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House of Commons Hansard #50 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was forces.

Topics

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will have to stop the minister there as he has run out of time.

The hon. member for Chicoutimi—le Fjord.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to address the minister directly. Minister, I would like to tell you in advance that I am grateful for the interest and the attention you will give my questions. Before I get to them, I would like to tell you that it is difficult, for an MP such as myself, to obtain information from your department, the Department of National Defence, even through access to information. I hope and expect to receive official answers from you.

I would like to know what is happening with the Conservative government's 2006 promise to form, by 2015, the air expeditionary support squadron in Bagotville, a squadron of 550 military members and 100 civilians? I believe that the government is not committed to this project. For your information, of the 250 promised for 2010, only 39 military have been hired to date and most of the positions were filled by people already working at the Bagotville base.

Can the minister explain why the government is dragging its feet on this project?

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, it is clear, and I think the member understands most Canadians would understand, that the toll the Afghanistan mission has taken on the Canadian Forces, in terms of our commitments of both equipment and personnel, has required, in many cases, and we spoke just a moment ago about the base that we have in Labrador, Goose Bay, that we deploy equipment from various bases and personnel from right across the country to provide that necessary capability and support for the mission in Afghanistan.

With respect to the Air Expeditionary Wing, there is progress that has been made. Plans to acquire the necessary equipment are, of course, part of that overall plan. We have reassigned, in some cases, certain personnel to the base in Bagotville. I know the hon. member has a long-standing interest in that base, and understandably so.

Concurrently, the defence force structure review, the strategic review, will work with the hon. member and with all those interested to determine the balance that is required for the needs of the Canadian Forces today.

We, of course, are working against the backdrop of a constantly challenging operational tempo in Afghanistan. That remains our number one priority.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, with regard to infrastructure for establishing the air expeditionary squadron, there is no construction, no announcement, no plans or estimates, no tenders. The 2010-15 five-year plan for Bagotville makes no mention of the expeditionary squadron even though $300 million in investments was announced.

Can the minister tell me why the infrastructure work required to form an expeditionary squadron does not figure in National Defence planning?

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, the member does not have his facts right. There is a great deal of construction, investment and infrastructure required to rebuild the Bagotville base.

Let me just list a few. I do not know where the hon. member has been, but in this past year alone, 2009, we announced an investment of approximately $28 million to construct a transport and vehicle maintenance facility at Bagotville. The buildings will be used for garage mechanical work. Various land vehicles will be housed there.

We have also invested $17 million in resurfacing the airstrip.

It is obvious that the airstrip is important to the Bagotville base.

We have other projects where project managers have now received authorization to proceed with the design phase and construction at the base. We will see projects realized in the year 2012, that include the construction of a new facility that is now under evaluation. It is evaluated at over $42 million. Construction is expected to begin this summer.

There are a number of options to proceed with projects at CFB Bagotville, as there are with many projects around the country in terms of infrastructure. We make decisions based on the need. In some cases there is more immediate infrastructure that has to be addressed. Obviously, some of the basics, in terms of water, sewer and electricity in some of these aging facilities have to be addressed on an as needed basis, as the hon. member would know. It is just like maintaining a house. If the roof is leaking, that is what we deal with first.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, I asked a question about the expeditionary squadron.

It seems clear that certain military bases are given preferential treatment. The Trenton base in particular seems to be a favourite, as it has hit the jackpot with investments of close to $1 billion from now through 2015. It is just one announcement after another in Trenton. Contracts are awarded with lightning speed. The same cannot be said for infrastructure upgrade projects in Bagotville, which keep getting delayed indefinitely.

That is what has happened with the health clinic and hangars 2 and 3, which have come to the end of their useful life. The department is simply applying band-aid solutions, which is very costly for the department and its Bagotville infrastructure.

Can the minister tell me why the investments in Bagotville are being neglected this way, at the risk of endangering the health and safety of staff and military personnel.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the feigned indignation and outrage, but I could simply point to the fact that the hon. member, and the record will show, has voted against every single budgetary increase that we have made, including budgetary allocations for the base that we are talking about here, Bagotville, and the numerous investments that I have already recited, millions of dollars for new facilities, for the runway improvement.

