Thank you kindly, Chair, and committee members and colleagues. I'm delighted to be with you today. It's a pleasure to come before you to discuss the Department of National Defence's supplementary estimates for the fiscal year 2008-09.
I welcome this opportunity to explain to the committee how we are supporting the Canadian Forces with the fiscal responsibility that Canadians expect and demand, particularly given our extensive commitments in Afghanistan and the historic rebuilding efforts that are currently under way, while certainly being mindful of the global economic turmoil that we face.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you know well, we have been entrusted with a great responsibility, but it doesn't compare with the responsibility that has been entrusted to the men and women of the Canadian Forces. In their job of keeping Canadians safe in Canada and abroad, I can only say that those brave souls are exceptional citizens.
After years of neglect that ravaged the military's core capabilities, this government committed to the Canada first defence strategy in order to build a first-class modern military, a 20-year plan for a military that delivers excellence at home and leadership abroad, and that has restored much of Canada's hard-earned reputation as a reliable ally.
At home the Canadian Forces defend our borders and our sovereignty.
We know we can call on our military with confidence to safely carry out missions ranging from search and rescue, to humanitarian assistance, to domestic crisis response. They work alongside law enforcement agencies and provide support to other government departments on challenges as diverse as drug interdiction, human trafficking and over-fishing. Overseas, members of our navy, army and air force are engaged in 18 different operations. They are deployed around the globe. Places like Sudan, Kosovo, Congo, Cyprus and Egypt, as well as the Middle East. They are projecting Canada's leadership on the world stage—most notably in Afghanistan.
All this, however, comes at a cost. The supplementary estimates request approximately $441 million in additional funding for the Department of National Defence.
Much of the supplementary estimates serves to enhance the safety of the men and women serving in Afghanistan. Clearly, you will all recall that this was a subject of debate and much discussion in the House of Commons, responding to the recommendations of the independent committee and the subsequent discussion, debate, and passage before Parliament of the additional recommendations of things such as helicopters, UAVs, and equipment that was required to enhance the safety of the men and women serving in the theatre of Afghanistan.
This particular funding that we're discussing here today at your committee covers the period from April 2008 to February 2009, so we're talking about up-to-date information. Parliament will be asked to approve funding to the end of the mission in 2011, again in keeping with the recommendations of Parliament, in future supplementary and main estimates. This money will allow Canada to follow through on its commitment to the United Nations-mandated, NATO-led mission to help the Afghan people to eventually and in the future defend themselves, their own borders, and sovereignty. These funds will supplement and support the upkeep and maintenance of the valuable resources that our troops rely on for their own protection and for the protection of Afghan citizens.
This investment in the security aspect of the mission is critical to the success of Canada's whole-of-government reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan. As you all know, this approach is married up. That is to say, the development, the reconstruction, the diplomatic work, particularly towards the election, is completely integrated with the security. Without the security, those additional efforts simply cannot happen. Our forces are helping the Afghan government to strengthen security and maintain law and order by building up the Afghan National Security Forces, so police and army.
Over a number of trips, many trips that I've made to Afghanistan, I've seen how far these units have come in being able to provide security in Kandahar, training, equipment, confidence, independent planning, and patrols. Our forces are helping to create the security conditions necessary to support broader Canadian objectives, some of which I just referred to; the secure environment needed for schools to be built for Afghan children, of which three so far have been completed and 22 more are under construction, with a goal of completing 50; the security that will allow the work to go ahead on the Dahla Dam project, a $50 million construction project that I, and perhaps some of you, have observed is well under way and is creating jobs for Afghans. It will provide much-needed irrigation for future agricultural enterprises to build the ability of Afghan farmers to grow crops other than poppies.
Still our forces face difficult and dangerous tasks daily. Sadly, during my last trip to Afghanistan, I attended a ramp ceremony to honour the courage and dedication of fallen Canadian heroes, as I've done too many times at repatriation ceremonies at CFB Trenton. I viewed the real human impact of the sacrifices made by our brave men in uniform, as I know Canadians have as well.
