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House of Commons Hansard #106 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence looked very much in charge when he climbed aboard the F-35 for photo ops. He looked very much in charge when for months he was denying any problems with the F-35.

Here is the bottom line: The Minister of National Defence had the responsibility to know, he had the duty to find out and he had the obligation to tell the truth in Parliament.

Now that his Minister of National Defence has failed so miserably, why is the Prime Minister refusing to act?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

On the contrary, Mr. Speaker, the government is acting on the recommendations of the Auditor General. The government has not acquired the aircraft. The government has not signed a contract. The government has frozen the funds for acquisition. The government will examine the process.

The government has said it will set up a separate and distinct secretariat, and we will make sure there are independent verification processes. That is how the government will proceed.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, if the generals will not follow the chain of command, who is the problem exactly: the Chief of Defence Staff or the Minister of National Defence? Under our system, it is the minister.

We have seen no action, no accountability. Worse, instead of opening up the process with a public tender, as he has just admitted, they are to create an F-35 secretariat. The Conservatives are still fully on board with the F-35, believe it or not. They are not even considering other options.

Why will the minister not stand up and take responsibility? Why will the Prime Minister not put an end to this nonsense?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the government is accepting the recommendations of the Auditor General. The course of action suggested by the leader of the NDP is not the course of action suggested by the Auditor General.

The Government of Canada, along with its allied partners, has been involved in the development of this aircraft for some 15 years. There are close to half a billion dollars in contracts that have been given to Canadian firms, which are continuing their work.

This government remains committed to making sure, when the CF-18 reaches the eventual end of its life, beginning at the end of this decade, that our men and women in uniform have the best equipment.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government is accepting the recommendations but it is not accepting responsibility. The Prime Minister is directly avoiding his responsibilities.

A $10 billion piece of misinformation does not happen by immaculate conception. Somebody misinformed somebody else. It happened.

When will the Prime Minister of Canada take clear responsibility for what took place? When will that happen?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has been very clear on responsibility for this in the report and the government is taking the responsibility to act on his recommendations.

We will re-examine, as the Auditor General has suggested, the cost estimates before proceeding. We will ensure there is a more independent process to verify the accuracy of those estimates.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the same government that vilified the Parliamentary Budget Officer for his report and for his numbers, which have been completely vindicated by what the Auditor General had to say. It is the same government that denied the veracity of what was going on with the congressional budget office in the United States.

When we asked the Prime Minister questions about what the Dutch prime minister was doing, he told everyone not to worry because we had a contract in Canada that would protect us from the rising costs, which would prove to be simply untrue.

When did the Prime Minister finally become aware of the fact that the information he had been giving the House of Commons was completely and utterly--

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The right hon. Prime Minister.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is the Government of the United States that has agreed to cover escalation in the development costs. The Government of Canada remains, which it has been for the past 15 years, part of the development process of the aircraft. We do have half a billion dollars of contracts in this country.

As I have said repeatedly, we will ensure that when we replace the aircraft at the end of this decade, and we have not yet signed a contract in that regard, we will ensure that our men and women in the air force have the best equipment.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government is not taking any responsibility. No one is responsible for the situation. What has happened is practically a miracle.

Any company that made this type of mistake, that misled its shareholders, misled the public, published a false prospectus and published false figures and documents involving billions of dollars—any company that did these things—would fire its CEO and replace its board of directors.

Why not do the same for the Government of Canada? Why not?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again, the government has not spent any money to purchase these planes and has not yet signed a contract.

The Auditor General's report was very clear about responsibilities. The government is taking responsibility and re-examining the cost estimates, improving the process and ensuring that, in the future, when we replace the aircraft, our air force has the best equipment.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, before committing to the procurement of military equipment, the Minister of National Defence must ensure that the equipment in question meets our operational needs.

The Auditor General's report confirms that the F-35 jets do not meet all our operational needs. It is the responsibility of Public Works to purchase equipment within budget and in accordance with the procurement process. The Auditor General's report also shows that the Conservatives failed in that regard.

At least two ministers did not do their job. Whose fault is it?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Vaughan Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino ConservativeAssociate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we accept the conclusions of the Auditor General and will implement his recommendations.

The Government of Canada is taking action to ensure that due diligence, oversight and transparency are permanently embedded in the process to replace Canada's aging fighter aircraft, which is why we have frozen funds for the acquisition and are establishing a separate F-35 secretariat outside of National Defence to lead this project moving forward.

