Madam Speaker, I had asked a question with regard to the procurement of the F-35s.
Very clearly, as a former parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance, I know how difficult it is when the government is in a deficit situation. For the current government, it is $56 billion and it wants to spend $9 billion, with a total package of probably $16 billion on the F-35s.
I want to make it very clear that we support new aircraft for the military. The issue is how this is being brought about.
I want to quote the treasury board guidelines that say competition remains the cornerstone of the Canadian government procurement process, that it is the most efficient way of achieving both goals of procurement and gives suppliers the incentive to bring forward their best solution at a competitive price.
The issue is the government has decided to sole-source this contract. It has done it in a way in which the minister, prior to his announcement in July, during the summer when the House was not sitting, indicated that there would be a competitive process. The government claims that there has been a process, that it has been competitive and we should not worry. We should just be happy.
In fact, we know the cost of this aircraft, which was about $50 million, is now up to about $92 million. It has been delayed and delayed. There was a recent delay in January with regard to this. The head of the air force in the United States announced it.
When we have a competitive procurement program, which would allow various individual companies to come forward, why has the government decided to do a sole-source contract?
At the defence committee, we had various companies come forward. They all indicated that they would be prepared to bid. The problem is the government has decided, for whatever reason, to ignore the guidelines that have served many governments, both Liberal and Conservative, over the years, and simply has decided to do this as a sole-source contract.
I know my friend across the way will say that this is the best air craft that money can buy. The problem is the metre is still running. We do not really know how much this will cost. We also do not have guaranteed economic benefits across the country. That is another issue in terms of the spinoffs that we will have. Normally we would have those benefits laid out. Again, this is a concern.
Lockheed Martin has indicated that it will be able to do this, but, again, the price has been going up and it is continuing to go up.
Given these guidelines, why ignore what has been a time-honoured tradition, best value for the taxpayer? Given the deficit we have today, we can afford no less than the best aircraft at the best possible price.
There is no contract to tear up because there is no contract. We are not interested in any of that nonsense. We are interested in an open competition. If it turns out that the F-35 is the best aircraft, fine. However, without that competition, it is very hard to determine that.
What I heard before the defence committee was that there were others in the marketplace that were quite prepared to come forward.
It is the issue of this. If the government decides to bypass the procurement process on one of the largest military procurements in our history, what other things will it sole-source? What else will it bypass?
Why have procedures in place if the government is prepared to ignore them? To me, that is not best value for the taxpayer. The taxpayers obviously want to ensure they get that value and they cannot get it if it is all shrouded in secrecy and government tells them to trust it, that this is what it will go with and that it best meets the best needs of the military.
There is no question that I want the best for the Canadian air force. I just want to ensure that the process is followed.