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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was railway.

Topics

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to question what the member is saying, but Winnipeg had the good fortune of having a brand new air terminal put in at a cost of several hundreds of millions of dollars.

It would be worth looking at what the actual cost would be. I agree with the member that Lloyd Axworthy and Reg Alcock were high-calibre Liberal members of Parliament. I suspect that their numbers would have been accurate for that time.

This is something I would be most interested in pursuing. I look forward to future discussions with the member for Winnipeg Centre.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I call on the hon. member for York South—Weston to resume debate, I will just let him know that I will need to interrupt him at the top of the hour, as we will need to start statements by members.

The hon. member for York South—Weston.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to again speak to Bill S-4, the Railway Safety Act, at third reading and report stage today.

This bill, as others have mentioned, originates from a previous Parliament, and the good member for Trinity—Spadina had a lot to do with putting forward the bill in the first place. I want to congratulate her and others who have worked on this bill, and congratulate those in the industry, in the unions and in the safety agencies who have contributed to what will be a great improvement to the bill.

Unfortunately, it has taken us six years from the commencement of the study on whether or not the bill needed to be improved until today, when we hope the bill will pass the House. That was way too long. When we are talking about safety, six years is way too long for something as critical to Canadians as the safety of the railroads, as has been mentioned by several members here.

These railroads travel through dense urban areas. In order to ensure the safety of not just the railway workers and not just the patrons of the railway but also of the people who live around these railroads, there needs to be a regimen in Canada that provides for the safe operation of these railroads, which the bill goes a long way to providing. It does not go all the way, and I will get into that in a few minutes.

Every school child knows that railways built this country and that railways play an important role in transporting goods and people from coast to coast. We believe that railways should actually provide a much greater role in transporting people in this country, and perhaps in transporting goods.

Railways are a more efficient way of transporting people than cars. Railways are a more efficient way of transporting goods than trucks. It would take some of the pressure off our highways and cities if we were to move more goods safely by using rail. However, I emphasize the word “safely”, and that is what the bill would, in part, do.

There are 73,000 kilometres of track, and as the member for Trinity—Spadina noted, track has been removed. We have lost 10,000 kilometres of track as the railroads have moved out of transporting. The most recent loss of a railroad was the CP secondary line between Ottawa, the nation's capital, and North Bay. One of the reasons for removing that track was that CP wanted the steel; it was not because it was an uneconomical piece of railroad but because it needed the steel for replacing rails in other places.

It is a shame that the railbed could not be used for public transit or could not continue to be used for the transportation of goods, because generally speaking, the rail line from here to North Bay goes through no cities. It does not go past any homes or businesses that would be endangered by a railway spill.

Last year, railways moved some 72 million passengers and carried 66% of all the surface freight in Canada, so railways are a very important part of the infrastructure of this country.

However, there are some places where we are actually still building railroads. We are building railroads in my riding in large numbers. We are expanding the capacity of a rail corridor that runs through my riding from 40 trains a day to 464 trains a day. That is one of the reasons I am anxious for the bill to pass, because I want to ensure that the government has some power to make sure that railroad is operated in a safe manner.

Some of that railroad may in fact be exempt from this legislation, becausegovernment will decide, for whatever reason, that some of that railroad is not a federally regulated railway. I want to ensure that all of the railroad systems in Canada, whether they are passenger rail or heavy freight rail—and we are talking heavy rail, not the little light rail streetcar systems in some cities—are all run in a safe and efficient manner.

According to the Transportation Safety Board, in 2009 there were 1,081 rail accidents, including 68 main track derailments. If rail traffic continues to grow as anticipated—and the rail companies tell us that it will grow at roughly the same rate as inflation, meaning 3% a year—in 10 years there will be 40% more rail traffic than there is today, and the potential for accidents will increase.

The rail industry believes that the way to prevent accidents at rail crossings in particular is to remove the rail crossings. The idea is to just close the road. That is the easiest way to prevent rail crossings. There will not be any cars crossing the tracks, and the tracks will reign supreme.

