Mr. Speaker, I will be short. I felt moved to speak to this question of privilege after listening to the House leader yesterday try to refute the arguments of the question of privilege.
Yesterday, the government House leader told the House, at page 7025 of Debates:
...because ministers have taken a posture different from that originally taken by bureaucrats, in respect of chapter 2 of the...[Auditor General's report], Parliament is being misled.
I would remind the Speaker of the statement made in the House by the Minister of National Defence, who was adamant about the existence of a contract and the costs associated with the procurement of F-35s. He stated:
Mr. Speaker, let us look at the actual contract. What the Canadian government has committed to is a $9 billion contract for the acquisition of 65 fifth generation aircraft. This includes not just the [cost of the] aircraft, but also includes the onboard systems, supporting infrastructure, initial spares, training simulators, contingency funds. This is a terrific investment for the Canadian Forces.
That was from the December 13, 2010, Debates on page 7130.
The following statement from page 3 of the Auditor General's report, chapter 2, should be of concern to you, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the issue of question of privilege. It states:
National Defence likely underestimated the full life-cycle costs of the F-35. The budgets for the F-35 acquisition (CAN$9 billion) and sustainment (CAN$16 billion) were initially established in 2008 without the aid of complete cost and other information. Some of that information will not be available until years from now.
Note the date referred to by the Auditor General, 2008. What makes that statement by the Auditor General significant is that the current Minister of National Defence, who deliberately misinformed the House as to the total costs on December 13, 2010, has been the Minister of National Defence since 2007, which means throughout the period the Auditor General is concerned about. It was this minister who was the minister of the department responsible.
It is my belief, having been a member of cabinet, that it is this minister and the current government that, in a matter relating to costing, deliberately misled Parliament.
With respect to the Prime Minister, I would make the following submission.
On November 3, 2010, at page 5751 of Debates, the Prime Minister, while attempting to berate the opposition for questioning the manner in which the government was handling the contracts, stated the following:
We are going to need to replace the aircraft at the end of this decade, and the party opposite knows that....
It would be a mistake to rip up this contract for our men and women in uniform as well as the aerospace industry.
The Prime Minister was clear. It is reference to a contract to acquire the F-35s to replace the CF-18s. There was no reference to any other kind of contractual agreement with anyone for anything other than for the replacement of the CF-18s.
Yet on April 5, 2012, at page 6948 of Debates, after the Auditor General's report the Prime Minister had changed his tune, declaring that the government “has not signed a contract”.
One of those statements is misleading and a falsehood. That constitutes a breach of the privileges of all members of this place.
I know a fair bit of time has been spent on this and I would love to talk about the House leader's rendition of ministerial responsibility in the House yesterday, but I will leave that.
The fact is the Minister of National Defence and the government generally were responsible for what has been stated in this place, not officials. The responsibility is that of the ministers. The fact is simple enough. What the House was told by members of the government does not accord with the findings of the Auditor General and that constitutes a deliberate misleading of the House, I believe, on both fronts, the contract and what my colleague, the member for Toronto Centre said in his first question of privilege.