House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

An hon. member

Canadian families deserve better.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Canadian families certainly do deserve better. I would have thought, after seven hours of debate, that my colleagues would have been tired but they are as energetic in the House of Commons as they are defending their constituents. What an amazing team.

As we go into the eighth hour of debate, Canadians are providing the debate. It is Canadians from coast to coast to coast who are faxing, emailing, tweeting and posting on Facebook. It is Canadians who are saying that this debate needs to be engaged. It is Canadians saying that they have heard about the budget and now they want to have their word on this budget. What makes this debate fascinating is that it is generated by the Canadian people. It is generated by younger and older Canadians, by Canadians who are raising their families and have finished raising their families, and by Canadians who are single and in large families. The pinnacle of democratic debate on the floor of the House of Commons is when ordinary Canadian families can have their voices expressed here in the House of Commons as they are doing today.

I will move on to to a woman from North York in the Toronto area. She says, “Thank you for mentioning the blue collar workers such as carpenters, construction workers, painters, et cetera, in the budget debate. My husband is a letter carrier for Canada Post and his knees are damaged and his body almost broken. He will be lucky if he can make it until he is 60, never mind 67. He will be able to retire at 65 but I worry about the generation behind him who will not be able to. Keep fighting for all of us Canadians”.

I would like to thank all the letter carriers and all those who work for Canada Post who get our mail delivered everyday for their devotion.

That is exactly the point we are making with OAS. This is not some kind of academic exercise where we simply raise the age from 65 to 67 and everybody falls into place. This is an attack on manual professions. This is an attack on letter carriers, carpenters, people who work in restaurants and service industries, people who have given their lives with their legs, their backs, their arms and their necks. It is different for an individual who is lawyer or is working in a white collar profession. It is not as punishing on the body. I am not suggesting that white collar workers do not work as hard. I am suggesting that it is a different kind of work.

However, for blue collar workers, those are the kinds of workers who will be most impacted by this callous raising of the retirement age because they simply will not be able to put two more years into their profession, which means that they will end up in dire poverty.

As I mentioned previously, we are talking about a quadrupling of the poverty rate among Canadian seniors in the next few years. We talked about a dismal, dark, divisive decade under these Conservatives. It would become even worse if they were ever returned to power in 2015, because all of these divisive, dour changes that they are making to push our quality of life down, except for the wealthiest of Canadians, will have a greater and greater impact.

To tell Canadians who work in the manual professions that somehow it does not matter, that they should have their bodies give two more years, is showing enormous disrespect for the manual professions in this country. Those Canadians have already given and they are entitled to have a respectful retirement at the age of 65. We are standing up in the House because we are saying that those manual workers in Canada deserve better than what they are getting from the government.

I have another tweet that reads, “I find myself extremely frustrated that this Conservative government has so little regard for the poorest of Canadians”.

I have a woman who comments, “I am very concerned about several items that have emerged in the budget. Changes to environmental assessment process: Any changes on the environment assessment process should be based on the desire to ensure the utmost protection of the environment to sustain the Canadian population. Protection of our environment is protection of people and jobs across the country. This should be the focus on any changes to assessment processes, not on time, but prior to making this assessment or in the interest of speeding up project deliveries. The risks are far greater than any measurable advantage of quicker industrial development”.

Her second concern is about the changes to the CRA and charitable organizations. She says, “Any government in Canada should welcome and encourage public engagement in political processes and in political dialogue. In political pursuits that are non-partisan in nature there should be no question or concern. An engaged, informed and active citizenry means a government that is responsive to the needs of all its members. I am very concerned that these efforts will have a chill effect on the ability for organizations to engage citizens on matters that are political but not partisan”.

She goes on to say, “Thank you for asking for and reading in the House our concerns”. We thank her for sending that in.

Next we have a young Canadian who writes in from Guelph, Ontario. He says, “I am from Guelph, although I am currently on an internship in Costa Rica. I have been here since mid-January and have watched the political turmoil from abroad with great interest. I am not in the habit of writing MPs. However, I hope you will relay these sentiments in the House in some fashion.

