House of Commons Hansard #234 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.


11 a.m.


John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you will find there is unanimous consent in the House for the following motion.

That notwithstanding any standing order and the usual practices of the House, Bill S-18, an act respecting the Alliance of Manufacturers & Exporters Canada, be now called for second reading; and that the House do proceed to dispose of the bill at all stages without debate, including committee of the whole.

11 a.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in such a fashion?

11 a.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

An Act To Incorporate The Alliance Of Manufacturers & Exporters CanadaPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


John Godfrey Liberal Don Valley West, ON

moved that Bill S-18, an act respecting the Alliance of Manufacturers & Exporters Canada, be read the second time and, by unanimous consent, referred to committee of the whole.

(Motion adopted, bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole and reported to the House without amendment, concurred in at report stage, read the third time and passed)

The House resumed from April 21 consideration of the motion.

Canadian Armed ForcesPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle Québec


Robert Bertrand LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take advantage of the opportunity provided by this motion to speak of the role of Parliament in the procurement of goods and services for the Canadian forces.

I must begin by stating clearly that the government is opposed to the motion calling for a standing committee of the House of Commons to hold public hearings on every proposed procurement of goods or services by the Canadian armed forces valued at more than $100 million. In order for hon. members to clearly understand why, I would like to describe the present procurement process.

This process, which has been in place for many years in the Department of National Defence and in fact in all departments, is an important instrument of public scrutiny. I would like to speak as well of the potential impact of the proposed change on the expeditious delivery of the necessary equipment to the armed forces.

The procurement of equipment, goods and services is of vital importance to the success of the Canadian forces. The quantity and type of equipment purchased has a direct influence on the forces' capacity to fulfil their role, which in turn influences where and how they can be deployed by the government.

The 1994 white paper on defence defined these roles as protecting Canada, co-operating with the United States in the defence of North America, and contributing to peace and international security.

These are important jobs and I know I speak for everyone here today when I say that the Canadian armed forces have delivered an exceptional calibre of service in everything from their contribution during last year's ice storm to the present operations in Yugoslavia.

However, in order to maintain this level of excellence, the Canadian armed forces must be able to count on the appropriate equipment at a fair price and when they need it. The procurement process of the Department of National Defence complies with Treasury Board requirements. When possible and feasible, all large dollar contracts are put out to tender in an open and transparent manner.

All capital projects are included in the annual budget tabled in the House and all major government projects, that is those over $100 million, containing an element of risk, are examined by the Treasury Board and by cabinet. Because major government projects also affect several departments, they must meet strict conditions and national requirements.

Not surprisingly, there is a comprehensive procurement process for major government projects, starting with the identification of needs and continuing through to delivery of the product. It is also transparent and fair. I will describe this process briefly.

The Canadian forces may need a particular good or service for several reasons. Repairing some of its equipment might not be cost-effective. Operational changes might make different equipment necessary. Technological advances may necessitate the updating of equipment or, again, a strategic analysis may lead to the identification of new requirements.

When a need is identified, a preliminary list of potential solutions is drawn up, and costs are estimated. Next, options are analysed, feasibility studies done, scenarios tried out and, finally, risks are assessed. The cost evaluations are then refined, and various aspects of the study are reviewed by the Treasury Board secretariat and by a senior advisory committee in charge of contracts comprising the heads of various departments.

This committee must make sure that the proposal receives the attention of senior managers, is covered by broad government policy and is in keeping with the government's objectives.

The proposal and procurement strategy are then reviewed by cabinet, and, if it is deemed acceptable, receives approval in principle. At this point, Treasury Board looks at the proposal with a view to a preliminary approval, and this step is followed by the procurement process. Once the strategy has been approved, a call for tenders is put out.

The Minister of National Defence again presents the proposal to cabinet, taking different factors in consideration this time, including the reconfirmation of the need, the underlying justification, the implementation plan, the global cost and other aspects.

If the procurement strategy has already led to a call for tenders, cabinet would also approve the choice of a bidder at this stage. Once a decision has been made, the proposal moves to final approval by Treasury Board.

The contract is awarded by another department—Public Works and Government Services—which ensures an independent, fair and transparent process. I must add here this practice is unusual among Canada's allies.

It should be noted that the government's major procurement proposals often contribute to other objectives, including regional industrial and economic spinoffs, business opportunities for small business and economic development for native peoples.