There is no preferential treatment. It is done on as needed basis. We constantly re-prioritize, in many instances, because of operational tempo and because of the needs on the base that are identified. It is all part of a very complex, inclusive and consultative process that happens at the department based on information that is received from base commanders on their priorities.

We are going to continue to work within the budgets that we have, with the allocations that are there.

Bagotville is a very important base. It is not receiving short shrift.

CFB Trenton, of course, is home to the largest component part of the expeditionary force and it receives--

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, the defence department's five year investment plan for 2010 to 2015 commits to building a health clinic in Bagotville that would be worth approximately $22 million. No team has been formed to work on the project. There has been no concrete action. However, given the state of the health infrastructure, it is necessary to build and renovate it in the short term.

Why the delays in constructing a health clinic?

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, we take all of our commitments, all of our construction needs, particularly those needs that relate to health care within the Canadian Forces, very seriously.

However, I would encourage the hon. member to do more than just talk about these things. I would encourage him to literally stand behind these initiatives by standing in the House of Commons and voting for the money that we put into these initiatives, the ones of which he speaks of, because he has not done that.

The record will show that he has consistently voted against increases in budgetary needs for the Canadian Forces. He has voted against moneys that are specifically allocated for Bagotville. I do not know how he can reconcile his words today with his actions on those opportunities to stand up and vote for support for Bagotville.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, the member for Saint-Jean and I recently wrote to the minister to request a debriefing about an F-18 engine maintenance contract that may be awarded to General Electric.

Can the minister instruct one of his officers to make sure this meeting happens?

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, we routinely provide briefings at the Department of National Defence. I know that the hon. member and others have expressed interest in contracts. We have a very open, transparent and inclusive process of procurement. Much of the detail of actual procurements is not handled by the Department of National Defence. Some might be surprised to hear that. It is actually done by the Department of Public Works. That is done in consultation with the Department of Industry.

What the Department of National Defence does consistently is outline our operational requirements and needs. We work in close consult with those other departments. However, if there is information that is readily available, we will be happy to share it.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, I wrote a letter to the minister asking him to consider using wood in the construction of Hangar 2 in Bagotville. I have not received a response. Given that the design process for the new building has begun, I would bet that the materials have already been chosen.

Will Hangar 2 in Bagotville be rebuilt using wood, and when will the minister send out the request for proposals?

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I agree with the member.

Wood is very important. It is an essential resource for our country. My family is involved in the industry. It is clear that we used very effective materials for every project.

It is clear that we obviously go about these projects in a way in which we utilize the best possible equipment and the best possible material. We do it in the safest possible way to achieve the optimum result.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to turn briefly to the expeditionary squadron. In the 2009-2014 five-year plan, $180 million was allocated, and $120 million is budgeted for Horizon 2.

But the 2010-15 five-year plan includes no allocation for the expeditionary squadron. I would like to know why.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, the member has partly answered his own question, that moneys have already been spent. Moneys are identified. We clearly respond to our needs at the base level; that is, at all our bases across the country, but operational requirements and readiness take precedent in some cases.

When it comes to what is happening in Afghanistan today, we had clearly identified needs that had to be addressed first on a priority basis. The Canada first defence strategy, good news, is a long-term strategy that will involve considerable investments, $490 billion of investments, across the four pillars of the Canadian Forces.

Therefore, I would urge the hon. member, as he has failed to do on previous occasions, to stand up and vote for this budget, to stand up and vote for the allocations that will help places like Bagotville.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Chair, I was talking to the minister about the expeditionary squadron.

In 2009, the minister authorized the construction of Hangar 2 at a cost of $28 million in 2012. The current condition of the building is jeopardizing soldiers' health and safety. To date, no funds have been allocated to undertake the project.

Will the minister make a formal commitment to obtain funds to undertake the construction of Hangar 2 in 2012 as he announced?

