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House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was general.

Topics

National DefenceOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, whether or not anyone takes responsibility for it, this file was mismanaged, and that is all there is to it.

The Minister of National Defence and the current President of the Treasury Board met with Lockheed Martin lobbyists in 2010. They were the only people in the whole world who did not ask questions about the Lockheed Martin lobbyists' claims.

Did they trust those lobbyists blindly because they were old Mulroney staffers? Why did the Conservatives not do their job and ask tough questions about costs and deadlines?

National DefenceOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we have taken the recommendation of the Auditor General very seriously. He has recommended that the Department of National Defence bring forward updated cost estimates for the F-35 and transparently table those in Parliament, and we agree. However, we are going a step further. We will ensure that is done on an annual basis. We will have independent validations of the cost assumptions associated with the F-35, both in the acquisition phase and also on the maintenance contract.

The Auditor General said today that the government was going in the right direction and he also confirmed that the audit found that no money was misspent

National DefenceOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a very direct question for the Prime Minister. When was he first aware that the true cost of the proposed aircraft was $25 billion and not $16 billion? On what date was he aware of that fact?

National DefenceOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has asked the government to have the department officials revise their cost estimates and table those in Parliament. That is precisely what the government will do to ensure that the information is accurate. We are taking additional steps to independently verify that information. We will be fully transparent with Parliament on that information.

National DefenceOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a Prime Minister who, when he was in opposition, used the word “accountability” each and every day. He is now leading a government that is an exercise in organized hypocrisy. It is not prepared to accept any consequences. It is not even prepared to tell the truth.

I will ask my question one more time. When did the Prime Minister first become aware that the true cost of the aircraft proposed was $25 billion and not the $16 billion fiction that he has been presenting to the House of Commons for 21 long months? When did he know?

National DefenceOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I understand the hon. member's need for attention these days. The fact is that there are no consequences to this point because the government has not spent any money on the acquisition of aircraft. It is has not purchased any aircraft and has not signed a contract.

As we have said, the government is responding to the Auditor General's recommendations to reassess the costs and to provide a better process in the future to ensure those cost estimates are more accurate. That is what the government is doing and the Auditor General says that those are steps in the right direction.

National DefenceOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the person who needs attention is the Prime Minister of Canada, because he is the one who is refusing to tell the House of Commons the truth.

I asked the Prime Minister a very simple and direct question. I asked him a direct question to which he can respond yes or no. For the past 21 months, the government has been saying things in the House of Commons that are not true. According to the Auditor General, the ministers have been saying things that are obviously false.

When did the Prime Minister learn the truth? Why did he not tell the House of Commons the truth? That is the question.

National DefenceOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the government has not spent any money on these aircraft because it has not yet signed a contract.

The Auditor General questioned the figures provided by the Department of National Defence. That is why the government is responding to his recommendations and is in the process of ensuring that those figures are verified through a more independent process. The government intends to give all this information to parliamentarians as soon as it is available.

National DefenceOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General suggested this morning that Conservative ministers knew they were low-balling the cost estimates in response to the PBO's report. We want to know when they knew that information, when they knew that the PBO's estimates were accurate.

It is clear that they knew before the last election and failed to tell Canadians the truth. Did the government know the true cost before the Minister of National Defence did his top gun photo shoot and announced the government would be purchasing the F-35? When will somebody take responsibility?

National DefenceOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, once again the member opposite is misrepresenting what the Auditor General said. The Auditor General was in committee today. As the Prime Minister has referenced, he told us that, with respect to his report and the government's response, the government was moving in the right direction. He also confirmed that no money was misspent and no money was missing, an important fact.

As has been outlined, the government is responding with a process that answers the mail on these concerns. We are moving ahead now with the guidance of Public Works to ensure this acquisition continues to move in the right direction.

National DefenceOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the Auditor General was in committee today but he was also in scrum in front of the media this morning. In the scrum, he was very clear when he said that the government knew about the $25 billion estimate and that it was low-balling it. He meant the cabinet ministers.

The Conservatives used to say that they stood for ministerial responsibility but not one minister has stood up to say that this happened under his or her watch and that it was his or her responsibility. Will no minister ever stand up and take responsibility for this fiasco?

National DefenceOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, that is what we are doing. We are accepting the Auditor General's conclusions. We are accepting the recommendation that he has made. In fact, we are going further than that recommendation and putting in place a comprehensive plan to respond to this concern.

The member can light his hair on fire or not but he can listen to the Auditor General's words and be accurate.

Our government is responding to this issue seriously. We are moving forward on an important acquisition for the Canadian Forces to provide it with a replacement aircraft for the CF-18. That is what we are doing.

National DefenceOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, members opposite seem content to repeat “we accept the recommendations of the Auditor General”, but their words ring hollow.

The Department of National Defence received a scathing report from the former auditor general in 2010 on its helicopter purchase. The Auditor General was clear when she told the government to fix its procurement process. The minister said that all the recommendations from 2010 were “accepted and acted upon”. However, two years later, it is the same broken promise, the same broken talking points and the same report from a new AG.

