Evidence of meeting #3 for National Defence in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was sure.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-Marc Lanthier  Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Department of National Defence
Rob Chambers  Assistant Deputy Minister, Infrastructure and Environment, Department of National Defence
Jody Thomas  Deputy Minister, Department of National Defence
Troy Crosby  Assistant Deputy Minister, Materiel Group, Department of National Defence
Shelly Bruce  Chief, Communications Security Establishment

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

I'd like to call this meeting to order. It's good to see all of you here today.

We have some very special witnesses to testify today and to talk about the supplementary estimates.

I'd like to welcome the Minister of National Defence and ask him to introduce his team. Minister, then you will have time for your opening statements.

Thank you very much.

3:30 p.m.

Vancouver South B.C.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan LiberalMinister of National Defence

Madam Chair, first of all, I want to congratulate you on your recent appointment as chair, and I thank everyone here for the tremendous work they do as part of this committee.

I see that I'll be here for two hours today. I always enjoy having these conversations. Normally it's four hours at committee of the whole. Hopefully we can get everything done in two hours.

Truly, I have a wonderful team. I'd like to introduce you to my deputy minister, Jody Thomas; our vice chief of the defence staff, Lieutenant-General Jean-Marc Lanthier; Ms. Shelly Bruce, chief of CSE; our chief financial officer, Cheri Crosby; Mr. Troy Crosby, ADM materiel; and Rob Chambers, assistant deputy minister, infrastructure and environment.

Some of you may have already heard the announcement that our vice chief of the defence staff is retiring. I want to personally take the opportunity in front of all of you to thank Jean-Marc for his tremendous 31 years of service.

Thank you very much.

3:30 p.m.

Lieutenant-General Jean-Marc Lanthier Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Department of National Defence

Thank you, Minister.

March 11th, 2020 / 3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present the supplementary estimates (B) for the Department of National Defence and the Communications Security Establishment.

Our allies and partners, and Canadians, know that the defence team is always here for them, ready to answer the call at any given moment.

Our Canadian Armed Forces assisted with record snowfalls in Newfoundland as well as responded to wildfires all the way into Australia. They helped bring Canadians home safely from China and elsewhere, as they mobilized to establish a safe and comfortable quarantine space at CFB Trenton in the face of COVID-19.

That is just in the first two months of this year. As you know, it has been extremely busy for us.

These events all underscore the need for a strong and agile defence team. It is our job to make sure that the team has the support they need to be effective. That is why my number one priority has always been to look after the women and men of our defence team in the Canadian Armed Forces and also their families.

Two and a half years into Canada's defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, we are moving forward with our plan to support our people so that they can do the challenging jobs that we ask of them. Through these estimates, we are requesting approximately $796.9 million to continue implementing SSE. The majority of that funding relates directly to the care of our people.

We take our responsibility to take care of our members and their families very seriously. That is why we stood up the Canadian Armed Forces transition group to support ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members and to ease transition for our members, our veterans and their families.

We also enhanced tax relief for Canadian Armed Forces members deployed on international operations, to recognize them for their hard work and to ease some of the stress for them and their families.

Our reservists also form a very critical part of our defence team. They help with flood relief efforts and also in fighting fires. They do all of this often while maintaining a career outside the military. They too deserve our full support. That is why we made sure that reservists take home the same day's pay for the same day's work as their regular force colleagues.

We also recognize how challenging it can be for the families that serve alongside our members. It is one of the reasons that we are working through Seamless Canada with provinces and territories to make relocation easier. We are helping to give military spouses dedicated access to jobs with national employers in the private and public sectors through the Military Spousal Employment Network.

All the while, we are focused on changing the defence team culture to make sure that the organization is more welcoming, equitable and reflective of the Canadians that we serve. That is why we apply a gender-based analysis plus lens during the development of our programs and policies, to enhance our capabilities to make us more responsive to the needs of our workforce and the people who are also called upon to protect. It is why we are working hard to recruit more women into our forces.

Since 2015, we've doubled women's enrolment in the reserve force and increased enrolment by 72% in the regular force. Women now make up 15.9% of the Canadian Armed Forces membership.