Throughout this challenging mission, the Canadian Forces have had to continually adapt to rapidly changing conditions, unexpected demands, a high-tempo, harsh environment, and a determined and ruthless insurgency. Our government has responded by providing our troops with the best possible equipment, from four Boeing C-17 strategic airlift aircraft to rapidly transport military personnel and equipment, to rapidly deploying Leopard 2 tanks into theatre, to the six Chinooks recently purchased from the United States that are now in operation in theatre and allow our troops to limit the use of convoys. These are escorted, as you know, by Griffin helicopters, previously owned by the Government of Canada. These Chinooks and Griffins were also a decision made in keeping with the conditions laid out by the parliamentary resolution to extend the mission.
Also in keeping with the conditions of that parliamentary resolution were new UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles—the large Herons that have been deployed and are providing invaluable support and intelligence-gathering capability, and smaller UAVs.
Our most notable valuable resources, of course, are soldiers, sailors, and airmen and airwomen. We must do what we can to protect them and to make their jobs easier and safer. The $331 million requested in supplementary estimates will improve our military's capability to act. It's funding that will contribute to Canada's whole-of-government effort in Afghanistan. And taking care of people first and foremost, Mr. Chair, is, of course, the concern of all of us. This spending is critical to taking care of our own people, who sacrifice so much to improve and ensure security.
Last week, together with the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Natynczyk, I visited some genuine Canadian heroes at the Ottawa Rehabilitation Centre here in the nation's capital. These three young men who suffered life-altering injuries are certainly courageous individuals who have been working hard to recover from their injuries, and I'm pleased to report to all of you that their spirit is indomitable. Their courage and their patriotic commitment are awe-inspiring, and they are planning for bright futures; they have confidence in their country and confidence in our government, our collective Parliament, to treat them right. And there is no greater reflection of a country than how it treats those who defend its values, its interests, and its own way of life. That's why we are also requesting, in particular, $90 million to cover the cost of raises for the Canadian Forces personnel to ensure they are fairly compensated for this important work they do.
We're requesting $10 million to partially fund the ex gratia payments and associated costs of the atomic veterans recognition program. I know that my colleague has raised this issue. It is one that we are proud to see moving forward. The remaining $15 million will be funded through the Department of National Defence's existing reference levels. This will support our government's decision to finally recognize atomic veterans, the brave men who gave exceptional service to their country at an important time in our history.
Mr. Chair, we are also investing in the future, fulfilling this government's commitment to provide enhanced security for Canadians, and giving the military the long-term support it needs and deserves, because we're not only planning to support our forces today, but clearly also making a long-term commitment for tomorrow.
It was the future of our navy that we were thinking about when we requested $54 million to cover the implementation costs of $3 billion this fiscal year for the Halifax class modernization/frigate life extension project, known as FELEX. Canada's Halifax class frigates have provided yeoman's service since the first one was commissioned and rolled off the docks over a decade and a half ago, but it is time their combat systems were overhauled and upgraded. Since these frigates entered service, the international security environment has changed significantly—and we may get into the discussion about piracy and the service that is required in places like the Horn of Africa.
This investment will enhance the capabilities of the ships that form the backbone of our navy, so they can meet new threats in shifting operational environments. These surface combatants are, in fact, the workhorses of the Canadian navy.
Similarly, this is why we've requested $22 million for the Communications Security Establishment Canada. Canada relies on this agency to provide foreign intelligence, advice, and guidance vital to protecting electronic information in this country. CSE also provides technical and operational assistance to our federal law enforcement and security agencies. This is very much a joined-up approach. This funding will rectify long-standing shortfalls, so the agency can replace obsolete equipment and hire much-needed experts. This funding is essential to ensure that this important institution can fulfill its mandate for years to come.
Looking to the future, Mr. Chairman, this government is concerned that we continue to provide the armed forces with the support necessary so that all Canadians can be confident that the government is in fact doing what's necessary to safeguard our nation now and tomorrow. That means planning for the unexpected, staying vigilant, and making prudent investments.
Our requests for additional funding are rooted in ensuring that the Canadian Forces have the capacity to act when called upon.
As I said at the outset, we've made a commitment, demonstrated over the past two years, to rebuild the Canadian Forces into a first-class, modern military ready for the future. The Canada First Defence Strategy is all about keeping Canadians safe at home, fulfilling our responsibility to be a reliable partner in continental defence and ensuring that Canada can offer leadership abroad.