The involvement of many other federal agencies and departments ensures that the major government's projects are carried out according to the policies and goals of the government and of the people of Canada.

This process has a significant impact on the Canadian forces, from financial management to defence planning operations. We should not consider any change that could inhibit the ability of the Department of National Defence to provide our Canadian forces with the tools they need to fulfil their missions.

There are at least three reasons for which the House should not support this proposal. First, a number of departments, including DND, have already taken measures to improve the procurement process so that Canada can get the best equipment at the best price.

The Department of National Defence has shown innovative spirit to ensure that our country has a multipurpose combat-capable force, at a fair price. For example, the decision makers have looked at the possibility of acquiring products sold on the market, since military equipment that is made to order is very costly and takes a very long time to get.

Moreover, two recent procurements, one involving 100 utility tactical transport helicopters and the other one 15 Cormorant search and rescue helicopters, are evidence that the Canadian forces can be provided with excellent material at a very good cost and take delivery much more quickly.

There are other innovative procurement processes that involve new financial arrangements. The acquisition last year of Upholder class submarines from Great Britain is an excellent example of innovative procurement. What maximizes the value of this transaction for Canadian taxpayers is an 8-year interest free loan-purchase. In addition to the Canadian forces getting the submarines for one quarter of the price of new ones, this project will generate economic spinoffs of some $350 million for Canadian businesses.

I could go on, because I have other very interesting things to say, but I see that my time is up and I must give the floor to someone else.

Canadian Armed ForcesPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to speak to this private member's motion.

Motion No. 73 calls on the House to establish a House of Commons committee to hold public hearings on every proposed procurement of goods and services by the Canadian forces valued at more than $100 million.

With respect, I would hesitate to support the motion because I believe it is not a good idea. The motion suggests adding another layer of political involvement in defence procurement. It would also add another layer of bureaucracy causing the process to become even more extended. In my view and that of many Canadians, the defence procurement process could use a lot less political involvement.

The auditor general has also said that there is too much bureaucracy within our procurement process. In a presentation on procurement to the defence committee, it was said that the problems of our defence procurement process lies with the military, bureaucratic and political interface.

The EH-101 helicopter is a prime example of political interference. Both the Liberals and Tories messed up the military requirements with their interference and left the coast guard operations in jeopardy.

In the hard face of all these contracts that have either been awarded, cancelled or altered, it is the direct political interference that is responsible for all this mess. The official opposition does not support adding another layer of political involvement.

The Reform Party of Canada has always pursued a policy of reducing bureaucracy and red tape. We want to get rid of big government and reduce the role that government's play in our daily lives. If we were to follow what the Bloc is recommending, all of a sudden there would be a myriad of politicians wanting to jump into the fray making sure that a chunk of the $100 million contracts would end up in their ridings.

The defence department needs to be able to purchase the equipment it needs to do its job. There is always a political element to every purchase but that is where experts should come in to advise the politicians. It needs politicians to leave it alone and not to tell it what to buy and from where to buy it.

There has always been the question of sole sourcing where there is no bidding process. It would be nice to have the assurance that there would be a greater number of open bid contracts and not the sole sourcing we have seen in many cases in Canada.

There is always a question of political interference in sole sourcing contracts being awarded. I can see coming into the mix, if we have these public hearings, politicians demanding that they be involved and that industries in their ridings be involved.

I will not support contracting of purchasing being brought to the committee table. I am not able to say that I have full confidence in the existing structure and functioning of the committees of the House of Commons. The way committees work in the House needs functional improvement. Committees are not managing their own affairs efficiently. Even having a quorum has been a problem many times. I can say this because I usually arrive on time and watch most other members come in late, or sometimes having been called in to the committee.

We have an ongoing problem of leaked reports from the committees. I do not see any political will by the government to solve the problem. Even the “leaked committee report” was also leaked.

All parties unanimously decided some time ago to televise committee proceedings from gavel to gavel but we still do not have that in the committees. Is the government chickening out? I really have to wonder.

The Private Members' Business subcommittee has serious problems. I maintain, from what I have seen, that it cannot prove itself to be fair, respectful and empowering of the backbencher members of parliament. It is an exercise in futility. Heckling in committees and the House is excessive and absolutely unnecessary. Partnership prevails in all the Liberal dominated committees.

