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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

Citizenship and ImmigrationOral Questions

3 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the last thing this government has been is soft on our views on immigration.

We have welcomed more Canadians to this country from other lands than ever before in the history of Canada. Landing fees were cut in half as soon as this government was elected. We just passed Bill C-11, refugee reform legislation, which is some of the best legislation this country has ever seen.

When it comes to people wanting to come to this country, our doors are open. We want to see more immigration.

Tobacco ProductsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, since its decision a few weeks ago to cancel a planned update for tobacco warning labels, the government has been roundly criticized by stakeholders and experts for wasting six years of study and for ignoring research that shows that these revamps are absolutely necessary.

Even last week we learned that the U.S. is moving ahead with its plans to revamp labels. It may even be using an image of Canadian anti-smoking advocate, Barb Tarbox.

When will the government stop catering to the tobacco lobby and actually stand up for the health of Canadians?

Tobacco ProductsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Nunavut Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq ConservativeMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, in Canada we have had labels on our tobacco packages since 2001. Our government is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadian children from the damages of tobacco. We are proud of Bill C-32, the Tobacco Act, which bans flavours that would appeal to children, sets minimum package size and bans all tobacco as it would be viewed by youth.

We will continue to enforce violations of this legislation and are encouraged by the results of the recent tobacco survey that shows that fewer young Canadians are smoking.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order. I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Li Shenglin, Minister of Transport for the People's Republic of China.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, my question is addressed through you to the government House leader. In anticipation of the remaining business for this week, today and tomorrow, and going into next week, what is the government's business? Particularly, could he enlighten the House and Canadians on how we intend to continue to proceed with take note debates in the House? I know we had one just last week. There are others anticipated to come forward, for Canadians who may want to follow some of these important debates, which are usually held in the evenings.

Can he also indicate when the next allotted opposition day, for whatever party, is coming?

If I might, Mr. Speaker, ask for your indulgence for 30 seconds, I would ask the government House leader to address again the remarks made earlier today in an S.O. 31 by one of his caucus colleagues. There have been a repeated series of S.O. 31s this week addressing comments made by the leader of the official opposition, which were corrected yesterday in the Winnipeg Free Press. They quote a headline on Monday and an editorial on Tuesday that wrongly describe the Liberal leader's remarks as accusing the Conservatives of attempting to split the Filipino vote in the Winnipeg North byelection.

I think in the interest of us being accurate and fair in some of these circumstances it would be important for the government House leader to address that.

These are dangerous and divisive, racially undertoned remarks. They do not really do much for Canada. They certainly do not help any of us in this Winnipeg byelection situation. I think it would be incumbent upon the government to take some action in this regard.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, let me make an undertaking to my colleague, the House leader of the official opposition, to make enquiries into that and respond to him in short order.

The House will continue today with the opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will continue debate, and I know the NDP will be excited about this, on Bill C-10, Senate term limits; Bill C-19, regarding political loans; followed by Bill S-3, tax conventions implementation.

On Monday and Tuesday of next week, we will call Bill S-3, tax conventions implementation; Bill C-3, gender equity in Indian registration; Bill C-28, fighting Internet and wireless spam; Bill C-22, protecting children; Bill C-29, safeguarding personal information; and Bill C-30, response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Shoker.

On Wednesday and Friday we will call Bill C-41, strengthening military justice; and Bill C-43, RCMP labour modernization.

Thursday will be an allotted day. I believe this allotted day will go to the Bloc Québécois.

With respect to a take note debate, there have been discussions amongst the parties. There have not been a lot of take note debates. Two weeks ago we had one on veterans issues. I believe next week we will be having one on the issue of pensions, which I know is a concern for all of us, but particularly this was brought forward by the House leader for the official opposition. I believe we are looking at Tuesday night for that.

I appreciate the co-operation we have had from all parties. This gives members an opportunity to bring issues relevant to their constituents forward in the House.

(Bill C-31. On the Order: Government Orders)

November 16, 2010--Third reading of Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act--the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I believe that you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, be deemed read a third time and passed.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits)Points of OrderGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order because of what happened during question period.

I saw a newfound enthusiasm for Senate reform from our friends in the New Democratic Party, so I wanted to ask if there is unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of the House, the second reading amendment to Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate term limits), be deemed to have been withdrawn, Bill C-10 be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed to be considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits)Points of OrderGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Constitution Act, 2010 (Senate term limits)Points of OrderGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and join the debate in relation to the joint strike fighters, the F-35s. I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Vancouver Centre.