“The new budget has made me sick. I do not recognize Canada as my home any more. As a participant in the Canada world youth program, I understand the importance of programs like Katimavik for the youth of Canada. I think that cutting its funding is disgraceful and will leave the youth of this country further behind, coupled with rising tuition fees, limited job prospects and fewer government grants, it is amazing kids don't just give up.

“On cuts to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, to the National Film Board and to Telefilm, I am a photographer and it is almost next to impossible to survive in Canada in the arts. In fact, I am in Costa Rica right now because there are more options in Central America than in Canada. However, it is compounded by the fact that those organizations have produced content that is edgy, controversial and not always pro-government. The cuts symbolize nothing less than a partisan attack on government-funded companies and the message is clear: disagree with us and you lose your funding.

“The 19,000 public sector employees who lost their jobs while there is redundancy in the public service. I think massive layoffs like this was a poorly thought out idea, especially considering how friendly this budget is for private sector employers. Canada has a long tradition of public service and for good reason. This spits in the face of that tradition.

“I am a 23-year old with a political science degree who is finding work in Canada to be a difficult thing to come by. I think policy-makers need to understand that this budget does not reflect the will of the people and opposition members must make that clear”.

I will move right on to another Conservative-held riding. It is quite gratifying to all of us that most of these letters that have come in more recently are from Conservative-held ridings. We are hearing the constituents of the Conservatives themselves standing up and saying that the government needs to read the budget and to understand the impacts. However, most important, these constituents are telling their Conservative members of Parliament that they should be voting against the budget because Canadian families deserve better than what the Conservatives have put forward.

This woman writes, “I live in a Conservative riding in Ottawa, Ontario, that’s Ottawa West—Nepean. I am 29 years old. I have a two-year-old daughter. My father is retired, having worked over 35 years for the city. My mother is self-employed and in ill health. I’m the first generation in my family to have attained a university education for which I finally paid for in full in 2010. I pay taxes. I vote. I have a mortgage. I shop locally and support our economy.

“I believe in the vibrancy I see in our communities and in the public institutions that make this country safe and great, but I am greatly disturbed at the direction this government is taking our country. The budget is yet another tool that will erode the great things our predecessors have accomplished.

“The government has not proven that OAS is unsustainable in its current form. They have not listened to the respected economists who have said that while there will be an additional draw on OAS it will be temporary. They have not listened to the 70% or 80% of Canadians who have said in numerous polls that they are opposed to this change. This is a manufactured crisis by a government that treats its own constituents with contempt and other members of Parliament with disrespect.

“Today’s younger workers say that those under age 54 will pay doubly for OAS”.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas on a point of order.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening carefully to this debate for some time.

The previous occupant of the chair said that if we had procedural or other questions we should consult the desk in the lobby. That is what I did. Still, we would like you to give us some of your wisdom as speaker. Far from wanting to interrupt my colleague, because I think his comments are very relevant, I would ask you to look at Standing Order 84(4) of the House of Commons, where, concerning the budget debate, we read:

On the second of the said days, if a subamendment be under consideration at fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business in such sitting, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and forthwith put the question on the said subamendment.

The subamendment has not been moved, and I would like a clarification. Will you permit my hon. colleague to continue until 6:30 p.m.? What will happen to the adjournment proceedings that follow?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I thank the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas for his intervention.

As he cited correctly from the Standing Orders, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster continues to have the floor as is accorded to him. Since there is yet to be an amendment to the motion, there cannot be a subamendment.

We will allow the hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster to continue at his discretion. He will know that we are coming to the end of the time allotted for government orders for the day.

The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas, who does such fine work here in the House. He is one of the new members who are bringing great energy to the House, even when he rises on points of order. I would like to commend him.

