Mr. Speaker, the 1994 White Paper on Defence, published last December provided a mission statement for the basic roles of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces in a post cold war context.
The Department of National Defence's mission is to protect Canada, to help keep the peace in the world and to promote Canada's interests abroad.
Policy focuses on keeping the armed forces versatile and combat ready, buying the broadest possible range of military options at a reasonable price in Canada. Maintaining the forces enables us to carry out our major defence roles, that is, of defending Canada and North America and contributing to world security.
The defence policy responds to pressing needs to reduce federal government expenditures in order to resolve Canada's serious financial problems. Defence programs, arising from the 1995 federal budget, are totally in keeping with the policy set out in the white paper. Military expenditures will be brought below $10 billion over this year and the coming two years. Even though the $1.63 billion reduction over this period represents a 14 per cent reduction in absolute terms, the department will in fact lose more than 18 per cent of its purchasing power. I see this as a victory.
Our budget has been cut. We will nevertheless take a number of measures to increase the forces' operational capacity. For Canadian forces to be able to retain their combat potential, they will be provided with indispensable equipment, such as the armoured personnel carriers the government has just announced. I noted that the hon. member spoke a lot about armoured vehicles and I will come back to this a little later on in my speech.
The acquisitions program will focus on extending equipment life whenever it is cost effective to do so. Only equipment vital to maintaining Canadian forces capability will be acquired and procurement will be off the shelf whenever possible.
Let us talk about this whole question of off the shelf procurement and why it makes sense. I would like to dispel a number of myths that have developed about off the shelf buying which have appeared recently in the press, certainly in the press in the province of Quebec.
It is a great oversimplification to think of off the shelf buying as getting something that is all packaged and ready to pluck from a local hardware store. The department of defence has been developing and putting into practice a much broader concept of an off the shelf acquisition process, one that incorporates elements of a much simplified, less prescriptive acquisition approach. This process can be viewed as buying better and buying smarter in a more businesslike fashion in acquiring goods and services. It maximizes the use of existing industry products, practices and technologies.
The underlying rationale for this approach is an attempt to reduce costs in buying and supporting equipment. Clearly off the shelf acquisition is good for taxpayers since it does reduce costs and puts our limited money where it is needed most. It is good for soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen because it quickly gets the needed equipment to them and ensures we have combat capable forces.
My colleague the parliamentary secretary will talk a little about the former practices of developing ideas, concepts, specifications, the contracting process, Treasury Board approval and how long it takes. He will talk about that from the perspective of being a former naval officer, about what it means to the men and women in the forces in relation to the delay in getting equipment.
Off the shelf procurement is good for industry. Canadian industry, especially in the aerospace sector, is now quite mature, has good capability and can compete with the best in the world.
I am surprised by the attitude of my colleague opposite, by his lack of confidence in the Canadian aerospace industry, which is located in the province of Quebec. He has no confidence in his own industries, in his own province. This is further evidence of the repressive mentality of the separatists and the sovereignists, which views Quebec as poor and fragile. I for one do not accept this argument.
In the recent past there has been an increasing emphasis within defence on off the shelf acquisitions. Basically we are trying to do a number of things. Wherever possible we try to purchase equipment where the performance has been demonstrated in the field. We try to evaluate carefully the cost of marginal increases and the capability of new equipment. We try to avoid unique Canadian solutions that require expensive and risky research development or modification of existing equipment. It sounds to me like that is not a bad idea.
In other words, we in defence and in the government at large are becoming smarter buyers. We are maximizing the purchase of what is already available to meet defence requirements. We think this is essential for the Canadian forces, because it provides our troops with the necessary equipment in a timely and cost effective manner. We have been very consistent in moving toward a greater alliance on off the shelf procurement.
In its 1994 report, the Special Joint Committee on Canada's Defence Policy-I see that the hon. member was on this committee-recommended that the procedure for buying military equipment be simplified. The committee called for a commitment to buy off the shelf military equipment and to avoid complex procedures for buying custom made products. The report also said that DND's acquisition policy should emphasize off the shelf products.