To date, no funds have been expended in acquiring replacement aircraft.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the Conservatives truly want what is best for our troops, they will purchase a plane that works, and they will do so in time to replace the CF-18.

The best way to purchase the right jet for our troops, to get the best price for taxpayers and to obtain industrial spinoffs that are formally guaranteed is through an open and transparent call for tenders.

Instead of covering up the F-35 failure by passing the buck from one department to another, why not hold an open and transparent call for tenders right now?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that the Auditor General said that the officials from the Department of National Defence did not provide cost estimates for the F-35 to parliamentarians. In his recommendations he said that the Department of National Defence should update those cost estimates and table them in Parliament. We agree.

However, we will also go further than that to ensure that taxpayer dollars are respected. We are establishing a new secretariat outside of the Department of National Defence which will run the process to replace the CF-18s. We have also frozen the funding allocated for that, and no purchase will be made until these conditions are met.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Defence can stop looking around. This is not a fishing lodge and there is no helicopter coming for him today.

This is the House of Commons and this is where ministers are supposed to stand up and take responsibility when things go off the rails. We knew the numbers were wrong. The PBO knew the numbers were wrong. The U.S. and other countries raised lots of red flags. However, the Minister of Defence carried on rigging this process. Will he stand up and take responsibility for this today?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, of course the member is wrong. The Auditor General has provided conclusions and has made recommendations and we have accepted those.

As was outlined already by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Public Works, we have put in place a process that is comprehensive and responds to those concerns. We will continue now, with the guidance of Public Works, to move forward with a proper acquisition process to replace the aging CF-18s.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, that process is all about deck chairs on the Titanic. It was that Minister of National Defence who originally lost control of this file. The PBO, industry experts, anybody who told the truth about the F-35, all of us were demonized by the minister. All the while, he was misleading Canadians and rigging this procurement process.

Ministerial accountability means that the minister is accountable. Will he finally take responsibility? Will he get up?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as was mentioned, with no contract in place, no money misspent and now funds frozen, we are injecting more accountability into this process.

We will move forward. Our intention is to see the CF-18 aircraft replaced with a proper aircraft. We will continue to make investments that support the men and women in uniform. I would advise the member opposite to do the same.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to see that the Minister of National Defence is out of the penalty box.

Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for conflicts of interest, the member for Mégantic—L'Érable, was in charge of Public Works at the time. The Auditor General's report clearly establishes that he did not exercise due diligence in the procurement of military equipment.

How can the current Minister of Public Works monitor the integrity of the procurement process when her department has been blamed by the Auditor General?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General made one recommendation and that was for us to respond to the fact that officials at the Department of National Defence did not provide what he sees as accurate cost estimates for the F-35s. He wants the Department of National Defence to table those new estimates in Parliament.

We agree with him but we will go one step further to ensure taxpayers' interests are protected and to ensure these estimates are validated independently. We will create a secretariat outside of the Department of National Defence. We have frozen funding, and there will be no purchase of any new aircraft until these conditions are met.

National DefenceOral Questions

April 4th, 2012 / 2:35 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the minister of conflicts of interests, also known as le deputé de Mégantic—L'Érable, was at Public Works, he was supposed to provide oversight for the largest military procurement in our history but he dropped the ball, the latest item on a long list of his failures to exercise due diligence.

Multiple ethics investigations, violating conflict of interest laws and now failing to rein in the F-35 fiasco when he had the chance, will he now take responsibility for his role in allowing the F-35 fiasco to spin out of control?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the hon. member that the largest procurement in the history of Canada was the shipbuilding procurement strategy and it was delivered very successfully by the government. In fact, it is seen as one of the best procurements internationally.

We have taken the Auditor General's recommendation to heart. He said that the Department of National Defence needed to refine its cost estimates and table them in Parliament, and we agree with him. We will not move forward with this purchase until that is done.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the F-35 fiasco spun out of control on the Conservatives' watch. The Auditor General now confirms that the Parliamentary Budget Officer got his numbers right when he released his cost estimates on the F-35s a year ago. The government knew the PBO was correct but the Conservative ministers attacked him anyway.

Why did the government viciously attack the PBO when it knew his numbers were correct? Why did it do that?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:40 p.m.

Vaughan Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino ConservativeAssociate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General spoke and we have accepted his recommendations. We have listened to him and we are moving forward. We have frozen the acquisition funding in anticipation of refined cost estimates before the decision is made for any acquisition.

We have not signed a contract to purchase a replacement aircraft and, to date, we have not spent any public funds to purchase a replacement aircraft.