Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be in the House to speak about helicopters, a subject that is not new to me. Today I would like to focus on the remarks toward the central role that the Department of Public Works and Government Services is playing in managing the maritime helicopter project. I will be splitting my time with the member for Haliburton—Victoria—Brock.
Like my colleagues who have spoken before me, I have the utmost confidence in the department's ability to administer this major crown procurement. The Department of Public Works and Government Services is not only the federal government's main purchasing organization, it is the largest procurement outfit in Canada. This common service agency buys everything from paper clips to train services to scientific research and, yes, sophisticated military and defence equipment.
The department services more than 100 federal departments, agencies, crown corporations and special operating agencies, including parliament. It deals with thousands of suppliers, both here in Canada and internationally. On a day to day basis contract officers of Public Works and Governments Services Canada deal with a range of suppliers, from individual contractors to some of the biggest industrial, financial, consulting and manufacturing concerns in the world.
The department averages 50,000 contracts a year, with a total value of $8 billion, or about 57% of the federal government's total annual spending on goods and services.
As the House can see, Public Works and Government Services Canada brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the maritime helicopter project. With a value of close to $2.9 billion, there is no question that this project is larger than most. It is the single largest procurement currently being managed by the Department of Public Works and Government Services.
The same principles apply. I can assure hon. members on all sides of the House that this procurement will be managed efficiently, effectively and with the greatest respect for taxpayer dollars. The reason I can say this is because Public Works and Government Services Canada has 60 years of purchasing history behind it. It has earned a solid reputation as a highly competent and professional procurement agency. It operates to the highest standards which are clearly defined in federal statutes, regulations and policy manuals.
As hon. members are aware, the overall procurement and contracting policies of the Government of Canada are established by the treasury board. These policies are aimed at acquiring goods and services in a manner that enhances access, competition and fairness, and that results in value to the Canadian government.
The procurement strategy for the maritime helicopter project meets all of these criteria. It also complies with the Department of Public Works and Government Services' own framework of guiding principles for procurement.
The department has one governing postulate for all its activities, and that is integrity. Public Works and Government Services Canada is committed to ensuring that its supply activities are open, fair and transparent.
The integrity of the procurement strategy for the maritime helicopter project is above question. As the Minister of Public Works and Government Services has demonstrated through his earlier comments, the 28 maritime helicopters and associated integrated mission systems required by the Canadian forces will be purchased through a process that is fair, open and transparent.
The Department of Public Works and Government Services has identified several guiding principles that underlie this overall commitment to integrity. I would like to briefly review them for hon. members to further underscore the strength of this procurement strategy.
For each procurement it undertakes, the department is committed to satisfying the operational needs of its clients while obtaining the best price through the procurement process. That explains why procurement officers had to work hand in hand with officials of the Department of National Defence to develop the letter of interest and other documents released last August. It explains why the procurement includes an unprecedented commitment to industry dialogue and interaction.
As far as obtaining value, the procurement strategy ensures that once the client's operational and technical needs are met, the lowest price bidder for each requirement will be awarded the contract provided that acceptable terms and conditions and industrial and regional benefits are proposed.
The Public Works and Government Services Canada's procurement practices are also aimed at advancing the government's national objectives, particularly in the area of social economic policy. The maritime helicopter project meets this principle on two accounts. First, by ensuring that the men and women of the Canadian forces have the equipment they need to perform their vital work in the service of all Canadians. Second, by ensuring that a comprehensive package of industrial and regional benefits will be a key criterion in the evaluation of all bids.
It is generally acknowledged that no Canadian company is able to provide the entry level helicopter. However there is a possibility that Canadian firms will participate as subcontractors. We know that Canadians firms are capable of supplying the integrated mission systems and have expressed interest in doing so.
As the minister has indicated, the government's goal is to ensure that Canadian suppliers receive the maximum benefits from both contracts. Consistent with principles used for the previous procurements, the government will be seeking industrial and regional benefits equivalent to the value of the contracts both for the helicopter and the integrated mission system.
Competition is another guiding principle for procurements by Public Works and Government Services Canada. There can be no doubt as to its application to the maritime helicopter project. Two separate competitive processes will be undertaken to ensure that the crown obtains both the required helicopter and the integrated mission system, as well as the long term in service support it needs at the lowest possible price.
Moreover, the mandatory prequalification process ensures a maximum level of competition for the contracts because it will mitigate the risk of receiving non-compliant bids. Hon. members can rest assured that there will be strong competition for these contracts.
Equal treatment is another principle adhered to by the Department of Public Works and Government Services' procurement officers. The department's policy is that all potential suppliers of a particular requirement must be subject to the same conditions.
Several elements of the procurement strategy, including its general openness, will contribute to the achievement of this principle. All potential bidders will have access to the same information and will be kept apprised of any changes and technical specifications and other requirements.
The industry interaction process initiated by the government, which will include the posting of technical specifications and other documents on the project's dedicated website, will provide for a two way dialogue that ensures there will be no surprises at the end of the road. All potential bidders will be given the same opportunity to demonstrate technical compliance through the prequalification process.
Finally, accountability is the cornerstone of the department's procurement activities. As is the case with all other procurements, the Public Works and Government Services Canada will be accountable for the integrity of the entire procurement process from start to finish.
Based on its long history of working with the Department of National Defence on many projects, including highly sensitive procurements, the Department of Public Works and Government Services anticipates no problem in this regard. The two departments have a close and positive working relationship that will be manifested through this maritime helicopter project.
The government will continue to be open, fair and transparent as this project moves forward over the next few months. All potential prime contractors are fully aware of the different elements of the government's procurement strategy, and all bids will be measured fairly against a strict and open set of evaluation criteria.
Some hon. members have questioned why the government is using the lowest cost compliant as the basis for awarding these two contracts when bids for the search and rescue helicopter were assessed based on overall value to the crown. The answer is simple: The mandatory prequalification process of the maritime helicopter project will ensure that all the helicopters and integrated mission systems ultimately considered by the government are capable of doing the job. Once this has been established, the evaluation of individual proposals can focus on cost so that the crown's needs are met at the lowest possible price.
The maritime helicopter project is an important step forward in providing the Canadian forces with state of the art equipment that meets the needs of the 21st century. I know this is of concern to Canadians from coast to coast. Having heard the range of views on the subject, I trust hon. members will recognize the strength of the government's approach and will give their unequivocal support to this endeavour.