The certainty needed to plan for the future of the military requires a long-term financial commitment. The Canada First Defence Strategy supports companies in Canada who in turn, help to support the Canadian Forces by providing ready access to cutting-edge, home-grown technology.
In conclusion, we have one priority: protecting Canadians and our interests, which includes helping others. That, of course, comes with responsibilities and the responsibility to provide our forces with the equipment that they need now and into the future. That responsibility also includes taking care of our men and women in uniform and to plan for their future. The funding that we have requested will help us do all of that and fulfill those responsibilities.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I look forward to your questions.
Minister, I am very pleased to see you again. First, I would like to make two brief comments that may require an answer, and then I will ask a question about the Chinook. Then, if there's any time left, I would like my colleague, our vice-chair, Mr. Wilfert, to be able to ask his questions.
Minister, we agree on the importance of the Afghanistan mission. We believe that our military troops must have the necessary equipment. I am wondering about the role of our troops on the ground. I am somewhat worried. I know that you were in Munich on the weekend and that you are in negotiations with NATO concerning the role of military personnel on the ground, and it would appear that we are now being tasked with combatting drug traffickers.
It is an issue by itself, because some of our international laws are pretty clear on the role of troops regarding what's going on in the field of operations. That's why some generals, specifically with the United States, were seeking guidance. They felt that to get involved in police operations and go after drug traffickers was not their role at all, even if you were making links and saying it's close. There is an issue there.
I know even now Mr. Karzai wants to make deals with the Taliban, fanatical or not, and some of those drug lords are linked to al-Qaeda. But some independent institutions are saying, at the same time, that sometimes some people from the Government of Afghanistan also benefit from those drug traffickers, so there is corruption there.
I think it would be important, for the sake of Canadians, to hear how you see the role of the military specifically regarding drug traffickers.
My second question is in regard to recruitment.
At the end of February, there will be a rotation within the 22nd Regiment: close to 3,000 of our military troops will take the place of other troops, and that's a good thing. However, I have heard that the rotation of the leadership is causing a few problems, whether it be corporals or captains. Some of them are on their seventh or eighth mission in Afghanistan, and this is causing health problems. I would like us to discuss that too.
The other problem is that DND is having to recruit people in their forties, and even in their fifties, so recruitment is a problem as well.
As concerns the town of Shannon, I was in the government when that issue came up in 2000. There was a problem with contaminated water. In 2004, Minister David Pratt allocated the amount of $19 million directly from the National Defence budget in order to build a water system for the town. That agreement was signed by the Municipality of Shannon, and before that we had initially invested an additional $4 million.
Now there seems to be a situation. How does the government intend to respond to this situation, which has apparently been going on since 1978? What is its viewpoint on this issue? In 2006, our government issued a call for tenders through National Defence in order to decontaminate the water table of the town of Shannon and commissioned a study.
Now, my last point is a question regarding the Chinooks. Mr. Minister, I believe the troops need the best equipment; they deserve the best. Specifically regarding transport, too many of our men and women have passed away or been injured by IEDs, which is the reason we supported buying the Chinooks, category D, for about $400 million.
My concern is regarding the 16 new Chinooks. We're talking about the F category. We said it would take $2 billion for their acquisition and an extra $2.7 billion for the manufacturer for maintenance, but when you look at some of the briefings, there's an additional $2.2 billion for internal costs.
My concern is that everything regarding that category of Chinook deserves upgrading and that we will have to pass from category F to category F+, because of the need for sensors and our desire to arm the helicopters—and also because we need extra fuel tanks and more electronics. The problem is that those helicopters needed in Afghanistan will not be ready before 2012 and 2013. Now, we might save $6.9 billion if we want to reinvest that money in the troops and some other necessities.
My concern is, why do we need to buy those helicopters now when we know they won't be ready for Afghanistan before we're supposed to leave, by 2011?
I will try, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I would just like to congratulate my dear colleague for coming back to this file.