Favouring off the shelf equipment does not mean that DND will not consider the need for regional industrial benefits in Canada, but there will be times when it is totally appropriate from an economic point of view to buy commercially available products. DND will certainly not want to needlessly increase procurement costs and pay for extra work in order to provide regional benefits.
It is very interesting to note that, in his contradictory comments on the report of the Special Joint Committee on Canada's Defence Policy, the hon. member from the Bloc stated that procurement cost overruns are due in large part to the Canadian content restrictions, for which taxpayers had to pay more because the existing industrial base could not meet the needs.
What you have here is a glaring contradiction. What the hon. member said today contradicts his Bloc colleagues' minority response to the report of the Special Joint Committee on Canada's Defence Policy, as well as all the sovereignist arguments we have heard in recent months. They are always contradicting themselves.
I want to deal with one of the real canards-we use that in English, but we do not use it in French in quite the same way-the hon. member has thrown on the floor of the House of Commons: this notion that the province of Quebec is once again subjected to terrible things by the federal government, in this case in the area of defence.
Quebec has about 25 per cent of the population of Canada. About 20 per cent of total defence expenditures are spent in the province of Quebec, not quite the 25 per cent. However, when it comes to capital purchases it is about 27 per cent. That is because much of the defence industry in this country is located in the province of Quebec.
The hon. member, as I said earlier, does not seem to have confidence that the industry in his own province can compete in the case of the search and rescue helicopters and in the case of the armoured personnel carriers. He gives the impression that the armoured personnel carriers are going to be totally and absolutely built, every bolt, every part, in London, Ontario. That is crazy. He knows that is not the truth.
The GM diesel division in London, Ontario assembles-and it does a very good job-the armoured personnel carriers, but most of the parts, the motors and other equipment come from other places. Guess what? Some of those places just happen to be in the province of Quebec, but he would not admit that because he does not have faith.
This is one contradiction we see in the separatist argument, whether it is on national unity or on something like defence. They do not have confidence in themselves. They do not have confidence in what Quebec has attained within Canada. The aerospace industry is primarily situated in the province of Quebec, and it does a pretty good job. We recognize that. However, it would be nice if somebody like the hon. member and his party, the Bloc Quebecois, would recognize and have confidence in their own industry.
Let us talk about how Quebec has really been put under the thumb in recent years. One of the few things the previous government did that I could support was direct a contract to Bell Helicopter in Montreal. The hon. member stood a few minutes ago and lambasted us for directing the contract to General Motors diesel division. The Tories did that, and guess who the beneficiary was? It was Bell Helicopter. The condition was that they would build a brand new plant in Mirabel. I have been through the plant and I have been on the new Griffon helicopters, and they are outstanding. That is technology that is in Quebec. The hon. member does not recognize that. It was a $1.2 billion contract.
A $1.2 billion contract was awarded to a Quebec company, Bell Helicopter.
Why? Because Bell Helicopter agreed to establish this plant as the prime builder for certain lines of helicopters. It gave the world product mandate to Bell Helicopter in Montreal.
General Motors of the United States has done the same thing in Ontario on armoured personnel carriers and with diesel locomotives. The diesel division of General Motors has a world product mandate.
The hon. member could be mired in the isolationist, regional politics of Quebec and of the past grievances, but I think even the sovereignists in Quebec have to appreciate that the world has changed, that we are competing globally, competing in a North American free trade environment.
After making very painful adjustments, which hurt Quebec and hurt Ontario in many of the manufacturing industries, Canada is now starting to see some light. It is companies like General Motors and Bell Helicopter and a raft of others that are getting the world
product mandate for particular equipment, systems, and technologies that will be the future of Canada and the future of Quebec.
The hon. member has consistently attacked the government defence policies with respect to closures.
It is not true to say that the closure of the Collège militaire royal is the only closure in the country under the budget of two years ago, it is not true.
