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 #120 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure to address the committee and speak to the need for continued investment in the well-being of Canadian Forces members, their families and our veterans.

As the member of Parliament for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke, I represent one of the busiest bases in the country, CFB Petawawa, the training ground of the warriors.

The women and men of the Canadian Forces do extraordinary work in defending Canada and Canadians at home and abroad, and their operational track record over the past decade is testament to the fact.

However, we all know that delivering this kind of sustained operational excellence does not come easily. It is only possible because of the professionalism, dedication and sense of duty of our military personnel and because they accept hardships, the sacrifices and the stresses that come with serving in uniform.

Of course we do everything we can to ensure the safety of CF members in the performance of their missions but no matter how well trained they are and no matter how well equipped they may be, there will always be risks involved with military personnel. That is why we also have a responsibility to provide them, and the families who support them and depend upon them, with the care and support they need throughout their career and beyond.

I am proud to be part of a government that makes our brave women and men in uniform one of its top priorities. As stated in the Canada first defence strategy unveiled in 2008, personnel are one of the four essential pillars upon which we build our military capabilities.

Since coming to office in 2006, this government has taken steps to improve the care we provide to our personnel, their families and veterans. Our approach is premised on the belief that in order to treat our ill, injured and wounded personnel effectively we must coordinate our efforts, from recovery to rehabilitation and reintegration. For this comprehensive approach to be successful, we need to ensure that our troops, our veterans and their families can easily access services.

That is why we set up the Joint Personnel Support Unit in 2009. The JPSU is a one-stop service for ill and injured military personnel and their families through a network of 24 integrated personnel support centres on bases and wings across Canada. These centres provide much of the needed services to our military families wherever they are located by helping our ill and injured along the path to recovery and providing access to rehabilitation programs to aid in the transition to the next phase of their lives. IPFCs ensure that our troops and their loved ones have access to the same high standard of care and support across Canada.

We also recognize that we need more than infrastructure to care for our personnel and their families.

Our troops, their families and our veterans face situations that are often very complex and unique to military life. They need programs and initiatives that address these specific needs. This is especially true of those who are ill or who have been injured or wounded.

One of the first initiatives to be launched was Soldier On in 2006. Just this past weekend, the Calabogie Peaks resort hosted Ride the Valley for Soldier On. Canadian army veteran motorcycle units from across Ontario participated. This is a great program. It helps in the recovery of our ill and injured CF personnel by providing them with the opportunities to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle through sport.

This past February, the Calabogie ski resort hosted a winter sports clinic, teaching the ill and injured how to ski. In February 2013, it will be doing the same.

In the same vein, we also introduced last year the computer assisted rehabilitation environment system, or CAREN. CAREN is an advanced system that uses virtual reality software to help rehabilitate injured CF members more quickly and effectively.

To offer more comprehensive support not only to our ill and injured Canadian Forces members, but also to the family members who accompany them through their rehabilitation, we launched the legacy of care program in 2010. Legacy of care is designed to facilitate access to a broad range of services, such as adapted accommodation throughout the recovery process, or financial and educational assistance for family members.

Also, to provide better financial assistance to military personnel with disabilities, the Minister of National Defence announced just last month that the government is increasing the funding for the service income security insurance plan, SISIP, long-term disability program by $113 million.

Of course, this government recognizes that mental health is just as important as physical health. That is why we have also set up programs and initiatives specifically designed to address psychological or emotional issues, including operational stress injuries. To improve treatment for our personnel dealing with these problems, over 200 mental health practitioners have been hired in recent years through the Canadian Forces mental health initiative.

The CF also launched “Be the Difference”, a mental health awareness campaign that aims to build a culture of understanding for mental health issues within the Canadian Forces. Because of the great efforts we have made over recent years to address mental health issues, Canada has become a world leader in fighting the stigmatization of post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries. I was pleased to learn that CFB Petawawa will soon have two psychologists working on the base providing services to our CF members closer to their homes.

This government recognizes that it is not enough to care for our ill, injured and wounded CF members. We must also care for their families. They courageously accept the risks, the burdens and the sacrifices that come with the service. We can never repay extraordinary service and any sacrifice our military families make, but we can work to improve their well-being. That is what this government has done since taking office.

In 2007 we set up the military families fund. This wonderful initiative provides our military families in need with short-term or long-term support, such as emergency financial assistance or educational opportunities. We have also introduced various resources, family liaison officers, the familyforce.ca website, and the family information line to easily link the families of our women and men in uniform with the information and services they need.

