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House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aircraft.

Topics

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, we are talking about the acquisition of fighter jets. Does the minister not think it would be critical to look at maintaining the current employment situation in our country?

I would ask him to comment on the particular situation that my home community of Thompson is facing. Six hundred jobs are going to be lost as a result of the Vale announcement. Would it not be critical for the government to contribute to the maintenance of such high-paying jobs in my community and make that a priority as compared to the discussion taking place today?

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, as the hon. member may know already, we have offered to have a collaborative meeting with her later this afternoon on the situation in her riding. I have offered to meet with her subsequent to that meeting as well. I am going to be having discussions with the Manitoba government later this afternoon on the very same issue.

I can assure the hon. member that I am engaged on that particular file. I have to do a little more research on it, but it apparently involves the fact that the iron ore mine, which feeds into the businesses in her riding, is at the end of its useful life. It might be a question of the mine being at the end of its useful life, which is an unfortunate situation but does occur in the mining sector.

At any rate, I can assure the hon. member that I am working collaboratively with her and her office in this regard.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, I am looking at a letter from the aerospace industry that was sent to all parliamentarians regarding the F-35. In part it says:

However, these IRBs do not always result in the development of new knowledge or more importantly, the application and export of Canadian ingenuity. Moreover, IRBs have a fixed ceiling established by the original acquisition cost and IRB-related sustainment work is performed only on Canadian...equipment.

Could the minister elaborate more on the process that we have currently under way for the F-35?

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier in my comments, I am happy to report that by not using the traditional industrial regional benefits model, we are able to participate not only in the production of 65 aircraft, but up to 5,000 aircraft and thereby be part of the global supply chain.

It bears repeating that the reason this model was used for this aircraft was not only to provide the best suppliers with global access to the supply chain, but simply because we also agreed it was the least expensive way to build the aircraft.

For all of those on the other side of the House who have complained about the price of the aircraft, their solution would actually increase the price.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the issue of the F-35s today because for the past 17 years, I have always tried to be the first to defend taxpayers. We are looking at something very important today, a contract that is probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of $16 billion—$9 billion in procurement and $7 billion in maintenance costs. I think it is important that members and especially those watching at home know where things stand.

I will not talk about the contract itself right away. I would like to first talk about the history of the F-35s. Since the Conservative government took power, it seems to have put the means before the end when it comes to policy making. Let me explain. Normally, when the government purchases goods through a series of contracts, it needs to have a specific idea of its policy on foreign affairs and defence. That is not hard to understand. If the government takes the opposite approach, like the Conservatives are doing, it ends up with contracts and goods that have been procured, and then needs to provide a justification. It should work the other way around.

When the government took power, it should have established its foreign affairs policy, indicating how it wants Canada to be involved in the world. It then should have created its defence policy. This policy is a very important part of the foreign affairs policy. It would have indicated the role Canada wants to play in the world and, therefore, what we need in terms of defence to achieve those goals. To achieve those goals we also need a procurement plan. We need planes, boats, trucks and arms. We need things that are consistent with our foreign affairs and defence policies.

But that is not what happened. That is what I call putting the means before the end. The government started by buying goods and services, and now that it is going to get them all, it will soon realize that it has invested tens of billions of dollars and will wonder what it has to do now to put all of that to good use.

We have been saying from the beginning that it was a huge mistake to reverse the procedure. The government is trying to tell us that the Canada first defence strategy is a foreign affairs policy. I disagree. It is not comprehensive enough. There should have been a full review. I respect the fact that one government takes the place of another and that the new government may have different priorities. It is up to the government, the party with the most members, to determine if it wants to change the direction of foreign affairs policy. It has the right to do so. However, I am of the view that, in proceeding as they did, the Conservatives put the cart before the horse in Quebec. Unfortunately, we now have to deal with this serious issue.

With regard to procurement, members may have already heard that $35 billion will be invested in the navy. We do not yet have foreign affairs or defence policies. The government invested tens of billions of dollars in ground military forces without developing any foreign affairs or defence policies. Now, with the purchase of the F-35s, aerospace forces spending has reached a grand total of $31 billion. That includes $3.4 billion on Boeing C-17 strategic aircraft, $4.9 billion on Lockheed Martin C-130J tactical aircraft and $4.7 billion on Boeing Chinook helicopters.

