Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to the motion moved by the Liberal Party on its opposition day, especially since I am the member of Parliament for the beautiful Mirabel region, home to a significant part of the aerospace industry. I have been following the F-35 situation very closely over the past few weeks and months.
From the outset, the Bloc Québécois is not in favour of the motion moved by the Liberal Party on the F-35 contract. We cannot say we did not try to make them see things differently.
It is too late to do anything about this purchase contract because it has already been set in motion. It is a done deal. We proposed an amendment to move forward with this matter, but the Liberal Party has rejected it. The Bloc Québécois thinks we should focus on two important items when it comes to this F-35 contract. First, it is high time that we come up with a real foreign affairs policy here in Canada. The government makes military purchases, from helicopters to tanks to fighter jets, without any real foreign affairs policy. These purchases are made without any sense of where Canada is going or the direction, which is becoming more military than anything else, Quebeckers are funding.
The first part of the Bloc Québécois amendment indicates that this purchase is regrettable since no real foreign affairs and defence policy has been discussed openly here in the House. We would have thought that the Liberal Party would agree with the Bloc Québécois on this. The Liberals refused simply because they agree with the direction the Conservative Party is taking toward a more belligerent way of defending this country's foreign affairs, with no real plan.
The second part had to do with guaranteed economic spinoffs. The Bloc Québécois will not give up on that because 55% of the aerospace industry is in Quebec, and we believe that investments in Quebec should be in proportion to spending. We are being told to leave companies alone. There are companies, some of them in my riding, that tell us they are able to compete with foreign companies, and they could end up bitterly disappointed one day because this Conservative government did not see the need to protect investments in proportion to spending, investments that will be made in Canada and particularly in Quebec.
That is why we proposed an amendment to the Liberal Party's motion today to encourage a real discussion on this country's foreign policy and also to ensure that real economic spinoffs are guaranteed in any contract the government may sign for the purchase of these F-35s.
Obviously, we must also have a good understanding of the economic activity related to the aerospace industry. This is very important to Quebec because it represents jobs. Once again, it is clear that there is no real aerospace development policy in Canada.
The government launches programs, creates new ones and abolishes others, but there is no real action plan to develop the aerospace industry. The industry in the Montreal-Mirabel region is the third largest in the world, after Toulouse and Seattle. In my opinion, that represents a very important economic force.
The aerospace technology and engineering training that is offered in Quebec provides the industry with its number one resource, people, but the Canadian government still needs to develop a long-term plan. For this industry to develop, it needs huge investments in research and development. This Conservative government has no long-term strategy, and neither did the Liberal government before it.
All that to say that when we look at both of these parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, current events seem to dictate their policies. That is never a good idea because that is how we end up in never-ending wars. That is what we are seeing with Afghanistan.
According to the government, the extension of the mission is meant to focus on training. There are 950 trainers. Our leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, joked—but there was some truth to what he said—that with that many trainers, there will not be enough classrooms in Afghanistan for the schoolchildren. That is a fact. There is no long-term plan and no Foreign Affairs and National Defence strategy for Afghanistan. There is also no long-term national program for developing the aerospace industry. That is something the Bloc Québécois has always called for.
Cancelling the F-35 contracts, which is what the Liberal Party would have the government do, would send a very bad message to the companies that have already begun work on developing this aircraft. I am thinking of Héroux-Devtek, L-3 MAS, Pratt & Whitney and the other companies based in Quebec. A number of them are located in Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, the riding I represent, but there are also companies in other parts of Quebec and the rest of Canada. The decision has been made and we cannot go back on it.
This morning, the Bloc Québécois reached out to the Liberal Party, but we were rebuffed. The Liberals feel that the only solution is to cancel this contract and launch a new competitive process, regardless of how that could hurt the companies that have already started work on the project. Some strategy.
I had the chance to attend an industry briefing setting out the whole long-term strategy for developing an aircraft, all the research and development and all the investments companies are making in order to be among the bidders. Most of our aerospace firms have already made investments in order to be able to bid on work in connection with the F-35 contract.
What the Bloc Québécois is calling for and what we might have expected from the government is that Quebec and Canada benefit from the $12 billion investment. That is what we might have expected. The agreements that have been signed contain no investment guarantees. I know that industry representatives are watching, and I want to acknowledge them. Many of them are in their offices in Mirabel. I can understand that they feel capable of competing with companies around the world. We are the third-largest aerospace centre in the world, but without investment guarantees, we cannot be sure of what will happen.