Mr. Chair, the question with respect to policing and the role of the Canadian Forces versus that of police when it comes to interdiction of poppy crops, or when it comes to the position that was taken by NATO countries with respect to eradication, is one that we did discuss this weekend in Munich at the security conference. President Karzai was there, and I can assure my honourable colleague, quite frankly, that he specifically said, when talking about discussions that may happen with Taliban, that they would not include anyone who was of a fanatic variety. I believe those are the words he used. What he said was that those who wish to engage in discussion would have to renounce violence and be prepared to accept the democratic will of the people of Afghanistan.
So I'm in fact encouraged that the president has put very tight parameters around individuals he would want to reach out to, because I think the level of violence we might see during this particular election period clearly is of concern to everyone. That subject was broached as well. What we do want to see is that the electoral process is fair and transparent, and that we do everything we can to avoid the intimidation and violence that the Taliban will surely hope to perpetrate.
The subject of eradication of poppies is a complicated one. There is no denying that the Taliban have, in large instance, been able to benefit from the poppy trade. They use those funds to recruit, to arm up, to hire and bribe individuals. So there is clearly a linkage between poppy growth in Afghanistan and the insurgency and its success. What was decided in Bucharest by defence ministers was that there would be a renewed focus on targeting Taliban who were directly involved and implicated in that activity and illicit drug trade.
Having said that, there is also a clear indication in Afghanistan today that the poppy trade is one that doesn't benefit Afghans. The average Afghan sees no benefit whatsoever—not that they should if it's for illicit purposes. What I'm saying is that it has been a scourge for that country, not to mention the impact it has on other countries around the world, where heroin is becoming a terrible problem, including in places like Vancouver and other cities in Canada.
So there is a linkage that we have to be aware of. Canadian troops at this time are not directly involved in eradication exercises. That has not been identified as a priority for our country, yet we are a NATO participant, and if and when there is a direct linkage between poppy growth and the insurgency and those who are using those funds to further the insurgency, then Canadian commanders and soldiers will act accordingly.
With respect to the recruitment issue that my friend asked about, I can assure you, and I say this respectfully to all present, that we are not recruiting persons over the age of 50. In fact, there are a few we're recruiting over the age of 40, although we do in fact have some quite remarkable stories about individuals who have chosen to enter the Canadian Forces later in life. We have an issue to deal with, which my friend is aware of, in terms of retirements. So while there is a bit of a bubble moving through the demographic in the Canadian Forces, we have accelerated recruitment. In parts of the country, recruitment has gone extremely well. As one might expect, we see peaks and valleys. We are actively advertising and recruiting and speaking of the benefits of joining the Canadian Forces. The trades and occupations that are offered today are varied. I would also add that a person's education can be picked up and be paid for by the Canadian Forces today, as one of the additional benefits that are offered when it comes to recruiting.
I did want to correct my friend on one other point, which is that we have not seen Canadian Forces members participate in excess of seven or eight missions, even those who are in leadership positions. I suspect that the maximum at this point would be four missions for someone in a leadership position.
But we have a set number of forces able to participate in these rotations. My colleague is correct in saying there is currently a rotation under way that will involve the Royal 22e Régiment from Valcartier, and like in previous rotations, that regiment has done extraordinary work and received the admiration and compliments of the commander of RC-South when I was last in theatre.
On the subject of Shannon, the department—
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I wish to welcome the minister who is kind enough to come and explain his department's financial statements to us.
Mr. Minister, I do not think that we are making much headway in Afghanistan. Let me explain why. The Bloc Québécois was among the first to challenge the briefings that were regularly dispensed to us here. We also succeeded in convincing your predecessor that he should give us a monthly report. As you will see, if you read the minutes, we have always challenged the somewhat rosy vision of things that was presented to us.
Today, if we obtain our information from sources other than the department, we realize that all is not going well in Afghanistan. We are not in control of the territory. Recently, the Haqqani group of al-Quaida came into the picture, mainly in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. Moreover, as Mr. Kevin Page demonstrated very clearly, Canada is sinking into some kind of bottom less pit, considering the amount of money that has to be spent.
Here is what I want to question you about. You are appearing before us today to ask for $441 million extra, $331 million of which are reserved for Afghanistan. This is a lot of money.