There has been a problem with the fairness of the chairmen. The Liberal chairs of various committees often unduly defend the Liberal members and their friendly witnesses, in particular their ministers. The chairs are often unfair in timing and in allowing opposition members to ask questions, or even in entertaining motions from opposition members. Most members look through the lens of political stripes and rarely through the lens of issues.

For instance, recently in the immigration committee the Liberal members who dominate the committee refused to allow the committee to study in its future business the abuse of the immigration and refugee system by drug dealers, criminals or terrorists. How can we do that if we are looking through the lens of issues? Many times the committee set-up is inefficient.

The scrutiny of regulations committee, of which I am a co-chair, has had unresolved regulations in the pipeline for as long as 25 years. We do not even have a clear disallowance procedure in place in that committee. Ministers and agencies do not respond in a timely fashion. With all of this inefficiency and mismanagement, how can anyone expect committees to do a good job in administering the over $100 million defence contracts?

Politicians should not make decisions for experts, specialists or administrators. We all know by now how the Prime Minister's aid was involved in securing the infamous grant to the Prime Minister's associate, friend, constituent or whatever we call it in the Shawinigate. How was the RCMP contract to build a road to the Prime Minister's residence awarded without any bidding? How has Revenue Canada staff been shifted in the Shawinigan shenanigans?

Who does not remember the contract awarded to Bombardier for NATO flight training in western Canada? This was an untendered contract awarded by the Liberal government to the tune of $2.85 billion. Who on the government side can justify the 90% to 92% of CIDA contracts being awarded to two central Canadian provinces for years and years? How can we expect fairness in committee in awarding defence contracts by these politicians?

I will not be supporting the motion. It borders on sabotaging our defence procurement process. It would add another level of bureaucracy, placing our troops much further from what they need to get the job done. The motion would actually increase the opportunity for political interference in the procurement process.

Canadian Armed ForcesPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I was quite interested in my colleague's comments concerning partisanship in committees and in the House. However, I was quite disappointed that he spent seven out of ten minutes on partisan rhetoric. He was taking potshots with comments that had absolutely no foundation whatsoever. There is no truth to them whatsoever.

He then moved on to personally attack members of the House of Commons, some of whom are the finest leaders the country has had over its history. I do not want to spend my 10 minutes responding because it would take me a lot longer to respond from this end if I am to put the points on the line.

I want to go back to the motion before the House. It states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should have a standing committee of the House of Commons hold public hearings on every proposed procurement of goods or services by the Canadian Armed Forces valued at more than $100 million, in order to ensure that the procurement process is transparent and fair to all concerned.

I just want to refer members to a comment made to the standing committee on defence by a witness, Joseph Haddock, director for International Business (Canada), Sikorsky Canada Inc., on the issue of contracting out. He said that he was a veteran for over 29 years in the U.S. navy, that he was quite experienced and that he had been involved firsthand in the procurement aspect of the defence industry in the United States. He moved on to make a comment specifically on the whole issue of the public process of holding hearings. He said:

First, on a positive note, Canada's process appears to me to be simpler than the U.S. system with regard to the budgeting process. In the U.S. the multitude of congressional reviews and political manipulation of planned budgets wreak havoc on planning and execution, both from the government's perspective as well as industry's.

This gentleman's comments before the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs speak volumes. It is a golden statement which sums up what I would probably say in response to the motion proposed by my colleagues from the Reform Party.

I sit on the public accounts committee. I assure the House that when the auditor general senses there is even the slightest bit of a problem or perceived problem, and not necessarily a wrongdoing, he is out there like a hawk with his crew digging through thousands of papers. He goes through every single contract in any government department, crown corporation or agency that is involved. He never gives up until he gets to the bottom of a story. We already have an ombudsman who is always on the lookout to protect the interests of the public whenever he senses there is a potential problem.

Some of the finest public servants on this planet work for the Government of Canada, in the Department of Public Works and Government Services, the Department of National Defence and the Treasury Board. They go through the fine print of contracts that are for $100 million or more but even those that are less, to ensure they meet the objectives set out by the Government of Canada to ensure transparency and that the public is getting its money's worth and a return on its investment.

Certainly setting up another parliamentary committee to cross the country every time we have a project of $100 million is going to invite partisanship. It is going to invite regionalism and conflict. It will open the door for possible political pressure and political lobbying of all sorts. It will not serve the public interest.

Why do we want to create another bureaucracy when we already have a multitude of agencies that do exactly the kind of thing my colleague wants to do? There is absolutely nothing preventing any member of the House or any member of a committee of the House from inspecting or bringing in the head of an agency, a deputy minister or a minister to appear before a committee to answer questions with regard to a contract.

