What they said about the F-35 (II)

Two weeks before the Liberals formally called for a reset of the fighter jet procurement process, representatives from Boeing and Dassault testified before the defence committee about their warplanes. The full transcript of those committee hearings is here.

That testimony prompted more questions in the House.

November 4

Dominic LeBlanc. Mr. Speaker, today we learned that the person responsible for military procurement did not request any information in order to compare the F-35s to other planes. Without any hard evidence, in 2006 he sent a secret memo saying that the F-35 was the only option for replacing the CF-18s. This is the largest military procurement in the history of Canada. Why did the Prime Minister not take the time to consider what the competition had to offer?

Peter MacKay. Mr. Speaker, the member knows there was a process because he was part of the process. Jacques Saada, a former Liberal member of Parliament now working in the aerospace industry, said that the process led to nine partners to opt for the F-35. He went on to say that although there was no call for bids, there was a very serious selection process. The current ADM materiel for the department states: “We did consider the Eurofighter. We did consider Super Hornets…and several other aircraft. We worked with our international allies and so on to identify costs of ownership.” There was a process and the member knows it. He is making it up.

Dominic LeBlanc. Mr. Speaker, the minister’s process looks more like a summer student search on Wikipedia. The Conservatives did not even ask the American or European governments for classified information on other fighter jets. It is becoming obvious that the government blindly chose the F-35 and considered in substance nothing else. Our military deserves better and Canadian taxpayers deserve better than the handing over of a blank cheque. Why are the minister and the Prime Minister so irresponsible with taxpayer money?

Peter MacKay. Mr. Speaker, I suggest the hon. member go online and find a position that he can stick to. He used to be in favour of this process. In fact, these arguments are getting as old and as worn as the Sea Kings that the Liberal Party refused to replace for 13 long years. This investment is good for the air force. It is good for the aerospace industry. It is a process that the member was a part of when he was in government. The Liberals should support Canadian jobs, especially those in the Montreal area. When will we hear from Montreal MPs? When will they set their leader straight, that this is a good thing for our country?

November 5

Ralph Goodale. Mr. Speaker, the minister should not confuse Conservative interests with Canadian interests. They are not the same thing. The government is also not telling the truth about fighter jets. Both Boeing and Dassault of France testified yesterday that they do, in fact, have aircraft equal to or better than the F-35s, at a lower price, with full regional industrial benefits and technology transfer. So the government’s non-competitive, sole-sourced rationale is shot full of holes. Why did these Conservative bunglers not even bother to ask Boeing or Dassault?

John Baird. Mr. Speaker, it was started by the previous government. The previous Liberal government spent $170 million designing and developing this new aircraft. That is why we are continuing this process. The Liberals had a transparent, open competition and Lockheed Martin won. And it not just Canada; it is 10 of our closest allies that are acquiring this first-rate aircraft, because the men and women of the Canadian armed forces need the equipment required to fulfill the responsibilities that the Canadian people demand of them each and every day.

Denis Coderre. Mr. Speaker, General Deschamps stated last night in an interview that the statement of requirements to replace the CF-18 was only finalized in the spring of 2010. General Deschamps even contradicted the defence minister, saying that the MOU in 2008 with Lockheed Martin was not an open competition or even a commitment. Who is telling the truth, the minister or the general?

Tony Clement. Mr. Speaker, the hon. member once again is forgetting that while he and his colleagues were in government, they did the competitive process. There was a winner and it was Lockheed Martin. We are motivated to give the very best equipment to the members of our Canadian military so that they can do their job for Canada and Canadians. The only question I have for the hon. member is, when is he going to stand up for Montreal’s interest in the aerospace sector? When is he going to tell his own leader to get off the pot when it comes to this and realize that jobs and opportunities are going to be lost if the Liberals cancel the contract? That is if the Liberals ever get into power. Let us hope that never happens.

Denis Coderre. Mr. Speaker, let us talk about Montreal. It is becoming clearer and clearer that the Minister of National Defence did not do his homework to find out whether another kind of plane would meet National Defence’s needs. They wanted one particular plane, period. Yet, not only did companies like Boeing and Dassault have products with comparable specifications, but Dassault was also prepared to make a full technology transfer. That would better serve the aerospace industry in Quebec and Montreal. That would be better for the entire aerospace industry. When will the Conservative government issue a true call for tenders, a real competitive process for those of us in Montreal, now that there is no longer any reason not to?

Tony Clement. Mr. Speaker, what we would like to know on this side of the House is, what does the hon. member have against Pratt & Whitney? Why does he not want that great company in the Mirabel area and Saint-Laurent to be more successful? It is part of the consortium. It is delivering its part of the JSF, the F-35. Why does he not care about Pratt & Whitney? Why does he not care about Montreal workers? Why does he not do his job for Montreal instead of doing his job for the Liberal caucus and the ideas of the Liberal leader, which are out of sync with Canada and Canadians?

Alexandra Mendes. Mr. Speaker, expert Alan Wiliams said that a competitive process would maximize economic spinoffs. Competitors are telling anyone who will listen that they will guarantee more economic spinoffs for Canada. This is not complicated. A competitive process means more jobs. The Conservative plan means fewer jobs, fewer spinoffs for our economy and planes that cost almost 20% more. Why are they stubbornly refusing to launch a competitive process?

Tony Clement. Mr. Speaker, that is not true at all. What the Liberal leader and the Liberal caucus, including the Montreal MPs are advocating is that we scrap the deal and start again with a process when we already had a competitive process. That would mean lost jobs for Montreal companies because they will be in abeyance with their contracts until they get around to ordering planes. That is not good enough. It is not good enough for the Canadian military and it is certainly not good enough for the aerospace industry and the workers of Canada.

Alexandra Mendes. Mr. Speaker, it sounds as though he is reading a script that he no longer believes in. Even the Pentagon has balked at the production costs for this plane. Yesterday, we discovered that their selection process was bungled. They did not even take the time to study other options. Their choice is irresponsible, an insult to taxpayers and our soldiers. Why are they so afraid to launch a competitive bidding process?

Tony Clement. Mr. Speaker, I have no script. The hon. member is reading a script from the office of the Leader of the Opposition, but we do not have a script. We have passion: passion for Canada, passion for jobs and passion for the aerospace industry. They laugh on the other side of the House but I can tell them the Pratt & Whitney worker is not laughing. The worker in Winnipeg in the aerospace sector is not laughing. The worker in Delta, B.C. is not laughing. They know they only have one choice on who is going to defend the interests of aerospace workers and the interests of the Canadian military and that is this government, the members on this side of the House.

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