Of course, we have not and cannot forget about the families of the fallen. For them we introduced the shoulder to shoulder initiative in 2011. This program helps the families of our fallen deal with the tragedy of their loss by providing them with the services of counsellors and therapists, and by connecting them with volunteers who have lived through similar experiences.

After a decade of high operational tempo, the CF is now shifting its focus toward building the force of tomorrow, a force capable of meeting the challenges of an evolving and unpredictable security environment. We always remember that the foundation upon which we build this future force is our women and men in uniform and their families. They are without a doubt our most precious asset. That is why our approach to care is comprehensive, starting with the service and extending to the military families, the military life, and life after the service.

We have outlined this integrated approach in a newly released publication called, “Caring for Our Own”.

In the minister's opening remarks, he referenced the great work done by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian army.

The 1990s represented a particularly dark time for the Canadian Forces as they were put in difficult circumstances, were ill-equipped and ill-prepared, which undoubtedly had an impact on troop morale.

Since forming government in 2006, we have not only invested in the Canadian Forces through equipment and training, but have also implemented initiatives that seek to reconnect them with their proud history.

Could the Minister of National Defence inform the committee of the whole of the initiatives his department has undertaken to reconnect our Canadian Forces with their proud history and traditions?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, in answer to the member's question, we reinstated the names, Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy. This was very well received by veterans and serving members alike. We also brought back, of importance operationally but also for the Canadian Forces, joint task force 2, which really is the successor special forces to the airborne regiment which was disbanded by the previous Liberal government. We also know that in 1968 those royal designations were stripped away, along with the individual uniforms and individual identities of Canadian Forces.

I want to commend the hon. member. I know she is extremely proud of the men and women at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. The member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke is an ardent supporter of the men and women in uniform and their families.

I also would take this opportunity to express appreciation not only to the families but to one family member in particular, and that is Leslie Natynczyk, who is the wife of the Chief of the Defence Staff. She was recently recognized with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal for her incredible work in supporting wounded members, ill and injured, and their families. She is an outstanding Canadian, as is her husband. We are very proud of her work and contribution, in addition to what General Natynczyk does for the men and women in our forces.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Chair, over the past year the Department of National Defence has entered into several memoranda of understanding with other nations to build upon relations between the host nation and Canada. Such partnerships offer not only the Canadian Forces but the Canadian population in general cost-effective measures to provide logistical support to our forces. I am referring specifically to the partnership forged with the government of Germany.

Could the minister provide this committee of the whole with more information about how those arrangements are made and why it is so important to have partnerships of this nature?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, specifically, in April 2009 the Canadian Forces established a proof of concept hub in Spangdahlem, Germany. This was done on May 13, 2010. The Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff ordered the establishment of seven operational support hubs worldwide to enable enhanced logistics reinforcement of international missions. This is an important step being taken by the Canadian Forces. The engagement and dialogue with host nations are progressing. We continue to develop appropriate instruments to establish the operational support hubs worldwide. The engagement and dialogue with host nations will allow us to have these operational hubs, which we feel are very important in a volatile and changing world.

On February 14 of this year, the German defence minister and I announced the move of the European operational support hub to Köln-Bonn airport. This initiative is about supporting funds more effectively, ensuring that this network of hubs is going to be there and available for us. It often involves simply using a corner of an airfield, a hangar, for storage purposes but it will allow Canadian Forces to improve its operational capability, to get where it needs to be quickly. As I said, challenges and flare-ups can occur, as we have seen in places around the world. This is very much about the Canadian Forces having a footprint in places and regions where we know that Canadians will be able to play an important role, where the world is looking to Canada to do more, and we are ready to shoulder that load.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I would say to the government members opposite that it might be easier if they had a copy of the Auditor General's report because I am going to be asking very direct questions based on paragraphs from the Auditor General's report.

On page 21, at paragraph 2.50, the Auditor General says:

As described in the following paragraphs, we observed that in the lead-up to this announcement, required documents were prepared and key steps were taken out of sequence. Key decisions were made without required approvals or supporting documentation.

Does the minister support that conclusion of the Auditor General?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, we have accepted the findings and the recommendation made by the Auditor General. We are acting with diligence to fulfill the recommendation as he conveyed in his report.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, then I assume that key decisions were made without required approvals or supporting documentation.

At the end of paragraph 2.57, it states:

--the formal options analysis was completed...which concluded that the F-35 was the only available aircraft that could meet the mandatory requirements of the Canadian Forces. The conclusion was cited as the basis for the government's decision to purchase the F-35 without competition.