I want to continue with the comments from this constituent who is from yet another Conservative-held riding. I would like to thank particularly the Canadians who currently live in Conservative-held ridings for their tweets, Facebook postings, emails, faxes and phone calls. They really help us understand what Canadians in Conservative-held ridings are thinking. They are very concerned about this budget, understandably. They are concerned that they were promised other things prior to May 2. It is certainly sinking in for constituents in Conservative-held ridings that they were promised that health care funding would continue, retirement security would continue, and services would continue, that things would not be messed up. Now they are seeing that the government is messing up on all of the commitments it made. Understandably, constituents in Conservative-held ridings are raising those things.

The next one is from Ottawa West--Nepean, the riding of the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This constituent states, “This is a manufactured crisis by a government that treats its own constituents with contempt and other members of Parliament with disrespect. Today's younger workers say those under age 54 will pay doubly for OAS. We all fund this program with our tax dollars, but today's youth will be held off from benefiting from OAS for two additional years when they begin to access OAS by approximately 2030. The Conservative government has protected the interests of its key voter base today, while ensuring another government, federal or provincial, will be left to deal with the fallout for future generations. Compounding this problem is the fact that the boomer impact on OAS will wane in the early 2030s. This change to OAS makes absolutely no sense.”

Mr. Speaker, I asked the previous chair occupant to give me an indication at five minutes and one minute before the 6:30 p.m. adjournment. I would not want to overstep that time, unless there was unanimous consent to do that, in which case, with all the emails, tweets and postings on Facebook we are getting, it looks as though I could go all night. Just with comments from Conservative-held ridings I could probably go all night. They are flooding in. People are concerned about OAS and cutbacks in services. They are concerned about losing their jobs. We are being flooded with comments. If we did go all night, I would have a chance to read a lot more of the comments.

The constituent from Ottawa West—Nepean went on to say, “This change to OAS makes absolutely no sense. No plans are noted for those who, for whatever reason, cannot work past age 65, some even past age 60. This purposeful neglect is outrageous. I am sure you can perceive the intergenerational tension this will bring even in this email. Studies and surveys have noted that today's youth do not have much knowledge of what a good workplace pension means. Canadians across the board struggle to provide for family basics, like food, child care and school supplies, meet financial obligations like student loans and mortgages and save for retirement. Instead of manufacturing crises of sustainability and misrepresenting the financial facts of OAS, the government should focus on taking real action to help Canadians secure their retirement income. No investment is to be made in the environment. Subsidies for the most damaging industries will continue. In another portion of the budget, the government intends to address the contentious issue of federal public servants' compensation and pensions. One MP in particular was interviewed on an Ottawa radio station within minutes of the budget speech wrapping up. He said that the 4,800 jobs that would be lost in Ottawa in some form or another was nothing.”

We will find out tomorrow to what extent the national capital region is gutted by this budget because we will have a more accurate assessment of exactly how many tens of thousands of jobs have been lost here. A member of Parliament said that it is nothing, that these employees are nothing.

The individual from Ottawa West—Nepean said, “This is contempt at its worst. I am very worried about what future direction this contempt and disregard will take. The government's actions in this contempt cannot continue. I feel a responsibility to contribute in whatever way I can to ensure this does not continue so that the Canada I know and love and choose to live in and support remains for my daughter. Thank you for representing Canadians in the House today.”

Here is another tweet that is hot off the press. I am not sure I can say that about tweets, but I will in this case. Mr. Slepchik said that in solidarity with the NDP, he is staying at work until I am done speaking. He said, “Stand up for public servants, pensions and Katimavik with budget 2012”.

This next comment is from someone in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, which I know my colleague from Dartmouth—Coal Harbour feels very strongly about. This person said, “Today's budget breaks numerous Conservative promises. During the 2011 election, that party promised to leave the pensions of Canadian seniors in tact. Today's budget does a number of things, but what it does not do is preserve pensions. This budget kills 19,200 jobs directly, which will have a cascading effect on the Canadian economy of killing a further tens of thousands of jobs by lost spending in the local marketplace by the 19,200 federal employees whose jobs were killed in the budget. The budget maintains unnecessary tax cuts for big corporations, and while the tax cuts go into their pockets, middle-class Canadians like me get a massive tax cut of $2.09 a month, and a loaf of bread costs $2.29.”