At a time when families in Canada are struggling to make ends meet, it kind of boggles the mind that the government would decide to make the largest military procurement in Canada's history without an open and transparent competition, with no competition whatsoever.

One would think that the government would like what Canadians want, which is to get the best price and the best equipment. Canadians want value for money. The government cannot get that by sole-sourcing, by saying that it picks a certain one without actually having any competition.

The question has to be asked, where is the Prime Minister's oversight on spending? Where is the oversight of this process when there is no competition?

It has a huge price tag: $16 billion. That is remarkable. We are not even sure that it will not be more than that. We do not know what the operating cost of this will be. It is a bit like going to buy a car and not having any clue what it is going to cost to put gas in it, how many kilometres it gets per litre, et cetera.

For most people today who are concerned and who struggle to make ends meet, those are important questions. They want to know what kinds of expenses to anticipate, and they certainly expect government, in a procurement so huge and so important, to be aware of those things.

There are a couple of key issues that I want to address today. The first is the question of whether Canada was in fact part of the competition that took place between 1995 and 2001 in relation to the joint strike fighter, the F-35, the one that was won by Lockheed Martin, which builds these aircraft.

Today in question period, the industry minister actually suggested that Canada was part of that, that we were in that competition and it was decided back then. We have had the Prime Minister say the same thing. The defence minister made this claim as well.

Let us go back a bit. Even earlier this year, on May 27, the defence minister told the national defence committee:

I just want to be very clear on the record that the reference to the next generation of fighter aircraft does not preclude a competition, and an open and transparent one.

He was talking there about the future. He was talking last May about a future competition for the next fighter aircraft for Canada. He could have said at the time, if it was the case, that we had this competition years ago. That argument only surfaced after the government made and announced its decision to choose the F-35s. Then it decided it had better have an explanation and made the excuse that it was decided years ago.

Let us go to the person who was the actual assistant deputy minister for materiel, the person in the Department of Public Works who was responsible for overseeing the procurement back in 2001 when the Americans announced that they had chosen the F-35s. He said that the reason for joining the joint strike fighter program was not, at that time, the urgency of replacing the CF-18 fighters, the ones we still have, but the potential industrial opportunities that Canada could take part in.

Mr. Williams said this about the 2002 memorandum of understanding that Canada signed:

This signing had nothing to do with buying or committing to buy these jets, but rather everything to do with providing an opportunity for Canada's aerospace industry to participate in the United States' largest defence procurement in its history, a procurement valued at over $200 billion.

Since then, before the government made its announcement this July, Canadian companies had actually been awarded 144 contracts. So to suggest that Canada would only get contracts if we agreed to buy these jets is nonsense. Canada already had those contracts and had them before the government announced that it wanted to go in this direction.

What else did Mr. Williams say? He talked about the past claims of the defence minister and the Prime Minister that there was a competition that Canada was part of in the past.

He said in committee last month:

The ministers are referring to the competition conducted by the United States to determine which company would build the jet. On October 26, 2001, Edward Aldridge, Under Secretary of Defense...announced that Lockheed Martin was the successful candidate over Boeing.... [W]e were all glued to our TVs at National Defence headquarters awaiting the announcement.

The competition took place and we had no role in the decision. The government is claiming that we were part of that competition, but we did not have a contemporaneous announcement here, at the same time as the Americans made their announcement. We had to watch the Americans and see what the heck they were going to announce. It was a big surprise to Canada, obviously, from this quote. Canadians had no idea what the Americans were going to choose. It was clearly not a competition that we were actually part of or had any real say in. The fact is that we had to wait to see what they would announce.

Mr. Williams went on to say:

This competition had absolutely nothing to do with the need for a competition to determine which jet aircraft in the marketplace could meet today's Canadian military requirements at the lowest life cycle cost. Equating one competition with the other insults our intelligence.

Even the Chief of the Air Staff at the time confirmed it. In 2001, Lieutenant-General André Deschamps was quoted in the Canadian Defence Review when he was asked about the joint strike fighter. The magazine asked, “Where is the next generation fighter on your list of priorities?”

In fact, the Review story came out the same day as the announcement in the U.S. So he was being asked this on the eve, essentially, of the Americans' announcement, after this competition had gone on for several years, which supposedly Canada had been part of, according to my colleagues on the other side. Supposedly it was partly our competition. What did Lieutenant-General Deschamps say at that time? He stated:

The next generation fighter is very high on my list. We know government wants to get to that discussion soon, and we definitely need to get on with a process to get a new fighter. It sounds like a long time away, but as we know it takes a lot to go through a contracting process and produce a new fighter.