Is that still the position of the Government of Canada?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, the position of the government is that we have not signed any contract for the purchase of replacement aircraft. We have been clear that we have set a budget and we will work within that budget. A new secretariat is being established that will play the lead coordinating role as the government moves to make a decision to replace the aging CF-18s.

We will not proceed with any purchase until the seven-step action plan we have outlined is completed and developmental work is sufficiently advanced.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the critical issue is the government decided to proceed without a competition. The Auditor General found clearly and categorically that the government proceeded without a competition, and that things were done out of sequence and were done without the proper authorization.

The Prime Minister stated last year, and this quote is from the March 11, 2011 issue of the Globe and Mail:

This is the option that was selected some time ago, because it is the only option available. This is the only fighter available that serves the purposes that our air force needs.

Is that still the position of the Government of Canada, yes or no?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, when this information is put forth, it is assumed, I suppose, by the hon. member that people bite.

The reality is it was his government that began the process. It was his government that put Canada, along with eight other nations, into the joint strike fighter program.

Prior to project approval, the Treasury Board Secretariat will first commission an independent review of the Department of National Defence acquisition and sustainment estimates, which will be made public.

Ultimately, we will provide the Canadian Forces with the proper aircraft they need to do the important job we ask of them.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I am not going to bite either, I can tell the minister. He knows full well that I am simply reading from the Auditor General's report, and I am asking whether or not the government still agrees with that position.

I just read a quote from the Prime Minister of Canada, with whom I think the minister will be familiar. He said that this plane is the only plane available, that this is the only fighter that would serve the needs of our air force.

In paragraph 2.60, the Auditor General said:

Practically speaking, by 2010, Canada was too involved in the JSF Program and the F-35 to run a fair competition.

Does the minister agree with that finding?

If I could have the minister's attention, I know he is talking to colleagues which is fine, but I would ask the minister, is that a fair finding by the Auditor General? Does the government agree with it? If it does, what kind of a competition is it in fact running now? Is it not all just a big charade?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, we accept the recommendation made by the Auditor General. We are acting on it.

If I may, this initiative will provide the Department of National Defence, as well as Canada's aerospace industry, with an excellent opportunity to be involved in one of the most exciting aerospace programs of the 21st century. “Our participation will greatly enhance the interoperability with our allies which is one of our key defence objectives.” Who said that? The Hon. Art Eggleton on February 7, 2002.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, members can read the Auditor General's report. It is very clear. The Auditor General clearly found that up until 2006, no decision had been made with respect to the purchase of the F-35. The F-35 decision was made in 2010 by the government sitting over there. That is clearly documented in the Auditor General's report.

If the parliamentary secretary would stop heckling for a moment, the critical question today is, is there a competition with respect to the replacement of the CF-18, or is the government's so-called seven-step exercise simply an effort to justify the decision that the Auditor General reported has already been made?

This is a very critical fact for the government to tell us the answer.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, the member opposite may be entitled to his opinion but he is not entitled to invent his own facts.

The Government of Canada has taken action to ensure that due diligence, oversight and transparency are firmly embedded in the process to replace Canada's aging fighter aircraft. We are following a seven step action plan to fulfill and exceed the Auditor General's recommendations. This includes freezing acquisition funding and establishing a separate secretariat to lead this project, and its work has already begun.

As a result, the government is taking seven steps to fulfill and exceed the Auditor General's recommendations, and I can itemize those for him. In any event, no decision has been taken and we will await the findings of the secretariat before we make any definitive decisions.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, let me ask the minister this direct question. Is the seven step process a review of the decision that was taken with respect to the purchase of one aircraft, which is the F-35, or is the seven step process an opportunity for others to come forward with respect to a competition and for the government to review once again the fundamental question of whether the F-35 should be the plane that we acquire. Which is it?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, I am very pleased to convey to the hon. member opposite what the seven steps are: one, the funding envelope allocated for the acquisition of the CF-18 replacement fleet has been frozen; two, National Defence, through the secretariat, will provide annual updates to Parliament and the Canadian public; three, National Defence will continue to evaluate options to sustain the Canadian Forces fighter capability well into the 21st century; four, Treasury Board will commission an independent review on costs; five, Treasury Board will ensure procurement policies are followed and properly executed; six, Industry Canada will identify the economic opportunities and benefits; and seven, a secretariat will be established.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I will try again. The Auditor General clearly found that a decision was made in July 2010, a decision that was made out of sequence, without adequate facts, without adequate justification and without the documentation required to make such a decision.