This individual from Dartmouth is absolutely right. As study after study has shown, what has happened with corporate tax cuts is cash hoarding. Some $583 billion is being hoarded by Canada's companies, which is why with these tax cuts there are such severe job losses as we have experienced over the last few months. This is another individual pronouncing against the budget.

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to rush a bit, because I know as I am speaking there are more and more emails in our inboxes. More faxes are coming in. More tweets are coming in. There are more postings on Facebook. The comments just keep coming in. I am trying to rush a bit to get as much in as I can in the course of the next few minutes, unless of course we get unanimous consent to continue, but I have a sense the whip will not be willing to do that.

This comment is from someone from Vancouver Island North, another Conservative-held riding. The constituent said, “My concern is the number of public service jobs that will be cut in the budget. Not only will this affect individual families, this will cause economic stagnation”.

An individual from the Toronto region said, “I am stunned by the imposed 10% reduction in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's budget. I appreciate the service so acutely and can only imagine what it would be for those who do not live in an urban and resource bountiful region. I listen to it; I read it online; I watch it on TV. The CBC is my primary source of information and one that I count on for a sensible and honest relaying of news. I believe that the government is trying to cut the CBC down at the knees, as well as honest journalistic criticism. Secondly, I am appalled by the short-sighted dismantling of the round table on the environment and the economy. Certainly there are environmentalists who are capable of assessing the global and national state of the environment. We are sadly tied to an economic engine that must be fuelled and this round table would have served to do just that in the sustainable way that we desperately need.”

The person from Toronto continues, “I am shocked and fighting a profound sadness at feeling so powerless in the face of this Conservative government who seemingly trounce everything that I am proud of about this country. I have a baby girl and it's hard not to take the budget much more personally. We are no longer the international bastions of environmentalist action, free speech or plain politics, things I have been proud of since I was a young teen, things that I normally would have been looking forward to sharing with my daughter, not mention the question of whether or not she will have clean water to drink and maple trees to tap in northern Ontario.

“Please don't read this letter as simply one citizen's pining for joyful memories of childhood; this is about the state of global health and survival. It's simple truth and we all have to play our part. Thank you for reading my email and, hopefully, hearing a plea for change as we fight together against this country's demise”.

Another email from Toronto states, “In the grand scheme of things, I think there are a lot of reasons why these are significant cuts. I am talking about the staggering cuts to the operating budget of the CBC”. The writer goes on to say that “Austerity budgets do little but hurt those who are already so vulnerable”.

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken for a while today and I intend fully to continue speaking on this issue tomorrow, if my voice permits, because we are raising fundamental issues.

The budget is a real betrayal of commitments that were made by the Prime Minister and the government in the last election campaign. This is not what Canadians voted for.

What we are seeing from the emails that we are getting and the tweets and the Facebook postings from Canadians from coast to coast to coast is a real concern about the direction of this country. Canadians are saying that the budget is wrong in denying the commitments that were solemnly made in the last election campaign when the Prime Minister looked Canadians in the eyes and said, “I will not gut health care. I will not gut retirement security. I will maintain services.” He was making a solemn commitment. That commitment has been broken. Canadians feel that. Many of the letters and tweets and Facebook postings and emails that we have read today demonstrate to what extent Canadians feel betrayed by the budget.

We will continue to do what New Democrats have always done in this House of Commons: We will continue to speak up for Canadian families. We will speak up because that has been our role since the very first days the first two labour MPs back in the 1920s sat down in that corner and forced a minority government to bring in old age pensions. It was considered a radical idea at the time, but those two voices, those two labour MPs, led to the first step in what was a fundamental transformation.

Tomorrow, I will tell members about what the CCF MPs did when they were seven in the House, and then 12, and then 15. I am hoping members will anticipate that conversation tomorrow.

Today, with 102 voices in Parliament, we are standing up to say no to the budget because Canadian families deserve better than what the budget would do for them.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, last December 7 I asked the government why it was failing our country and the world by abdicating global leadership on the world's most pressing environmental issue, climate change.

