Mr. Speaker, it has been interesting to hear some of the debate. I wonder what the people at home must be thinking. Here is a government that used to believe in a free market defending the kind of approach we would expect from a totalitarian government, where it does not want the market to discipline any of its choices, where it is all-knowing, never prone to mistakes and never willing to put anything on the table to prove what it is about.
It is quite astounding. Here is a government that is trying to rationalize. We really wonder what is behind this. Why is the government so afraid of the marketplace? Why is it so afraid of putting its cards on the table? Why will it not open this up to competition? It has heard at committee from various companies that everything it has released so far about our requirements can be met by other companies. And that is reliably upheld by other experts, internationally and so on, people who do not have a vested interest in gaining the business.
It is astounding to see that the so-called Conservative Party no longer believes in a marketplace, that it no longer wants to get what is in the best interests of the taxpayers. We wonder what kind of interests are at work here. Is it some international Conservative-Republican agreement here to help offset costs? We really would like the members to be more forthcoming, because I think they are confusing the people at home as to who they are fighting for.
I think it would be interesting, too, to open this up in the sense of what we need to support a military and what should be in place as they decide what there needs to be for the military. For example, what is the role going to be for our defence? What are we going to ask our men and women in the armed services to undertake for us? And where are we going to provide for them?
It is interesting to note that none of the C-18s were used in Afghanistan, where we have had the biggest outlay of military effort in a generation. They were not an essential part of that effort. Therefore, with regard to their replacement, as least we need to pause and ask the question.
All we are saying on this side of the House is, before there is a penalty, before the government starts using all those kinds of excuses that it is stuck in the flypaper of its own doing, that it would put it up for competition and that it would be much more forthcoming, much more transparent about what it is doing. It is far from clear what interests it is upholding here today in resisting this helpful motion, this motion that puts forward an outlook that would protect the public taxpayers' interests. Many years before they were in government, the people opposite used to say they were on the side of the taxpayer. We do not see that anymore. Instead, we see these enormous outlays in terms of things that cannot be explained, such as G20s that are 20 and 30 times the cost of what other countries do. The government hides behind the flimsiest of excuses.
It is the same thing here. If the government feels it is so robust, if the gentleman who talked about Sopwith Camels wants to stand behind this, then release the details that would make this make sense, because the average Canadian is not there with them.
If we want to talk about people, let us inject something into this debate. It is not all about which side of the House one is on. Peter Worthington says this is a silly purchase. Now Peter Worthington is one of longest-standing commentators on military affairs in the country. He is not really known to be a bosom friend of the Liberal Party. However, he has written on this matter. He has judged the people opposite and has said, “What the heck are they doing? Why are they spending all this money on expensive, fancy equipment that they do not need? They are not going to meet the Russians over Canadian airspace”. This is according to Peter Worthington.
If there are members opposite who think they have more expertise, let us have it forthcoming. It did not occur in committee. It has not come forward from the current government. It is basically saying to Canadians, “Trust us. We are going to spend a lot of taxpayers' money. We are not sure what we are going to get.”
Let us talk about what it is the government is buying. It is buying these F-35s. It talks about the procurement that was already started. However, what happened in fact was Canadians invested and Canadians gained about $455 million in contracts without doing what the current government is doing. This anti-free-market government, all by itself, is putting itself in the position of buying these planes. We invested money, which is about 1% of what it proposes to spend on the planes, in return for which we were allowed to bid, and our companies, on their own merit, gained about $455 million in contracts. That is perfectly fine.
However, this is often what happens, and people who are watching us on TV will recognize the pattern. Whenever the current government gets into a tough spot, it says the devil made it do it, or sorry, the Liberal Party made it do it, because there is no such thing as accountability. The Federal Accountability Act lasted for a few weeks and ever since then the government has been looking for people to pin its problems on. I have to say that after five years Canadians are getting awfully tired of that.
Where is the party that used to stand up and say it would make sense of all this. The government seems to have taken over the party. We are talking about $16 billion with very limited public discussion, very limited public disclosure, very little debate and no competition, with no rationale.
There are not people out there who say, objectively, that these are exactly what we need, these very fancy intercepts. Let us look at these F-35s. Where did they come from? Did they come from a Canadian need, a requirement that we have where we got our best experts in a room and asked, “What does the Canadian military need to do in the next 20 years?” so we will spend this very scarce money? It is 76% of one year of supporting our troops, 76% of one year's budget. It is 6% of the Canadian budget being spent in this feckless, reckless fashion. “Reckless” does not come from here. It comes from the Auditor General, who said anybody who thinks it is a low-risk proposition is mistaken.
The onus is on the government to provide the assurances, the details, the specifics, the studies. Instead of doing that, instead of doing something open and transparent and available to Canadians who want to know where our money goes, the Conservatives did not put the experts in a room or say “Here is where our military is going”. Instead, they bought into a program that was designed for nations that have aircraft carriers, which Canada does not have, unless there is a hidden intention on the part of the people opposite.
This was a plane developed for three different formats at once, only one of which applies to Canada, but it is expensive as a result, with short take off and landing and aircraft carrier capacity. That is not the plane Canada necessarily needs. The onus is on the government, on the people opposite, when they are hitching their wagon with so little information, to submit themselves to a process. Rather than doing that, they are asking Canadians to take their word that they are spending $16 billion of hard-earned money at current arrangements for no particular clear purpose. Anything incremental is all borrowed, so will be paid back by our grandchildren. How will Canadians be safer? How will our troops be better supported?
The Conservatives made fun of the F-18s, but they neglected to mention to Canadians that $2.6 billion was spent to upgrade 80 of those F-18s and they are good till 2020. There is time to do what is right. It is another excuse the Conservatives cannot hide behind. There is time to do this properly. Instead of rushing it through like some deal made in the Congress of the U.S. or wherever these links are really coming from, let us have this done in an open and transparent manner, and let us not have people hiding behind the flimsiest of excuses.
With the overall requirements, there is nothing to force Canadians into this deal. That is the other thing the Conservatives have been saying, that they are stampeded because something got done years ago and they have no choice. Somebody made them do it. They are not really in charge. Canadians are getting a little tired of that too.
Over and over again, we hear from the Conservatives that they no longer encounter their own responsibilities. Whether these planes will cost, as they did in 2001, $79 million, or whether they will cost what they cost in 2007, $122 million, or some people are projecting $170 million, the Canadians who are listening want to know why the Conservative government is putting them on this supersonic ride. The only thing fast right now about these planes that are still in development is the way their cost is going up. I do not know why the government thinks we want a stealth procurement policy. That is not what Canadians want. The only stealth capability that we are getting is about how we go about spending billions of dollars on behalf of Canadians, and that is simply not acceptable.
When we look at the kind of dollars that have been outlayed in the past, we are looking at an exponential increase. These particular machines are impressive in terms of some of their capacities, but why is it that we want those stealth capacities? Where is Canada requiring the ability to sneak up on somebody else? So far in most of the debates in the House, we have heard about a defensive capacity on the part of Canada, not an attack capacity. Even in the new role of peace building or peacemaking, even in the kind of missions the government has signed us up for latterly in Afghanistan, we have not used this kind of plane.
The onus again is on the government to demonstrate that, to be straightforward, to be transparent, to allow Canadians in on the deal, because otherwise this deal will never pass muster by the average Canadian. It will not pass the smell test. We all in this House owe them that. Hon. members should vote for this motion, clear their conscience and let Canadians see we are working for them.