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House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environment.

Topics

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the deputy minister made it quite clear. If the member were actually reading the deputy minister's testimony she would see that the deputy minister made it clear that the information was presented in the way that it has always been presented over many decades, long before this government came to office.

The more important point in the Auditor General's report is that the Auditor General has questioned the reliability of some of these numbers, which is why the government has committed to re-examining this matter before proceeding.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I wish the Conservatives cared more about the mental health of the Canadian Forces than about covering their tracks on the F-35s.

A report on mental health services at the base in Petawawa described the situation as a crisis. It says, “They should not have to fight for services, or wait in the desert of their minds hoping help will come soon”. The situation will only get worse when the government closes a mental health facility on July 1 and cuts other front line mental health workers.

Will the government reverse this plan and give the members of our Canadian Forces the help they need and deserve?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is relocating a clinic to Petawawa to ensure that soldiers, their families and those in need of mental health counselling will have closer access and better access to that treatment.

In fact, the member opposite, as so often is the case in this place, is simply wrong. Lieutenant Colonel Sean Blundell , a family doctor and commanding officer in the area has said, “We are not under budgetary restraints”.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, the report states that the Petawawa mental health system is broken, struggling to provide even basic care, with people waiting four months just to see a medical professional. It reads:

Our soldiers who fought for the freedom of children, mothers, fathers, grandchildren and all others in far away countries...are worthy of quality mental health services.

However, the situation is not unique to Petawawa. After a year in which suicides of Canadian Forces members nearly doubled from the previous year, and with so many suffering from PTSD, how can the government cut Canadian Forces mental health services with so many men and women requiring this assistance?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I will bring this into the realm of reality. The Canadian Forces have in fact increased the number of mental health services. In fact, we now have over 378 full-time mental health professionals. We are working to hire more, to double the overall number since taking office in 2006.

When compared with our NATO allies, studies have told us that the Canadian Forces now have the greatest ratio of mental health care workers of any soldiers in NATO. We will continue to invest in the 24 integrated personal support units across the country and we will continue to work with departments like Veterans Affairs and others. The member and his party have opposed every one of those steps.

National DefenceOral Questions

May 3rd, 2012 / 2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, the deputy minister of National Defence said that the Auditor General got it wrong. This is consistent with the Auditor General's report that said that both DND and Public Works disagreed with his conclusion that they had shown a lack of due diligence.

Yet in recent weeks five ministers in the front row, including the Prime Minister, said that they agreed wholeheartedly with the recommendation and the conclusion of the Auditor General.

Who is wrong? Is it the deputy minister about the Auditor General being wrong, or is it the Prime Minister who said that he agreed with the Auditor General?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the one who has it wrong is actually the Liberal Party. This is not what the deputy minister said. I would encourage the members to actually fully read his testimony. The thing he has quoted is a very specific item that is not a general comment.

The government has accepted the report of the Auditor General and is acting on those recommendations.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the F-35 secretariat has just been renamed the “new Canadian fighter aircraft secretariat”. However, we do not know if there will be an open and transparent bidding process.

On the one hand, the Minister of Public Works said, “we've hit the restart button.”

On the other hand, last Tuesday, Lieutenant-General Deschamps, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, told us that only one jet had been considered: the F-35 of course.

So who is telling the truth? Is it Lieutenant-General Deschamps? Or will there be an open and transparent bidding process?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, in response to the Auditor General's report, the government has announced that it will take a number of steps before proceeding. We intend to examine all these facts and options before continuing with the process. We have been clear about that.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General's report makes it very clear that cabinet had F-35 costing very similar to the PBO as long ago as 2010. The deputy minister of National Defence today repeatedly avoided responding to the question of who authorized the release of the lowball number.

If the Prime Minister now accepts the Auditor General's report and its conclusions, it follows that he authorized the release of the lowball number, he authorized the vilifying of the PBO and he misled Parliament and Canadians. Why?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the preamble of that question is completely wrong. As the deputy minister himself has indicated, the data released is consistent with how the Department of National Defence has treated such data in the past.

However, as we said, as a consequence of the Auditor General's report, we are taking a more careful look at all of this costing. We are committed to providing all of the results of that examination to Parliament.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is time to put an end to this reign of lies and confusion in the F-35 file. The opposition has denounced it, the Auditor General has denounced it and the Parliamentary Budget Officer denounced it again this morning.

When we asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer whether the Conservatives deliberately provided false costs, he clearly answered “yes”. If only the Conservative ministers could provide such clear answers.

I will try again. What is the total cost of the F-35s?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the hon. member and all opposition members are the ones causing confusion in this matter.

We have been very clear. We are responding in a comprehensive way to the Auditor General's report. There will be greater transparency, greater ability to report to Parliament and to the public, more oversight and more independence.

Here is a few facts for the member. There is no contract signed and no money spent.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is all well and fine for the Conservatives to try and change their tune, but the fact remains that they did not tell the truth.