I would say this government, this society and this country enjoy the finest when it comes to the public tendering process and to dealing with the public purse. As a parliamentarian I am proud of what the Department of National Defence and the Department of Public Works and Government Services are doing in the field in conjunction with Treasury Board. I have every faith they are doing a fine job, far away from political interference, public pressure and regional interests that might come into play from time to time with major contracts.

Certainly I am not going to hide the fact that if a company in my constituency was bidding on a $100 million contract and a parliamentary committee was holding hearings across the country on the project, you bet I would make submissions to the committee saying that the company was doing a great job and it would do a fine job if it got the contract. That is the nature of the beast.

As politicians we have a responsibility to protect the interests of those in our constituencies who create jobs. I am right to do that. But if every one of my colleagues is going to do the same thing I am doing, we are going to create confusion if not chaos in the political process. As well we are going to put that specific committee in an extremely awkward position. At the end of the day, when somebody has to make a decision and the yeas and the nays are given, somebody is going to be happy and somebody else is going to be unhappy, just like everything else in life.

To that extent, if it is not broken, why fix it? The system works. It works effectively and efficiently. It is transparent. It is one of the finest systems in the world. Let us protect the integrity of the system. Let us leave the political interference out of it.

I will be voting against this motion when it comes before the House.

Canadian Armed ForcesPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate being given this time. I had not planned to speak on this motion but after listening to the last member speak, I thought I should make some comments.

I was surprised by the way the member for Ottawa Centre spoke against the motion. I have had members from my party speak against it from the point of view that they do not want political interference in the process of making decisions on contracts. The motion reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should have a standing committee of the House of Commons hold public hearings on every proposed procurement of goods or services by the Canadian Armed Forces valued at more than $100 million, in order to ensure that the procurement process is transparent and fair to all concerned.

It does not say that the standing committee would make decisions on whether the contract would go ahead; it says that it would make the process more transparent. From that point of view, I will speak in favour of the motion. I am going to speak in favour of it for two reasons.

First, looking at the committee structure and the value of House of Commons committees, there is a need for a pretty dramatic change. Last year the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, and I was a member of that committee, did a study on the quality of life in the Canadian forces. We listened to members of the forces, members in the community and people who were interested in the Canadian armed forces. I do not feel that the report that was presented at the end of this extensive process represented what was heard.

Second, even though that report was presented and even though it was not anywhere near complete and in a lot of areas it did not reflect what we had heard, it was pretty much ignored. I do not expect that in the end there will be much done about that at all.

Having the function of scrutinizing the procurement process in the forces of contracts over $100 million would be a very important role for that committee. It would increase the value of the committee. The committees are not very useful right now. Often a lot of good work is done but very little happens as a result. In this case the committee could serve a very important role.

I am sure opposition members and even some government members would ask important questions about the procurement procedure in particular contracts. Those questions may well spark a more intensive study by the auditor general. In some cases where the information is damning enough, it may cause the defence department to back off or reissue certain contracts.

An important function of the committees should be to carefully scrutinize the spending of taxpayers' dollars. That is not happening enough right now. Even when it does happen through the estimates and bringing ministers before the committee and so on, often the quality of the scrutiny is not good enough and it is pretty much ignored anyway. So what it is the purpose?

In this case that function would be worthwhile. It would be valuable because issues surrounding the contracts would be brought to the attention of the government, the department, the auditor general and most important, the public.

I congratulate the member brought forward Motion No. 73. It is certainly not enough but I will support the motion as far as it goes. It makes a lot of sense.

I am concerned that the member for Ottawa Centre spoke out against this further scrutiny. It cannot be provided properly by any other body, or at least it has not been. He spoke out against it as something that would be of little value. Maybe the member is not looking at how ineffective House of Commons committees have become, particularly in this parliament. In the last parliament the committees functioned better. They were given a larger role than they had before, but that has been taken away.

As the Reform critic for immigration and as a member of the immigration committee, I certainly know the value of that committee has been reduced very dramatically. I question whether it is worth going to the meetings. That is how ineffective that committee has become.

Other members from all parties, including the government party, have indicated that a lot of committees are like that now. They have lost their value, which is unfortunate. House of Commons committees could truly be the place where the useful background and detailed work could be done. It could help to improve legislation. The legislation would be debated in the House of Commons. It would be better quality legislation.