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, again let me just clarify. There is a hangar, Hangar 2 which he refers to, which is currently housing some of the transport and vehicle maintenance capabilities.

We spoke earlier of a new facility. That new facility will provide some of that same capability. Within the entire inventory of buildings at CFB Bagotville, the commander there gives us advice as to his operational needs. Relocating some of that equipment to the newly constructed transport and vehicle maintenance facility will provide that capability. It is correct to say that Hangar 2 will be replaced by the new transport vehicle maintenance facility that I referenced earlier, and with the completion of that facility, then Hangar 2 will be demolished.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Chair, I will be sharing my time this evening with the member for Oak Ridges—Markham and the member for Edmonton Centre. Mr. Chair, I thank you and the members of the committee for allowing me to contribute to the Department of National Defence expenditures discussion.

Allow me a minute to recognize with thanks the NFTC program that is alive and well at 15 Wing Moose Jaw and also recognize the reserve units that are very well placed in Moose Jaw and Regina. We thank them for all that they are and for all that they do.

I would like to use this time to talk about the Canadian Forces' international operations.

The good work of our forces extends far beyond Canada's borders, with more than 3,700 Canadian soldiers, sailors and air force personnel currently deployed on international operations. On any given day, about 8,000 Canadian Forces members, one-third of our deployable force, are preparing for, engaging in, or returning from an overseas mission.

We have committed our military because we know that security in Canada begins with stability abroad and because it is within our capabilities to make positive changes in the world. This is why our Canadian Forces continue to work with our national and international partners to find peaceful solutions to decades-old conflicts and disputes and to fight where we need to fight. The Canadian Forces are currently involved in 16 operations around the world, from the Balkans to the Congo and from the Middle East to Darfur.

Today, their largest operation and Canada's highest international priority is the mission in Afghanistan. Under a United Nations Security Council mandate and alongside ISAF, our forces have been engaged in Afghanistan for more than eight years. From operations in the rugged terrain of Kandahar to training the Afghan national army and police, Canadian men and women are working alongside Afghans to combat terrorism and to build a country better governed, more peaceful and more secure.

As important as Afghanistan is, however, this is only one of many missions where our forces are engaged or have recently been engaged in operations and indeed are making a difference.

For example, the Canadian Forces have 55 personnel deployed in the Middle East where our forces have had a presence since the Suez crisis of 1956. They are engaged in a number of different operations in the region working with multinational and binational partners to bring stability and to build the security so badly needed for peace to take hold.

Canada contributes to the multinational force and observers in the Sinai Peninsula through Operation Calumet, a mission that oversees the implementation of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Canada is also present in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force on the Golan Heights, which supervises the ceasefire between Israel and Syria, and in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, which observes and maintains the ceasefire between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. It is a lot of work for very few people.

Also in the Middle East, Canadian Forces are doing some extraordinary work in support of U.S. efforts to build peace and security for Israel and for the Palestine folks. Through Operation Proteus, 17 members of the Canadian Forces and two Canadian civilians are working side by side with American, British and Turkish military personnel as part of the United States security coordinator's mission. This mission works to build the foundations of a modern and professional security and justice system in the West Bank.

These efforts, responding directly to the needs of the Palestinians and Israelis, have already borne significant fruit and are a key element to building the trust necessary to revive peace efforts.

Our Canadian Forces are also making a difference in Africa, with over 50 personnel currently deployed in that area. Operation Safari is Canada's participation in the United Nations missions in Sudan. It is the military component of the Canadian whole of government engagement in southern Sudan.

The 30 CF personnel involved in Operation Safari are working to support implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement. They are also facilitating humanitarian assistance while working to protect and promote human rights. In Operation Saturn, Canadian Forces personnel participate in the African Union/UN hybrid operation in Darfur. In Operation Crocodile, our soldiers—

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Andrew Scheer

I regret to interrupt my colleague from Saskatchewan, but it being 10:53 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), all votes are deemed reported and the committee will rise, and I will now leave the chair.

National Defence—Main Estimates, 2010-11Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 10:54 p.m.)