This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was environmental.

Topics

6:25 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have been in this place a couple of times now in late shows, addressing this exact same issue put forward by the NDP member. I must admit I am quite surprised the NDP member fails to ever recognize some of the steps forward this Conservative government has taken with regard to affordable housing. It really demonstrates some hypocrisy on behalf of the NDP when it does not do that. A number of measures have been put forward that have had an increased effect on affordable housing.

Rather than develop policies that would benefit Canadians in need of affordable housing, the NDP seems to be content to simply criticize the Conservative government's diligent work on this file, which I do not really understand. Perhaps if the member for Davenport spent a little less time blindly criticizing the government's actions and a bit more time familiarizing himself with what the government has done for Canadians in need of affordable housing, he would probably realize the absurdity of the comments he continues to make night after night.

Allow me to take some time to remind the member of what has been done.

Since 2006, under Canada's economic action plan, our government has invested more than $2 billion to renovate and build new affordable housing across the country. Yes, in case the member is wondering, that includes the city of Toronto. In fact, I am happy to inform the member that an estimated 237,200 households in Ontario, living in existing affordable housing, receive this support.

What about the construction of new housing, one might ask. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation plays a pivotal role in ensuring that affordable housing continues to be an option for Canadians. By providing mortgage loan insurance for these projects, developers are able to access the cost-effective financing required to make these projects viable and affordable.

However, that is not all. Since 2006, our government, through CMHC, has invested an estimated $12.5 billion in federal housing assistance. Through these investments, the living conditions for thousands of low-income Canadians have been improved and stronger communities from coast to coast to coast have benefited in the process.

However, do not take my word for it. Let us hear what the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is saying about investments that this government has made to communities. It stated:

In the last few years, federal investments have helped municipalities put police on the streets, repair social housing and rebuild the roads, bridges, water systems and public transit Canada needs to support families, businesses and long-term economic growth.

Look at that. Municipalities from across the country are recognizing the positive contributions our government has made to affordable housing. One wonders why the NDP cannot do the same. For some reason, the NDP is content to repeatedly vote against these measures.

However, I may have figured it out. After all the good remarks by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, it is clear that the NDP simply votes against all of these measures because it really does not support measures that help families, businesses and long-term economic prosperity. It needs to think about this because Canadians count on all of us to ensure they are well taken care of, particularly in this area.

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, positive contributions mean that we are making a situation better. It means we are actually creating a climate where fewer people are on waiting lists for affordable housing. That is how one measures whether what one is doing works.

We can talk all we want about putting gaffers tape on roofs and call it repairs to housing, but we have to look at the number of Canadians on waiting lists for affordable housing across all municipalities and then factor in the millions of Canadians who are in need of core housing. Somewhere along the line the government has to accept the fact that whatever it thinks it is doing or says it is doing is not working and is not enough. Canadians need and deserve much better.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely impossible to take the NDP seriously on this issue and here is why.

Let us review the NDP record for a moment. It voted against providing $1.9 billion over five years beginning in September 2008 for the affordable housing initiative, the residential rehabilitation assistance program and the homelessness partnering strategy. It voted against providing $2.1 billion toward the construction and renovation of affordable housing units. It voted against $2 billion in low-cost loans to municipalities for projects, including affordable housing initiatives.

When the member stands in his place and asks us to talk about measures that actually show there were fewer low-income Canadians who were able to benefit from the measures put forward by this Conservative government, these were the measures that did exactly that. The member and his party voted against all of them.

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 7 I asked the Associate Minister of National Defence a question. The question of course had to do with the contingency plan for the infamous F-35s. What is the plan B? What is the deadline? How many planes are we talking about? How much will it cost? So many questions remain unanswered.

On April 3, the Office of the Auditor General published its spring report and showed no mercy when it came to the F-35s: the Conservatives hid the real cost of procuring the F-35s. The Auditor General said that the government had known about the huge cost overruns of the program for a long time and that it had internal and external estimates that differed, coincidentally, by $10 billion.

In the meantime, the minister and the associate minister responded to us, my colleagues and me, by playing the same tape over and over again and raising the same talking points, deviating from the script only slightly. Now, the talking points have changed with the situation. They have accepted the recommendations, but not the responsibility; the funding has been frozen; and a seven-point action plan has been put into place. Again, those are lovely talking points.

Today, the government has four minutes, instead of 30 seconds, to reply. Consequently, I would like to have a better answer. Now that an interdepartmental secretariat has been established, I would like to know what is happening with this file. Can the government provide information about certain points? The Auditor General pointed out that there was absolutely no communication between Public Works and National Defence and that National Defence refused to share pertinent information requested by Public Works. I quote:

We found that National Defence engaged PWGSC late in the decision-making process and hampered PWGSC’s ability to carry out its responsibilities as contracting authority to ensure the integrity of the procurement process. At the same time, PWGSC relied almost exclusively on assertions by National Defence and endorsed the procurement strategy in the absence of required documentation and completed analysis.