That does not work in many urban centres in this country. There is some money, a very small amount of money—about $12 million a year, according to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister—that is set aside by the government to remove rail crossings in this country. I assume that means putting in grade-separated rail crossings so that either the roads go under or above the rail corridor or the rail corridor is dipped below or above the road.

The trouble is that $12 million might pay for half of one of those, and there are hundreds and hundreds, probably thousands—I do not have the number in front of me—of railroad crossings in this country, each of which has the potential for a fatal accident. In fact, there was a fatal accident on the railroads in Toronto just two weeks ago. A pedestrian was killed on a railbed in Toronto. We do not need any more of those.

Keeping people and trains apart should be an important part of what the transport minister strives to do in the implementation of this act.

One of the new key points in the legislation is the requirement for railways to obtain a certificate for operation. The certificate must include a safety management system acceptable to Transport Canada. It is a key element of this legislation that the safety management system be acceptable to Transport Canada so that Transport Canada actually understands and accepts that the railroad applying for a certificate for operation has in place measures that will prevent accidents, that will prevent overwork of their employees—which is why the unions are in support—and that will prevent trains from colliding with one another.

We recently had such a collision involving a passenger train in Burlington, Ontario. No one is really certain yet of all the causes, but speed was definitely a factor. This train went way too fast through a switch. The switch was rated for 15 kilometres an hour, and the train went through at about 60 kilometres an hour and derailed. There was loss of life and there were injuries.

What will prevent, in large measure, many of these kinds of accidents is something called positive train control. In this system the speed of the train is not controlled just by a person watching lights, which is how it works today and which is the same way it worked 160 years ago. A person runs a train by watching lights in order to know when they should go slower and when they can go faster.

Positive train control is widespread in all of the world except North America. It is already in place in some parts of the United States, but it is not present in Canada. It is a system whereby the train's speed is controlled externally. If a switch is closed and the train should slow down, the train's speed is controlled automatically if the train operator does not do it himself or herself.

It makes all kinds of sense, but it is not a system that the government is prepared to impose on the railroads yet. Why?

We would immediately start preventing accidents. It is true that it would be an expense to the railroads, but it is part of the cost of doing business. Railroads that operate in the United States will already have to comply with the positive train control system in the U.S. They already have to build their infrastructure to deal with positive train control. CN and CP and VIA Rail trains that travel across our border will have to do this, yet for some reason the government is not prepared to impose it in Canada.

I wonder why we always wait for the accident or the problem to occur before we act. Most people can see that this would be a good addition to the rail safety system in this country.

A number of problems were identified with rail safety that did not have to do directly with this bill but instead had to do with the oversight that Transport Canada applies to rail safety in this country. In a 2011 report, the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development identified serious deficiencies in the transport of dangerous products.

It is up to the minister to ensure that his officials at Transport Canada are actually enforcing the laws that it already has regarding safety. If it is not, something is wrong with the system.

The commissioner stated that 53% of the files he examined had instances of non-compliance and, of those files, an astonishing 73%, nearly three-quarters, little or no corrective action was taken. We have a law that tells us how to transport dangerous goods. We have a system in which Transport Canada is to actually monitor and enforce that law. We have a commissioner who looked at it and said that Transport Canada was not enforcing it and we have silence from the government. We do not seem to know how to enforce the laws we already have.

Bill S-4 contains a lot of very generous provisions toward the minister who will make decisions about how this law will be implemented. The minister needs to take the most protective and precautionary stance possible with his officials in Transport Canada and with the safety of Canadians because to do otherwise he would be derelict in his duties.

What we are saying about the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, which is already in force, is that if it is not being enforced by the officials who need to enforce it, the minister and his staff, then could S-4 face the same thing? We cannot sit here and pass laws that nobody enforces. The Conservatives believe that laws are to be enforced and enforced to the letter of the law. We heard yesterday from the Minister of Foreign Affairs that, no matter where Canadian companies operate, they are to abide by the laws. The same should be true in Canada but it is up to the government to enforce those laws.

