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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forces.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for York Centre (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 71% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, I am saying that I am part of the Government of Canada, I am part of the decision making process and I am the minister who has responsibility for the Challenger fleet. It is not a question of informing me. It is a question of a government decision being carried out. We are all ministers of the same government, those of us who sit in the cabinet. We all bear the same responsibility and we are all part of the decision making process.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, first let me say that I appreciate the member's comment about Suffield. I might add that Suffield will take on an increased importance in the issue of chemical and biological threats. It will be the centre for research and development and co-ordination of that effort in Canada. There will be added importance given to the operations of defence research and development out of Suffield.

With respect to the Challengers, that is a government decision and I am part of the government. The Challengers are the responsibility of the Department of National Defence. The purchase was made as an upgrade to the fleet to replace two of the existing Challengers. That is being done to have Challengers with expanded fuel capacity and range of the aircraft. The approval by the government was given on March 24. The receipt of the aircraft was officially on March 28.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, it is turning out to be quite successful. The NATO flying training provides a multiphase program starting with operations in Moose Jaw. The final operations at stages three and four of the program are in Cold Lake, Alberta.

The first country to sign up was our own. We provided the base for the operations. We decided to do this as a public-private sector partnership. Various industries are involved in the private side of it. It is unique.

We have not had to buy the aircraft. The aircraft, the Raytheon Harvard II and the British Aerospace Hawk are not on the books of the Government of Canada because they were bought by the private sector consortium. That has been of great benefit to us.

We have been able to get the training program by signing up for it without having to put in the capital funds for the equipment. We have the best and most modern equipment and a new building in Moose Jaw, in fact which I opened, for the headquarters of the operation.

A number of countries have signed up. The first one that signed up was Denmark followed by the U.K. That resulted in more and more interest coming all the time. Once we get that critical mass we can move on from there to sign on other countries much easier as the confidence in the program is shown by the initial signers and as they experience going through the courses. We recently had the first graduates of the course.

We have since had Singapore sign on, which is the first non-NATO country. We have opened it to allies in non-NATO countries as well. They are Singapore, Italy and the latest one is Hungary. The chief of the defence staff went over there and that country signed on.

Not only are we beyond the critical mass needed to make it a success, we are now into the stage of ordering more aircraft, except we do not have to order them and we do not have to pay for them. That will be done by the consortium.

It is a great example of a private-public sector partnership. We help to control the training and ensure that a high quality of training is provided by our own personnel. Some of the other countries also provide the personnel for training. It is air force operated in terms of the training programs but all the support, the equipment and the facilities are provided by the private sector.

It is a great success. It is bringing the pilots of these countries to Canada. We have a similar program also that brings pilots from other countries. That is the one in Goose Bay, Labrador for low level flying. All of that provides a service for our partner countries, our allies. It helps increase interoperability. We are all working together, learning from the same basic training manuals and from people who put the programs on.

The private sector partnership is headed by Bombardier which is doing an excellent job in marketing it. It is a big winner.

When I travel to a lot of countries and meet defence ministers they have a number of people from their forces at the table. Invariably I meet somebody who is a trained pilot in Canada and is a friend of Canada's at the same time. There are those benefits as well in having NATO flying training in Canada.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, I am glad the hon. member has mentioned the quality of life report again, because he deserves a great deal of credit for how this has all turned out, for the production of that report and for the many measures that have been put into effect. He was chairman of the committee at the time. He was a good chair. It is too bad that party voted against the report. It is too bad those members do not spend more time focusing on it.

The quality of life report is an indication of the government's commitment to improve the quality of life for our personnel. There are many measures we have taken. We have completed 68 out of the 89 recommendations. There are others that are in the stream. Members look for evidence of what we have done to help the Canadian forces and that is certainly very strong evidence, but we are not stopping there. We know that there are other things to do. We know we need other resources, for more equipment, for training and education and many other things. It takes all of these things to make the military a success, but I think we have had the right priority in starting with the strong measures that we put into effect with respect to pay, benefits, health, housing, et cetera, which are all part of the quality of life report. The hon. member deserves a lot of credit for that.

With regard to the amount of money that has gone into the upgrade of the housing, I cannot tell him offhand where the start is and where the finish is, but I can tell him what is in between and it is $186 million, which over five years is helping to provide for a lot of upgrades. There were a lot of horror stories at the time that he was in Edmonton and in other places. He heard from people who were in some of these accommodations with flooded basements and all sorts of drafty conditions, conditions that were very unsuitable for families. However, $186 million has helped to correct a lot of that.

Most of the people who work for the Canadian forces live in the market economy and live in housing that is not part of the military operations. About 70% is in that category now but certainly for the 30% who still do live on bases, who live in our quarters, there has been substantial improvement. I am not saying that it is all done yet. There still is more work to be done but we have come a long way. We have come a long way in all the quality of life measures.

On the Canadian Forces Housing Agency, we have looked at different possibilities of how to structure it in a way such that it could buy and sell land and by doing that be able to work out the economics of its portfolio without being a further burden on the tax base, while being able to provide for the needs of the Canadian forces housing. That, I think, is moving along the progression of a special operating agency. I think some of those elements will be given to the agency but I cannot say specifically at this time just how many of them. However, it is able to advance its program and get the job done and that is important.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, admittedly it partly has to do with who is on duty at a given time, because other countries are also quite capable in terms of these kinds of missions. The Canadians have that kind of capability and the Americans and other militaries have that type of confidence in the Canadians, which is vitally important. They know that the Canadians can perform a mission well, whether it is a search and rescue operation or whatever the mission may be.

