Madam Speaker, on March 18, I asked the Deputy Prime Minister if she could promise on behalf of the government to implement the recommendation of Canada 21 Council, a committee charged with reviewing Canada's defence policy that recommends building in Canada three support ships for humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. I also
asked the Deputy Prime Minister if she could promise to give the MIL Davie shipyards the mandate to develop the "smart" ship, which could effectively support Canada's peacekeeping efforts.
Unfortunately for the thousands of MIL Davie workers threatened with job loss who need a little hope, we only had a vague answer like "we are looking into it". That is tragic, but it is always the same answer with this government. We ask questions, but they go unanswered. When we get answers, for example in the case of the Magdalen Islands ferry, we are promised an answer in two months, but the time goes by and still no answer. I hope that in the "smart" ship case, the government will be diligent for once.
You should know that the Canadian navy's AOR-type supply and logistical support ships are coming to the end of their life. Moreover, these three ships are not equipped for humanitarian support and peace missions. For example, Canada must now rent foreign ships to transport the vehicles, equipment and supplies needed to support our troops overseas. It usually takes several weeks before these ships are available to begin to take on the materiel our soldiers need.
The MIL Davie shipyard already has a solution for this problem with its project for a versatile strategic transport and supply ship, known as the "smart" ship. For peacekeeping operations, a single "smart" ship can carry a mechanized battalion group including 70 armored troop carriers, 21 tanks, 96 trucks, 8 M-109 armored self-propelled howitzers, 50 jeeps and 50 trailers, together with 300 tonnes of munitions and the fuel required for the vehicles.
In another configuration, a single "smart" ship can provide the support needed for airborne operations with 600 infantry soldiers and 24 transport helicopters that can be used for refugee evacuation in particular. With a different configuration, the "smart" ship can transport everything required to operate an air base for 24 CF-18s, which would have been very useful for our forces during the gulf war, for example.
In the event of a natural disaster, the "smart" ship can be quickly modified to transport a range of vehicles such as ambulances, trucks, materials, construction equipment, water tanks, fuel and bridge-building equipment. Up to 192 containers can fit on the main deck and be loaded with food, clothing, tents and other supplies. These ships would have been very useful in Somalia or when Hurricane Andrew hit Florida a few years ago.
In case of a spill at sea, the "smart" ship can carry small clean-up boats to do the job. It can also carry clean-up equipment such as chemical dispersants and material to contain and absorb the spill. Its huge storage tanks can also be used to hold the recovered hydrocarbons. It can accommodate a 600-person clean-up crew and be used as a command, control and communication ship.
I hope that this time, faced with these facts, the federal government will stop dragging its feet when we propose a project that meets the new realities of today's world. Above all, do not give us answers like the one from the Minister of Transport in a letter sent a few weeks ago to the City of Lévis, talking about a business plan that had already been filed a year ago.
So we hope that the person representing the minister today will be able to give us a clearer and more definite answer.