The government budgeted $3 billion dollars for search and rescue planes. Canadians and Quebeckers have been waiting for the purchase of these planes, which will have the most direct impact on the average citizen. These planes will not necessarily be sent to theatre. They will be used for search and rescue purposes. Unfortunately, we have heard nothing on the subject for months now. We have been waiting to hear the government's reaction to the National Research Council's report, but it is slow in coming.

Finally, add the F-35s and that $16 billion to the $15 billion I just spoke about. That is a total of $31 billion, which is a lot of money. The people who carry their lunch boxes to work every day want to know if their money is being well spent.

I first want to say that the Bloc Québécois agrees that the planes need to be replaced. Even when the F-18s are gone, we will still need to fulfill our international responsibilities to NORAD, etc. And with the type of planes they have bought, the mission will certainly change. It is no longer the same kind of mission. Taxpayers want to know if they are getting value for money and if the mission that suits these planes is really what we need. Here again we see the lack of foreign and defence policy.

An advance contract award notice, commonly referred to as an ACAN, is a process of awarding contracts without a bidding process. That is what we are talking about today. The government brings up the fact that Boeing and Lockheed Martin went head to head nearly a decade ago and that Lockheed Martin won. But that competition was held in the United States.

Allow me to explain how contracts are awarded. I have long been saying that the government's bidding system for military contracts is flawed. Take the F-35s, for example. They were bought through an advance contract award notice, in other words, without a competition. Why? It is not complicated: it is the only fifth generation plane that is equipped with stealth technology and thus cannot be seen on radar. Apparently no other plane does that.

I feel that the bidding system is flawed because, first, National Defence drafts the specifications. Next, it looks for a company that can meet these requirements and sign a contract. From the moment it chose a fifth generation plane equipped with stealth technology, no one else could meet the requirements. And so it looks for exactly what it wants.

Once the specifications are set, the department asks PWGSC to draft the contracts and post the invitations to tender online. People can consult the MERX website, Canada's online tendering service par excellence, to see what is there. I saw all of the contracts I mentioned earlier on that site. Once the contract is done, the Minister of Industry, who just spoke, is asked to make arrangements that will ensure the best possible economic spinoffs for Canada. And that is precisely the problem. No one knows where the process is at. Many people say we should even create an agency so that only one minister is responsible, instead of the three or four who are responsible now.

I am doing my job as a member of Parliament and trying to see whether taxpayers are receiving value for their money. I have a problem with this government's lack of transparency and the confidentiality of contracts. They are going to award a $16 billion contract and, in committee, I cannot even ask to see the contract to determine whether it is the best one. If I do, the government tells me it is confidential. I am being paid by taxpayers to ensure that they are receiving value for their money, but I am being denied that information and my hands are tied.

They always use the excuse of security clearances, as they did with the Afghan detainee issue. I am asked if I have any security clearance, so all the files can be submitted to me without any fear of me talking about them. If I do not have the right security clearance, I cannot see the document. Therefore, I cannot see the contract because I do not have the necessary security clearance.

It is difficult, because we do not have access to the information. As for the security clearance, something happened to me last week and the week before that. I asked the Chief of the Air Staff to see a simulation. Some small simulations do exist. Lockheed Martin offers simulations of its F-35s, and so do Boeing and the European Typhoon fighter. There is conflicting information about whether the Eurofighter Typhoon can beat the F-35 in certain conditions.

When I asked the general if I could watch a simulation, I was told that I did not have the right security clearance, and even worse, that they could show them to me but that I would understand nothing. I reminded the general that it was his responsibility to give us the information and to tell me, a member a Parliament, whether it is the best aircraft. My duty to defend taxpayers is sometimes jeopardized by such approaches.

I would now like to talk about economic spinoffs. We know that 55% of the Canadian aerospace industry is located in Quebec. From the outset, with respect to most of the contracts I mentioned earlier, Quebec has not been awarded 55% of the aerospace contracts. It would be like telling the automotive industry that, starting now, the money will be sprinkled across Canada. I think there would be an outcry and a revolution in Ontario. Did we not just invest $10 billion to help them out of a tough spot? In the meantime—I do not wish to talk about forestry because that is not what we are debating today—forestry workers received next to nothing.

