Thank you, Chair.
Thank you very much to the PBO and his officers for being here this week on such short notice. It's truly appreciated.
As we go into this week and next week, which is our break week, it's a time, as we consider the significance of Remembrance Day, to think about the capacity of our armed forces and our military. What concerns me the most regarding this study—recognizing that I am new to the committee—is what these delays mean for our capacity as a nation to protect ourselves from a domestic standpoint, but also what we can offer the world, as we've seen most recently with the war in Ukraine. When I think about this study, this is my concern.
As the shadow minister for the Treasury Board, I'm always concerned about funds being used with the greatest of care and giving the most scrutiny for the Canadian taxpayer. It gets to the point where, if you need a roll of toilet paper, you need a roll of toilet paper, and you're willing to pay $10 even though you would rather pay $5.
I come here today with concern with the delays in procurement in regard to our capacity as a nation for both protecting ourselves in a domestic capacity as well as our ability to contribute to the world stage.
We've heard consistently from our Prime Minister that Canada is “back”. I think we've seen repeatedly that this is not the case. It's certainly not the case with the capacity we have to protect ourselves as well as helping the world.
Also, we see a time where enlistment for the armed forces is suffering significantly. I have here an article from the Canadian Press. It indicates:
Recruitment cratered during the first year of COVID-19 as the military shuttered recruiting and training centres. The result: only 2,000 people were enrolled in 2020-21—less than half of what was needed.
...the military is getting about half the number of applicants it needs per month to meet the goal of adding 5,900 members this year.
The shortfall is expected to exacerbate the current personnel shortage, with about one in 10 of the military's 100,000 positions unfilled.
I also believe it is a result, frankly, of Canadians being hesitant to put their lives at risk for their nation without being properly equipped to do so.
I'll point to other nations that have had significantly more success in doing that; in particular, if we do a comparison to the U.S. and the procurement process for the Constellation FFG-62 ships.
I come here today certainly concerned about the significant increase—a 9% increase over the $77-billion estimate—to $84 billion, acknowledging that the $60-billion budget initially set in 2017 was not enough.
Please, can you enlighten the committee, as far as you can, on the fundamental reason for these delays? I'm always worried about the money, but I'm more concerned about what this means for our protection domestically and our ability to contribute internationally at a time when the world increasingly needs it.