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".