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

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Martel Conservative Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

In principle, we'll have our first aircraft in 2025. Will this work begin in the near future? Do you plan to start work on these hangars, if necessary?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

The project is already under way. Even when we designed the project and the competition itself, what we wanted to do was make sure that we did not start looking at infrastructure after the planes were delivered. We wanted to make sure that before the planes arrive the infrastructure projects are in place. That work is ongoing. In fact, we have regular discussions on this.

Not only is the infrastructure in place, but the right people are there. We have to look at the mechanics of it. It is far more complex and much wider than even the infrastructure. All of that is being taken into account.

Also, let's not forget about the future fighters. We also have the remote pilot assistance project, which is the UAVs. When I visited your neck of the woods, I also got to see the drone centre of excellence and the work that's being done. As I stated, as we look at the various provinces and across Canada where the capabilities are going to go, these are the types of things I look at. What is the expertise in those areas? I was very impressed with the drone centre of excellence and how, for some of the work that's being done there, the military can work in that regard.

All these things are taken into account, but we also like to dig deep into what the communities offer as well.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Richard Martel Conservative Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

You just mentioned drones. Can you provide an update on Canadian military drones? Where do things stand?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

The program is well under way. The program has already started.

Troy, do you want to answer on just exactly where we are with the project?

4:15 p.m.

Troy Crosby Assistant Deputy Minister, Materiel Group, Department of National Defence

Thank you, Minister.

Madam Chair, the competition started with a qualification process to identify suppliers with a capability to actually be able to deliver what the Canadian Armed Forces needs. We've been in industry engagement with those suppliers now for some time. We're working towards having portions of a draft request for proposal available to them to consult with in the next year, with an objective of having the complete request for proposal released next year.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

On that point of the qualifying period, I think it's important to mention that one of the things we looked at to make the project go faster was the qualifying period Troy is talking about. Instead of just looking at every company and thinking they could apply, we do a short list of things. Do they really have a possibility of actually competing for the project? That's what Troy is talking about.

It allows us, then, for the final list, through the discussions we're having, to fine-tune and actually speed up the projects. It's an initiative that the team started, which is making procurement a lot more efficient and is actually moving this project forward a lot faster.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much.

Mr. Bagnell.

March 11th, 2020 / 4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Chair, thank you.

To the minister and everyone at the table who has served in the military, thank you very much for your service.

Normally I would ask one question after another, but I have two questions. I don't want you to use all the time on my first question, because I want to hear an answer to the second question.

The first one is about COVID-19. The military has had a great role and I'm sure it's very appreciated by some Canadians. Maybe you could update Canadians on your role in that.

Second, you mentioned recent interactions in the Arctic. I think it was yesterday that Canadian and American jets intercepted a Russian one 50 miles off Alaska. Maybe you could comment on that.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

When we were discussing the defence policy, one thing was sure. We wanted to make sure that the Canadian Armed Forces will be there for Canadians in times of need. We can anticipate the different types of disasters that come up. If you look throughout previous years, in the last four and a half years you see floods, fires, and our dealing with missiles from Iran and other issues around the world.

In this one in particular, the Canadian Armed Forces responded superbly. We can move very quickly on the logistics piece. Even on the first flight from Wuhan, we had military medical personnel on the aircraft. We were able to make sure that when Trenton was selected, we had the right accommodations, the right people there. At the peak of it, we had over 300 personnel in support of this.

Part of this is we also have significant expertise, so as we were looking at providing support, we were very mindful that we had to protect the force itself. We are taking the appropriate measures, so that we can maintain our operations overseas and at the same time be able to support Canadians.

This was a very unique challenge that we had to move very quickly on. The military worked very closely with all the other departments to respond very quickly.

When it comes to the recent intercept when the Russian Bears came into the American.... One of the pictures was just brought to me, which I want to share with the committee. We have our F18s actually intercepting that Bear and we have the F22 in the background here as well. We hear about it, but I get to see some of the actual work that goes on from the early detection to the actual intercept.

It also goes to show that Russia is continually looking at new methods. We need to make sure that we put the right investments in it. We are doing that now, but we have a lot more work to do in regard to modernization, which is going to help deliver on a lot of those projects.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Perhaps you could give us some of the resources available to Canadians and Canadian businesses with respect to cybersecurity, thanks to the establishment of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Before I hand it over to Shelly, I'll be honest with you. I'd call it a gem for Canadians when it comes to our cybersecurity. It gives me a lot of confidence when I talk to my American colleagues and counterparts around the world about the system that we have. The decisions that were made in the past, the investments that we made, have put us in a much better situation than our allies.

This gives me a lot of comfort when I look at the things that we're going to be doing moving forward, not only to protect Canadians from a national security perspective, but also to make sure that we're able to help our Canadian businesses keep cyber safe, all the way from small businesses down to the individual. A lot of initiatives have been started and the cyber centre is doing tremendous work.

