Evidence of meeting #39 for National Defence in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was infrastructure.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kevin Hamilton  Director General, International Security Policy, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Heidi Kutz  Senior Arctic Official and Director General, Arctic, Eurasian, and European Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Stephen Randall  Executive Director, Oceans, Environment and Aerospace Law , Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Wilson
Clint Davis  President and Chief Executive Officer, Nunasi Corporation
Les Klapatiuk  International Logistical Support Inc.

November 15th, 2022 / 12:35 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

I wanted to follow up on what we heard from a previous witness. He referred to “smart defence investments” in terms of how the government does business with first nations-led or Inuit-led companies and said that often governments get the idea of consultation wrong, in that it's top-down instead of being grassroots.

Can you talk about the importance of seeing this being Inuit-led on the ground for the Arctic in moving forward? Have you had any challenges in terms of that idea? I mean, from a DND perspective, it's very much what they need and then how it benefits the community, instead of the opposite.

12:35 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nunasi Corporation

Clint Davis

It's a great question.

I think it's actually starting to happen now. I represent an indigenous business. I'm not here representing a political body, a political entity, so I don't know exactly what is happening in that regard, but we certainly had some touchpoints with the Department of National Defence.

In some instances, I think, they have a certain perception, neither positive nor negative, of the capacity of indigenous businesses or, in my case, Inuit businesses. We do this type of industry primarily in construction and so on, and they may not necessarily consider some of the other opportunities that would come out of NORAD modernization. That part of the consultation could be missed for us.

For us, I think, we're very open and innovative when it comes to how we do get involved in economic opportunities and how we ensure that is communicated effectively to the Government of Canada.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Ms. Mathyssen.

Colleagues, we have a hard stop at one o'clock. If we allow five minutes for the discussion of the motions, which will be a very quick discussion, we basically have a three-minute round, so three minutes it is.

Ms. Gallant, you have three minutes.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Thank you.

My question is for Mr. Klapatiuk.

What role will ILS fill with respect to our expanded early warning system and in a modernized NORAD?

12:35 p.m.

International Logistical Support Inc.

Les Klapatiuk

We would hope to be able to provide the leading edge of defence. The expanded NORAD capability is one thing, but we still need the fighter jets. We still need the infrastructure on the leading edge in order to handle and support all of this equipment, and right now we don't have it. This is one of the things that people fail to realize.

We can have all the radar. We can have everything we want. A good example is the satellite download sites in Inuvik. There are two. One is private and one is government, but both download information off the polar orbit satellites, so here we we are using satellites, speed-of-light equipment, and yet we still need boots on the ground in the Arctic.

It's no different on defence. We need hangarage, we need fuel and we need runways. We need everything that is needed down south and, to be very blunt, most of the air bases down south are nothing more than training bases and hangarage maintenance bases. We have no capability of hangaring the MRTT, the A330, in Inuvik, yet we will have that same capability in Trenton, but Trenton is five and a half hours from Inuvik. We have to have that infrastructure in the Arctic.

Then again, that opens up business opportunities for other people, because on the Inuvik airport, for example, we don't have any municipal water. We need to have everything hauled in and hauled out. That's a business opportunity for somebody else. We don't have many of the things that you would associate with a southern airport.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Have you or anyone you deal with up there observed the presence of Chinese people, the government, trying to purchase real estate or doing anything else that just seems out of order?

12:40 p.m.

International Logistical Support Inc.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Can you expand upon it?

12:40 p.m.

International Logistical Support Inc.

Les Klapatiuk

Sure.

You can ask Senator Dawn Anderson. The Chinese were up to look at the marine infrastructure in Tuktoyaktuk. That was the jumping-off point for all the offshore drilling that happened in the Beaufort Sea and in all of the offshore around Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

We had the Russians fly across the Arctic with private airplanes. We call those “amphibs”. They're amphibious aircraft and will land on the runway and on water, and they happened to follow the North Warning System.

We've had Chinese from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa come through Inuvik. The RCMP tried to identify them, but we'll leave that one alone.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Unfortunately, we're going to have to leave the answer there, Ms. Gallant.

Mr. Fisher is next for three minutes.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thanks to both of our witnesses.

Mr. Davis, we touched on this topic a little today, so if it sounds like I'm repeating a question, I want to try to get a bit of a focus.

We talked about the Minister of Defence announcing the largest investment in NORAD in four decades. You talked about the North Warning System and about the issues with staffing. You talked about training and development, and you talked about aligning federal priorities on reconciliation that must include Inuit.

I'm giving you some time to outline where you see opportunities to advance economic reconciliation. Also, if you see room for improvement, whether it's in policy or in execution, I would love to hear your thoughts on that in the remaining time.

12:40 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nunasi Corporation

Clint Davis

We see that that there's a tremendous opportunity around NORAD modernization. This is going to be a generational impact. Obviously we're in the early stages right now, and we're trying to position ourselves to demonstrate that we have the ability, the capacity, and the financial capacity as well, to be able to participate.