The first response received was an attack on the Liberal Party for signing on to Kyoto. However, the Minister of the Environment told the Huffington Post that Kyoto was a good idea for its time. How can it be a good idea and also considered a blunder? Obviously, it cannot. Kyoto was indeed a good idea in its time, and the rest of the world thinks it remains a good idea. Only the government thinks otherwise.

Then there was a second attack for not supporting a sector-by-sector approach to climate change. While the parliamentary secretary continues, in her words, to implore me to get on board with her government's sector-by-sector approach, let me be very clear: there is no climate change plan, just final stages of writing new regulations for coal-fired electricity and mere beginning consultations with the oil sands, cement, gas and steel industries.

I will not be party to the government's negligence on climate change, nor to a delay tactic. Moreover, I will not ignore the plight of the countries most vulnerable to climate change: Bangladesh, the Maldives, Sudan, et cetera.

I have recently returned from speaking at an international climate conference in Bangladesh for parliamentarians from over 20 countries. I have since been asked to be on the steering committee for a new international network, Parliamentarians for Climate Justice. Just last week, the United Nations Development Programme asked if I would attend the first meeting for the advisory group of parliamentarians for disaster risk reduction.

In Bangladesh rising sea levels threaten farmland and water supply, despite the fact that its population of 160 million emits less greenhouse gas than Manhattan. In the future, a one-metre sea level rise will submerge one-fifth of the land mass and displace 20 million people. Most distressingly, children on the streets of Bangladesh talk about the taste of climate change. It is salty, they explain, because salt water is already inundating water supplies.

Perhaps the parliamentary secretary might share whether she has ever visited Bangladesh or any other of the countries most vulnerable to climate change to see first-hand what they are experiencing—for example, threatened energy, food, health, livelihoods, water and total human security.

At our last late show the parliamentary secretary made the accusation that while I often talk of supporting scientists and the need for climate adaptation, the Liberal Party voted against the government's budget. The Liberal Party did vote against the past budget because it had major flaws, as does this budget.

To be clear, I take every opportunity in this House to defend science and scientists. We need scientific excellence. We need to ensure that Environment Canada's programs and scientists are fully funded, to develop a scientific integrity policy, to protect the department's scientific findings from being altered, distorted or suppressed. In fact, my Motion No. 321 asked for all these items. Will the parliamentary secretary support it?

When it comes to climate adaptation, I had the privilege of consulting to the adaptation and impacts research group, AIRG, at Environment Canada on the human health impacts of climate change and adaptation. I also served on the intergovernmental panel on climate change for two reports. AIRG undertook internationally renowned research, and many of its scientists shared in the 2007 Nobel Prize on climate change.

It is the government that is slashing the budget of Environment Canada and shutting down adaptation and impacts research.

6:35 p.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario


Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada is committed to working together to address climate change in a way that is fair, effective and comprehensive and allows us to continue to create jobs here in Canada. We believe that a new agreement with legally binding commitments for all major emitters represents the path forward. The Durban platform builds on our work at Copenhagen and Cancun.

Our government has taken action since 2006 to make real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Liberal Party, by contrast, has lost the right to speak about environmental leadership.

The Liberals signed the Kyoto protocol in 1997, but they had no real plan. Eddie Goldenberg, one of former prime minister Jean Chrétien's top aides, later revealed that the Liberals went ahead with the Kyoto protocol on climate change even though they knew there was a good chance Canada would not meet its goals for pollution reduction. The Liberals ratified the Kyoto protocol in 2002, but there was still no plan to implement it. As the member for Kings—Hants pointed out at the time, “there was no long-term planning”.

Nine years of inaction later, the former Liberal leader summed up what his party had accomplished on climate change declaring, “We didn't get it done”. The Liberals certainly did not get it done. During those Liberal years of inaction, greenhouse gas emissions went up, not down.

