo that had last been achieved by this country only in the 1950s. In addition to the G20, the Olympics and domestic missions, about which we will hear more in tonight's proceedings, we had missions in Haiti and Libya and for over a decade we had the mission in Afghanistan, which both ministers have rightly emphasized as central to the renewal of the capacity of our Canadian Forces.

A terrible earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010, and 2,000 members of the Canadian Forces were deployed as an emergency task force to operate airfields, to provide help and assistance to those in need and to provide a backbone for a much larger international assistance mission.

All of these capabilities would not have been there without the investments we are talking about today, without the investments for the long term that are represented by today's estimates, particularly the procurement elements.

Let us look back over a mission with which I am most familiar among all the missions the Canadian Forces has undertaken, and that is the mission in Afghanistan. Let us look back at the leadership role Canada has played for over a decade at every stage of that mission.

Canada protected the Kandahar airfield as early as 2002, in the very first stages of the campaign. Operation Anaconda cleared the last serious, organized forces loyal to the Taliban out of the country. Canada promoted a NATO command of ISAF in the summer of 2003 when it was not yet a mission of the North Atlantic alliance. Our Canadian Forces took over command of that mission in 2004. Canada championed the expansion of ISAF to all parts of the country to ensure that the UN mandate, that multinational mission now including over 40 countries, ultimately covered all of Afghanistan. Our Canadian Forces took on disarmament and heavy weapons confinement. We also took over a PRT in Kandahar in 2005. Our forces faced, almost alone at first, the first wave of insurgency in 2006, and then became a crucible for successful counter-insurgency in southern Afghanistan in Zhari and Panjwai and Dand Districts. Our Canadian Forces prepared the ground for a U.S-led surge, transferring to the training mission just last year. The Canadian Forces contributed in all of these ways to a huge security gain in southern Afghanistan and across that country.

These missions were not without cost and not without sacrifice. One hundred and fifty-eight Canadian lives were lost. More than 2,000 lives were lost from allied nations, as well as tens of thousands of Afghan lives, and lives continue to be lost.

However, these sacrifices resulted in an enormous gain for that country. Afghanistan is a changed country, with a GDP per capita income ratio four times what it was when our troops first arrived. Clinics and schools blanket the country. There are new roads and infrastructure. Agriculture is on the rebound. Most important in terms of tonight's discussion is that the Afghan national security force is close to 200,000 on the army side and close to 150,000 on the national police side.

This has given the Afghan people hope. It has given Canada the rationale to focus on training. It has given all of us the possibility to talk about the transition to an Afghan lead in all parts of the country, which is under way.

There are tough days ahead and important decisions to make, but it is important on a night like tonight, when we are talking about investing in Canadian capabilities, that we not forget the achievements.

Those achievements also came in Libya last year. Many months of 2011 were devoted to this mission, to keeping Misrata open, courtesy of the Royal Canadian Navy, and to refuelling allied aircraft, courtesy of our air force, to analyzing Gadhafi's brutal attacks, identifying targets, flying over 10% of the attack missions over Libya in the case of Canada's current fighter fleet, and of course, one point we are all enormously proud of, through Lieutenant-General Charlie Bouchard, exercising leadership with determination, balance and wisdom.

As our Minister of National Defence has said, Canadians see the value of dealing with potential international security problems upstream. That is one of the reasons we engaged not only when the going got very tough in Libya and Afghanistan, but also in operations around the world that aim to prevent conflict.

All hon. members may not know that there are 1,300 Canadian Forces members deployed around the world, not just in Afghanistan, but in 17 international missions.

Right now, 57 Canadian Forces personnel are stationed in the Middle East, a critical region where the Canadian Forces have been present since the Suez crisis in 1956.

These troops are participating in four operations: in the Sinai Peninsula with the multinational force and observers, created by the 1979 Camp David and Washington peace treaties; on the Golan Heights; in various other Middle East locations with the United Nations organization responsible for overseeing the truce; and in Jerusalem and on the West Bank with the Office of the United States Security Coordinator. What are we doing with the United States in those places? The Canadian Forces are overseeing and training Palestinian Authority security forces and helping coordinate security issues between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The future of the Middle East depends on creating a climate of peace and stability. Canada is helping to make that happen.

In Africa, the Canadian Forces are making an important contribution to various UN missions. For example, 14 CF personnel have been assigned to Operation Soprano, Canada's contribution to the United Nations mission in South Sudan. Nine members of the Canadian Forces are participating in Operation Crocodile, Canada's contribution to peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Maritime operations are still under way. Only last year, the members of the Canadian Forces on board HMCS Charlottetown participated in the NATO mission off the coast of Libya. Now, they are part of NATO's Operation Active Endeavour to prevent the movement of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction in the Mediterranean Sea.

The fact that HMCS Charlottetown is now in the Arabian Sea region is proof of Canada's perseverance and its ongoing determination to participate in maritime operations abroad. Five Canadians are still in Haiti, two years after the earthquake.