To me, that sounds an awful lot like he is speaking in future tense. He is clearly talking about the future. He is not saying we are part of something now, that we are part of this discussion, this decision, this competition that is going on right now. He is saying we are not even thinking about it that much yet, just a little, and we will have the discussion in due course. He did not even mention the joint strike fighter. He did not mention the F-35s at all in that answer.

He goes on to say:

We just finished upgrading our CF-18s to what we call the R2 standard. It's a tremendous upgrade creating a great platform, and will give us a high performing aircraft to keep us competitive certainly through this decade. That doesn't mean we shouldn't move forward on selecting what will replace the CF-18. We're moving forward hopefully in the not too distant future to establish a discussion with government.

That is not a head of the air force who is in the middle of participating in a competition and making a decision. That is someone saying we will get involved in this discussion with the government in the not too distant future; we will think about what kind of aircraft we want in the future. Yet the government, over and over, has been claiming that Canada was part of this competition that took place a decade ago. It is absolute nonsense and it knows it.

What else did Mr. Williams say, the ADM of materiel management, the person responsible for procurement at that time? He stated:

The only way to know for certain which aircraft can best meet Canadian requirements and at what cost, is to put out an open, fair and transparent statement of requirements and request for proposal, and conduct a rigorous evaluation of the bidders' responses.

How much better than that could one say it? How much clearer can it be that it is the process we ought to have?

The second claim of the government that I want to talk about is that we are bound to buy the joint strike fighter. In fact, the Conservative government signed a second memorandum of understanding in 2006, and paragraph 3.2.1.1.1 of that 2006 agreement states:

Actual procurement of JSF Air Vehicles by the Participants will be subject to the Participants’ national laws and regulations and the outcome of the Participants’ national procurement decision-making processes.

Clearly that 2006 agreement looks forward to a time when governments will make their own decisions about what aircraft they will buy and whether or not, in their decision-making processes in the future, decide to buy this particular aircraft. It clearly does not commit the government, as the government has been claiming for months now, to do it and it is not committed to it yet. There is no actual signed contract as we speak. It still has the opportunity to walk away from this and have an open competition.

The F-35 might win that competition but why not have the competition? Why not challenge all those bidders in that competition, whether it is Rafale, Lockheed Martin or whoever, to come forward with offers of industrial regional benefits and good value in terms of the price of the aircraft?

I sat on the defence committee a couple of times over the past couple of months and at one of the meetings I asked Mr. Williams to what extent, if at all, he would say that Canada's exhaustive list of requirements was included in the competition, because that is an important part of this. If the government is claiming that we had a competition, surely Canada's own requirements would have been considered in that. Mr. Williams said:

The fact is that on December 20, 1995, the U.K. signed the only level-one partnership agreement with the United States. In so doing, this agreement allowed them to be full partners in the development of the requirements and in the system design. No other player in this program has had that opportunity, so to suggest that we were anything more than what we signed up for in the first phase--i.e., as an observer--is greatly exaggerating any influence or input.

He also said, “at that time we hadn't even developed requirement statements for our jets”.

That is right from the horse's mouth. He is the fellow who was responsible for procurement of military equipment for the Government of Canada in 2001 when the announcement of selecting the F-35s was made by the U.S.

I do not know how the government can claim otherwise. I do hope the parliamentary secretary to the defence minister, who I am pleased to see listening, will address that problem with what the government has been saying. Maybe he will come clean here and admit that it has not been true.

Considering what this means for families and how families are struggling to make ends meet, and see the government wasting money as it has on this without an open competition, is reprehensible.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I did not catch all of my colleague's comments but I did get the last few minutes. I do have a question for him.

The member talked about the former assistant deputy minister of materiel, who has not been in that job for over five years. He may be historically accurate in what he was talking about back then, but for many years now we have had a new assistant deputy minister of materiel who is actually working with the MOU today and not something from five years past.

We have a significant number of highly expert civilian and military people who have been examining this at the highest level of security for many years. These are people who are current with the program and current with the MOU, and not five years past. The same kind of process is taking place in at least nine other highly advanced countries.

If we are going to hire these people and pay them all this money for their expertise but ignore them and listen to somebody who is five years out of date simply because it fits a partisan political position, what is the point?

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed that my hon. colleague did not answer my question.

The bulk of my speech refuted the government's claim that there was a past competition, that we were already committed to this, that we had already made the decision and that we were part of the competition. The member did not answer the arguments, and there were lots of them and they were pretty strong in my opinion. He did not try to answer them at all because he cannot refute them.