According to Mr. Page's document, you have been asking for supplementary estimates for Afghanistan since 2001. In 2001, you requested $624 million; in 2001-2002, $890 million; in 2002-2003, it was $739 million; in 2003-2004, you asked for $1.34 billion; in 2004-2005, you requested $829 million, and so forth. Thus, the Afghanistan war has cost us $8.9 billion more than what you had projected.
You and your department determined a total budget to cover the costs of the war in Afghanistan on a yearly basis. On the other hand, every year, you have to come back before us to ask us for supplementary estimates. This year, you are asking for $331 million extra. In the overview of the main changes made to the budget, the only things we can find have to do with material support for the mission. Would the LAV-3 need to be replaced or refurbished because of the terrain, which is very adverse? Are we dealing with ammunition, repairs and upgrades, immediate care, or technical support? You are not telling us very much.
As we want to defend the taxpayers, we want to know where we are going with all this. Up to now, the war has cost $18 billion, besides the $8.9 billion of supplementary estimates that you have requested from us over the years. Don't you think that we are on the wrong track? Don't you find that this could well cost us more than $20 billion, given the fact that operations will be continued until 2011? Could you find a way to forecast an exact sum for next year's budget so that you do not need to come back before the House or before the defence committee to get supplementary estimates? Would you agree with me that things are not going well in Afghanistan and that all this can become much more costly for us as we go on?
I would like to hear your explanations. I want to be able to tell the Canadian taxpayers and the Quebec taxpayers whether or not they got their money's worth. Up to now, bad financial projections were made, and they were followed by enormous extra costs. You know that during a period of financial constraint, in the provinces and everywhere in Canada, when the people see that Afghanistan is like a gaping bottomless hole, they want to ask questions.
First, I would like to hear your answer to this question.
Thank you very much for this question.
I disagree with the description of the Afghanistan mission as a bottomless hole. It is not accurate.
Clearly, the costs of security and the fundamental requirements and responsibility that we have as members of Parliament, and members of the government, is to ensure that when we send people into a changing and volatile and urgent theatre of operation, we adapt with them to the security environment. That is to say, the challenges that were faced in Kandahar province versus the security threat and assessment that existed in Kabul at the beginning of the mission were fundamentally different.
I think there will be colleagues here who would be the first to acknowledge that when we deployed into Kandahar, the world changed entirely for the men and women on that mission. As a result, we became increasingly aware of the complex nature of the mission and the tenacity of the Taliban, and the proximity to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border became an enormous factor.
Kandahar, as my friend would know, is the birthplace and incubator of the Taliban. As a result, we saw much more kinetic activity. We saw increased use of IEDs. He mentioned the fact that the LAVs, for example, became subject to attacks from IEDs on the roads. These inevitably caused catastrophic damage not only to equipment but also to the soldiers. So the costs associated with that are directly attributable to the efforts on the part of the government and on the part of Parliament to respond with equipment that is going to protect and save lives.
I can't stress enough to my friend and to members of this committee that there is a direct connection between our ability to increase the security quotient and our ability to save lives and promote quality of life for Afghans. If the measuring stick applied to the success of this mission is the ability to have more development work done, more reconstruction work done, more programs delivered, then we are succeeding. For every young girl who gets an education now in Afghanistan as a result of the schools that we're able to build, the programs that we can deliver, and the teachers we can provide with the capacity to pass that education on; and for every eradication program that allows thousands of children to be immunized against polio; and for every effort that we make to give people job or trade skills, commerce, and access to micro-financing and roads that allow them to connect communities; and for all the issues related to water--the Dahla Dam project, for example--none of these things could happen without security.
Yes, this is an expensive mission, an expensive undertaking, on the part of our country, but if we truly believe in projecting outward those values of protecting people and promoting peace, freedom, and security and promoting a quality of life for these people, then we are succeeding. At the rate we would like? Perhaps not.
For example, there is the way in which the counter-insurgency is demonstrating adaptability to the tactics the Taliban have been using. To explain briefly, we had one experience while we were there that resulted in casualties. The Taliban are no longer placing these IEDs in culverts but are actually putting them to the side of culverts, which are much more difficult to detect when our road-clearing soldiers are out looking for these IEDs planted in roads. The tactics the Taliban have used have adapted, and we've had to adapt similarly. The type of equipment that we use, particularly for detecting IEDs, is very specialized and very expensive, and this is associated with increased costs.