Clearly it is a deliberate move on the part of the government to make sure the committees do not work like that. Their value has been reduced dramatically. This is one way we could improve the quality of whatever committee would perform that function. Probably it would be the defence committee.

Personally, I would like to see this motion pass. I encourage all members to look at it. It does not say that there would be political interference in the decision. The role of the committee would be to bring important considerations that otherwise might be missed to the forefront and to the attention of the public.

I appreciate having had the time to make this presentation. I encourage other members to allow this change to take place. It would increase the value of that committee. It would allow the committee to do something important, which would be very hard for government and for the defence department to ignore. This kind of motion is to be applauded.

Canadian Armed ForcesPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I too want to offer my support for this motion. I thank the hon. member for bringing it forward.

If anybody doubts it, we just have to look at the ratings of politicians and lawyers on the scale of who people trust to see that over the years people have lost faith in politicians. They have lost faith in the process because of underhanded dealings, because of what is perceived as misuse of taxpayers' dollars. The government has not been at the forefront in ensuring that there was a good process that people could trust as being done fairly.

This motion tries to address the lack of respectability that government and politicians have. It wants to ensure that taxpayers' dollars are spent fairly and that the public is able to see that these dollars are being spent fairly.

A key issue in this whole debate is that we are not talking about a small amount of dollars; we are talking about contracts of $100 million. It is hard to believe the government would be going against having some kind of public scrutiny for the expenditure of $100 million on a contract. It is unconscionable to even think that government members could be arguing that it is not right.

I listened to the hon. member from the Liberal Party speak. He seemed to think that we will take this out to the public and it will become a real partisanship issue. The problem is that there has been too much partisanship and that is why it needs to go to the public. If that is not there, then take it to the public and show the public that it is not there. Do not be afraid to put it on the plate for them. The problem is it is not there and that is why these kinds of motions come forth.

It is extremely important that this motion receive support from all parties in the House to show Canadians that we are willing to stand for a system that is working. If it is not working, then let the public know. If it is working, let them know. We must let the public gain back some trust in the processes.

I believe we have really good public servants. The problem is, it is not just the public servants who are involved in issuing $100 million contracts. We all know there are other areas that come into question. There are questions of partisanship and patronage. It is extremely important that we let Canadians know that it is not there. If we really believe it is not there, then let us show Canadians.

My hon. colleague for Halifax West spoke on this issue previously and commented on the auditor general's scathing report. Yes, the auditor general is there, but he prepares the report and he expects this House to come forth with policies and legislation that will support him in ensuring that where there is a problem we will be able to address it. With the way things are now, that is impossible.

I will not belabour the issue, but I want to ask all parties to support the motion. If we are to gain some degree of respectability within our government system it is time we put forth these types of motions so the public can see there is reason to trust in our democratic system.

Canadian Armed ForcesPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of my colleague for Compton—Stanstead to speak to Motion No. 73 put forward by the Bloc member. I will say at the outset that the Progressive Conservatives, at least the member for Compton—Stanstead and myself, will be supporting this private member's legislation when it is voted on sometime in the near future.

I have heard Liberal members give excuses as to why it is not necessary to have a special committee struck to deal with procurement in national defence. They used excuses such as transparency and openness being in place now. Liberal members also state that procedures are in place which allow Canadians to believe that they are well served and well protected by the process currently in place. I would suggest that is not the case.

This motion came forward because the hon. member believes that the committee system we currently have does not seem to be working in this particular area. I believe that the agriculture committee, on which I sit, works fairly well, is open and transparent. I am very pleased to say that the majority of the government members who sit on that committee are open to honest discussion and honest debate. Some of those members are here today and that was not meant to try to endear them to my heart.

There are certain committees which work, but that does not seem to be happening in the defence committee. Unfortunately there does not seem to be openness when dealing with estimates. There does not seem to be openness when the minister appears before the committee. When members of that committee do not have the opportunity to get the true facts, then obviously it means there is a necessity to put other options forward. This is, in our estimation, a reasonable option under the circumstances.

Let me give the House an example of the efficiency that was spoken of by members of the government. Let me tell members about the cost effectiveness of this government when dealing with military procurement. Let me deal with a very simple example, that of the procurement of the EH-101 helicopter.