However, we have to adapt in today's complex security environment. We have to respond to new and evolving challenges, the growing importance of the Asia-Pacific region in the global economy, threats in emerging domains like space and cyber, the human rights of populations under threat from conflict, failed institutions, or repressive regimes.

We cannot know all of the potential threats that Canada may face in the future, so we must continue to expect the unexpected. That is exactly what the Canada first defence strategy has tried to do. That is exactly what these estimates seek to support, sound and balanced investments across the four key pillars of military capability: equipment, personnel, infrastructure and readiness.

Our forces deserve nothing less. Through relief and reconstruction in Haiti, through success in Libya, through progress in Afghanistan, through global partnerships in support of international peace and security, they are achieving their objectives, our objectives, magnificently.

As a former prime minister, one who I know is very dear to the memory of our current Minister of National Defence, Sir Robert Borden, once said, “We must not forget that days may come when our patience, our endurance and our fortitude will be tried to the utmost.” That level of commitment has an honourable place in our history. That level of commitment has an honourable place in today's debate on these estimates, the Canadian Forces and how we as Canadians support them.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Madam Chair, in his opening remarks, the minister mentioned the legacy of care initiative started by this government. This government will spend some $52.5 million over five years to establish a legacy of care initiative to improve the quality of life for seriously injured personnel and their families.

Is the parliamentary secretary able to tell this committee of the whole how important this initiative is to the Department of National Defence?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Chair, it is the essential question for all of us, because without the care for Canadian Forces members and their families, those leaving for missions, those training for missions, those returning from missions, we could not accomplish any of the objectives that we have been talking about today.

There is no higher priority for this government than serving our veterans. The men and women who serve in uniform are our best and bravest. They face exceptional challenges, both in today's missions and in coping with the legacy of past missions.

As such, the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada are working in lockstep, hand in glove, to make care available to injured soldiers and their families and to address their needs in a timely, meaningful way. That is why the Minister of National Defence announced in September 2010, the government's intention to spend $52.5 million over five years to establish a legacy of care to improve the quality of life for our seriously injured personnel and their families.

This legacy of care for those severely injured as a result of wounds received in high risk operations includes the following measures: barrier-free transitional accommodations; support services for transitional accommodations; the Canadian Forces attendant care benefit; the Canadian Forces spousal education upgrade benefit; and a caregiver benefit.

Since first being elected, this government has invested more in veterans initiatives than any government has since the end of the Second World War.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Chair, my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, rightly pointed out the importance of the role that Canada plays in protecting North America.

Communications Security Establishment Canada, CSEC, plays a key role in protecting our sovereignty. The main estimates show that this organization has become a stand-alone agency.

Can the parliamentary secretary describe CSEC's activities and their purpose and tell us what oversight process is in place to ensure that the organization's activities are legal?

Will the financial accountability and oversight of this organization still be as rigorous now that it is a stand-alone agency?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Chair, the question posed by my hon. colleague from Etobicoke—Lakeshore is very important because it relates to values that Canadians really care about: the security and integrity of our personal information. That is why it gives me great pleasure to reply.

Communications Security Establishment Canada is Canada's national cryptologic agency. It provides the Government of Canada with two key services: foreign signals intelligence in support of defence and foreign policy, and the protection of electronic information and communication.

It is important to note that CSEC does not target Canadians' communications. I probably should repeat this. CSEC does not target Canadians' communications, no matter where they live. In addition, legislative measures in effect protect Canadians' privacy. CSEC activities focus on foreign intelligence.

Oversight is provided by an independent commissioner, who is a supernumerary justice or a retired justice of a superior court. The current commissioner, Robert Décary, is a former justice of the Federal Court and the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada. He takes his responsibilities seriously, and he carries out his duties with impeccable diligence and intelligence.

To carry out this review mandate, the commissioner and his staff are guaranteed access to all CSEC personnel, information and documentation.

The commissioner's work involves the thorough review of selected CSEC activities using a variety of methods, such as monitoring control mechanisms, scrutinizing policies and procedures and how they are applied, reviewing training programs, reviewing the use of information, and reviewing the technology used to minimize the collection of information not relevant to CSEC's mandate and therefore safeguard the privacy of Canadians.

The commissioner's reports indicate that CSEC's activities over the past 16 years have been lawful. The commissioner has also confirmed that CSEC has taken steps to protect Canadians' privacy, as required by law.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Chair, much reference has been made this evening to chapter 2 of the Auditor General's spring report with respect to replacing Canada's fighter jets.

I have heard the government say that it agrees with the recommendations and conclusions of that report. Would the government confirm that for us tonight, please?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Vaughan, ON

Madam Chair, yes, indeed, we have adopted the recommendation of the Auditor General. As a result, a secretariat has been put in place. There is a seven-point plan going forward. We are ascribing to ensure that we provide the answers that the Auditor General has required

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

9:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Chair, in that report, did not the Auditor General conclude that the government had made a decision in 2006 effectively to purchase the F-35 fighter jet by virtue of its signature on the 2006 memorandum of understanding?