Under Kyoto, Canada was facing radical and irresponsible choices if we wanted to avoid punishing multi-billion dollar penalties. To meet the targets under Kyoto for 2012, we would have to either remove every car, truck, ATV, tractor, ambulance, police car and vehicle of every kind from Canadian roads, or close down the entire farming and agricultural sector and cut heat to every home, office, hospital, factory and building in Canada.

What would have been the cost of taking this type of radical and irresponsible action? The loss of thousands of jobs or the transfer of $14 billion from Canadian taxpayers to other countries. This figure is the equivalent of $1,600 from every Canadian family with no impact on emissions or any benefit to the environment.

Our Conservative government remains committed to reducing Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, and we are making good progress.

6:35 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had a plan that could have got us 80% of the way to meeting Kyoto. The government ended that plan. It has now reduced the targets by 90% and it can only get us 25% of its target.

For many of the world's poorest countries, climate change is not an academic debate but a pressing reality faced every day. Malawi, where most people live in rural areas and earn less than $1,000 a year, is most susceptible to droughts, which will become more frequent and intense. Vietnam is most threatened by rising sea levels. Up to 16% of its land area, 35% of its people and 35% of its gross domestic product could be hard hit.

We must refocus the climate change debate on humanity, human rights, climate justice and the personal rather than the anonymous, faceless, other.

Will the government see or will it wilfully ignore the world's poorest nations which are disproportionately affected by climate change?

6:35 p.m.


Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, here is what the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development had to say in 2005 about the Liberal government's inaction regarding the environment:

When it comes to protecting the environment, bold announcements are made and then often forgotten as soon as the confetti hits the ground. The federal government seems to have trouble crossing the finish line.

In contrast to the Liberals, our Conservative government remembers its commitments. We have a comprehensive plan to meet our target of reducing greenhouse gases by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Nationally, we are already a quarter of the way to reaching our 2020 target.

6:40 p.m.


Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am using this time to talk about issues relating to the F-35 procurement. I am seeking clarity as there is considerable dissonance between the minister's talking points and what experts have been saying on the F-35. I will use this time to set out in a very broad way the wide gulf between the experts and the government and offer the government an opportunity to close that gap for us.

Tomorrow is the much anticipated Auditor General's spring report. It will review the government's conduct with respect to this procurement and its commitment to the F-35. This is timely as we have long awaited some clarity on this procurement initiative. Perhaps the government will use this evening as an opportunity to provide that clarity before the AG does.

Six weeks after issuing the statement of operational requirements for the CF-18 replacement, the government announced that 65 F-35s would be purchased for $16 billion. The first problem here is that a process which experts say would normally take about two years was done in a fraction of that time, just six weeks.

The next issue is cost. The Parliamentary Budget Officer's independent analysis has concluded that the F-35s will cost at least $30 billion, nearly twice as much as the government's estimate. Despite this, the minister has repeatedly said that by selecting the F-35 Canadian soldiers are getting “the best equipment at the best price”.

On March 2, after a meeting with the F-35 partners, the minister repeated his well used talking points claiming that “good progress” was being made. However, a week later, we learned that the head of the Pentagon's F-35 program had told the associate minister that production slowdowns would further increase the cost of each plane. The question arises: Why did the minister not share this information with Canadians?

Briefing notes dating back to last September indicate that while the government was saying that all was well with the program, it was privately concerned about price, production and the transparency of the program. A day after the Pentagon's top weapons buyer called the F-35 production plan an “acquisition malpractice”, the minister stood up to reaffirm commitment to the program.

The government has repeatedly said that it selected the F-35 because it alone meets the mandatory requirements. On numerous occasions the minister called the F-35 “the best and only aircraft that meets the needs of Canada's armed forces”. Last week, I received a document he had signed that said the same thing. However, on that same day the CBC revealed evidence indicating that this statement was not accurate.

How can we reconcile what the government is telling us with expert analysis when the information it gives us is so glaringly different from what everyone else is saying?

6:40 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario


Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House this evening to reply to the question posed by the hon. member for Beaches—East York regarding this important issue.

