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House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was servants.

Topics

National DefenceOral Question Period

October 14th, 2004 / 2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, a 1991 British defence report stressed that it was important that the Upholder class submarines be well maintained, since there were only four boats built and parts would be expensive and difficult to obtain. We know the Chicoutimi was scavenged for parts for the other three submarines.

Did the government make provisions in its submarine budget for these expensive, difficult to obtain spare parts?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the government certainly did and the navy certainly did. The navy knew very well that it was sailing in these submarines and wanted them to be absolutely safe.

That is why the captain of the Chicoutimi testified the other day that the ship was ready to sail and seaworthy when it put out to sea. The navy does not risk the lives of its own men.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the minister's former colleague referred to them as duds. A Canadian defence report says that concern was expressed early on regarding the budget constraints facing the submarine acquisition project.

The Prime Minister slashed $54 million from the submarine budget and will force the navy to borrow another $85 million from another budget.

Similar to the Liberal practice of budget surpluses, did the government deliberately lowball the cost of the submarine project and again shortchange our navy?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of National Defence

Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. The premise in the question is right there. We put in an extra $85 million to ensure that they were right for the navy. That is exactly what we did.

When we have to invest, we invest. That is exactly what we are doing. I think the hon. member's question absolutely proves the point.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of questionable investment over there.

The DND report also stated that there was not sufficient money in the submarine budget for these spare parts, contradicting the minister's comment today. Again, the navy had to buy parts using funds from other budgets.

As we have seen repeatedly from the government when it comes to our military spending, doing things on the cheap has its costs.

Will the government now ensure that the navy has sufficient funds to purchase spare parts for these subs and ensure their future operational safety?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the chief of the maritime staff and many of the submariners I had the opportunity to meet with yesterday are convinced of the quality of these submarines. They want to maintain them and be able to use them in the defence of our country.

I can assure all members of the House that the government will back the navy. We support the navy. We support its efforts to make these subs safe and we will always give it the resources necessary to make them safe.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister cut $54 million from the submarine retrofit budget. Yesterday we heard that an urgent safety report to move ammunition used in an oxygen generator was ignored.

How many other safety concerns had to be overlooked due to budget cuts by the Prime Minister?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we also heard in the House from that party about a fire that never occurred on the Corner Brook .

That party is busy inventing all sorts of problems with the submarines, and playing political football instead of working with us to make the navy safe and protect our coast, which the government and the navy will do.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, the British were talking in 1991 about overheating, electrical problems, leaks, rust and batteries overheating, bad ventilation systems and bad cooling systems. Our current Prime Minister ignored the British government's concerns and instead cut $54 million from the submarine budget.

Has the Prime Minister now decided to cover up the mistakes of the past and use caution in the future by dry docking the British built submarines?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, these submarines have not been dry docked. The navy is concerned, first and foremost, with the safety of the personnel serving on all of our ships.

Based on what the inquiry has heard, the chief of the maritime staff has taken a very early precautionary move to ensure that the submarines are in perfect condition to sail.

I support that. I hope that all members of the House will support it. I also hope that they will not draw unwarranted and unreasonable political solutions or questions from those answers.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said that, under the existing legislation and accounting rules, his government had no choice but to apply the whole $9.1 billion surplus to the debt. That is not true.

Indeed, the Auditor General has said there is no law or accounting rule that says we must apply the whole surplus to the debt.

Instead of continuing to mislead the public, will the Minister of Finance admit that the government had other options in terms of the use that it could make of the surpluses, but preferred to put all the money on the debt? I defy the minister to say otherwise.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would invite the hon. gentleman to check the Financial Administration Act. It clearly indicates that if an expenditure is made and attributed to a certain fiscal year, it indeed has to be done in that fiscal year. One cannot use money from a previous fiscal year after that fiscal year has closed.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not what we are saying and it is not what the Auditor General is saying. We are simply saying that, once the government knew how large the surpluses would be, based on its own forecast, it would have been possible, through an act, to use these surpluses for something other than the debt and not wait until after the end of the fiscal year.