The government would love to forget about the EH-101, but that procurement took place rationally, logically and nominally. An agreement was reached to buy helicopters which were required by the Canadian military. However, the Liberal government, in its own fashion and in its own way of wasting Canadian taxpayer dollars, decided at the stroke of a pen that it would, through political expediency, not accept the contract that was negotiated, developed and in place at a penalty cost in excess of $1 billion to the Canadian public. In excess of $1 billion of Canadian public dollars was expended needlessly by the government because of political expediency. That in itself speaks to the need for some type of committee watchdog that will put some openness and transparency back into the system.

A government member recently said “But we do have a watchdog. We do have that backstop. We have the auditor general who comes in and if there should be any improprieties in any part of the process, then that watchdog will look at all of the papers and documents. He will go through all of the process and then he will come forward and say that this was wrong”. He is right, that is what the auditor general does.

The auditor general provides a very valuable service. The problem is that no one listens to him on the government side. They do not listen to the auditor general. They turn a deaf ear and they simply continue with the same type of political expediency that is now in place.

The motion proposes the idea of a committee being struck to deal with expenditures in the military of over $100 million. That is a lot of money. The motion itself reflected that when it spoke to the number of $100 million. Anything below that certainly can and will be dealt with by the department of defence and the treasury department.

The government says that this cannot happen because there is an operational requirement for the Department of National Defence and if we had a committee it would stop the operational necessities of the department. That is not true. One hundred million dollars allows the normal operations of the Department of National Defence to continue. However, there should be an opportunity for anything above $100 million to be vetted by Canadians.

The government talks about Canadians having a return on investment. Canadians need a return on their investment right now. This is one area in which this could begin. If the committee system worked it would not be necessary. If investigation by the auditor general worked it would not be necessary. Unfortunately we can point to too many problems associated not only with this department but with the government.

We will be voting in favour of this motion. We will continue to strive for openness and transparency when it comes to procurement by the Department of National Defence.

In closing I would like to cite two other examples. One of them was a contract that was not tendered but was awarded to Bombardier for $2.85 billion for training. It was done by the Liberal government. I do not think Canadians were well served by that particular contract, which was not negotiated.

The other example I would like to touch on briefly is that of alternative service delivery. ASD makes sense, to a degree, but unfortunately there is no openness, there is no transparency and there is no ability for Canadians or parliamentarians to be able to put forward their opinions on this particular program. That is why a committee of this nature would be a good operational necessity for parliament.

I stand on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party and the member for Compton—Stanstead to say that we will support this motion. I wish the government would only listen. It does not understand that what it is doing now does not resonate with the Canadian public. It does not understand that what it is doing is wrong.

All we have to say is EH-101 and I am sure Canadians will understand.

Canadian Armed ForcesPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Hec Clouthier Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it is simply unbelievable. The member for Brandon—Souris was indulging in nothing more than scurrilous rhetoric. He was talking about simple things. It is simply not true. The hon. gentleman, and I use that term very loosely, simply does not know. I forgive him and I know that the people on this side of the House forgive him. He indulges in rhetoric. He waves his arms like a big water buffalo, and I mean that amicably. He just keeps on flailing away, thinking that it is actually going to resonate with the people of the House and the voting public who are listening, but that is simply not true.

I listened with great interest to my colleague from Ottawa Centre and the parliamentary secretary give a pointed, coherent rationale of why we will oppose this motion.

I am pleased to speak to the motion put forward by the hon. member for Joliette, but let me first look at it in terms of public relations. I might add that some members opposite could have used public relations firms to garner some insight and knowledge before they stood to make these rather insane comments about this motion.

Let us look at what we call the optics. How does it look? How does it look not only to the government side but to the Canadian public? There are circumstances under which this motion would actually make sense; not many circumstances, but there are a few. For example, if the House had no oversight on procurement, whether for the armed forces, the specific object of this motion, or any other department, it would make sense if this procurement were done secretly, but it is not.

The motion would make sense if ministers of the government were not accountable to parliament. Au contraire, we know that they are accountable and they will continue to be accountable. There are always elections to maintain the accountability of the government, as well as question period and when ministers appear before a standing committee.

The hon. member opposite is not a member of the standing committee on national defence so he knows not of which he speaks. His hon. colleague, the member for Compton—Stanstead, is a member of the DND committee. Quite obviously he is not here because he knows we are right in this regard and he has asked the hon. member to stand in for him. I must say that after listening to what he has said he probably will not ask him to do so again.

