Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne.
I am happy to take part in today’s debate to highlight the contributions of a remarkable man, the Minister of National Defence. I have had the pleasure to know the minister for a year and a half, and the honour to work more closely with him since my appointment as parliamentary secretary.
For many months now, we have been working to make Canada better. We have promised to bring real change, to be here for Canadians, to listen to them and respond to their wishes.
Canadians have given us a clear mandate, namely to build a Canada that is prosperous and open to the world, a Canada that reflects our values. Canadians expect us to keep our commitments, and we are doing so. Today, more than ever, the middle class is becoming stronger and more people are able to join its ranks.
After a difficult decade when people had stopped believing, our government has been able to re-establish contact with Canadians. The consultations we have held let us know that we are on the right track. We are listening, and the messages we are receiving clearly demonstrate how important it is for Canadians to have an open and transparent government.
In establishing this communication, we are creating a bond of mutual trust. To maintain that bond, we will not hide behind closed doors, and if we make mistakes, we must acknowledge them right away.
Canadians are not expecting us to be perfect, but they expect us to be honest, open, and sincere in our efforts to serve the public interest.
In exercising our duties, we must act in accordance with the values that characterize us. Inclusion, honesty, professionalism, and conscientious work are just a few of the values we must place at the service of our fellow citizens.
Having spent the past few months working with the Minister of National Defence, I have been a privileged witness to his integrity and the determination with which he discharges his mandate.
The primary responsibility of the minister, and of our government, is to oversee the interests of our troops and make sure they are prepared and provided with the equipment they need to protect the sovereignty of Canada, defend North America, provide disaster relief, conduct search and rescue missions, support the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations, and contribute to the security of our allies.
We are working to discharge that mandate with the greatest respect for our men and women in uniform. We must ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces have the support, the training, and the equipment they need to successfully complete the various missions they are assigned.
Over the last year and a half, our minister has sought to achieve this very objective. It is what he strives for every day.
One of the key elements of his mandate is to provide our country with a new defence policy. Over the past year, with the assistance of all the members in the House, we have undertaken the broadest public consultation in 20 years. Canadians from coast to coast to coast have been able to express their views and tell us their concerns regarding this new policy.
We have conducted an in-depth analysis to be sure we have a model that meets the needs of our military. Today, it is the responsibility of the minister and the government to ensure that the members of the Canadian Armed Forces have all of the equipment necessary to successfully carry out their missions, and all the support they need for their well-being.
The Minister of National Defence has been given a broad mandate that he is carrying out. He will soon be able to disclose this new defence policy, which will guarantee the sustainability of resources by ensuring adequate funding and costs that are rigorously established for the next 20 years.
In that policy, the government commits to providing a level of investment that will put the Canadian Armed Forces in a stable position in terms of finances, capital, and human resources, so that we will have a force that is modern, more flexible, and better equipped.
The men and women of our armed forces do an exceptional job of performing their duties, but they cannot carry out their missions indefinitely without adequate support. We are currently working to fill the gaps that have resulted from our predecessors’ mismanagement. Numerous efforts have already been made by this government to achieve those objectives.
In Québec, in particular, we can see the benefits of this intention. Recently, I was able to announce, on behalf of the Minister of National Defence, the start of work on the construction of two new multi-purpose buildings in Bagotville. A company in Chicoutimi has been awarded a $47-million contract to carry out that work.
The overall investment will be $95 million, and the objective is to improve the 3 Wing infrastructure. This project will improve 3 Wing’s capacity to control and defend North American air space when duty calls. These facilities will provide us with the solution to the problem of the infrastructure shortage.
We will also ensure that all soldiers have the tools and resources they need to do their work to the best of their ability. By modernizing and replacing outdated military infrastructure, we are putting the Canadian Armed Forces in a better position to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Times are changing and the Canadian Armed Forces need to have not only modern equipment, but also training that is appropriate for today’s reality. It is of the utmost importance that Canada focus on maximizing human resource development.
To achieve this, continuous training and education are inexhaustible sources that enable the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces to develop superior skills sets. It is clear that the quality of this training enables Canadian military personnel to fulfill their operational role and helps to place our armed forces among the most educated and skilled in the world.
In announcing the upcoming return of university studies at Royal Military College Saint-Jean with interest and conviction as he did, the minister expressed the importance of maintaining a representative francophone presence in the Canadian Armed Forces, and in particular in the defence staff, thereby contributing to maintaining our identity in Canada.
The time has come to restore the college to its former glory so that it can actively participate in maintaining our troops’ expertise and supporting the Canadian government in redefining its military mission.
Canada’s return to its fundamental principles ties in very well with the academic orientation that the Royal Military College Saint-Jean aims to take. The humanities and social sciences programs will foster the training of leaders who have the skills required to work in conflict resolution.
The college has proven its value on numerous occasions by providing a francophone military learning environment and advancing bilingualism and linguistic diversity in the Canadian armed forces. The resumption of university education will help promote improved recruitment of francophones, allophones and anglophones from Quebec and all across Canada for the Royal Military College Saint-Jean.
We have to offer our soldiers all the support, training and equipment they need to successfully carry out their various missions. The Canadian armed forces must be versatile and ready to respond in various types of terrain, as they are demonstrating at this very moment.
In fact, in the wake of these historic floods, nearly 1,200 troops were sent yesterday to the following four assembly areas: Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Shawinigan, Laval and Gatineau. They will be posted to offer support and respond to needs that have been identified in collaboration with our civilian partners.
The Canadian Armed Forces are always prepared to lend assistance to civil authorities during an emergency in Canada, including natural disasters, at all times and in all places. These CAF operations are designated Operation Lentus. We ask the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces to take on some extremely difficult tasks, and it is our duty to support them and our obligation to equip them.
To guarantee the safety of Canadians and be prepared to act when needed, the government has to strike a balance between its different priorities. In a global context of constant change, we will pursue our military investments to ensure that all our resources are up to date and that our personnel and their families are appropriately supported.
The Minister of National Defence is a former reservist who is in regular contact with our men and women in uniform. He understands the military reality very well, and will always hold in high esteem the service of Canadian Armed Forces members, those currently serving as well as the ones with whom he served on his missions, and those who served under other commanders or at other times.
The minister’s unconditional commitment to the execution of his mandate shows the great respect he has for the members of the Canadian forces. In accepting his duties, the minister has undertaken to be honest, to be transparent and to be accountable to Canadians. He is a member of a government that holds to the most rigorous ethical standards. Every time he reports to work, he does so at the service of Canada and with a view to improving our country and the lives of all Canadian citizens, both military and civilian.
Last week, the Prime Minister gave his support to the Minister of National Defence, and caucus did as well. Today, in the House, I assure my colleague of my complete collaboration. I will continue to serve the members of the Canadian Armed Forces alongside him with all of the loyalty that he himself has shown in the exercise of his duties.