We already have had a couple of operations where not only have Canadians been involved, they have been the leaders. We just completed an operation in the Tora Bora mountain area. Some Americans and some Afghans were also involved, but most of the troops were Canadians and led by Canadians.

That goes back to the comment I made in the first place: that I met with the American commander in Kandahar and he has confidence in the ability of the Canadians. He knows they are dedicated and he trusts them to be able to do an effective job. If we can rescue people as part of that, then we are quite happy to do so.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, I have been fortunate to have been able to visit our troops overseas on a number of occasions. When I did, I found people who, first of all, were very professional. In Afghanistan recently I met with the American commander of the brigade there and he was very impressed with their professionalism, maturity and experience. One could readily see that and one could readily see the respect that the Americans have.

I have heard that before, too. In the Kosovo air campaign, I remember Lieutenant-General Short of the United States telling me that he considered the Canadians to be “first teamers”, and indeed they were. They were in there performing more missions than would have been our normal share given the number of aircraft, personnel and pilots we had.

Our people are quite professional and quite dedicated to the work. They are well trained for the work and they carry out their duties demonstrating that everywhere they are. I have certainly found that in my visits first and foremost.

I have also found people who are proud to fly the Canadian flag and proud to be a part of this country's service and who show that when they speak to many of the people in the local communities. In Bosnia I have been out on some of the patrols they do in local communities. They are proud to be Canadian and to demonstrate that Canadians care about the people, that we are not there to bring them any harm. We are there to help create conditions for peace and security, conditions in which they can help to rebuild their society and establish for themselves employment opportunities and the necessities of life for them and their families.

Canadians even help in a very direct way. Our troops become involved in certain projects. I have seen places in Bosnia where they have helped to build a schoolyard or a school or other facilities that are to the benefit of the local community. In many of these cases they got some funding from CIDA, for example. With that funding they helped to buy the supplies that were necessary. In one case, they were rebuilding a local school.

They buy those supplies locally so that they are helping the local economy. At the same time, they help engage local services, the plumbers or electricians or people in the community who have those kinds of skills. There again they are investing in the local community and helping to create employment opportunities. When it comes to helping provide the labour for the project, they chip in and do a lot of it themselves. They do it in their spare time. They do not get an awful lot of spare time. They are working very long hours every day, but what spare time they get they like to volunteer to help the local community.

What does that all result in? I think that results in a lot of goodwill for this country. People in many of the places our troops have been have been proud to be associated with the Canadian troops. They found them very friendly and very helpful. We want to be able to continue to make that kind of contribution to international peace and security.

Yes, at times we have to use the hard edge, as they say, in terms of having the kind of weaponry to ensure that threats diminish, that the troops are able to establish a stable and secure environment, but they do so in a Canadian way that I think brings a lot of credit to them and a lot of credit to the country.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, we do not allow any aircraft to fly unless it is safe to fly. We have an excellent record of maintenance and ensuring that they are safe to fly. As part of our examination of strategic lift capability we will be looking at what the relevance of that program is to the lift program that is provided through our Hercules. There is no doubt we must look at the replacement or upgrading of those Hercules before long. That again will be part of the options we will be looking at.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, we received some help during the ice storm and during natural disasters here. The hon. member may not remember Hurricane Andrew in the United States. We helped the United States at that time. That is part of what we do. We help and assist each other. We do have a number of capabilities that can be quite helpful to our friends when they need that kind of assistance.

After I told the House about all the lifting we had done for the Americans in the theatre of operation, the hon. member is missing the point. He also misses the point when he forgets that there are only two countries that have this kind of strategic lift in the NATO family and that is the U.K., which only recently acquired it I might add, and the United States.

How did all the other countries like Germany, France and Italy get into Afghanistan and the other places where they had operations? They were renting this and that and getting the job done. I would not place too much emphasis on the fact that we did not have it in this case. We recognize that it is an important function to look at for future needs. We have a project office that is looking at various options.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Probably no more than what we have airlifted for them, Mr. Chairman. That would take the hon. member by surprise, but he has perhaps forgotten that we have three Hercules aircraft and an airbus that have been ferrying a lot of people, equipment and supplies back and forth. There have been a lot of Americans on our airbus over that period of time. We have been sharing the responsibility.

Yes, they gave us the transport to get our battle group over there, but we have been doing a lot of transport within the general area for them. That is what coalition efforts are all about. We each bring different resources into the effort which complement each other and provide for a team function to get the job done.

In terms of whether we will require a strategic lift, yes, it is a priority area for us to look at. We have not determined what we will do yet. We are looking at different options at this point in time. We have a project office set up which shows that we are serious in proceeding with the issue of strategic lift. As that office completes its work and we get through further stages in this policy update we will look at our options in terms of further strengthening our strategic lift capacity.

Supply May 7th, 2002

Mr. Chairman, I did not raise the word pride but I am proud of the fact that we are able to keep aircraft, whether it is the Sea Kings or any of our other aircraft, in good operating condition. That is because we have the right people to be able to do that. If they get the right training and equipment they will be able to do their jobs. We have some very good crews that help keep our aircraft serving useful purposes and doing so in a safe fashion.

What we are also getting in the maritime helicopter program to replace the Sea Kings is something that is more relevant to our needs today and in the future than what would have been the case if we had bought the previous purchase that the Conservative government wanted to do. Not only would that not be as appropriate for today but it would cost us a lot more money. We will save a billion dollars. We will save the taxpayers a substantial amount of money and get something that is more relevant to our current and future needs.