In the aerospace sector, I have noticed that the contracts are starting to be sprinkled everywhere: in the Atlantic region, the West and Central Canada; Quebec has received about 30% or 40% of the contracts to date, which is not enough. We are talking about billions of dollars. The spinoffs for Quebec are not materializing. We also have to look at the nature of the spinoffs. When an aircraft is purchased and we are told that for every dollar spent a dollar will go back to the industry, we have to know where it will go because the technical and scientific component is important. In other words, secrets and rights are acquired by these companies and they do not want to give them to us.

They will say that if we want to properly equip our fleet with good Canadian tires, we have to accept it. But that is not the future. What we want has a high scientific and technical component. We are being told that in the case of the F-35 we will get it. We will see.

At this time, a memorandum of understanding has been signed and in that MOU, what the minister said is true: our policy on economic spinoffs is being dropped. It is even worse because now there are no spinoffs or guarantees. That was the trade-off for the possibility of getting assembly work. But for how many planes? For 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 planes? The minister is saying 5,000 planes? But it is only a possibility.

I know all about American protectionism. In two or three years, if things are not going well, what guarantee do we have that they will not tell our companies that they are sorry, but Americans are capable of doing the job? That is a significant risk and must be taken into consideration.

This is not a non-confidence motion in the companies. I know that in Quebec, we have the best companies in the world, including L-3, Pratt & Whitney, Héroux-Devtek and a whole host of companies that are extremely skilled and ahead of the pack. They are being told they will be awarded contracts and that they are the best. That may be true. However, it seems to me there could have been a clause in the contract guaranteeing a modicum of economic spinoffs. What are we going to do if the situation I just described comes to pass in a few years? They will say sorry, but our contracts cannot be honoured because a U.S. company will be doing the work instead. We will end up empty-handed.

There is currently no such clause in the agreement. I find we sometimes our deals amount to mess of pottage. I would like our companies to come out on top. I would like our companies to have access to 5,000 planes, but we will see what happens.

Now, I would not want to see a recurrence of the maritime helicopter scandal the Liberals created, either. That may have been before the Liberal defence critic came here. It was a nightmare, and we do not want to see anything like that again. The project was worth $4 billion, I believe. Before it was elected, the Chrétien government said it would cancel the project, and once it was in power, Canada had to pay a $700 million penalty.

We had this carnival sideshow for 10 years, and then the government said it wanted to replace the maritime helicopters. But to avoid purchasing the same helicopters it had cancelled at a penalty, the government said it was going to come up with a physical platform and a computer platform for the aircraft and call for tenders. That was like saying it wanted a Chrysler computer system in a body by Ford. That is what that meant.

For 10 years, things did not work, and the saga is not over yet, because the old Sea Kings have kept on flying for roughly 15 years. They are nearly half a century old now and require 30 hours of maintenance for every hour of flying time, so they have major problems. In addition, helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky recently informed us that it will not be able to deliver the new helicopters on time. The contract provided for fines, but they have been set aside.

What do taxpayers do in similar circumstances? When the taxman says we have to file our tax returns by a certain date and we do not and we owe the government money, do we think the government is going to call us and tell us that it is okay, there is no problem and we can have an extension? This sends a very poor message to all companies.

That was the Liberal scandal at the time. Now, the Liberals are finding themselves in a similar situation. They started by saying that they would question this. But it was categorical: they would review everything. When? The process has started, Quebec companies have the contracts, they have invested $200 million and there has been over $450 million in returns. What will they do? Will they put a stop to that because they want to review everything and launch an open competition?

We do not want to stand by and start the process all over again, when Quebec has the best companies in the world. We do not want to tell people that they were on the right track, but sorry, we need to stop and have an open competition. We do not want to relive the nightmare of the maritime helicopters, which I think was a scandal at the time. We do not want that to happen all over again.

That is why I say to my Liberal colleagues, as respectfully and diplomatically as possible, that I think they are on the wrong track. That is why the Bloc Québécois is not against the F-35 jets, although it would have perhaps liked to have an open competition in the first place. However, this all started 10 years ago. What now? Do we stop after 10 years? If the Liberal Party takes power in a year or two or next March, if they ever regain power, what will we do? Will we relive that same nightmare? No, we cannot go along with that.

I would like to propose an amendment to my Liberal colleagues. I would move, seconded by the member for Jeanne-Le Ber, that the motion be amended by striking out all the words after the words "without holding an open competition", and replacing them with the following: “is unfortunate because it is not based on the needs of real foreign affairs and defence policies and because it does not provide for economic spinoffs for Quebec in proportion to the size of its aerospace industry".

