Mr. Chair, our Canadian military has been neglected for a long time. The previous Liberal government irresponsibly allowed the state of our Canadian Forces to decline during its 13 year tenure.
The Liberals left our military's resources and equipment in an inadequate state for our men and women in uniform. It has been left to our Conservative government to correct this problem. As the member of Parliament with CFB Moose Jaw in my riding, this issue is obviously of great concern to me.
It is unfortunate but it is not difficult to come up with an example of deteriorating equipment in the Canadian Forces. We only need to look at the fleet of Hercules aircraft. They are aging rapidly and in urgent need of replacement. Canada's Hercules fleet has logged more flying hours than any other military Hercules fleet in the world. It is considered the workhorse of the Canadian Forces and they have been operating effectively for decades.
However, some of these planes, which have been in service since the early 1960s, will be grounded by the end of 2010. The tactical airlift capability must be replaced.
It is not only the air force that has been damaged by years of neglect. In my riding, the Saskatchewan Dragoons want to know about the tanks, the trucks and the ships. We should not forget that those are aging too. The fleet of Leopard 1 tanks are over 30 years old. We are in a situation now where the support and spare parts that are required to maintain these tanks will soon be obsolete. The tanks must be replaced.
The medium size logistics trucks for the army were fielded in the early 1980s. That was 20 years ago. This fleet needs to be replaced as soon as possible given its age and increasing maintenance problems. The trucks must be replaced.
Let us talk about the navy's replenishment ships. The HMCS Protecteur and the HMCS Preserver have done an exceptional job for the Canadian Forces but they are now over 35 years old and have become difficult and costly to maintain. The ships must be replaced.
We must also remember that this House voted on the mission in Afghanistan and committed our troops until February 2009. We cannot set them up for failure by neglecting their equipment needs. It is our obligation to provide them with the tools that they need to be successful. It would be irresponsible to send them into harm's way without agreeing to give them what they need and everything that they require.
The government needs to ensure that the Canadian Forces are well-equipped, whether or not Canada stays in Afghanistan longer than 2009. Without proper equipment, the Canadian Forces cannot accomplish their tasks at home or abroad.
The Canadian Forces need to be self-reliant. It is the only way we can be more secure at home and have a greater impact abroad. The Canadian Forces have been underfunded, understaffed and underequipped for far too long.
I would like to ask the Minister of National Defence or his parliamentary secretary for an update on the government's commitment to rebuilding the Canadian Forces.