In NATO, where the average of the active duty women across NATO nations is at 11%, Canadian women are also taking on very important leadership roles as well. There is more work to be done but we will not waver in our commitment to our success.

Part of that work also means recognizing that the Canadian Armed Forces has not always been a welcoming and safe environment for everyone. These estimates include $148.6 million for defence team members who were victims of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. We hope that this settlement will help bring the survivors closure and healing.

We continue to work towards a respectful work culture that is free from harassment and discrimination. The department is also working with our government partners to implement the final settlement agreement of the LGBT purge class action lawsuit. We have evolved our military justice system to better deal with harmful behaviours through Bill C-77, which received royal assent last summer. We will not stop until all of our members feel valued, cared for and supported.

Taking care of our people also means equipping them to do their jobs. SSE provides a road map and carves the funding out of our fiscal framework to allow us to do this.

We have already completed or started more than two-thirds of the projects that were outlined in our defence policy. These projects not only ensure that the defence team is ready to meet modern security demands, but they also have a significant impact on the Canadian economy. Taking the joint support ships, for example, to date under that project, we have awarded contracts that contribute close to $950 million to Canada's GDP. This maintains close to 740 jobs annually. We have selected the design of our new Canadian surface combatants, modernizing our current Halifax class frigates. We also launched the second of six new Arctic and offshore patrol ships for our navy.

Through these estimates, we are requesting $490.8 million to advance many more capital projects, such as upgrading capabilities on our helicopters, ships, planes and submarines; procuring new surveillance capabilities through satellite and space-based technologies; and modernizing equipment, facilities and our infrastructure.

Our government is committed to reducing our emissions to help reduce the impact of climate change. It is why all of our defence infrastructure projects are done with an eye towards greening defence. We have built LEED silver standard or equivalent armouries in Halifax, Saint-Hubert and Sainte-Foy. Investments like these have helped to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 32% from 2005 levels.

Our investments also produce economic benefits for communities across Canada. These are investments like the Nanisivik naval facility, and upgrades to runways in Inuvik and Goose Bay, which increase access into these communities and bring economic opportunity.

Just as we partnered with Treaty 1 first nations to transfer the Kapyong lands, we are working closely with indigenous partners as we look to enhance our ability to operate in the north. We have collaborated with more than 25 indigenous partners on the new whole-of-government Arctic and northern policy framework. We are also advancing research and development, investing in innovation to help solve key challenges that will benefit all, including our northern and indigenous communities.

The Canadian Rangers are a direct link to these communities. As Canada's eyes and ears in the north, they are instrumental in both Arctic sovereignty and search and rescue operations. The Canadian Armed Forces will continue to work with the Canadian Rangers to defend Canada's rights and sovereignty, to keep the north safe and well defended and to ensure that the Arctic remains a region of peace and stability.

In this ever-evolving security environment, we need every advantage to help us identify, prepare for and defend against threats to our country. That is why our government is committed to building on the successes of the Communications Security Establishment and the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. Through these estimates, we are requesting a funding transfer so that CSE will keep pace with advancement in quantum technology and exercise new authorities to conduct cyber operations to support national defence.

Even with all the right people, all the right resources and all the right technology, Canada cannot tackle modern defence challenges alone. We cannot be on an island of stability in an ocean of turmoil. Eventually, the negative ripples will reach our shores. That is why we are committed to being a reliable partner and a good global citizen.

We continue to collaborate with our closest partner, the United States, on continental defence, and we are modernizing NORAD.

We are pleased that the Iraqi government has also reaffirmed its support for NATO's continued presence and its training mission, which Canadian Major-General Jennie Carignan proudly leads.

Through these estimates, we are requesting $132.5 million to continue supporting NATO assurance and deterrence measures.

Canada leads a battle group in Latvia and supports NATO air policing in Romania. We also contribute to the standing NATO maritime group and NATO's high-readiness force. We have rejoined the NATO airborne early warning and control force, known as AWACS.

We also play a very important role with the United Nations. Last summer, we completed the air task force deployment to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali. We continue to maintain staff officers in support of that mission. We also began providing cross-mission tactical airlift support to two other UN missions as part of Operation Presence in Uganda.