Some of the other opportunities we would see, as my colleague talked about, are greater investment in airstrips and so on. We definitely would have the ability to go in with some of our companies and partners to be able to participate, so investment in infrastructure and critical infrastructure would be important.

With regard to some of the policies and procedures or frameworks that would be a benefit for us, as I mentioned before, across the board, not necessarily on the military side but in other parts of the other departments, having a much more consistent approach in implementing indigenous procurement I think would be absolutely invaluable and have a huge impact.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

You talked about having touchpoints with National Defence. Can you let us know how you made out with those when you made connections with National Defence?

12:40 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nunasi Corporation

Clint Davis

They were very good, very positive, and they are very preliminary at this stage. It's being able to demonstrate and send the message that Inuit businesses are not just looking at our traditional kind of activity that you see in the north, but that we're willing to go beyond that to see what we could do to take advantage of that.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

You mentioned staffing up here in Ottawa. What is staffing like in the Arctic region?

12:40 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Nunasi Corporation

Clint Davis

Certainly my colleague can talk about that as well.

Everybody is looking for good people, right? That's the biggest challenge. The Government of Nunavut has a staffing challenge. All of the Inuit organizations have a staffing challenge.

For any major business that wants to go up, the first thing they talk about is that they need to find people in the Arctic. For Nunavut itself, we're talking about a population of 39,000 people. When you break it down to the people who are actively able to work, it does become a bit of a challenge.

The biggest thing for us is to focus on kids who are in school and to motivate and incentivize them. As my colleague talked about, this is a medium-term and also a long-term play, frankly, for the country. The biggest thing for us is to focus on the youth.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Thank you, Mr. Fisher.

Ms. Normandin, you have a minute.

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Klapatiuk, you mentioned the very long construction times. If the Department of National Defence wanted to repair the infrastructure as part of the NORAD modernization, I understand that it would take an extremely long time.

If you were the one doing it, though, can you give us an idea of how long it would take to build, as well as how efficient you would be, given the rising costs everywhere in construction?

Also, if you don't have a signed contract, you have no incentive to upgrade your facilities for NORAD. From a business perspective, it's not attractive, as I understand it.

12:45 p.m.

International Logistical Support Inc.

Les Klapatiuk

Well, if there's incentive, why are we here?

When it comes to construction, I've looked at building a new hangar for the MRTT here. We have a five-year to eight-year window while the Inuvik runway is being lengthened and extended. I would have a hangar ready for the MRTT in five to eight years. Five to eight years is a long time, yes, but we have logistics problems and staffing problems.

As my colleague said, staffing is difficult for everybody on both sides of the Arctic—east and west. There has to be a co-operative attitude with the civilian people who already have infrastructure, because it's much easier to jump off from an existing building than it is to push through a greenfield.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Unfortunately, we're going to have to leave the answer there.

Next we have one minute for Ms. Mathyssen, and then three minutes for Mr. Bezan and three minutes for Ms. Valdez.

Ms. Mathyssen, you have one minute.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Klapatiuk, I wasn't entirely clear. You were talking about your issue, potentially, with the Real Property Operations services. I think you said you really weren't sure about what was going on, but is it that they lack an awareness of exactly what is needed on the ground by companies such as yours, or is it that they're not communicating that effectively to higher-ups or other government officials or other departments?

12:45 p.m.

International Logistical Support Inc.

Les Klapatiuk

Real Property Operations does all the maintenance on all the bases and handles all the contracts for the Canadian Armed Forces. They do not answer directly to the CDS, the chief of the defence staff, but to the deputy minister of defence, so the route they take is that if NORAD needs a hangar, they go to RP Ops to get the hangar. RP Ops knows exactly what NORAD wants, but they're in a position of not being accountable to NORAD, so they don't have to give NORAD a hangar. They can delay, obfuscate or whatever they have to do. That is the problem where we sit in Inuvik right now. RP Ops has said that NORAD will not have hangarage. There is nothing NORAD can do because of the way that RP Ops does not answer to anybody other than to either the assistant deputy minister of defence—

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal John McKay

Again, we're going to have to stop there. I'm sorry to run this clock hard, but it is what it is.

You have three minutes, Mr. Bezan.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Thank you, and I want to follow up on that question with Mr. Klapatiuk.

Property management has cancelled your contract. They went ahead and destroyed the fuel tanks. This seriously undermines our national security, our ability to project power in the north for us and for the United States.

Is there any way you think they'll take any direction if there's ministerial intervention here?

12:45 p.m.

International Logistical Support Inc.

Les Klapatiuk

I don't know. I'm not familiar with Ottawa. What I am familiar with is that both air and army attachés—and this speaks volumes—came here. My last conversation with the air attaché was on November 10. They are very concerned as to what's going to happen in Inuvik. That's why the U.S. is looking at getting involved, and, as I said earlier, it's now country to country, whether through NORAD or CANR. This is a serious situation. We have no hangarage. We have no support.