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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

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again the leader of the NDP asserts a whole bunch of statements in his preamble and attributes those to the Auditor General, which are things the Auditor General never said.

What the government has said is that it is responding specifically to the recommendation of the Auditor General. The government is going beyond those recommendations in ensuring we re-examine all aspects of this to ensure that before we spend any budget, because we have not yet spent any budget on acquisition, we make sure we have all the answers that cabinet requires.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, of course, the Auditor General also said that they made a decision in 2008 on the F-35 without any supporting documentation.

Having one set of books for internal use and another for Parliament is simply not acceptable. I know the Minister of National Defence is having a tough time under fire for his role in the F-35 fiasco. He testified yesterday it was cabinet that approved the misleading cost estimates.

My question for the Minister of National Defence is as follows. Does he stand by his comments that all of his cabinet colleagues were aware of the misleading statements about the costs of the F-35?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as is the case with the leader of the opposition, the preamble is all wrong. All of those premises are wrong.

What I was responding to were questions about process, which is exactly what I answered. The process is such that it flows through cabinet.

We have taken decisive action. We have put in place a comprehensive plan to review future procurement. As the Prime Minister has stated, there has been no money spent on acquisition. We will continue, under the guidance of Public Works, to look at this project for the replacement of the aging CF-18s.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the minister has a poor track record when it comes to giving clear answers.

He told the House that no money was spent on the F-35, yet $335 million has been spent. Somehow or other, there is a freeze on this non-existent spending.

He told Parliament the F-35s would cost $75 million per plane. His own officials testified at committee today that these planes will actually cost a lot more.

DND says they are full speed ahead on F-35 procurement, but Public Works is renaming the secretariat. What is really going on here?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, once again, as is so often the case with this member, it is a fact-free question.

What I have just said is that we will continue to move forward, with the guidance of Public Works, in a comprehensive review of this important procurement. There is a process now in place that will inject greater transparency, greater communications with Parliament and the public, and independent oversight, and this secretariat will provide the answers that are needed by Canada and by the country to ensure we have the right aircraft at the right price for our country.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, another amazing contradiction was revealed today in the public accounts committee when the deputy minister of National Defence said that the Auditor General “got it wrong” when the Auditor General discussed budgetary matters in front a committee last week.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister this. We are now in an extraordinary situation. The government says it accepts the report of the Auditor General and it accepts the conclusions of the Auditor General, as well as the recommendations. Mr. Fonberg, the deputy minister of National Defence, says he rejects the findings of the Auditor General.

Who speaks for the Government of Canada with respect to the findings of the Auditor General?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again that is a complete miscategorization of the deputy minister's remarks.

The government has been very clear that it accepts the report. In fact, as the Minister of Public Works has made clear, the government has proceeded with an oversight committee and a multi-step process to ensure that, before we spend any money on acquisition, we have all the questions answered that need to be answered.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is not a trivial matter, because it has to do with the overall position of the Government of Canada with respect to what the Auditor General said.

The Auditor General said that not all costs had been fully divulged. He said that to compare the training costs on the F-35 with the training costs and the maintenance costs on the CF-18 was completely unrealistic. He said there was no accounting for the question of attrition and the number of jets that would be lost over the life cycle. He said that life-cycle accounting had to be done.

We now have the deputy minister of National Defence saying to the people of Canada that the Auditor General is wrong. Who speaks for Canada? That is the question we are asking with respect to this matter.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again that is simply not an accurate representation of what the deputy minister of National Defence said.

The government has accepted the recommendations of the Auditor General, in particular his core recommendation that the government take a re-examination of all of the costing and reassess that. We are going to do that and other things to ensure we have full transparency and facts before proceeding.

Democratic ReformOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only would the Conservatives' Senate reform result in the same parliamentary impasses we see in the United States, and not only would such a reform be unfair to Alberta and British Columbia, which would be under-represented in an elected Senate, but also, Bill C-7 is unconstitutional because changing the nature of the Senate requires the agreement of the provinces, a right that Quebec would justifiably exercise in court.

Why will the government not forget about this ill-conceived reform, thereby avoiding costly and futile constitutional quarrels?

Democratic ReformOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Alberta recently held a public consultation—an election—to choose future senators. That was what the Government of Alberta decided to do, and our government will respect the will of the people of Alberta by appointing those senators to the Senate at the next opportunity.

The BudgetOral Questions

May 1st, 2012 / 2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' budget choices are frightening: billions of dollars for the F-35 fiasco, while the Conservatives slash funding for food inspection, border security, water quality monitoring—basically, programs that are crucial to the safety of Canadians. These irresponsible cuts have no business being in the budget.

When will the Conservatives clearly state what price will have to be paid?

The BudgetOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, Canada's economic action plan 2012 is of course our plan for jobs, economic growth and prosperity. It keeps taxes low, while focusing on a return to a balanced budget. We have found fair, balanced and moderate savings measures to reduce the deficit by reducing the size of the federal public service by 4% over three years.

The BudgetOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is not about jobs. It is not about efficiencies or even cutting just backroom jobs. It is about cuts to the services that keep Canadians safe and healthy.

Conservatives did not campaign on these cuts. They never mentioned their plans to chop OAS. They never said a word about chopping food inspection or border services. Conservatives are now moving forward with billions in cuts by keeping Canadians in the dark about exactly which services they will now have to do without.

When did the Conservatives become so afraid of accountability?

The BudgetOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, let me correct the record on several fronts. Seventy per cent of the savings that we have found and have been identified are operational efficiencies, and we are using the accepted practice.

The hon. members opposite seem to care about collective bargaining agreements. So do we, so we are informing the employees in a reasonable manner. That is the first thing we do. Then we inform the public. That is what we do in our estimates and in our quarterly reports, so all of that information is public.

It is good for the country to have a leaner, more affordable government.

National ParksOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, we would like to talk about the consequences of these cuts, because the Conservatives refuse to so.

It was not enough for the Conservatives to eliminate the environmental assessment process; now they are attacking our national parks. Over 1,600 Parks Canada jobs are being cut. This will translate into shorter seasons and restricted access to parks and historic sites.

As an indirect result of these cuts, the regional tourism industry will lose a lot of money.

Why are the Conservatives attacking Canada's most beautiful natural sites?

National ParksOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to our national parks system. In fact, no other government has done as much to protect our natural spaces as this government.

At the same time, Parks Canada is doing its part to address deficit reduction. While Parks Canada is making changes, those changes are to ensure that we have appropriate staff numbers when the tourists and visitors attend.

National ParksOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the minister is ignoring his own findings. Last year the minister released a report showing that Parks Canada contributes more than $3 billion a year to our economy, and most of that is to small and local businesses.

Canada's national parks bring Canadians together and they draw tourists from around the world. Yet first the Conservatives are gutting the environmental assessment process, and now employee jobs are on the chopping block at Parks Canada.

Has the government calculated the impact of its reckless cuts on the tourism industry for Canada?

National ParksOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague for her accurate quotation of my remarks last year, and in fact we do cherish the contribution that our national parks and other protected spaces do make to the GDP every year, directly and indirectly, more than $3 billion.

Because of that, we are also committed to increasing the total square kilometres of protected space in Canada. Since 2006, our government has added an area roughly equivalent to the size of Germany.

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is clear the government just does not seem to get it, that cuts to parks, cuts to environmental protection hurt local economies.

Many coastal communities depend on the fishery and they depend on the laws that protect fish habitat.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is shirking his responsibility. He is abandoning our fishing industry, while giving the oil industry greater leeway to pollute and destroy fish habitat.

Why is the minister putting our oceans, our lakes and rivers and our fishing communities at risk?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is totally wrong in his questioning. We are refocusing our efforts away from farmers' fields and focusing on fish and fish habitat protection, as I said yesterday.

This has the support of many people, and I might like to mention one quote from the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, which says:

...municipalities have been paying inflated costs to accommodate the provisions of this Act for over 10 years. SARM thanks the federal government for these changes....

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is not about farmers' fields and drainage ditches. Nobody is buying that line, not even farmers. If that were the government's aim, it could have introduced minor changes to the act in order to deal with that problem.

Instead it has written amendments that, by the minister's own admission, will throw the doors open to major industrial projects at the expense of our fisheries.

When will the minister stop trying to hide his attack on fish protection behind law-abiding farmers?

Fisheries and OceansOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick

Conservative

Keith Ashfield ConservativeMinister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are concerned about the way that DFO operates in certain jurisdictions. Farmers, cottage owners and the municipalities are all important and we are listening to them.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities also said:

The federal government has pledged to give the Fisheries Act more teeth by introducing enforcement provisions where none have existed before and giving regulators new legal tools to keep invasive species from entering Canada....

Municipal leaders have consistently called for common sense reforms in Ottawa that deliver better results for Canadians.

Statistics CanadaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the industry and communities that rely on the fishery are going to pay the price for the Conservatives' insistence on attacking the Fisheries Act.

There are other cuts and other problems. The decision to cut 8% of Statistics Canada's budget is troubling. In addition to the budget cuts, the organization has to deal with reduced budgets at the other departments that fund its studies. We need statistics in order to help us understand the trends in economic cycles.

How can the government do without such important statistics on the economy?

Statistics CanadaOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, Canadians gave us a strong economic mandate, which means we have to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent as efficiently as possible.

Statistics Canada has identified savings in order to operate more efficiently while continuing to provide Canadians with top-notch statistics and services. That is the mandate Canadians want us to accomplish.