What I am trying to find out is whether the government is in fact conducting a competition with respect to the replacement or is the government simply reviewing its own decision with respect to the F-35. Does the government stand by the Prime Minister's comments a year ago when he said, “This is the option that was selected some time ago, because it is the only option available?” Is the F-35 the only option available and being taken seriously by the government, yes or no?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, the fact is that one of the aspects of the moving forward strategy is to continue to evaluate options available to us. I again want to emphasize the fact that we have taken serious action with respect to the Auditor General's recommendations. We are following those steps in order to ultimately arrive at a decision based on facts and not speculation.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I will try one more time.

I will try to ask the minister the question very clearly in my second language. Is there a competition where all the options are on the table? You talk about transparency. That is transparency.

On the contrary, is the F-35 still the only option? What you are in the process of doing is looking at the costs so far.

Is the F-35 in competition with other planes, or is it the only plane on the table? I am asking a simple question.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, the simple answer is that National Defence will continue to evaluate options to sustain the Canadian Forces' fighter capability well into the 21st century. That is what we said we would do and that is what we will do.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, last year, the Prime Minister of Canada said:

This is the option that was selected some time ago, because it is the only option available. ... This is the only fighter available that serves the purposes that our air force needs.

Is that or is it not still the position of the Government of Canada?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, the position of the Government of Canada is that we have accepted the Auditor General's recommendation and we are following that recommendation.

The fact is that the third step in the seven step plan is that National Defence will continue to evaluate options to sustain a Canadian Forces fighter capability well into the 21st century and that is what we are doing.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the first step in the ten step program that I am familiar with is that we first must admit that we have a problem. I do not see a hope for recovery in that seven step program until the government admits it has a problem.

If the Auditor General said that the government has a problem, it is because it has things out of sequence. It decided to go for the F-35 without a competition, without the documentation, without a proper decision by cabinet and without cabinet having the information that it needed to have because the Auditor General said that important information was withheld from the cabinet, withheld from the government and withheld from Parliament.

Will the government finally accept that it has a problem and that it requires a review that goes back to the original question? What is the mission for this aircraft? What do we need the aircraft to do in the years after 2020? What is the most efficient and fair-minded way to do it? Why not finally accede to having a competition rather than not having a competition?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Julian Fantino Conservative Vaughan, ON

Mr. Chair, I am surprised at the bantering by the member opposite but I respect his point of view. What he needs to do is research his own party's edict for why it is that Canada is now engaged in this process. It was his government that signed Canada up to this multinational joint strike fighter program. He should be acquainted with those answers.

The member needs to remember that we will ascribe to the recommendation made by the Auditor General. We will ascertain the facts that he chose as necessary in decision making going forward. We are moving forward with that seven-step action plan.

The member opposite needs to be respectful of the Auditor General's findings.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Conservative Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the government understands that in order to carry out the varied and difficult missions in the service of our country, the Canadian Forces need to have four important things: healthy, well-trained and motivated personnel; the right mix of equipment; the right portfolio of properly maintained physical infrastructure; and a high level of operational readiness.

That is why, in 2008, we made those elements the four pillars of the Canada first defence strategy, CFDS. It is our blueprint for building modern forces adaptive to the security challenges of the 21st century. The Canada first defence strategy outlines a 20 year investment plan to ensure that the Canadian Forces have the capabilities and the flexibility to continue serving Canadians in a security environment that is all but predictable.

The government recognizes that people are our most important asset. As a former commanding officer of a reserve infantry unit, I know that to be especially true when we consider the intense operational tempo of the past years.

Since taking office in 2006, the government increased the size of the regular force by 5,000 to reach 68,000 personnel. This allowed us to sustain our operations in Afghanistan where we deployed more than 40,000 troops over a decade, and that includes the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East who served there in 2007.

We also relied heavily on our reservists. In Afghanistan alone, approximately 6,000 reservists have served alongside the regular force, sharing the same stress, the same dangers and the same risks.

Now that our operational temp has slowed down, the government is taking steps to ensure that reservists are provided with adequate career transition support to facilitate their return to part-time service. In the same vein, the hon. members are fully aware that our high operational tempo has been hard on our troops and their families.

That is why we have taken many steps to improve the support we provide them, from additional funding to help with their treatment of mental and physical injuries, to initiatives aimed at improving assistance to our military families in need and programs to support the families of our fallen.

Of course, all the support we provide our personnel does not amount to much if we do not also provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs. Having the right equipment is what allows our troops to serve us to the best of their ability and it is what helps keep them safe.

This is something that the government has recognized since the day it took office in 2006. At the time, our troops were dealing with a fierce insurgency in the Kandahar region. To ensure their safety and operational success, we acquired critical capabilities, like the C-17 Globemaster III, strategic lift aircraft, Chinook helicopters and Leopard 2 tanks. These acquisitions have made a difference to our campaign against the insurgency and have saved Canadian lives.