The member mentioned the present ADM. I have great respect for all the officials at the department. I am not a member of the defence committee but I happened to be there on the day that Mr. Ross, who is the current ADM, suggested that the 2006 MOU said that if we had a public competition it would force Canada to withdraw from the MOU. I asked him to point out where in the MOU it said that and he replied that it was in section 7.6.

Later in the meeting I read the MOU to him and said that it had nothing to do with what he was saying. I said that it had nothing to do with forcing Canada to withdraw from the MOU. I asked Mr. Ross to point out where it said that but he could not say. He said, “It doesn't say it specifically in the MOU”.

Mr. Ross acknowledged the fact that the MOU signed by the Conservative government does not actually require us to stay in the contract in order to have the industrial benefits for our country that our companies have been getting. We had 144 of them before the government announced it was going to buy that aircraft.

The member ought to reconsider his question. I wish he would address the one that I posed to him.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are asking a number of important questions about this F-35 matter. They are asking if this is the right aircraft for the Canadian Forces. They are asking us to define the uses to which we want to put these aircraft. They want to know if they will be used for foreign expeditionary missions, for coastal interdiction and defence or for search and rescue.

Canadians are concerned about the significant cost overruns that many American senators and representatives are talking about. They are concerned about being locked-in to expensive repair contracts. They are wondering if this will be a loss-leader where the aircraft manufacturer gives us a lower price for the aircraft and then, once we are tied into that one aircraft, we will be subject to extreme high costs for repairs in the future. That is not an unreasonable prospect given the massive cost overruns of these aircraft.

Canadians know one thing instinctively. They would not paint their house without getting a number of estimates. They would not buy a car without getting a number of estimates. Could the member explain why the government would spend billions of dollars without getting more than one tender or estimate for such an important project?

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could explain why the government would engage in the largest procurement in Canada's history without an open competition.

My colleague talked about what Canada's requirements might be. We have been asking the government to provide to the House a clear, detailed statement on what those requirements are so that we can assess the planned purchase in response to those requirements. We do not have that.

My colleague also talked about the cost overruns. We are repeatedly hearing about situations in the U.S. in relation to this Lockheed Martin project. We hear American senators and congressmen complaining about the cost overruns of this project.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I support the motion because because I think Canadians want to have some very clear answers to some pretty logical questions.

I am not a military expert. I do not know one plane from another. All I know is that they have wings. However, I am hearing from many of my constituents who have been writing to me, phoning me and a lot of them who are experts are giving me a great deal of advice and asking a lot of questions on this issue. I want to bring these logical questions to the fore because they need to be answered. What we are talking about here is the most expensive equipment procurement in military history in this country.

The government is adamant, first and foremost, that it needs the F-35, which will, at the end of the day, cost taxpayers $16 billion. The big question we want the Conservatives to answer is why they need these F-35s. The Minister of National Defence tells us that we need them to protect our airspace from Russians. He talked about Russian aircraft attempting to penetrate Canadian Arctic airspace and so we had to release the CF-18s. That was the minister's statement. We then hear that NORAD, and Canadian fighter pilots have told us, is a routine kind of flight that goes on all the time. They have test flights that go on all the time. What we do know is that these “invading Russian fighter planes” happen to be 60-year-old propeller planes. I am asking these questions because they do not make any sense to me. We also hear from the fighter pilots that this is just routine stuff that is going on. However, I think most of us believe that the cold war ended a while ago, so I have no idea what we are talking about and I need an answer to that, as do my constituents.

If we do need planes to protect our airspace, what is the most appropriate plane that we need? I have been told that the Boeing Super Hornet could fit the bill because not only are the Hornets good for protection, but we need to look at a two-engine plane instead of a one-engine plane, mainly because the Canadian airspace is so massive that we need to have a back-up engine if we are flying across that airspace and a bird flies into the engine or something else happens. This is a big issue. We have always felt that we needed two-engine planes in this country. We have always believed that and followed that, and now we are being told that this one-engine plane is very necessary and that it is the most important thing.

If we are protecting our airspace, why do we need a stealth fighter? Most experts tell us that a non-stealth fighter would do that job very well. What I want to know is whether this is the most appropriate plane that we are being told we need to get.

I also want to know if we need these planes now. We know that the CF-18s have been upgraded and rebuilt so that they will be fully operative and operational beyond 2020, so it is obvious that we do not need the F-35s now.