The government had that option and it still does. Based on its forecasts, and the government should review them, because we all know how it plays with numbers, the government could, until March 31, 2005, decide to use some of the surplus for other purposes, to help Quebec and the provinces. They can do that; the minister cannot deny it.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the answer to the hon. gentleman's question is buried in the question itself, and that is that one has to know the surplus exists, which we did not.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we in the Bloc are capable of making forecasts with our little calculator, they should be able to do the same with their hordes of public servants.

The federal government surplus for 2003-04 is $9.1 billion. Predictably, the finance minister will be up to his usual tricks, concealing the true reality of the surplus for the current year as well.

Will the Minister of Finance be presenting a bill aimed at using a goodly portion of future surpluses, both predicted and unpredicted by the government, to benefit Quebec, the provinces and their citizens? The Auditor General has said that this can be done. Will he do it?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we are participating with the provinces in a whole variety of ways. We participate with them in health care. We have just added $41 billion. We participate with them through equalization. We have added $33 billion. We participate in immigration, infrastructure, housing and post-secondary education. In all those ways we participate with the provinces.

It is interesting to know that every provincial government that has to date in this year filed its own annual financial report shows exactly the same phenomenon as we reported yesterday.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister, like the government, seems to again be totally closed to any solution involving efficient use of the predicted and unpredicted surpluses of the government for the benefit of its citizens, officially at least. Their minds are equally closed to the concept of solving the problem of fiscal imbalance.

Can the minister tell us whether he has a solution somewhere or whether he just plans to continue to let the surplus grow by leaps and bounds while the people's needs are not met?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, all the money that was reported yesterday has gone to the benefit of Canadians.

The hon. gentleman seems to deny the fact that debt paydown has any benefit. So far that pattern over the last seven years has saved the Government of Canada $3 billion per year in money that is now available every year going forward for health, education, social programs and so forth.

Also, I hope the hon. gentleman is not suggesting that we should leave that horrendous mortgage on the future of our children and grandchildren.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the debt, the Prime Minister has established artificial targets. It is interesting to consider this business of targets. Why are there no targets for the environment? The national debt targets, which are artificial, are always met. Environmental targets are never met. The national debt is going down, but student debt is going up. Twenty-five million dollars a day is now going against the debt. The debts of municipalities are going up by $11 million a day according to the FCM.

Will the minister and the government finally determine that they will put something against clean water, and set some targets for clean water, not just the debt?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of very strong objectives that this government has already articulated.

In respect of clean air and climate change, for example, over the last number of budgets we have set aside $2.7 billion to address those issues. With respect to the proceeds from Petro-Canada, for example, I have already indicated that a significant portion of those proceeds will go toward environmental sustainability.

I accept the hon. gentleman's point about the importance of these things. I can assure him they are indeed on the government's agenda with--

TaxationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Toronto—Danforth.

TaxationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no target anywhere for the reduction of homelessness. There is absolutely no target anywhere for the reduction of boiled water orders. There are absolutely no targets anywhere for the reduction of smog. The fact is that we set targets for debt reduction and we meet them, but we do not meet any other targets that are important to Canadians.

After having put $61 billion toward debt reduction, is the minister prepared to look a homeless person in the eye and say that absolutely every cent of that was worth it?

TaxationOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am certainly determined to address all Canadians and to say to them that we have a strong, balanced approach that is working for Canada.

Yes, we have applied some money on the debt, $9 billion last year. We are also applying $41 billion to health care and $33 billion to equalization. We will deliver on child care. We will deliver on communities and municipalities in which I know the hon. gentleman is very interested. We have a broad, balanced objective to serve this entire country.

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, when the sponsorship scandal first burst on the scene last February the Prime Minister said that no stone would be left unturned, to let every fact be known, to let the public accounts committee do its job and get to the bottom of the scandal before the election. As the committee was getting to the witnesses who could really shed light on the scandal, the Prime Minister called the election, shut down the committee and Parliament's ability to investigate the scandal came to a crashing halt.

Why did the Prime Minister mislead Parliament by saying there would be no election before all the facts were known, then changing his mind?

Sponsorship ProgramOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia

Liberal

Scott Brison LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister made a significant step forward by asking Judge Gomery to do his work and by providing Judge Gomery with the resources needed to complete that work.

We are not prejudging his work on this side of the House. We are allowing Justice Gomery to proceed to get to the truth, and that is what all Canadians are demanding from this government. I would ask that the hon. member respect that.