We would like these companies to understand why the Bloc Québécois wants to require economic spinoffs for Quebec and Canada. Among other reasons, 55% of the aerospace industry is located in Quebec.
A number of experts have considered this issue. The government must address several concerns. I will simply quote from an editorial on the purchase of the F-35s, which was written by Jean-Robert Sansfaçon and published in Le Devoir on July 20, 2010. It is important that the members of the House understand the nature of Quebec's criticism. Here is an excerpt:
If the...government planned in advance...to provide its armed forces with the type of aircraft that will be central to the United States' military strategy ten years from now, it did so because it intends to play an active part in it, as is the case already in Afghanistan. Given the circumstances, the government could, at the very least, have asked Canadians their opinion before dragging them into the type of situation that history has shown is always much easier to get into than to get out of.
I took the time to read this excerpt so that the other members of the House would understand that situations like the one we saw this morning with Afghanistan arise when we do not have a foreign affairs and defence strategy, as is currently the case in Canada, and when we are being towed in the wake of a neighbour like the United States. It is never-ending.
This morning, we reached out to the Liberals and asked them to accept our amendment, which has two parts. The first would give Canada an actual foreign affairs and defence policy. The Liberals rejected this amendment quite simply because they support the Conservative government's approach, which involves being towed in the wake of the United States. They must be aware that voices are being raised in opposition.
I quoted Jean-Robert Sansfaçon, an editorial writer, but there are many Quebeckers and Canadians who are wondering what direction Canada's foreign affairs and defence policies are taking. No one knows. What we do know is that we are following in the footsteps of the Americans. It is time that we have a real debate in the House about the government's foreign affairs and defence policies. The Liberals' decision this morning to reject the Bloc Québécois amendment clearly shows that they are willing to support the haphazard, American-style foreign affairs and defence policy.
The second part of the Bloc Québécois amendment would guarantee spinoffs for our companies and our industries. If we invest up to $12 billion in this contract, we must ensure that we receive $12 billion in spinoffs for Quebec and Canada. It is very important for Quebec, which is home to 50% of the aerospace industry.
This morning, the Liberals again said no. They are trying to defend a motion to cancel a contract that is already in place. The last time they cancelled a contract—the helicopter contract—it took so many years to choose another supplier that our helicopters were falling out of the sky. That is the Liberal reality.
This morning, in its wisdom, the Bloc came to the aid of the Liberal Party. The Liberals were unwise and did not accept our outstretched hand. When an amendment is proposed in the House, the party presenting it supports it. Since 2000, the party moving a motion during an opposition day has been able to reject any proposed amendments. The Liberals did so this morning; they used this procedure.
We have not seen that often but, again, I understand. They are obsessed. They made a bad choice, and they do not know what else they can do to explain it. And they will have a hard time explaining it to the people of Mirabel and to the workers in the Montreal and Mirabel aerospace industry who are counting on this contract to guarantee, save and protect their jobs.
We sincerely believe that it is time we had a real debate about this government's foreign and defence policies. We need a real debate on the economic spinoffs that should be included when a contract of this size is signed. That is what we proposed to the Liberal Party this morning. Obviously, they refused. And so we oppose today's motion that aims to put an end to this contract that has already been approved, a contract that is already being prepared and in which Quebec and Canadian companies have already invested a lot of money. They are completely ready to claim their piece of the pie.
Once again, we felt that a debate on the orientation or the macro-politics of such a contract—in other words, where the government is going with its foreign affairs and defence policies—was long overdue. What must the government do when signing such a major contract? At the very least, it must guarantee spinoffs for Quebec and Canadian businesses, which the Conservative government has not done.
It is very disappointing that the Liberal Party refused to discuss what the Bloc Québécois was proposing. We will therefore oppose the motion by the Liberal Party, which once again has a very short-term, politicized and partisan view. The Liberals are incapable of any kind of long-term vision for the entire industry and incapable of questioning the Conservative government's foreign affairs and defence policies—which are blindly based on American policies—which they blindly support. A real debate on this was long overdue. The Bloc Québécois tried to initiate such a debate with its amendment, but it was refused. A real debate also must be held on the economic spinoffs that Quebec and Canadian companies should enjoy as a result of such a contract.
Lastly, we could have used this as an opportunity to create a real, long-term investment plan for the development of our aerospace industry with a focus, once again, on research and development. This would have allowed our companies not only to win such a contract, but also to win all other aerospace contracts around the globe.