It is very difficult as a Liberal minister to close bases in Cornwallis and Shelburne, Nova Scotia and elsewhere in the province, in Ottawa and Toronto and in Chatham, New Brunswick. It is very difficult to close these bases. We closed 30 bases across the country, but the word is the government closed only the Collège militaire royal in Quebec. It is not true. This is another example of selection of incorrect information.
In the last budget, we announced the closure of the base in Chilliwack, British Columbia. One of the measures is to move a school-where, you ask-to the Saint-Jean base in Quebec. Oh no. The poor people of Quebec do not get their share of military installations. Not true. We moved the cadet and recruit school from Cornwallis to the Saint-Jean military base, to the big complex, the big building. We moved this school, and, in the last budget, we announced the move of the Chilliwack school to Saint-Jean.
He talks about the expansion of the base in Edmonton, Alberta as a major base. I know you are very interested in this base because you are a member for Edmonton. This is logical.
The hon. member neglected to tell the House that we expanded the Valcartier base, in his own riding. It is a big, big undertaking. He is well aware that a lot of buildings went up and that there was a lot of construction in his riding, but he forgets to mention it. It is a political issue, because Quebec is always the victim in the Canadian yoke. Not true.
What we see here are inaccuracies, half truths, a selection of facts that do not add up with what we have done.
They want to talk about French speaking Canadians in the armed forces. About 30 per cent of the army are francophones. About 27 per cent of our officer level are francophones. We have had no trouble recruiting for the Royal Military College in Kingston.
The debate we had was interesting. My good friend, the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, has successfully worked with local officials in Kingston to expand the college.
I am proud as a Canadian to visit the Royal Military College in Kingston and to see that it is bilingual. It is an institution that is not in the province of Quebec, but it is entirely bilingual. Every day, both English and French are spoken there. The atmosphere is very Canadian, bilingual, and I think it came about as the result of a decision to concentrate everything in Kingston.
However, I am told the hon. member for Charlesbourg visited the college with a colleague and was disappointed. He was really disappointed, because he could find nothing to criticize. He spoke with young soldiers and cadets, and everyone told him things were fine there.
We are well aware that it is not exactly the province of Quebec. We know that Kingston is primarily an English city, but it has a very warm welcome for francophones. The mayor and the people of Kingston, the people at Queen's University and all of the institutions made a real effort to welcome francophones to Kingston.
He was really disappointed. I am told he saw no problems. He was exasperated, because he would criticize the closure of the Collège militaire royal in Saint-Jean daily in the House, and when he visited the college in Kingston, he realized that his criticism was unfounded.
We have here yet another example of the separatists coming to the House and provoking people's emotions. Every night on the news in Quebec we saw stories of how this was terrible, that this particular decision, which was taken for logical financial reasons, was somehow anti-francophone, anti-Quebec. That is not the case.
I encourage any member to go to the Royal Military College in Kingston and speak to francophones from Quebec. They will tell you the atmosphere is welcoming and is conducive to study and conducive to building a great nation with two official languages. That is the by-product of a very tough decision. You do not get that when you listen to the speeches of the hon. member. Somehow the closing of the Collège militaire royal was the only thing that happened in the defence budget that year. The fact is we announced close to $7 billion worth of actual and projected cuts including the cancellation of the EH-101.
I want to talk for a few minutes about the acquisition program. We are well on target. We have announced the armoured personnel carriers. We have announced the search and rescue. We have not addressed the other two major procurements in the white paper, but those will be addressed one way or the other.
The hon. member talks about submarines. How many times does a person have to repeat that the government has not made a decision on whether or not to buy the submarines? If we decide not
to, then we will announce it. Then the hon. member will be happy but I am sure he will find something else to criticize. He is using this as something with which to whip the government and it is not based on fact.
I say with great respect that this motion certainly does not reflect the actual situation in the country with respect to procurement, with respect to Canadian content and with respect to defence policy.