Australia and the United States are deferring their F-35 procurement because it is too risky. Japan is going to pay $10 billion for only 40 F-35s. The price of the F-35s continues to skyrocket every day, but the Conservatives are causing confusion by trying to have Canadians believe that the price is $10 billion less than the actual cost.

Why are the Conservatives hiding the truth from taxpayers?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Again, Mr. Speaker, let us be clear on the facts. This is a 15-year memorandum of understanding which Canada has entered into. The obvious intent here is to replace aging CF-18 fighter aircraft in years to come. We are now looking at a more comprehensive way to ensure that there is greater reporting and transparency to Parliament, to the public. This is what the Auditor General has asked for. There is a difference in accounting in terms of how those numbers are arrived at.

There was no money spent, no contract signed, but we will proceed to ensure that the Canadian Forces have the best aircraft to protect our country in the future.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's answers are making less sense and getting more convoluted daily. At least there are others willing to tell the truth.

Today, when the PBO was asked if the government was seeking to mislead Canadians about the real cost of the F-35s, he gave a clear and simple answer, yes. Is there any minister on that side of the House who is honest enough to stand and take responsibility?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, let us listen to what the professional public service had to say about that. Deputy Minister Fonberg, in responding to committee this morning about this issue of reporting and numbers given to the PBO, said the following, “To the best of my knowledge we fully responded to the PBO's request”. He went on to say, “I don't believe he raised issues with us on a substantive nature of the response, so I'm not sure what conclusions he”, the PBO, “was drawing”.

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess the answer is no. No one will take responsibility for misleading Canadians and no one will take responsibility for suppressing information to Parliament's independent watchdogs. Instead, the Minister of National Defence says that buying a fleet of fighter jets is like buying a minivan and, by the way, he has offered accounting tips to the Auditor General, who apparently has it all wrong.

For how much longer will the government keep up the ridiculous claims that the PBO cannot do his job and the AG cannot count?

National DefenceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, what I do know is that the no-defence party's mini-me is doing his best to confuse Canadians on this file.

What we know is that the Department of National Defence is moving toward an important procurement to see that we have CF-18 fighter aircraft replaced in the coming years. We have a more comprehensive process in place now in response to the Auditor General. We have responded in a way that will give greater transparency, greater information to Parliament and the public.

There has been no money spent and no contract signed. Canada's interests are protected and so are the interests of the Canadian Forces.

Ministerial ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, of course ministers have to travel. However, it would be nice if they refrained from doing so simply for photo ops with limousines and F-35s. Furthermore, having a driver is not unusual. What is unusual, however, is keeping a driver on standby 24/7, 360 days a year, as the President of the Treasury Board of Canada did.

Hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars are being wasted. Whenever we ask ministers about their lavish lifestyles, they justify this wastefulness by saying they work hard. Well, Quebeckers and Canadians also work hard and want value for their money. They also want their government to act responsibly.

When will the ministers start acting accordingly?

Ministerial ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 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, what the hon. member fails to discuss in the House is that standby does not mean drivers get paid for all of that time. In fact, they get paid for one-eighth of the time, which meant 45 days of overtime, not 260 days, as he is trying to allege in the House.

We have a system in place. We have drivers and cars, just like their colleagues do in Manitoba and just like their colleagues do in Nova Scotia, NDP colleagues. If members are going to complain in the House, they should come here with clean hands.

Ministerial ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we in the NDP like drivers and workers, whether they are unionized or not. However, unlike the Conservative government, the NDP does not attack their rights. The Conservative caucus is completely shameless.

While essential public services are being axed, the government is spending more and more money on cabinet's every little whim. The Conservatives brag about their fiscal responsibility, but they do not walk the talk. Their limousine parties and $16 glasses of orange juice prove it.

Would any Conservative minister agree that having limousines on standby is an abuse of power?

Ministerial ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 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

Today, Mr. Speaker, those members are defending the workers. Yesterday they were condemning the workers for working overtime. That is the hypocrisy on that side.

I will say in the House that we are looking at some changes and we would like to ensure that we can defend the taxpayer better because we believe that change can be positive. In this place:

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones to start
To mould a new reality
Closer to the heart.

Ministerial ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, there those members go, another rush to excuses when they get caught.

Last week it was the minister who refused to stay at a five star posh hotel that was not good enough for her. Then we had the outrageous charges for the government chauffeurs. Then we have the Muskoka minister who not only blew through the $50 million slush fund, but who has a driver at his beck and call 360 days a year.

On talk radio last night, it was asked how often an average Canadian took a limo. People said maybe once, maybe for their prom. Therefore, is every night prom night for Conservative insiders?

Ministerial ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 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, that is another fly-by-night question. As I have already reiterated, on this side of the House, we would suggest that the hon. member come here with clean hands. We have the Nova Scotia NDP government, cars and drivers and the Manitoba NDP government, cars and drivers. That is the right thing to do in certain circumstances and with the right Treasury Board guidelines, to which we adhere.

The hon. member has not come here with clean hands. What a La Villa Strangiato?