I would also caution my friend that these figures of $8.9 billion differ from the incremental costs. We'll no doubt have further discussions about this, but there are costs associated with the mission itself, and there are costs associated with the regular budget of the Canadian Forces--their salaries, their health care, the equipment purchases that we would have made in any event, and the maintenance costs. But clearly, in the theatre of operations the maintenance is much more rigorous, as the environment in which the forces are operating is much more damaging to the equipment itself, and the costs of the increased kinetic activity also take their toll in terms of the resulting figures.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Minister, for coming today on short notice to appear at committee under the supplementary estimates.
I listened carefully to what my two colleagues before me had to say, and I must agree in regard to the escalating costs. It's a huge issue for Canadians, particularly at a time of financial uncertainty across the country. We had estimates in June that increased by over $500 million the cost of the war in Afghanistan, and today we have $331 million in the supplementary estimates, which, from what you said earlier, is for a few weeks, until the end of February 2009. So there are very serious concerns about the escalating costs.
We have the parliamentary budget officer who has indicated, to date, $18 billion in costs on this war, and that doesn't even address the cost to the Canadian Forces personnel themselves, the men and women who've been killed, the diplomat who's been killed, the Canadian aid workers who've died in Afghanistan, nor does it address the horrific injuries that many of the men and women in the Canadian Forces are suffering. There is a cost not only in dollars but in lives. The re-rotation of the Canadian Forces personnel is having an incredible impact on the families of the men and women in the Canadian Forces as well.
One of the issues I want to raise with you today is the discussion we've seen in the media around changes to the rules of engagement vis-à-vis the drug traffickers. General Craddock from the U.S. said last weekend that operations by NATO, by ISAF, to attack drug traffickers in Afghanistan will begin in the next several days. Our new Chief of the Defence Staff had spoken out earlier in support of these kinds of operations.
You'll remember that in Parliament last year a motion passed that was quite clear on the issue of drug trafficking, to “address the crippling issue of the narco-economy that consistently undermines progress in Afghanistan, through the pursuit of solutions that do not further alienate the goodwill of the local population”. Directly attacking those involved in the drug trade really is inconsistent with this motion that passed through Parliament. Poppy farmers and small-time criminals, some of whom are not motivated by ideology but by a desperate need to feed their families, may in turn be forced into the hands of the insurgency of the Taliban, which fuels the insurgency and results in more death and injuries to our soldiers. In addition to that, I believe targeting those without direct material ties to the insurgency would put Canadian troops into a very troubling grey legal area. I'm sure you must be familiar with the international law on that.
So I want to ask you, do you agree that directly targeting criminal drug traffickers is questionable under international law and inconsistent with the mission as voted on by Parliament? Can you confirm for us today that Canadian Forces will not take part in these kinds of operations where American generals have said it would be fine to kill up to 10 civilians when targeting drug operations?
But you're part of ISAF and you're part of NATO.
Minister, in terms of how well the mission in Afghanistan is going, just yesterday David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, indicated that he feels that it's a stalemate, that they're not making as much progress as they had hoped to do in Afghanistan.
Last December, one of our Canadian brigadiers-general was on the public record promising more offensive operations through the winter months by Canadian troops in Afghanistan, when it's generally a quieter time. As a result, in the last couple of months, in December and January, we've lost 11 Canadian Forces personnel.
There appears to be somewhat of a surge in military activity in Afghanistan by Canadians in this last winter. We're now receiving reports that there is a more fanatical, more violent, and even better trained wing of the Taliban, the Haqqani network, that has moved into southern Afghanistan because, I believe, of somewhat of a leadership vacuum in the Taliban, as some of their military leaders have been killed over the last while. I believe this is evidence of what some of us around this table have said, and what other experts in the field of counter-insurgency have said—versus what you have called the whole-of-government or three-D approach—that the counter-insurgency, in many ways, will fuel the insurgency. It seems that insurgents who are even more violent than the ones who've been killed are now moving into the void, and better trained, more fundamentalist, and more violent leaders are moving into the area where our troops are.