Bill S-4 has quite serious penalties for failing to comply with the legislation. Those penalties are now administrative penalties where the minister would not need to take a company to court. The minister could impose a penalty without actually having to file suit against an individual or company for failing to comply.

We would hope that Transport Canada would actually impose those sanctions when it finds violations. It is no good to have a bunch of sanctions in a law if we do not apply them when there are violations. We hope that corrective action is only necessary very rarely, but we want that corrective action to be taken when it is necessary. We do not want a situation in which the government, as it apparently has done with the transportation of dangerous goods, ignores the law or the enforcement of the law.

The other portion of this law deals with the emissions of pollutants into the air. This is of great interest to the residents in Toronto who would be faced with a rail corridor that will have 464 trains per day or a train every 90 seconds going past. These are diesel engines of 4,000 to 5,000 horsepower emitting huge clouds of black smoke. People want to know that something will be done to limit that pollution.

The bill provides mechanisms whereby the minister can demand that these emissions be reduced, curtailed, regulated or monitored. It will be up to the minister to actually impose those regulations and enforce them.

The people of the city of Toronto are watching this with some great interest because one of the issues that has raised a huge storm is the issue of the amount of pollution that comes from train engines. When people looked at it, because they did not look at it until someone said that we would have 460 of them, they discovered that there were carcinogens, nitrous oxide and particulate matter in that exhaust that can cause grave harm to individuals. To increase it by tenfold, without also putting in some kind of limits, has people in my riding and in other ridings in the city of Toronto demanding that trains be made electric.

In 1908, in the city of New York, the use of fossil fuel burning trains was banned. As my time as run out, I will continue that thought when I come back.

Safer Railways ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for York South—Weston will have five minutes remaining for his speech when the House next resumes debate on the question and the usual 10 minutes for questions and comments.

Floradale Public SchoolStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, this weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 50th anniversary of Floradale Public School, an elementary school in the riding I am proud to represent, Mississauga East—Cooksville. The school's gymnasium was packed full of students, parents, staff, alumni and former staff. I was privileged to see performances by some of the school's many very talented students, all of whose parents must be very proud.

Floradale is located near the heart of Cooksville, one of the most diverse parts of Mississauga. Its motto is “Diversity is our strength”, which sets a great example to the students and to us all, and embodies the spirit of Canadian multiculturalism.

I am happy and proud to congratulate the principal, Carolyn Sossi Grant, and all her staff on this milestone anniversary. I look forward to seeing many more classes of Floradale students move on from strength to strength and work toward a brighter future.

Sisters of the Child Jesus of ChauffaillesStatements By Members

May 1st, 2012 / 2 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, 100 years ago, a group of nuns left France to put down roots in Sept-Îles, Rivière-au-Tonnerre, Havre-Saint-Pierre and Natashquan. The Sisters of the Child Jesus of Chauffailles began their work as a teaching order in Quebec.

A few years later, they branched out to Rivière-du-Loup, where they helped set up several educational and health care facilities. They were also active in Saint-Antonin and La Pocatière, two municipalities in my riding.

They founded the Notre-Dame-de-Fatima hospital in La Pocatière and helped create the Collège Notre-Dame in Rivière-du-Loup, an institution that they support to this day.

They are also active in Cambodia, Japan, Chad and France. They minister to the material and spiritual needs of all people, regardless of their socio-economic status, race or religion. They are dedicated to their ministry of compassion and solidarity.

I would like to take this solemn opportunity to thank the Sisters of the Child Jesus of Chauffailles for their century of dedication to Quebec. On behalf of all the communities that have benefited from their devotion, I salute and thank them.

Happy anniversary, and long live the Sisters of the Child Jesus of Chauffailles.

Mental HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20% of the population will experience a mental disorder at some time in their lives. This means that every family in Canada will in some way be affected. The good news is that people with mental illness can and do get better. The vast majority recover.

Next week is Mental Health Week and I wish to take this opportunity to thank all of the professionals and volunteers across this great country, including, in our local CMHA branch in Kelowna—Lake Country, Shelagh Turner and her team who work tirelessly to help our communities achieve better mental health for all.