The funding we are requesting today will also allow us to keep our people at the centre of everything we do. Every day they represent Canada with professionalism, leadership and excellence. For that we owe them the right tools to get the job done as well as our unwavering support and our most profound gratitude.

Madam Chair, the defence team is here to answer the questions that you and the committee members may have. We are ready to answer these questions, but if we happen to not have all the facts at hand, we will make sure that we provide them to you at the earliest convenience.

Thank you.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much, Minister.

Mr. Bezan, you're up first.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for appearing.

Minister, it's always good to have you here. Two hours is going to be a good time for us to have a conversation.

General Lanthier, congratulations on your announcement of retiring. We wish you all the best and thank you for your incredible service to this country.

3:40 p.m.

LGen Jean-Marc Lanthier

Thank you.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

That makes six vice chiefs of the defence staff that we have gone through, Minister. What's going on here that we've had such a high turnover of vice chiefs of the defence staff? Is it political leadership? Is it military leadership? What's the issue? It's not providing a great morale boost for our troops.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

First of all, the development of our officers is exceptional. When you reach the levels of this position, the training that you get for being in this job is quite intensive.

The current vice and the previous vice who have held this position are absolutely up to the capabilities of doing the job, but they're also supported by a tremendous team. As you know, in the Canadian Armed Forces, it takes an entire team to be able to do the work they do, and one thing I can assure you when it comes to the work that the entire staff of vice chief do, is that they are tremendously capable and properly resourced to be able to carry on that work.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

I have to say I am concerned. We have incredible flag officers within the Canadian Armed Forces, and the general staff is, bar none, among the best in the world, but it doesn't send a strong signal that we continue to see vice chiefs of the defence staff coming and going. What is supposed to be a two-year or three-year appointment is turning over every few months. That does not send a positive signal to the public—

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

I'm going to interrupt here.

This is supposed to be testimony about the supplementary estimates. If you can relate it to the supplementary estimates, we can let it stand.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

We'll get there.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

I understand that the minister will wish to answer some of those questions, but let's try and relate it back to the supplementary estimates.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Chair, I'll just say this. It was part of the testimony that the minister brought forward. He was talking about the vice chief of the defence staff. I thought I'd drill it down based on his comments earlier on, so it is in order, in my opinion, but I'll move on.

In the supplementary estimates, you were talking about moving them around within CSE and dealing with cybersecurity.

It's my understanding that we just had a White House official here, who was one of the leads, talking about the dangers of Huawei being allowed access to our 5G network. I know that officials at National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have been quite strongly opposed to having Huawei involved in any way, shape or form. However, CSE has said that it is able to manage the situation.

As the minister responsible for all segments of national defence, which includes CSE, how are we going to make a decision on whether or not Huawei would be banned?

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Thank you for the opportunity to actually discuss this. I think it's a great opportunity to talk about the systems that we have in place.

I've had many discussions with my U.S. counterparts over the years on this. Since I became the Minister of National Defence back in late 2015, I've realized the tremendous work that has already gone on. This is how I described it.

One thing I can assure you is that the current system we have with the 4G technology is the best in the Five Eyes. What the Five Eyes have told me, my U.S. colleagues and other counterparts around the world, is that moving forward the work that we will do.... We want to make sure we get this right, so the decision that we make will have a system that is easier or just as good, if not better.

The system we have right now we can be extremely proud of, so it's nice to have some of the officials from the U.S. come. It allows us to educate them on the tremendous work that CSE is doing. The system that we have now puts a lot of confidence into not only what we do in government but also for Canadians themselves, because 5G is an opportunity, but we need to make sure that all Canadian interests are protected, and that's how we'll be making a decision.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

I am concerned if we move ahead in any way on Huawei, how that affects our relationship with the United States when they are saying Huawei is not allowed in any way, shape or form.

To move on, when we look at these estimates and also the main estimates, which have already been tabled, they are $1 billion short compared to what was in SSE that was released in 2017. You're expecting this coming fiscal year to spend $24 billion and the main estimates only say $23 billion, so you're $1 billion short. We know that since SSE was announced, it's short by almost $8 billion in investments that were supposed to be made into our Canadian Armed Forces. That's not happening.