When we look back at the motion that was passed in the House of Commons last year, it stated that Canada would continue as a military presence in Kandahar after 2009 to 2011 to train the Afghan security forces, to provide security for reconstruction and development efforts, and to continue Canada's responsibility for the PRT there. Given those confines and given what has happened in the last few months, can you tell this committee how we have arrived at what appears to have been a surge by pro-Taliban forces in the last few months?
On the issue of the Chinooks, as a former air force pilot yourself, Mr. Hawn, you'll know that the Chinooks, like our fast planes, like our transport aircraft, play a niche role. These particular aircraft are extremely useful in the transport of both troops and equipment in a theatre of operations. You're correct in saying this would not be solely dedicated to Afghanistan in the future, beyond 2011. These types of aircraft will be very useful in disasters, to move troops quickly in a place such as Haiti, in the aftermath of a hurricane in the Caribbean, or in other theatres of operation that we may find ourselves in, in the future. Being able to transport troops and equipment quickly, efficiently, and safely is absolutely essential to the Canadian Forces.
We are back in business as a result of the purchase of those D models. As to the F models that my friend referred to, that contract, as you know, is still in negotiations, but it's nearing the final stages. That would allow us to have those particular types of aircraft well beyond the expiration of the Afghanistan mission. The intention at this point would be to sell the existing D models and have those costs go towards the future purchase of these new F models.
And yes, clearly, during the time it will take to receive those aircraft, as we have seen with other purchases, including the Cyclones, which will replace the maritime helicopters—the Sea King helicopter replacement project—there may in fact be new technology. There will be in-service support required that will also have benefits to Canada.
Something I really want to emphasize here is that we always try to solicit Canadian companies to bid on these particular contracts. Whenever possible, we'll buy Canadian equipment. The reality is that certain types of equipment are not made in Canada. When that is the case, we have a very strict industrial regional benefits package that requires a non-Canadian company to spend, dollar for dollar, the amount that is awarded in the contract. In the instance of trucks, for example, where the only bidder in a five-month process was a company from outside Canada—a contract worth $274 million—that company will be required to spend $270 million in Canada. They've already identified $84 million or $85 million-plus, which will be spent over the life of the contract.
As regards many of the component parts, our aerospace industry in Canada is thriving. It's one of the bright spots right now in the economy. That is an element of military procurement that we're very aware of, so in those future purchases of Chinooks and other types of military equipment and procurements we are very mindful of the fact that we need to promote Canadian aerospace and other sectors of military procurement.
If I may, Mr. Chair, I will address the issue of mental health and the ombudsman's report.
The Canadian Forces and the department are working very closely with the ombudsman. When we speak of discrepancies, Mr. Chair, I don't know where that's focused at, because the comments made by the ombudsman did not focus on discrepancies across the country. They were targeted at a specific area, be it at Base Petawawa and Base Gagetown.
As for what we have in place across the country, if a man or woman in uniform is sick and needs help, they go to their local mental health clinic. We have those in place. They're called operational stress injury clinics, which are provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs and are integrated with our OTSSCs, which are operational stress injuries clinics that the Canadian Forces run. We have many across the country, and they're staffed with psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and addiction counsellors to provide that help.
In particular, we have just been recognized by the national Mental Health Commission and the senator on having a model that the rest of government, and perhaps the provinces, should follow in regard to what we have in place from a policy process and machinery point of view when it comes to mental health.
On the two issues of Petawawa and Gagetown, I'm fully aware of those two concerns. First, on the Gagetown piece, I can tell you that I spoke to my staff just last week, and the concerns in Gagetown of getting more staff there have actually improved since the ombudsman's report, which we do take very seriously and do address. With Petawawa, we actually now have a full-time major. I just recognized him last week for the great work he has done that is actually coming into play.
We know where the challenges are. We're not perfect. It's better than it was. We know what we need to do, but clearly we're going to do that hand in hand with the ombudsman.
The focus right now for me is a priority on Petawawa and Gagetown. Those are the two areas that I'm working on personally to make sure they're at that same standard. Part of the challenge with Petawawa--and I know you've heard it before--is getting people to Petawawa. At this point, we are busing mental health providers from Ottawa up to Petawawa.