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

It is my duty to inform hon. members that an amendment to an opposition motion may be moved only with the consent of the sponsor of the motion.

Therefore I ask the hon. member for Beauséjour if he consents to the amendment being moved.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour, NB

No, Madam Speaker.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

There is no consent. Pursuant to Standing Order 85 the amendment cannot be moved at this time.

Questions and comments. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the member's general point about his perception that there is a lack of foreign policy and so on. I would suggest to the hon. member that if he looked back to the defence white paper of 1964, he would see that nothing much has actually changed. In that paper and in papers ever since then the overall defence policies of Canada have been defence of Canada, sovereignty, and international operations, whether in support of Norad, NATO, or the United Nations.

The overall need for the military is virtually the same today as it was then and the missions basically have not changed. What has changed is what we are facing in our missions today versus what we will be facing in our missions 20 or 30 years from now.

Would the member agree that if we do not know what is going to come down the road 20 or 30 years from now, and we certainly do not, it behooves the government to equip our men and women of the Canadian Forces with the best possible equipment to face whatever threat might come down the road?

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I must disagree with my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. Our world is evolving very quickly. In the past, foreign affairs and defence policies could be seen as adequate for years and years because the threats were always the same—countries attacked other countries. That is the classic example that I always use. It is no longer countries attacking other countries. It is often terrorist groups. A lot has changed.

That is why it is important to update our policies much more frequently as ideas about foreign affairs change. The Liberal Party did that with its foreign affairs and defence policies before the Conservatives came to power. I do not mean to suggest that they cannot do it, rather, I mean to say that they have not done it and that is the problem. They are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the military without a clear purpose. Do we need F-35s to deal with improvised explosives in Afghanistan? I do not think so. If they had painted a general picture of the current situation and projected in advance what they thought could happen, it would have been more productive and we could have had a military procurement policy that is more reflective of today's reality.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, I have a very short intervention. At least that is my intention.

When the member was talking about the process, he mentioned that a lot has been done up until now. So I am not quite sure where he is coming from when he says that a lot has been done, therefore, it is almost too late, that to back out of it now would be detrimental to the entire industry in this particular country. Maybe I misinterpreted what he said.

But with that in mind, would it not be better, under this motion, to go forward and to say that we are going to have this open competition to guarantee ourselves that dollar for dollar commitment of Public Works, certainly for all the contracts, as required by Industry Canada? Would he not prefer that for his own province of Quebec, considering the fact that it is such a giant around the world in the aerospace sector?

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I would simply like to explain to my hon. colleague once again that the project we are debating is about 10 years old and was brought in by the Liberals. Indeed, it was a Liberal government at the time that signed the MOU, that is, the memorandum of understanding. Now the companies have been given the message that the MOU was signed as a starting point and they have begun. The Liberal government of the day invested about $100 million in Lockheed Martin. It gave that company about $100 million or $150 million to ensure its participation. Looking at the situation today reveals that at least three times that amount has been generated in economic spinoffs.

So putting an end to all that would be dangerous. Considering where we are in some of the contracts, the companies could say, as they have in the past, that we owe them money, or they might find themselves out of the process, and we will have to start all over again. People think that is too risky and prefer to maintain the status quo. I am not a fan of contracts without a competitive bidding process, but now that the process has begun, as a Quebec representative, I will not sit on the sidelines with my arms crossed, nor will I be the one to wage the battle for a tendering process. Instead I will fight for military contracts.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, clearly, there is a lot of mystery involving this whole process and not enough clear answers just based on what we have heard this morning.

We have a recent Auditor General's report dealing with the helicopters. It found that the Department of National Defence broke its own rules and that there is a big mess involved in that contract. So I do not know why we would think, for a moment, that the procedures would be any clearer or better with this type of process. We have the whole issue with Canada wanting to spend $9 billion for 65 F-35s, at a cost of about $138 million apiece. Yet we have Australia paying $6 billion, which is $3 billion less, for 100 of the jets. So their cost would be around $60 million each.

When the Liberal critic was asked a direct question about this issue, he could not confirm why there would be a difference in the pricing. The people who are supposed to be in the know do not seem to have answers to very fundamental questions here.

It just gets back to the question of why do we not take this back and have an open process to decide what we are going to buy and buy the best best-priced product that we can find?