Before putting forward a few points in reply, it is absolutely essential that I distinguish three issues with regard to fighter jet aircraft required by the Royal Canadian Air Force to perform tasks that all members agree are important for Canada.

First, there is the issue of the lifespan of the CF-18s, which is running out as we speak but has been extended for the rest of this decade, we are told, due to the expertise of our engineers, pilots and aviators.

I invite the hon. member in his subsequent statements to make it clear for the people of Canada and this House that the NDP supports a replacement for this aircraft. By merely citing the voices of experts, some of whom are absolutely against procuring fighter jet aircraft for this country at all, the NDP is taking an ambiguous position on that issue. I think that is of concern to Canadians.

Second, there is the issue of a development program on which Canada embarked 15 years ago and that now includes nine allied nations to develop a next-generation joint strike fighter, now known as the F-35. That is a development program. Let us be very clear to this House and the people of Canada: we are not yet in procurement mode. We are not yet signing contracts for an aircraft. We are developing an aircraft for Canada and other allies because we think the technology represented by this aircraft will be superior to other available options.

Third, there is the question of purchase, contracts and procurement, which the hon. member has mentioned. It is very important that we distinguish and discuss all three.

I would like to leave the first question with the hon. member. We need to hear back from the NDP on that issue.

On the issue of the development program, let me reassure the hon. member that this is an effort to build a state-of-the-art fighter. It is an effort to work in partnership with allies, with countries that did the hardest work with us in Libya, Afghanistan and Kosovo, like the United States and the United Kingdom, but also with Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. This effort will develop an absolutely superior piece of technology that will perform in the air, fulfill the missions Canada asks of its air force and bring our pilots back safely.

The program is not only on track to develop this aircraft; it is ahead of the test schedule for flights and flight hours. Canada continues to work with all of its partners to make sure this project moves ahead. We are encouraged by the recent statement by the United States that its total purchase of 2,443 aircraft will not be reduced. It is a fact that flies in the face of the kinds of arguments and innuendoes that our colleagues on the other side have put forward both here in this House and in comments to the media. Allies remain committed to this development program.

We intend to purchase the least expensive variant. We remain confident that we will see the F-35 delivered, and there will be benefits for Canada. Almost 70 companies in six provinces across this country have, as a result of our participation in the MOU, received orders for $435 million to date, an amount that is well in excess of the investment Canada has made to be part of the development program.

In future, our companies may have access to billions of dollars' worth of subcontracts. For that reason, we remain committed to this development program as well as to the replacement of the CF-18s at the end of their useful lives, within a budget that we have set. We have been clear about it every step.

6:45 p.m.


Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems daily that I, along with my colleagues, have risen in this House to ask the minister questions about this file. From the shadow of a mountain of evidence, including testimony from the F-35 program managers, the minister has denied what has been obvious to all of us for a long time.

This is a troubled program. Development program it may be, but based fundamentally on a miscalculation, according to the program manager. It threatens to cost Canadian taxpayers untold billions. It threatens to leave our air force with an operational gap. It is our effort to reconcile the mountain of evidence, including testimony that shows the F-35 is a troubled program. Most troubling in all of this has been the absence of openness and transparency from the government. Its conduct on this file has been a terrible disservice to our system of government.

6:45 p.m.


Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the really troubled position in this whole debate over the F-35, and much of it has been unnecessary, is the policy of the NDP on this issue. It is still not clear, from the member's opening statement or from his subsequent statement, whether the NDP wants to see the CF-18 replaced by a cutting-edge piece of technology that would perform the missions of the future and bring our pilots home safely.

Our commitment to the F-35 was made following a thorough analysis of current and perceived roles and core missions. We have a responsibility to provide our pilots with the highest level of mission success. We are committed to exercising the prudent good stewardship of taxpayer funds through a procurement process and to ensuring that the equipment we ultimately acquire, in accordance with the highest standards of transparency for which this country is renowned, will be on budget and will meet mission requirements and bring our pilots home safely.

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:50 p.m.)