Mental health is everyone's challenge. It is important for each of us to reach out and share our personal stories with those who may not believe things can get better. They can and, with our support, they will.

Asian Heritage MonthStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, May is Asian Heritage Month recognizing the rich history of Asian Canadians and their important contributions to the settlement, development and character of Canada.

Canadians of Asian roots are a critical gateway for Canada's connection and trade with fast growing Asian economies.

Canada's cultural diversity enriches us socially, politically and economically. Asian Heritage Month is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the many Asian cultures and their contribution to our country's growth and prosperity.

Each May in my riding of Vancouver Quadra, Canadians experience and learn about the history and contributions of Asian Canadians through dozens of celebrations, including the annual explorASIAN Festival and a variety of cultural, culinary and sport exhibitions.

I encourage all Canadians to participate in celebratory events and join me in appreciating our country's vibrant Asian Canadian community.

International TradeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, budget 2012 marked the beginning of an invigorated and deeper relationship between Canada and the Asia-Pacific region.

In the past few years, our government has been strategically expanding cultural and trade agreements with countries in this region to create jobs and economic growth. The opportunities for Canada in this dynamic region are impressive. Asia-Pacific markets have an economic growth rate that is two to three times the global average. Canada is maximizing opportunities for entrepreneurs through innovative trade, investment, air transport and science and technology agreements. This is important for all Canadians but especially for the people of British Columbia and the residents of Vancouver South. We are the gateway to the Asia-Pacific.

Our country's commitment to one project, one review, and our engagement in ongoing free trade discussions will provide the foundation needed to build Canada's future through economic growth and job creation.

Thunder Bay Multicultural AssociationStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to invite MPs and my constituents in Thunder Bay—Rainy River to join me in a 48-hour trip around the world.

The Thunder Bay Multicultural Association is hosting the 39th Annual Folklore Festival this weekend at Fort William Gardens and it promises to be one of the most colourful and entertaining events of the year.

Each year the association gathers people from diverse backgrounds and cultures to share their collective experiences and give our community a taste of life from around the world. Music, dancing, food, arts and crafts from more than 20 regions of the world are represented by no less than 40 different ethnocultural groups.

Please join me in thanking Jeanetty Jumah and the more than 1,000 volunteers who assist in the planning, performing and preparing of site decorations and who offer our wonderful community such a rich and vibrant experience each year.

I hope to see everyone there.

Victims of CrimeStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to supporting victims of crime. Last week our government introduced a bill to amend the Criminal Code that would see convicted offenders held more accountable to victims of crime by doubling the victim surcharge that they must pay following their crime. By doing so, our government is helping to provide the support victims of crime need.

We also introduced the federal income support for parents of murdered or missing children to help families cope with the death or disappearance of a child. With the introduction of this support benefit, parents can take off the time they need following such a tragic event. The support is a benefit of up to 35 weeks to help ease the financial difficulty that these parents are coping with.

Our government will stand with victims of crime and all Canadians through our commitment to ensure that our streets and communities are safer. We will continue to take significant steps toward holding criminals accountable and delivering justice for victims. We were elected on that commitment and we will continue to deliver.

Economic FreedomStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, in 1998, just one year after I was first elected, Canada ranked 27th on the Index of Economic Freedom. Now, in 2012, Canada ranks sixth for economic freedom, so says the Wall Street Journal.

I should share the credit with my Conservative colleagues, for I needed their votes to cut taxes and support free trade agreements. These fine Conservatives reduced the GST from 7% to 5% and just repealed the gun registry. However, I am not done yet. I sense my Conservative colleagues like the taste of freedom and so we shall do more. I hope for more free trade agreements coming to the floor of the House. Budget belt tightening has only just begun.

Just imagine what us Conservatives can do with several more years to go before the next federal election. We intend to streamline environmental regulations so jurisdictions do not overlap. Just think of all the jobs we can create, removing people from unemployment. So much done, yet so much to do. We have to love economic freedom.