Through CFDS, we continue strengthening the Canadian Forces by providing them with the right mix of capabilities across all three environments: on land, on water and in the air. On land, we have invested $1 billion to upgrade our fleet of third generation LAV III fighting vehicles which form the backbone of our mechanized infantry.

The upgrade of the LAV III is one of the components of a larger investment in our family of land combat vehicles program. through which we will acquire other capabilities, fleets of close combat vehicles and tactical armoured patrol vehicles. We are giving the army the tools it needs to effectively and safely conduct operations ranging from combat missions and counter insurgency to peacekeeping and domestic crisis response.

To renew our capabilities at sea, we established a national shipbuilding procurement strategy, a $33 billion investment to replace our aging naval fleet and equip the Royal Canadian Navy with a new generation of surface combatants, joint support ships and Arctic off-shore patrol ships. This will allow our sailors to continue their critical work of exercising our sovereignty, protecting our coasts and defending our interests abroad.

To ensure that the Royal Canadian Air Force has the tools it needs to operate in the 21st century, the government is looking to replace the fleet of aging CF-18s with a fighter aircraft that will give the Canadian Forces the flexibility to meet the challenges of the evolving uncertain and unpredictable security environment of the next decades.

That is why we committed to purchasing a next generation fighter capability in the Canada first defence strategy, and we remain true to that commitment.

We have also increased our investments in our third pillar, infrastructure. Having the right training facilities, landing strips, roads, docks, buildings, utilities and accommodations is absolutely essential to the work of the Canadian Forces. That is why, as part of the Canada first defence strategy, we committed to replace or refurbish approximately 25% of our holdings within 10 years and 50% within 20 years. In line with this commitment, the Department of National Defence has announced over $3 billion in defence infrastructure projects across the country since March 2009.

In the past two years alone we have initiated close to 100 projects. They include investments that directly support the operational effectiveness of our troops, such as research centres, training facilities or hangars to accommodate the new equipment. They also include infrastructure projects that provide better support to our men and women in uniform, like access to proper housing or new integrated personnel support centres on bases and wings across Canada.

While these are only a few examples, they illustrate just how far-reaching our efforts in renewing defence infrastructure have been and how important it is for us to keep investing in projects and make a real difference in the work of our troops. These investments in personnel, equipment and infrastructure must be complemented by a focus on readiness to ensure that we sustain the ability of the Canadian Forces to respond when called upon. Readiness is the difference between success and failure.

We are not only talking about how quickly the Canadian Forces can respond, we are also talking about their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. The government knows that one of the keys to readiness is to conduct regular, real-world training. That is why, for example, since 2007, the Canadian Forces conducts an annual sovereignty and security operation in the north, known as Operation Nanook, with its whole-of-government partners and more recently with international allies like the U.S. and Denmark.

Operations like this ensure that our troops remain prepared to meet whatever challenge comes their way. We need to maintain the same kind of readiness that we have displayed both at home and abroad over the past 10 years.

This level of readiness excellence sustained through sound investments is what allowed our troops to bring much needed humanitarian assistance to Haiti after it was struck by a devastating earthquake in January 2010, to intervene at the side of our allies to protect Libyan civilians last year and to quickly come to the aid of survivors when First Air Flight 6560 crashed in Resolute Bay last August so tragically. That is why we will continue our efforts to help the Canadian Forces members ensure that they arrive in ready condition whenever and wherever we need them.

By supporting the work of our troops at home and abroad, our investments through the Canada first defence strategy have produced tangible results for Canadians. It is important to continue to deliver on our commitments we made in the strategy.

Of course, we are mindful of the economic climate. We are taking steps to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of National Defence to ensure that we get the most out of every dollar invested. We cannot forget that we have a responsibility to continue building a modern and agile force suited for the security challenges of tomorrow. As we move forward with the Canada first defence strategy, we will continue to maintain our emphasis on investments in personnel, equipment, infrastructure and readiness.

I have a couple of questions for the Associate Minister of National Defence.

In 2009, as part of our Canada first defence strategy, the Government of Canada announced its plan to acquire the next generation of land combat vehicles. The family of land combat vehicles program, valued at approximately $5 billion, consists of the acquisition of three new fleets and the upgrade of the fleet of third generation light armoured vehicles, valued at an estimated $1 billion. I understand that upgrades will be performed on 550 vehicles and that this contract is a great long-term use for the industry and the economy. I was hoping that the Associate Minister of National Defence could further update us on this project and explain why the upgrade is necessary.