Why should Canadians believe the Conservatives this time?

National DefenceOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, what we should believe is what the Auditor General said this morning, which is that the government was moving in the right direction. That is a great endorsement for the plan that we have put in place moving forward.

There is still a lot of work to do, due diligence to undertake and transparency to be expected. That is what we expect from the Department of National Defence, that is what taxpayers expect and that is what parliamentarians should expect.

The Auditor General said very clearly that the Department of National Defence needs to table revised cost estimates. We will independently validate those before any purchase is made.

National DefenceOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are indicating that they accept the Auditor General's recommendations, but that is not enough. They are refusing to take any action to prevent mistakes from being made. They are refusing to take responsibility for their failures.

The Auditor General's report on the border infrastructure fund was tabled in June 2011, and since that time, nothing has changed in the way the estimates are presented.

Will the Conservatives allow the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to summon the ministers responsible in order to determine what really happened in the F-35 fiasco?

National DefenceOral Questions

11:30 a.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 said this morning that the government was moving in the right direction and we will continue to do that.

He also made the point that in his audit he found that no money was misspent because no money has been spent yet on the acquisition of this aircraft. No money will be spent on the acquisition of this aircraft because it is frozen right now until the Department of National Defence meets the recommendation of the Auditor General, which is to table updated cost estimates very publicly and transparently in Parliament. We will ensure that the secretariat independently validates those costs.

Search and RescueOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the calls for an investigation into Canada's search and rescue system are growing.

On Tuesday, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador called for a joint federal-provincial inquiry into the death of 14-year-old Burton Winters. However, it seems that the Minister of National Defence told the premier that there was no need for a joint inquiry. The family of Burton Winters and all Canadians deserve clear answers.

Will the government hold a full and independent inquiry into Canada's search and rescue system, or is all it has to offer are contradictions, empty excuses and spin?

Search and RescueOral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we remain very remorseful over the loss of young Burton Winters. Our condolences and our thoughts go out to the family and, in fact, the entire community of Makkovik.

What is unfortunate is that some members opposite are trying to use this for political purposes.

The Canadian Forces has already conducted an investigation. We have looked into the federal government's participation in this matter, and ground search and rescue, as we all know, is the responsibility of the provinces and territories.

Search and RescueOral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, it has now been 67 days since Burton Winters went missing and his family is still waiting for answers. After 67 days, rhetoric does not cut it.

From day one we have had nothing but contradiction and blame from the government. It is time for some facts. The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador expects a full explanation by today for why our Cormorant helicopter was not sent to help in this search. Will she get that explanation?

If weather was not an issue and there were no protocols, why were the Cormorants not deployed?

Search and RescueOral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I will do just what the hon. member has asked. I will inject some facts and reality into this situation.

I spoke extensively about the matter with the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador yesterday, as I have previously. We had an investigation within days of this tragic incident. We have changed the protocol to improve the communication between the provinces and territories and search and rescue nationally. We continue to assess the proper placement of assets across the country. We have taken extensive action.

However, that, sadly, will not bring back young Burton Winters but we are committed to continuing to provide extensive search and rescue across this massive country. I salute those SAR techs who guard Canadians every day.

EthicsOral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is no end to the scandals involving the office of the minister of conflict of interest. This time, his spokesperson had a good time in Las Vegas on a government credit card. While families are tightening their belts and making sacrifices, the minister's staff is making the rounds of casinos with taxpayers' money. This is not acceptable.

Will the minister finally show some backbone, accept responsibility for all these scandals and resign, or does he believe that playing blackjack at Caesars Palace is an acceptable government expense?

EthicsOral Questions

11:35 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am not familiar with any minister by that title and I am sure you will deal with that appropriately.

This is a question that is actually about a former employee. All amounts that were in question have been recovered and taxpayers are not on the hook for a single dime. Our government will not tolerate any misuse of taxpayers dollars.

EthicsOral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we would like to hear from the minister on this.

When the boss takes a trip that could give rise to a conflict of interest and he justifies it by saying that he brought his own sleeping bag and lunch, it sends a message to his staff.

The member for Mégantic—L'Érable seems to have put violating every code of ethics on his to-do list. That is a big job, as de Gaulle put it, but the minister is getting there.

It is not surprising that his assistants think they can do whatever they want, such as censoring documents or even treating themselves to trips to Las Vegas on the taxpayer's dime.

Will the minister put an end to his woes and do the only honourable thing: resign?

EthicsOral Questions

11:35 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the government has acted appropriately. It is important to note that we are talking about a former employee.

The second point is that all moneys have been recovered. The taxpayers are not on the hook for a single dime. That is exactly how a government should act in the circumstances.

EthicsOral Questions

April 5th, 2012 / 11:35 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about a former minister. We are talking about a minister's former employee.

The minister of dubious ethics set such a low ethical bar that it seems to have had a trickle down effect on his employees. That is what happens when a minister calls every major scandal a learning experience but takes no responsibility.

Using a government credit card to play the slots in Las Vegas on the taxpayers dime is wrong. When will the minister finally take responsibility for his many ethical failures, including this one?