Rainbow Day on the HillStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to welcome seven students who are taking part in the first annual Rainbow Day on the Hill, a non-partisan event organized by the NDP's LGBT caucus in partnership with Jer's Vision. This event is a great opportunity for students from the LGBT community to see first-hand the excellent work being done by their gay and lesbian MPs on the Hill.

These students are leaders of their communities. Some of their lives have been touched and shaped by the scourges of both homophobia and bullying. Despite this, and maybe because of it, they have the inner strength to stand up for what they believe in. I look forward to the day when one of them joins me as an MP here on the Hill.

People from the LGBT community represent Canadians at all levels of government. With our allies, we have fought for same-sex marriage and the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Criminal Code. Although there are still many battles to be fought, days like today serve as an important reminder that we can and will make things better.

Battle of the AtlanticStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, for six long years the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Merchant Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force were key participants in what became known as the Battle of the Atlantic. Through the efforts of these brave Canadians, ships carrying troops and essential supplies were able to reach Britain and our other allies.

As war raged in Europe, Canadians risked their lives to bring conveys across the Atlantic, battling extreme weather and navigation conditions as well as U-boat attacks, to provide a lifeline to allied forces.

Winning this battle had its price: over 4,600 Canadians and Newfoundlanders gave their lives. Today we pay tribute to the courage, sacrifices and heroic acts of these brave Canadians who fought and died during the Battle of the Atlantic in order to bring us peace and freedom.

This morning in committee we heard about the recent exploits of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the most successful alliance in the history of humanity. We owe its success, in many ways, to the sacrifice of those who participated in the Battle of the Atlantic.

PlastStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year marks a significant milestone for an organization that has enriched the lives of Ukrainian youth the world over, including in my riding of Parkdale—High Park.

This year the Ukrainian youth organization Plast celebrates the hundredth anniversary of its founding. Taking inspiration from the scouting movement founded by Robert Baden-Powell, Oleksander Tysovsky saw that Ukrainian youth could only benefit from an organization that would help them learn the value of teamwork, honesty, community-building and good works.

For the last 100 years, the Ukrainian community has seen the benefits of the teachings and experiences gained through Plast, with active chapters in eight countries, including six cities throughout Canada. I am proud to represent a riding in the city of Toronto which is home to Plast's largest Canadian chapter.

I stand united with my New Democrat colleagues in wishing Plast members, past and present, heartfelt congratulations.

[Member spoke in Ukrainian as follows:]

Syl'no, Krasno, Oberezhno, Bystro!

PensionsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, regrettably, when it comes to helping seniors, the NDP is all talk and no action.

Since 2006, we have taken concrete action to ensure that retirement income is sustainable and is there when Canadians need it, including introducing pension income splitting, introducing age credits, eliminating federal income tax for 38,000 lower-income seniors, increasing the GIS and the exemption, introducing the PRPP, enhancing the CPP, providing the largest GIS top-up in 25 years and introducing automatic renewal of the GIS.

Unfortunately, the NDP voted against all of these important measures.

Having taken action to assist seniors today, we need to ensure future generations can count on their retirement benefits when they need them the most. Our government is taking action to ensure sustainability of old age security for future generations.

Clearly, the NDP's lack of a plan for old age security is a threat to future Canadians' retirement savings.

Jean-Guy MoreauStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to express my sincere condolences to the family of Jean-Guy Moreau on his passing.

Mr. Moreau was a member of the Order of Canada and had a profound impact on our culture. He brought Canadian history to life by impersonating figures from Georges Brassens to Gilles Vigneault, and of course Jean Drapeau and René Lévesque.

Jean-Guy Moreau was a versatile and innovative artist who developed a unique style that stood the test of time. There was a time in the 1960s when he and Robert Charlebois performed at coffee houses. What an amazing journey he had. Thanks to his remarkable talent, he gave his audiences a snapshot of current events by impersonating the newsmakers themselves.

I rise today in recognition of his contribution and to reiterate the words of his children, who said, “He is exiting the stage of our daily lives to move on to a bigger show.” I commend his contribution, which will inspire generations of artists to come.