As I mentioned in question period earlier this week, $247 million in infrastructure spending since the 2015-16 fiscal year, the first year that you were the minister, were underspent. Why aren't those investments being made? I know all these funds lapse. You always say they are there for future years, so show me the money. Show the troops some money. Give us some confidence that those investments are going to happen.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

We've been demonstrating that year by year. In the first year we returned money to the centre. No money is now returned to the centre.

The money we have right now, the system we also put in place when it comes to defence policy.... To make sure the defence policy is whole, we need to make sure the money is there. Right now, with all the projects we have, we have the opportunity to allow us.... For example, if a project needs to be moved forward, we have the ability to move it. It's like a bank account. We can draw upon it. If a project is slowed down for whatever reason, we can move the money into future years. This gives us the flexibility to make sure that it adjusts to the current situation, because also, with the 20-year plan for our defence policy, we need to be mindful that situations change. We need that flexibility as we move the money around to make sure the projects are done.

One thing I can assure you is the way we move money around is to move projects forward, not to slow anything down. One of the things that our troops can have absolute confidence in is, for example, the LAV support vehicle project. That was a project we had initially planned to do, I believe, in 2024, but we were able to move that project forward and get it approved last summer. That's over 300 armoured support vehicles under the LAV family that our troops can use. So the system is working.

We also are being mindful that, as we move forward, we're creating efficiencies in the procurement system, but no money has been given back to the centre.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much, Minister.

Mr. Robillard.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Minister Sajjan, for being here today with your team and for speaking with us.

In supplementary estimates (B), I see some transfers for granting councils and other research institutions.

Can you tell the committee how your department is involved in stimulating innovation?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

The innovation piece is extremely important. One initiative that we started once we launched the defence policy was consultation with industry. Early on in the process, those consultations stated it was easier for them to do business outside Canada than inside Canada. They had less predictability of where we were going. One of the things we wanted to do was give them an opportunity to look at where the defence challenge is.

We have started a project called IDEaS and that allows us to throw down a defence challenge, so rather than a company having to figure out what the product is, we compete the idea itself. Then we pick the best idea from there, do early investment into it and then look at the next development of it. If it shows a greater fruit, then we are able to invest further and carry it on further.

This also allows us to solve our defence challenges and open up to the greater talent pool, but at the same time, it allows individual universities or companies to take part and potentially turn their own idea into a business. These are some things that are being connected into the wider innovation agenda that Minister Bains runs. It makes it far more—let's put it this way—encouraging for our defence industry and says we are better partners with them.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Supplementary estimates (B) include funding for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in government operations. As one of the largest government departments, the Department of National Defence has the heavy responsibility to lead by example.

What concrete steps is the department taking to ensure that it does its job properly?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

We knew very early on that we needed to be a part of the solution, because in National Defence we are one of the largest emitters. We committed to greening National Defence in our defence policy. We started very early on by renovating a lot of our buildings, working with industry to find greater efficiencies. I believe 80% of our fleet is going to be either hybrid or electric. We are also investing in new technologies and looking at how we can operate with better systems up north, for example, and get away from diesel generators.

These are the effects we are having, and we are well into not only meeting our targets but actually exceeding them.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

You recently returned from a NATO meeting. What are our allies saying about Canada's role in the organization?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Going to NATO these days, especially after four years of continual investment into multilateralism, we look at investment in NATO in three ways: cash, capabilities, and contributions. We need to be able to have the money there to invest in the right capabilities, which we are doing, but then we also need to contribute as well.

As you very well know, we are leading a battle group in Latvia. We have a persistent presence with our frigate in the Mediterranean. We have conducted air policing. We are back in the AWACS program. We are working on a number of other initiatives as well, which allow us to be seen as a credible partner that can be relied upon.

That also translates into having our voice and influence matter, something that plays a very critical role when we are dealing with the mission in Iraq, the one that we actually command right now with General Carignan. It allows us to look at using our own experience and offering our advice on the way forward.

We were directly involved with a lot of our international partners and with the secretary general to make sure that the mission was going to move in the right direction. I am happy to say that the great leadership team we have there did tremendous work on that.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Earlier this week, we were told that Russia posed the biggest threat in the world. How will the funding included in these estimates help us to continue supporting our Ukrainian partners?