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I have to agree with my colleague from the NDP on this mystery. As I said earlier, when we talk to the Minister of Industry, he says that the contracts are confidential and that he cannot disclose anything about them to us. When we deal with industry, it also talks about confidentiality. Defence tells us we do not have adequate security clearance to get any more information. I have been critical about that.

As members of Parliament, the current system is not working for us. No one here, myself included, can say with any degree of certainty whether this is a good deal or not. We are almost being forced to go with our gut, our intuition. I do not want to see us go through a whole new bidding process in a year or two. Things are in motion and we have to keep going. We just have to improve the system.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, my question is for my colleague in the Bloc. However, I want to go back to what the member for Elmwood—Transcona said.

The price we are paying for the airplane under the MOU is exactly the same as the Australians are paying. It is the other things that are involved in the program, such as simulators, spares and that sort of thing, that make the difference in the overall program cost. However, the price we are paying is precisely the same as the fly-away price that the Australians are paying.

Is my hon. colleague aware of that?

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I agree. I agree that things seem to be more or less stable or equivalent for the nine signatories of the MOU. However, when I look at Israel's stake and purchases, there seems to be something unfair about it, such that at the Standing Committee on National Defence, where we are currently studying the F-35 issue, I asked whether we would have been better off not signing the memorandum of understanding. It seems to me that Israel has been given an advantage, yet it is not a signatory of the memorandum of understanding.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill.

It is a week since Remembrance Day when our grateful nation gathered in places where it was impossible not to be moved by the sacrifice of our veterans.

My first job is to pay tribute to all those who served in the Second World War, Korean War, Cold War, on peacekeeping missions, the Gulf War and to those who served in the RCMP. I understand that a veteran is a veteran is a veteran.

I also pay tribute to all our men and women who are now serving in Afghanistan and I honour the contributions of all our heroes and their families.

I also know that all members of the House recognize and anguish about the enormous sacrifices that military members, veterans and their families have made to keep Canada safe and secure. That is why we must never send them into harms way unless it is absolutely necessary, unless there is a clear mission with the right strategy, unless they have the necessary care, treatment and support when they come home.

Therefore, we must guarantee the right plane for the right mission for the right price. That means identifying defence priorities and foreign mission requirements new fighter jets must be able to support. That means defining roles, capabilities and operational performance requirements new fighter jets must meet to support future domestic and international priorities and missions.

The items to consider are these. Is the stealth aircraft necessary for its main role of protecting Canadian airspace? There might be possible development delays and cost overruns. Other planes, namely the Super Hornet and the Rafale, can fulfill Canada's requirements. Will maintenance contracts be signed in advance of purchase before all bargaining power is lost? Will there be a full accounting of life cycle costs?

Following normal procurement procedures in their normal sequence, namely identifying the mission for a new aircraft, producing a statement of technical requirements and holding a competition to see who can meet the requirements, can only lead to the best value and deal for the air force, aerospace and other industries in Canada and Canadian taxpayers.

In fact, the former head of defence procurement, Alan Williams, confirmed that an open and transparent competition would ensure the best equipment for our military, maximize high-quality job creation for Canadian industry and drive down the price by an estimated 20%, some $3.2 billion.

It is fundamentally important that Canadians understand that there would be no gap in fighter capability as there are nine years left through government investment and there would be no penalty for cancelling the current deal.

In considering any deal for new jets, we must factor in life cycle costs. Sadly and tragically, we do not do this for our most important asset, our people.

Roughly 3,500 pages of leaked documents dating back to 2006, obtained by The Canadian Press, showed bureaucrats were projecting savings of $40 million per year within six years of the charter being enacted.

On Remembrance Day, we promised to remember the fallen, the battles that define generations, our humanity during difficult circumstances, during peacekeeping missions and the generations serving today. What we owe our men and women who have put on the uniform is to honour our sacred trust and to be there for them when they come home.

That means working to improve their pay and benefits so they feel secure, knowing their families will be looked after. That means working to improve care for wounded warriors, especially those with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, particularly in light of new research linking each to dementia.

For the first time in over 100 years, veterans who put their lives on the line for Canada and who accepted unequivocally the chain of command peacefully protested across Canada. There were slogans, including, “Billions for jets; pennies for vets”.