Public Sector UnionsStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, yesterday big union bosses at Canada's largest public sector unions imposed hikes on their members, with new levies to fund direct political action and support NDP tax and spend policies. We know this additional levy will be used for partisan purposes, including political ads, multi-million dollar strike funds and pension bonuses for the big union bosses. These big union bosses and the NDP are still being investigated by Elections Canada for their illegal campaign donations.

Our government does not think these big union bosses and their friends in the NDP should be forcing public servants to pay more money to fund their partisan political campaigns, which are only meant to serve the big union bosses and the NDP.

Unlike the NDP and its big union boss friends, our government will ensure that Canada's economy continues to be where it belongs: at the front of the pack.

International Workers' DayStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, today is International Workers' Day. This is an opportunity to celebrate the immense contribution of all workers who work tirelessly to make our society a better place to live in.

However, we have had little to celebrate this past year, as the government locked out postal workers and then legislated them back to work. What a fine example of bad faith.

In fact, the government has declared open season on workers' rights. It has trampled on collective bargaining rights, mismanaged the EI fund, rolled back the clock on pay equity and missed every opportunity to help protect workers' pensions.

New Democrats take a different approach. From people working on construction projects to harnessing our natural resources, from store clerks to public servants, workers are the backbone of our economy, yet many feel under threat.

Today, we are taking a moment to acknowledge their contribution and to reiterate our commitment to making Canada a more prosperous country for everyone.

Decorum in the HouseStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the NDP House leader of the official opposition expressed the need for more decorum in the House of Commons. Our government welcomes any initiative to improve decorum in the House. However, before criticizing others, he should take a look at his own party.

Virtually every day, members of the NDP make over-the-top characterizations of government policy, unwarranted personal attacks and exaggerated claims. From name calling to profane language, we have seen it all from the NDP in this Parliament. In fact, many NDP MPs have had to stand and apologize for inappropriate statements in the House.

If the NDP is so committed to decorum in the House of Commons, surely those opposition MPs could find a better manner in which to conduct themselves, a manner that does not result in name calling, profane language and baseless smears.

We will genuinely continue to ensure decorum within our own party. Will the NDP truly commit to do the same?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, when scandal breaks, the first question needing an answer is: Who knew and when did they know it?

On the F-35s, the Minister of National Defence has provided an answer. He said that the whole cabinet knew about the full costs of the F-35 and knew about the two sets of books, one for internal use and another for the public.

The Prime Minister is head of cabinet. Why did the Prime Minister allow his ministers to present figures to Parliament that they knew were wrong by over $10 billion?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again the leader of the NDP is simply mixing apples and oranges.

The figures he is quoting are figures, of course, that have to do with the acquisition and sustainment; the operating costs are a different figure.

Of course there are not two sets of books. The Auditor General, no one else has said so. The minister has not said so, and no such thing is true.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, that is the exact term the Parliamentary Budget Officer used.

The Minister of National Defence has admitted that cabinet was fully aware of the cost of the F-35. He said that cabinet approved his approach, which both the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Auditor General himself have criticized.

Rather than stubbornly defending a minister who has lost control and a process that is out of control, why does the Prime Minister not act like a good public administrator for once and reset the entire process for replacing the CF-18s and, this time, do it according to the rules?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the minister said that cabinet had set the budget for the procurement of these aircraft and that is true. Clearly, the government is going to respect that budget to ensure better oversight and a more transparent process.

We have responded to the recommendations made by the Auditor General, and the Minister of Public Works and Government Services has already announced the steps that will be taken in this regard.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, there has to come a time when common sense prevails over stubbornness on the F-35. The plane is years late, billions over budget and does not meet Canada's requirements. The Auditor General said there was no due diligence. Years have already been wasted on a rigged process.

Responsible civil servants are now reportedly recommending a reset of the entire process, something the NDP has been suggesting all along. The Conservatives have accepted to change the name of the F-35 secretariat, and it is a start.

Will the Prime Minister also confirm that the F-35 is not the only option to replace the CF-18?