We can appear before standing committees which can address this and any other issue.

There are five major policy cornerstones which uphold the procurement process of the Government of Canada. They are: the pre-eminence of operational requirements, competition, fairness, transparency and accessibility.

Let us look at how this system works from a practical standpoint and not an impractical viewpoint as we have heard expressed on the other side.

First, ministers and their ministries are responsible and accountable for following stringent contracting regulations and Treasury Board policies on contracts. The preferred route for most contracts above $25,000 is always competitive bidding.

In the great riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke there is a person who takes bids by the name of Colonel Ken Dillabough. He says, as only they can say in the upper Ottawa valley “Okay, lads and lassies, get up and loosen the purse strings. Put your hand up and do the competitive bidding”. That is what we prefer to do at all times, but there are exceptions.

There are exceptions to each and every rule, regardless of where we are in life, when a contract must be sole sourced. One example is proprietary interest. If a supplier is the only one with the right to build and sell parts for the equipment it has developed and marketed, the government is obliged to use that supplier for that equipment. This makes sense and this government is committed to making sense, as opposed to some of my hon. colleagues opposite who come forth with nonsensical motions brought forward by people who do not know of what they speak.

Sometimes sole sourcing must be used in pressing emergencies. Quite simply, something has to be done fast and there is no time to get bids. When national security or the national interest is an issue, sole sourcing may be necessary. When that happens, ministers of the crown and officials must follow strict rules, and they are accountable to the government and ultimately to the House for their actions.

The truth is that most procurement is done through the competitive process and that competitive procurement is on the rise. In 1996, for instance, $83 of every $100 spent for procurement contracts over $25,000 were committed through the competitive process. In 1997, the last year for which Treasury Board has its full figures, $89 of every $100 was spent as a result of competitive bidding.

Let us consider another example of service contracts. I am talking about everything from building maintenance to contracting for medicinal services. In 1995, 55% of these contracts were competitively let. The hon. member opposite knows full well that 55% of these contracts were competitively let. I will hold up my fingers so the member understands. In 1997, only two years later, this figure had risen to over 80%. I will get to the member for Lakeland if I can get through this.

The system is transparent. Almost all procurement is done competitively, and competitive bidding is on the rise. The trend is toward more competition, not less competition; more transparency; and more responsible use of public money.

Comparing our procurement system to those of other countries, the treasury board secretariat has found that our performance is much better than that of either the United States or the European Union.

There is only one question remaining. Are the provisions for oversight sufficient, especially for the steadily declining fraction of procurement that is not done through the competitive process? I believe they are and the government believes they are. The mechanisms which ensure fair, transparent and accessible procurement are in place.

For example, interdepartmental review committees that determine defence procurement strategies review all procurements of $2 million or more. These committees may spot significant socioeconomic opportunities in procurement. When they do, they can suggest that conditions be included that open all or part of the process to minority or new business interests which might otherwise be frozen out. After the reviews are done, most of the procurement action proposed are posted on the government's electronic tendering service, on the Internet for bidding. To ensure fairness they are published in the government's business opportunities bulletin.

I occasionally disagree with the auditor general, but he does look at issues and does report to the House. If a procurement matter arises it can be the object of questions, of debate or of study by any number of standing committees.

What does the author of this motion suggest? Is it that we set up yet another standing committee for the sole purpose of looking at major military procurements? Is there no standing committee on national defence?

I know the hon. member for Lakeland mentioned that, but he used to be on the standing committee of national defence. I guess his own party basically pulled him from it because he knew not of what he spoke. He made rather pejorative, egregious comments by the DND SCONDVA committee saying that it had done nothing. The Canadian public disagrees and the military disagrees.

We gave pay raises and more money for quality housing. I suppose that is why the hon. member for Lakeland is no longer on the DND committee. I suppose his own party yanked him from it because he was doing no good there. He was of no benefit to us because we were doing the things that the Canadian military and Canadian public wanted. Is there no Standing Committee on Public Accounts?

My time has run out. In conclusion, let it be said that the government is opposed to the motion. We will not indulge in the scurrilous rhetoric of members opposite. We will oppose the motion because it is right that we oppose it.

Canadian Armed ForcesPrivate Members' Business


The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member is correct; his time has run out. In fact the time for Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I move:

That in relation to Bill C-32, an Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the report stage of the bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to the consideration of the report stage and on the day allotted to the third reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour will please say yea.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 455Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.