I must therefore ask this. Would saving 20% by having an open competition for jets, what $3 billion would have meant for our veterans: perhaps a comprehensive review of Veterans Affairs Canada and its procedures; perhaps a comprehensive review of the new veterans charter with real consultation with veterans across the country so they would feel engaged and would have some control over their own future, their destiny; perhaps real action on the lump sum payment, one of the most contentious issues that veterans and their families and that we have called on the government to address. Instead of taking immediate genuine action, the government simply divided the pie differently, offering one lump sum payment for the same amount spread over months or years.

There is no actual change in the numbers. The average payout is only $40,000. Whether it is spread out over two years, five years or ten years, it is inadequate, for example, for homeless veterans, veterans in Cockrell House in Victoria, the first homeless shelter for veterans who are courageously fighting to regain their lives. Luke Carmichael served 19 years in the military, only to escape to the bush of Vancouver Island, where he lived for 10 years, 7 years in a tent, 3 years in a trailer someone gave him. More than 800 food hampers will be delivered to needy veterans and their families in Calgary alone this year.

One veteran told me that because Veterans Affairs Canada initially withheld a compensatory award, he ended up homeless. Another veteran was sent a cheque for $40,000, only to have $20,000 reclaimed, causing him to lose his home and to get into difficulty with revenue, with alcohol, with drugs and with losing his family.

What would $3 billion have meant to protecting the health and well-being of our Canadian Forces and our veterans through electronic health records, first promised in 2008, but not available until March 2012?

What would $3 billion, or 20%, have meant to post-traumatic stress disorder, from providing education and training throughout members' time in the forces to ensuring timely treatment across the country with enough clinicians? Thirty-two psychiatrists for 65,000 Canadian Forces members, a ratio of .00049, is an appalling statistic, masking it by claiming mental health practitioners, mental health workers, nurses, chaplains, providing a ratio of 1:186 hides the lack of help.

What about tracking people when they leave the forces? As one veteran said to me, “telling me my appointment is in one month, when I've got two barrels loaded, doesn't really do a damned thing, does it?”

While travelling across the country last week, we heard from another man who asked for a private meeting. He explained that there were a lot of suffering veterans out there who VAC knew about, and even more out there about whom no one knew. They were not followed. He told us of three young veterans who lost their spouses and who died alone suffering from PTSD. “Let us keep them alive”, he said.

Finally, many veterans are struggling. Some battle multiple demons such as alcohol, drugs, PTSD—

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not think that is relevant to the topic today. A very important part of the debate is about the fighters, and I think we should stay on topic.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I am sure the hon. member is concluding in her final minute and will make the connection.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, the point is that if we had held an open competition we could have saved $3 billion and perhaps invested that money in our veterans, the way they invested in our safety, our security and our future.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great earnestness to my fellow parliamentarian and I am going to ask her a series of questions, but they are all the same.

Credibility has to enter into her speech. She talks about our veterans. Many of them fly aircraft that are years and years old. We are currently ordering aircraft that her previous government cancelled and cost the Canadian taxpayer half a billion dollars for exactly nothing. How does that help veterans? How does it help current members of the Canadian armed forces, when we as a government had to completely re-equip them in order for them to have the best equipment in the world to fight in Afghanistan and other places?

How can she claim to stand up for veterans when her government removed 3,500 allied veterans from the veterans rolls and we had to reinstate them? How can she stand and say she cares about veterans when Liberals took VIP services away from them and we have had to—

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Etobicoke North.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, I come back to the fact that there was an opportunity to have an open competition. That is part of normal procedures and we must follow them. We get into trouble when we do not follow normal operating procedures.

The 20% savings could have been invested in our veterans. We must look after life cycle costs of equipment, but we must look after the life cycle costs of our most important assets, which are our veterans.

For the first time in more than 100 years, our veterans held a national day of protest. Our veterans have many concerns, such as agent orange, ALS, which the government has taken action on, clawbacks, lump sum payment, the new veterans charter, post-traumatic stress disorder and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I must congratulate my colleague for her speech on this motion, but I could not quite connect the dots between your speech and the motion we are debating today.

You mentioned that if we had had an open process for this contract, we could have saved $3.2 billion. If the process had been open, it would also have created jobs in Canada. It is not because of the fact that the process was closed that jobs were not created in Canada. An open process would have, according to you, saved $3.2 billion. Can you elaborate for me, please, on what we could have done with this $3.2 billion?

Opposition Motion—National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would remind all members to refer their questions and comments through the Speaker.

The hon. member for Etobicoke North.