Madam Chair, I want to say good evening to my esteemed parliamentary colleagues, to the officials who are with us, to all Canadians watching us and to the minister I have the opportunity to work with every day. I am learning a lot about his new portfolio, and I appreciate the advice he gives me every day.
I want to use the 10 minutes I have this evening to expand on what the Minister of National Defence already said about the women and men who wear the Canadian Armed Forces uniform.
Time and again, we have seen these women and men work tirelessly to help people in need, both on dangerous missions around the world and closer to home in the case of a natural disaster. This is what they have been doing these past 10 years, despite the Conservatives' cuts to National Defence, which slowed down the procurement process.
In contrast, over the next 10 years, we will boost the DND annual budget to $32.7 billion, an increase of more than 70%. This will ensure that our women and men in uniform have the resources they need to carry out their important mission at home and abroad.
We again witnessed their courage and dedication over the past three weeks in communities across Ontario, Quebec and my birth province of New Brunswick.
When the provinces ask for help from the Canadian Armed Forces, the forces have a duty to respond. They have been there for Canadians this spring as part of Operation Lentus. The forces belong to all our citizens and its members will always be available in the event of a disaster.
I remember very well when members of the Canadian Armed Forces went door to door two years ago in New Brunswick to help people affected by the ice storm, particularly in my riding, Acadie—Bathurst, and in the Acadian peninsula which was hit very hard. I witnessed the work of the Canadian Armed Forces, these men and women who helped our community get back on its feet after enduring the ice storm for 20 days. Some people had no electricity, water or food for 15 to 20 days.
I thank them from the bottom of my heart for the extraordinary work they did in 2017 and for their efforts during the flooding of the past few weeks.
This spring, 2,500 Canadian Armed Forces members pitched in to help flood victims. They assisted first responders with evacuations, protected homes and supported exhausted volunteers. We are painfully aware of the flood victims' suffering, and our thoughts are with all those who have to deal with the damage these floods have done to their homes and their lives.
As natural disasters become more frequent, the Canadian Armed Forces have to be prepared to jump in and intervene more frequently. That is one reason we are working to increase troop numbers as part of Canada's defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”. Having the necessary personnel available when duty calls is essential.
I do think it is a real shame the Conservatives have consistently voted against funding the implementation of this important defence policy. The Conservatives repeatedly voted against funding to give our military personnel the equipment they need, and they even voted against funding their participation in operations abroad that help keep us safe here at home.
In spite of these attempts to go back to the days of Stephen Harper's budget cuts, I am happy to highlight two programs that are helping us increase our military personnel and make the forces more diverse.
First, there is the full-time summer employment program that we launched last year. This initiative helps members balance their civilian life with military service by offering full-time employment to reservists in their first four years of service. Many of the reservists who are training and developing their skills will later go on deployments, as part of national operations to protect their communities from natural disasters, for example.
Second, we expanded our summer training programs for indigenous people living in Canada. Five of these programs are offered in Canada, including the Grey Wolf program and a new bilingual program, the Carcajou program, which we launched this year.
Increasing our personnel is essential for conducting effective operations both in Canada, like Operation Lentus, and abroad.
I salute the 250 Canadian Armed Forces members who worked in close collaboration with emergency services in my province, New Brunswick, to help people protect homes along the Saint John River. The minister also travelled to New Brunswick for a first-hand look at how the Canadian Armed Forces were helping with the flood response. Along with other MPs from New Brunswick, I am tremendously grateful to him for being there.
The Canadian Armed Forces are able to help our neighbours who are affected by the flooding and support our allies in various missions around the world because we give them the tools they need to do their work no matter where they are.
We are making progress on capital procurement projects, such as the new fleet of Arctic and offshore patrol ships and the 18 interim fighter jets we purchased from Australia to supplement our fighter aircraft fleet.
We are also ensuring that Canada is a reliable and valuable partner for our allies by participating in missions around the world. Right now, 250 members of the Canadian Armed Forces are in Mali, providing essential, life-saving aeromedical evacuations of UN forces and civilians. In addition, 200 members of our armed forces are participating in Operation Unifier in Ukraine, and over 850 are stationed in the Middle East on Operation Impact.
We strongly support our Ukrainian friends in their efforts to protect their sovereignty and bring security and stability to their country, while respecting the rules-based international order. Canada is playing a leading role in the international community's response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. What is more, as we announced in March, this mission will continue until March 2022.
I know that both ministers are extremely proud of Canada's role in Ukraine. All Canadians can be proud of our contributions there. It is unfortunate, however, that throughout our years in government, the Conservatives have voted repeatedly against funding for this critical mission.
I understand their leader made a speech last week that touched on Canada's involvement in Ukraine. It will not come as a surprise from a member of Harper's team that he was not transparent about the position his Conservative Party had taken in the House on this military mission.
Our people are at the core of everything we do, whether it is deployed operations abroad or service on bases, wings or reserve units here at home. We must support them at every stage of their careers. That is why the Minister of National Defence has presented the main estimates for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces for the 2019-20 fiscal year. This funding will enable us to meet the objectives set out in our defence policy and meet the needs of our personnel.
The minister requested $21.9 billion in funding to carry on the vital work we do for the Canadian Armed Forces and to build on our successes. With these funds, which the Conservatives, based on their previous votes on the matter, are almost certain to oppose, we can continue to pursue ambitious capital projects that provide Canadian Armed Forces members with the best equipment available and ensure our infrastructure serves their needs in an environmentally conscious way.
Thanks to this funding, Canada will be able to continue to conduct Canadian missions abroad in collaboration with our international partners. Canadians rightly expect us to meet our commitments with the same level of transparency and concern that we have demonstrated over the past four years. We take this responsibility very seriously, and it is just as important as the responsibility we take for supporting the Canadian Armed Forces who defend our country.
I appreciate the opportunity to tell the committee of the whole and all Canadians about the great work of the Canadian Armed Forces and how this government will continue to support them.
Again, I want to thank the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for the excellent work they do every day for Canadians and for our communities, including their help with the floods we are currently experiencing in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. I thank them for their exceptional work. We want to continue to support them in their work. That is why we are investing in the members of the Canadian Armed Forces and in our Department of National Defence.