I need to drag up the argument that whenever we ask these basic questions in the House, we never get the appropriate answers. We get this rhetoric that I have just debunked. The government always raises the argument that it was the Liberals who opened up this question to put up Canadian aerospace companies to compete for worldwide contracts. The Conservatives are saying that we did it. Now we hear that the ADM at the time this was being negotiated, Alan Williams, said that of course we negotiated the agreement with Lockheed Martin. He remains adamant and absolutely vocal that this did not commit Canada to actually purchase the joint strike fighter. Asking why the Liberals did it at the time, it was to open up competition for Canadian aerospace companies. It did not commit us to buying it and we did not say that we would buy it.

By the way, turning to the question about priorities and costs, at the time we were talking about new jets, if I am not mistaken, we had a $13 billion surplus and we had a $3 billion contingency fund somewhere. We could talk about buying a Mercedes when we had a lot of money in the bank. However, we are now talking at a time of unprecedented deficits in this country and little money to spend.

When we only have a small amount of spending money at a time of an unprecedented deficit of $56 billion and counting, when we have the highest unemployment that we have had in the last 14 years, when we have 151,000 people in Canada out of work and when we find that young people have one of the highest unemployment rates in this country, how are we setting priorities here?

When I looked at my household budget, I had to made decisions when we had less money than we had at certain good times. Those decisions are core priorities. Anybody who did economics 101 will tell us that priorities are based on a hierarchy of needs. What do we need most? What is the most important thing we need at a particular time in our lives when we have a limited sum of money? What do we need first and foremost?

We have a $56 billion deficit. We have the need for job creation because we are told we will be into a jobless recovery. We need to look not just at part-time jobs, not just at job sharing, but at the ability for people to have full-time, sustainable jobs so they can pay their mortgages and not lose their homes. We are talking about that very basic question that people are asking.

In a recent report that came out about a week ago from a think tank, we heard that there were more people in the history of Canada using food banks and that 33% of those people were children. We have to ask about priorities again, the hierarchy of needs. What needs do we need to look at?

Whether the government believes it or not, one of the things a government responsible for the well-being of its people is supposed to do at a time when people are struggling is to look at ways to help them out. Why is it going to pick a hierarchy of needs of fighter planes, which we have been told we do not need now, that they are not the ones need and that they will not do the job as well as others?

The government promised in 2006 that it would look at a whole lot of real, immediate defence needs, and it has done nothing about them. Let us talk about ice breakers. Let us talk about the three supply ships about which it talked. It is still doing diddly-squat about it.

Let us deal with the immediate problems. I know, as a homeowner, if my roof is leaking and I have the choice between fixing my roof and buying a new car, I will keep my old car for the next two years and fix my roof. It is called priorities. It is called common sense. Most Canadians understand this. I do not understand how these decisions are being made. That is why we are trying to get some very clear answers.

We have hierarchy of needs, timeliness of needs and the most urgent needs. What do we need now to take care of business now, so we can move on and maybe do what we really would like to do down the road? It is the difference between what we need and what we want. Sometimes we have to make choices in bad times between those two.

I know the government wants these pretty little toys to play with. The bottom line is Canadians want the government to wake up, listen and look at the statistics, although I know the government does not really like statistics very much. They tell it things it may not be willing to listen to or it does not want to hear. The government should listen to Canadians and look statistically at unemployment rates and at the increasing number of people on the welfare roles. In my province of British Columbia, every month the number is going up. The government shrugs its shoulders and tells us not to look at it, that it is provincial problem.

I want to talk about the word need. We need to look at the sustainability of health care. The need for core housing is a big problem. We have this hierarchy of needs. We have these immediate needs of Canadians. Yet the government is unable to give us answers as to why it picked this issue as the top of its hierarchy. What about the timing of this? We do not need it now. It can wait for a few years. What are the outcomes of the choices it is going to make?

If the government went to the people with a major poll and asked them whether they wanted F-35s right now or whether they would like the government to look at helping stimulate the economy in a meaningful way, looking at housing and looking at getting people off the food lines, I know what the people would say.

Opposition Motion— National DefenceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to know how to react to that. If she considers the equipment that the Canadian Forces need to do their job and protect Canadians at home and people around the world as pretty little toys, then I guess she probably thinks they are little tin soldiers or something too. That is pretty offensive.

I am speaking next. I would invite her to stick around and listen because I will answer a bunch of those questions. She was right about one thing. She has limited knowledge of what she speaks.

However, I will ask her one question. She talks about the capabilities of the Bear, about which she obviously knows nothing. Old airplanes can have some pretty modern stuff inside them. What is her knowledge of the electronic capabilities of the Bear aircraft?

Does she think we should allow Russian airplanes, or any other airplane, to fly around in our air space of interest without our taking action to see who they are? Does she think they should just be able to wander at random through our air space, as she seems to imply?