What communication is there between these two departments? Who manages and checks that all documents are forwarded in a timely manner to the secretariat? Is it still taking several months for the requested information to be forwarded? Are unilateral decisions still being made?

I would also like to point out that the testimony given by Kevin Page before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts confirms what we have been speaking out against from the beginning and that is that the Conservatives deliberately hid information about the real cost of the F-35s. The Minister of National Defence also admitted that he was aware of the existence of two different sets of books on the actual cost of the F-35s.

The Auditor General and the NDP actively spoke out against the government's total lack of transparency in this regard. Today, I heard the Minister of Public Works and Government Services say in question period:

We expect full transparency and accountability from the Department of National Defence when it comes forward to table its updated cost estimates on the F-35s to all Parliamentarians.

I therefore expect full transparency from the department. What is the status of this file? How is the secretariat dealing with this issue? Is there any information in this regard? Have any consultations been held to find alternative solutions? Has a plan B been developed? How are the visits going? Have consultations been held with other aircraft manufacturers? What stage is this interdepartmental secretariat at in its efforts to replace the fighter jets?

6:35 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the member opposite because this gives me an opportunity, as the granddaughter of three World War II veterans, to talk about the pride I have in the plan our Conservative government has put forward to ensure we reassert the facts about the CF-18 replacement.

As my colleague is well aware, we need to replace our fleet of aging CF-18s, which have been a tremendous asset for the Canadian Forces. The commitment to purchase a CF-18 replacement fleet was clearly spelled out in the Canada first defence strategy. Our government has set a budget for replacement aircraft and we will work within that budget. As of this moment, we have not signed any contracts to purchase replacement aircraft.

As my colleague is well aware, we have announced a seven step plan to guide responsible replacement of our brave men and women's fleet. This includes a secretariat to oversee that this important procurement meets the highest standards of accountability and transparency.

Le me take a moment to outline seven important points regarding the secretariat.

The funding envelope allocated for the acquisition of the replacement of fighter jets is frozen. The Government of Canada will immediately establish a new secretariat within the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada. The secretariat will play the lead coordinating role as the government moves to replace Canada's CF-18 fleet.

A committee of deputy ministers will be established to provide oversight of the secretariat. The Department of National Defence, through the new secretariat, will provide annual updates to Parliament. These updates will be tabled within a maximum of 60 days from receipt of annual costing forecasts from the joint strike fighter program office beginning in 2012. The Department of National Defence will also provide technical briefings as needed, through the secretariat, on the performance schedule and cost.

The Department of National Defence will continue to evaluate options to sustain the Canadian Forces' fighter capability well into the 21st century.

Prior to project approval, the Treasury Board Secretariat will first commission an independent review of DND's acquisition and sustainment project assumptions and potential costs for the F-35, which will be made public. The Treasury Board Secretariat will also review the acquisition and sustainment costs of the F-35 and ensure full compliance with procurement policies prior to approving the project.

Industry Canada, through the new secretariat, will continue identifying opportunities for Canadian industry to participate in the joint strike fighter global supply chain as well as other potential benefits for Canada in sustainment, testing and training and will provide updates to Parliament explaining the benefits.

Canada has not purchased any replacement aircraft and has not signed any contract to do so. Canada will only proceed with replacing the CF-18s when all of the steps I just mentioned are complete and development work is sufficiently advanced.

I would urge members opposite, particularly the member who is speaking this evening, to really take into consideration the needs of our men and women in uniform and the needs of our Canadian air force. They do a tremendous job protecting our interests. They deserve to have the best equipment in a timely fashion. I urge that member to reconsider her position when she votes against our military equipment and sustainability model.

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, although the parliamentary secretary has a more pleasant voice than the other two ministers, she is still repeating the same points that I have heard a million times. I have not heard any new information. After constantly receiving vague answers, I gave her the opportunity to give concrete answers, but she did not do so.

I would therefore like to know if the interdepartmental secretariat has all the information it needs to give Canadians and parliamentarians real answers. Will it finally give Canadians the real figures? Will it organize an open and transparent competitive bidding process? Will this secretariat make the ministers take a little more responsibility for the disaster they have made of this file or will another secretariat have to be created for that?

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed to hear the member opposite speak in such a fashion. To be frank, I have never heard the two ministers talk about being a granddaughter of three World War II veterans. I am offended by her lack of compassion. I am offended by her insinuation that I read off speaking points and simply tried to somehow manoeuvre around the question.

I answered the question as truthfully as possible. I answered the question with some passion because I care about my grandparents. I care about future grandparents. I care about my children, their children and future generations. For that member to question my dedication to Canadians in this manner and to question my grandparent's service to our country is offensive and I think I am owed an apology.

Nevertheless, this government will continue on this path to defend our brave men and women in uniform and provide them with the equipment they so deserve to continue the wonderful job they have done over many years and more years to come.

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:41 p.m.)