Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech we just listened to in the House. I am wondering whether I should change the emphasis of my speech from how disappointed we are about the lack of attention we are getting from the feds and maybe take the hon. member's advice. Maybe we are better off without them.
Be that as it may, we raise this issue today not because we think B.C. issues alone are important in Canada. The Reform Party has been a national opposition party. We had supply day motions on Churchill Falls and on the Canadian Wheat Board. Today we are talking about issues that affect British Columbia specifically.
I would like to spend a little time talking specifically about CFB Chilliwack. It has been mentioned by previous speakers. The announced closure of CFB Chilliwack, the move to Gagetown and to Edmonton, Alberta of the men and equipment previously at CFB Chilliwack is something that has added another log on the fire of the feeling of western alienation.
Today during question period I mentioned the hon. member for Simcoe North, the Liberal government member who toured B.C. on behalf of the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. There was a document leaked to Barbara Yaffe of the Vancouver Sun . Much to his surprise, he found out that there was a profound sense of alienation in British Columbia from our masters here in Ottawa. There is a profound sense of distrust toward what goes on here in Ottawa. They ignore this at their peril.
There is no separatism movement in British Columbia per se. However, what is smouldering right under the surface is a growing discontent, alienation and feeling that we are not going to put up with this much longer.
We have the move of CFB Chilliwack, taking the last land forces base in all of British Columbia and sprinkling it across the country. Imagine what would have happened if this had been in another province, perhaps Quebec.
Imagine the reaction that would have occurred if someone said "there are no more armed forces bases in Quebec, we are pulling them out". Many people would argue we should not be building infrastructure in Quebec at a time when things there are so uncertain politically.
Be that as it may, the Liberal government thought nothing of it. It pulled it out. It was a lousy decision. It was a poor decision then and it is a poor one now.
The reasons it should have been retained are obvious, to protect Canada's infrastructure in British Columbia. The value of that property and buildings was $470 million. That will be lost. They will recoup a small portion of that when they sell. That is what the value of the property and infrastructure was.
They should have maintained a military forces presence in British Columbia. I tried to explain to the ministers. Imagine what this is doing when people in the military are told that their tour of duty will go from Gagetown, through Edmonton, forget B.C, back to Gagetown and around we will go. British Columbia has been cut out of that. If the government thinks that is a good way to increase our feeling of being part of Canada and part of the decision making process it is sadly mistaken. There is ample evidence that we should have had CFB Chilliwack in place in case of the need for aid to the civil power.
CFB Chilliwack was formed in 1946 because it is Canada's only year round ice free training facility. It was put in place because the engineers said they needed a place like that to train. As a matter of fact, they have been transferred to Edmonton and they are in Chilliwack right now to practise their bridge building as we speak. It cost $100,000 worth of damage to the bridge when they moved their equipment in, which is the only bridge over the Chilliwack River, because they should have been there all along. They are back because they know this is the kind of facility they need.
Major General Clive Addy, now retired, on July 29 spoke to the Pan-Pacific Hazards Conference in Vancouver: "We suffered quite a compromise from the closing of Chilliwack. Chilliwack is closing and I have lost the regular force presence in British Columbia, which I find a military risk. It is a civilian risk as well because our presence there was in my view necessary".
What about the claims from the defence minister that the base was closed on the advice of his officials? He got all the advice from land forces command and it was the thing to do. Here is what we got from our access to information request some time ago. From a memo dated October 14, written by Colonel Daigle who at that time was in land forces command: "It is estimated that only about 60 per cent of the savings that the minister is projecting would be actually materialize. CFB Chilliwack should be retained. Some of the dollar savings anticipated by the program review could easily be eaten up by the up front costs of relocation and reconstruction needed for reinstallation elsewhere, and potentially significant costs at the new location must also be taken into account".
It is no wonder that British Columbians feel a sense of alienation from the federal government. National policies seem to be con-
ceived somewhere in the halls of power here in Ottawa. They are dictated down to the furthest provinces and they are carried out in this case without consequences to what it might mean to British Columbia.
What about the costs of CFB Chilliwack? I said time and again to the minister: "Come up with the dollar figures that show how you are going to save money. I am with the Reform Party and I have made a lot of noise about saving money, about doing the right thing fiscally. You show me on a piece of paper where you are going to save the money and maybe I will have to support you".
Here is what is actually going to happen. According to DND in 1995, the cost of closing CFB Chilliwack would be $230 million. That included everything. That included new construction, severance for staff who were going to be let go, environmental clean-up, moving costs, miscellaneous. The total was $230 million. Total savings were supposed to be $66 million a year by moving our facilities out of Chilliwack.
Last October we released access to information documents that showed that the government could only realize 60 per cent of these savings, and that nearly doubles the payback period that the minister has been bragging about that he will get a return on his investment.
Since then we have received other documents and it is now estimated that for construction alone the cost would be $93 million in Edmonton, $17 million in Gagetown and the cost of moving CFB Calgary, which is part of this reorganization, would be another $27 million. That is $137 million just for the costs there.
Our access to information documents show that construction contracts already awarded to reconstruct CFB Edmonton and CFB Gagetown total $204 million. The total cost of the whole package was going to be $230 million, and just the construction now is $204 million. It is impossible to say exactly how much was actually spent on each of these places because of the way the government gives us the information. There appears to be a $67 million discrepancy so far.
On September 11, the Calgary Sun announced that DND would spend yet another $42 million on CFB Edmonton for a new rifle range and all the other facilities that already exist at CFB Chilliwack. In total, the Calgary Sun article points out that changes to the Edmonton base alone could approach half a billion dollars. Two hundred and thirty million to a half a billion dollars is the inflation in one year.
The closure of CFB Chilliwack was the wrong decision from a military point of view. We have heard that. It was wrong from an emergency planning point of view and now we see that it was also wrong from an economic point of view.
There is obviously something wrong with the federal government. It is not listening. If the minister does not want to listen to me, I accept that. The minister does not listen to anybody from British Columbia so why should he listen to me? But he should be listening to the needs of British Columbia. He has closed his ears to any arguments and has said that it will be done, do not confuse me with the facts.
It begs the question why is the government really moving CFB Chilliwack. Is it politics? Is it partisan politics? This could be military politics, pure and simple. It could be that somebody in the general staff decided they did not like to come out to British Columbia so just get rid of them. It could have been, but it is increasingly becoming obvious that partisan politics has played a role in closing the last armed forces base in British Columbia.
General Boyle was in our town not too long ago. He told officers at CFB Chilliwack I have since talked to that whoever is going to close this place down must be nuts. He was not in command at the time the decision was made. It does not matter whether your from Gagetown or the chief of defence staff; it is a wrong decision to close the base, and anybody who goes out there will see it at a glance.
It has been asked if it was nasty partisan politics, military politics or just a bad decision. It has been said never to attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. I am not sure to what we can attribute the closure of CFB Chilliwack but on wither count, whether malice or stupidity, I believe the Liberal government is guilty of a gross mismanagement of public funds.
The people of British Columbia will hold it to account for it years from now and even in the next general election. People are already starting to line up and say that if CFB Chilliwack was closed for partisan politics-and the proof is starting to roll in-then they will never again be able to support a Liberal government.
The last five base commanders in my riding, now living in Chilliwack, have all given me the same story, that CFB Chilliwack should have been retained. CFB Chilliwack is an integral part of the Canadian Armed Forces and certainly plays a key role in any engineering efforts by our armed forces.
The decision to close it is another decision that I think years from now this federal government or successive federal governments will live to regret.