Shelly, can you elaborate on that, please?

4:20 p.m.

Shelly Bruce Chief, Communications Security Establishment

Thank you very much for the question.

Madam Chair, the cyber centre's creation in October 2018 has really brought together a lot of the cybersecurity operational expertise under one roof. It allows us to have a more consolidated and more unified response to issues when they arise.

We've taken a lot of the lessons that we've learned from protecting government systems and turned them into advice and guidance that we can share more broadly with critical infrastructure owners and operators, as well as those who operate small and medium enterprises.

We are running a call centre now and that is allowing us to get a sense of what the issues are that are being encountered more in the private sector space. We're also building and delivering open source tools to the private sector so that anybody can download and use these to their advantage.

We also are working with industry and academia and conducting two-week long blitzes to build...and to solve problems together, to create a more innovative base and something that can help spark some of the start-up ideas that can take Canadian industry forward a little more.

We also have new legislation that was tabled and passed last summer that gives Canada more tools in our tool kit to respond to some of these incidents, especially those originating from offshore.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much.

Madam Gallant.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Chair, I'm speaking through you to the minister.

Due to federal legislation, upriver reservoirs have been unable to drain fully to allow for the runoff and precipitation which may come, so inevitably you're probably going to have to implement Operation Lentus. With Op Lentus, they're working in the cold and wet and they're already getting sick, but now we have the WHO-declared pandemic and the hospitals are full to capacity right now.

Earlier you said that the hospital at base Petawawa was 92% complete. How long will it be before it's actually done and usable?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

First, I want to explain that it is actually a health services centre; it's not a hospital. It's for the Canadian Armed Forces. We don't have hospitals inside the bases. It provides the appropriate services, but then we....

When it comes to the actual work, I did get an update from the team, and it is ongoing. This is when it comes to various work that needs to be done, and sometimes it could be a contract delay.

I personally have visited Petawawa on a number of occasions, and I did notice the need for infrastructure investment. It's not only the health services centre looking at accommodations but the MFRC in particular in Petawawa is very important to me. On that, I have directed—

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

We're on the medical facility, and I want to know why it has been delayed for almost two years.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

The thing is, the work is ongoing. It's 93% complete. Some of the delays have been due to some contract issues.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Okay, I understand that it was contract issues, because Defence Construction Canada wrote to me saying that Bondfield Construction is under insolvency protection. Why has that not been ameliorated? Why does Defence Construction Canada still have the same insolvent company on the books to finish the job?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

When a company goes out of business, we need to look at finding new ones. Our team there worked very diligently to find new ones, and that's how they're moving forward. The important aspect here is that we're actually investing in health services centres, not just in Petawawa but also in Valcartier, Comox and across the country, because this is very important.

To get back to your original question regarding Operation Lentus, you're absolutely right. We need to make sure that we have the right tools and that people are looked after. When it comes to the COVID-19 aspect, all of this will be taken into account to make sure that our troops are able to respond. We're going through the evaluations so that our troops have the right equipment and are protected from this virus so that we can make the appropriate responses.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Bondfield is under insolvency protection, and the reason behind that is the former CEO, John Aquino, is alleged to have defrauded the company of up to $80 million. The forensic audit could take years and may spell the end of the company. Has DND given any of the funds in the $34-million contract to Bondfield yet?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

PSPC leads when it comes to the contracting work. One thing I can assure you is that our team is working very closely to make sure that the project will be completed.

Let's not forget that when it comes to a lack of investments on bases like Petawawa, the investments are being made now. The special operations multiplex and significant investments are going into Petawawa because it provides a very important role for the region.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Right, and has that contract with Bondfield been cancelled so that a new contractor can come in and finish the job?

Again, on the $34 million, has any of it been paid to them, and if yes, are there going to be efforts made to recover the money?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Rob, do you have an answer and details on that?

4:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Infrastructure and Environment, Department of National Defence

Rob Chambers

Madam Chair, yes, I am happy to answer the question.

We expect the project to be complete in June, so we're very close.

You're correct in your assessment of the contractor. Unfortunately, that does happen from time to time. There is a bonding agent in place. Perini Management is overseeing the project. Bondfield is finishing the work but under the oversight of the bonding agent. It's a standard mechanism that we use in construction projects. At this stage in the project, we're going to allow that arrangement to continue because we are, as the minister said, 93% to 92% complete. We'll let that run out and finish.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Harjit S. Sajjan Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Our main objective is making sure that the project is completed so that our troops can utilize it. As Rob mentioned, it'll be completed by June.

More importantly, there is other important work that is also going on in bases, and the MFRC is a very important one, which will be starting construction in the fall.