A decision was made, not in the last four years but before that, not to put an operational stress injury clinic in Petawawa. In hindsight, it was probably a bad decision. What we see here today is that having an OSI clinic in Petawawa would have been the right thing to do. It was not done, but we're dealing with that issue to ensure the men and women in uniform get the support they need in Petawawa.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As you know, there are challenges. There were challenges at Borden and on other bases. Today, I will speak only about the situation in Borden. Actually, there is a commander and a colonel on that base who report to me. Major General Gosselin commands the Canadian Defence Academy. So I am familiar with the specific details.
In this case, there were four challenges to overcome. First of all, we needed to have translation.
Since then, we have added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the translation program in Borden, which was the first challenge, to ensure that documents could be translated into French. The challenge becomes one of finding enough translation services to be able to translate so many documents, but we were committed to ensuring that that translation moved ahead and we provided the funds.
Secondly, we had to find an officer to deal with situations, problems and challenges having to do with the students. We have chosen one.
He is in place today as well. S'il y a des problèmes, des crises, our students know that there is someone they can go to outside of the chain of command, if that's their concern, to address their second language issues, concerns, and complaints. We have been working with the ombudsman on that issue in particular.
Le troisième aspect is to ensure that when the students arrive, they are aware of what their rights are when they come to the Canadian Forces. To be clear, many are new to the Canadian Forces, very young, and they may not understand what their rights are, as well as their obligations in many cases. So we lay that out very clearly for the students so they know exactly what they can get and what they should do.
We have been working hard to move more people into Borden. There are a number of issues. The first is having sufficient instructors.
We also need people on site who spoke French.
specifically those who provide the service. We have provided additional people in there.
Finally, we proudly say that we knew right from the beginning this was about leadership, ensuring that this was addressed by the leadership, not just moved off. At the time, Major-General Gosselin was on leave, and I spoke to him. He immediately went to Borden and actually sat down with the students at the time to ensure that they could speak to him
face to face. I too went to Borden.
twice afterwards just to make sure everything was in place, as was mentioned to me, because that was the concern raised by the ombudsman prior to that, Mr. Chair.
I think we're further ahead today than we were in the past. We are working closely with the ombudsman to do it better. We know what we'd like to do, and I believe we're heading in the right direction. Things are definitely better in Borden today than they were when we were here the last time, Mr. Chair.
I was with the minister in Munich on the weekend. We had a number of bilaterals with the Americans, the Poles, the Germans, the Bulgarians, and other people. The interesting thing is that whole of government makes a lot of sense. It's easy to write down on a piece of paper but hard to execute. As much as we kind of struggle ourselves with understanding why it's not easier to make it work, the reality is that we are light years ahead of all of our Afghanistan partners that I have come across. Vice-President Biden was there. General Jim Jones, the new national security advisor, was also there and talked about how the National Security Council is remaking itself to deal with whole of government.
While we have an Afghanistan task force--the Privy Council Office--we have had growing pains. I think you'll see, in the quarterly report that's expected to be tabled toward the end of this month or perhaps a little sooner, just how much progress we really are making. The reality is that a year ago this was probably as much rhetoric as it was substance, but today this is considerably more substance than rhetoric. In a situation where you're trying to fight a war and create space for your diplomatic community and your development community, is it difficult to do the things they need done to turn this into a sustainable effort? Absolutely. It's extremely difficult. But I was astonished, and I kept saying to the minister, let's talk to them about how we're actually doing this in Canada, because we are way ahead of where any of those folks are.
The Americans have a phenomenal story about whole of government in RC-East. I was there last spring. It turns out that the whole of government is the military: “It's okay, thanks, we'll do it all here. We're good. We'll do that whole-of-government thing”. “And I always have a policy adviser beside me”, says the colonel. They're pretty impressive, but by and large it's military.
Somebody talked earlier about the role the military plays. It's not just the fight; there's a lot of reconstruction as well up there in RC-East, Bagram and those places. The military is doing a lot of that reconstruction effort, but it's a whole-of-government story told by only one partner, and there's only one partner at the table. I think the Americans will really want to change that. We have a number of meetings scheduled with them, and I think they'll really want to hear how we actually do that.
So we not only have nothing to be ashamed of in how we do this; we are way ahead of all the allies I've spoken to.