Thank you, Mr. Chair. Members of the standing committee, thank you for inviting me again to discuss the supplementary estimates and the 2019-20 interim estimates for the Department of National Defence and the Communications Security Establishment.
Before I begin, I want to thank everybody for the work they do.
Joining me today is Deputy Minister Thomas; the vice chief of defence staff, Lieutenant-General Wynnyk; Shelly Bruce, the chief of the CSE, as well as other very important members of our team.
Mr. Chair, when we formed government, our Prime Minister asked me to ensure that our women and men in uniform are prepared and well-equipped when called upon to serve both here at home and abroad.
To do so, we conducted probably the most open and comprehensive defence consultations ever undertaken, resulting in our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, a rigorously costed and a transparent vision for the next 20 years of the defence policy.
As we work to implement the policy, our number one focus is caring for our people. That means ensuring they have the support, the equipment and training they need to do the important work we ask of them.
I am pleased to report that 68% of capital projects in the defence policy are now complete or under way. That percentage reflects the implementation or completion of 225 projects totalling $2.9 billion in contracts awarded in 2018.
We are doing what we said we were going to do to support the women and men of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.
While the previous government cut funding to our Canadian Armed Forces through its deficit reduction action plan, we are increasing our defence budget by more than 70% over the next decade. We are working to provide the best possible care to our women and men in uniform and their families as they transition to post-military life.
In December, National Defence launched the new transition group to help members as they move from active duty to post-military life. We want to ensure that when the time comes, our members and their families are ready to make a seamless and successful transition. We have also reintroduced the veteran's service card to recognize their tremendous dedication and courage. As of this month, DND has mailed out more than 6,900 cards to former Canadian Armed Forces members.
We are also making military life easier for families by advancing Seamless Canada. We are working with the provinces and territories to improve access to health care, education and licensing when our members relocate across the country. Mr. Chair and members of the committee, this is extremely important.
And for those just beginning their service with the reserves, we are funding the full-time summer employment program again this year to help them gain unique and relevant work experience while learning valuable life and leadership skills that will help them find jobs in the future. The program is hugely popular among new recruits, and a big reason we are on track to meet our defence policy's target to grow the reserves by 1,500 members.
We are also looking after our women and men in uniform through our paid summer training programs for indigenous young people living in Canada, which combine traditional teachings with an introduction to military skills and practices.
Mr. Chair, our government values the Canadian Armed Forces members who defend our country and project Canadian values around the world every single day. Our support for them has never been stronger.
When we formed government, we recognized the years of under-investment by the previous government that left our military facing extensive challenges, including the long-standing neglect of our air force. As a result of this under-investment, we discovered that our air force could not generate enough aircraft to answer our NATO and NORAD obligations at the same time.
In “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, we laid out a plan to deal with this shortfall left by the previous government, which included securing interim fighter aircraft to supplement our existing fleet of CF-18s. The first two jets arrived in Cold Lake earlier this month and will be proudly flying in Canadian colours this spring. Sixteen more will follow in the coming years.
As the Auditor General has affirmed, there is still more to be done to address the shortfall left by the previous government. Now, to address that, we are also advancing the competitive process to acquire 88 new fighters. Now, after a decade of inaction by the Conservatives, we are ensuring that we can meet our international commitments with the arrival of these fighters, while holding an open and transparent competition to replace the entire fleet. This was not done before.
The same holds true for our ships. Just last month, we signed a contract with Irving Shipbuilding, which then selected Lockheed Martin to design the new Canadian surface combatant.
Meanwhile, three new Arctic and offshore patrol ships that will help us to protect Canadian sovereignty in the north are in full production. Steel cutting for the fourth is planned for later this year. ln November, we announced a sixth ship, which we expect to be delivered in 2024.
These ships will enhance our Royal Canadian Navy's presence in the Arctic and support a range of missions, including humanitarian aid, search and rescue, and drug interdiction. The ships will create and support thousands of jobs for shipbuilders in Halifax, a region with deep ties to our navy. Many of its residents serve and sail, and many more are connected through family and friends.
To keep the progress on these Arctic and offshore patrol ships moving, we are requesting $159 million through the supplementary estimates (B).
Through “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, we are also renewing core Canadian Army capabilities. In December we received the last of 500 tactical armoured patrol vehicles.
ln addition, we are acquiring C6 general purpose machine guns to replace our existing machine gun fleet. The C6 is the firearm of choice for many of our NATO allies, and is fundamental to the army's future effectiveness as a combat-ready force. We are also delivering much-needed new C-19 rifles to our Canadian rangers to replace the Lee Enfield rifles they had been using since 1947—another example of the previous government's not getting the job done.
These investments are essential to supporting our Canadian Armed Forces members on operations, whether they are defending our sovereignty at home, or demonstrating leadership on the global stage.
ln my mandate letter, I was tasked with ensuring that Canada would recommit to serving alongside our international friends and allies. After years of neglect by the Harper Conservatives, we are re-engaging on the world stage.
With initiatives like the Vancouver principles on peacekeeping and child soldiers, the Elsie initiative and our support for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, we are once again demonstrating the leadership that Canada is known for.
Earlier this month, this committee saw up close how Canada is contributing to international peace and security in Senegal and Mali. Through Operation Presence, our Air Task Force Mali is delivering vital airlift capabilities in support of MINUSMA.
Since July, our Chinook and Griffon helicopters have airlifted more than 344,000 pounds of cargo, flown 139 sorties, and conducted seven medical evacuations over a span of more than 2,300 hours of flying time. I visited Mali with the Prime Minister in December to personally thank the Canadian Armed Forces members. At that time, the group included 13% women, who have been shown to improve a mission's operational effectiveness. These members are doing tremendous work in challenging conditions. ln fact, the Netherlands Armed Forces awarded a decoration of merit to Canada's recently returned mission commander, Colonel McKenna, for his exceptional contribution in support of Dutch reconnaissance units on ground patrol.
On behalf of the defence team and all Canadians, I commend the entire air task force for this distinct honour. The air task force is now moving into its second rotation, with Operation Presence to be completed in July 2019. To prepare for the transition, we are requesting $75.7 million to cover costs up until the end of Operation Presence and the lead-up to the handover to Romania, which will take over once Canada's deployment is complete.
Our engagement on the world stage is also why we are requesting additional funds to support Canadian Armed Forces missions in Europe and in the waters of the Middle East.
Specifically, we are requesting $67.2 million for Operation Reassurance, where almost 700 women and men in uniform are deployed to lead NATO's enhanced forward presence battle group in Latvia, contributing to NATO's maritime task force in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. Also, we request $23.1 million for Operation Unifier, where nearly 200 Canadian Armed Forces members are training over 10,000 Ukrainian security forces troops on a wide range of capabilities. Canada's support for Ukraine is unwavering, and we will continue to support Ukrainians in their time of need.
There is $222.7 million dollars for Operation Impact, where more than 700 troops are contributing in the combined efforts of our international partners in the global coalition to defeat Daesh, and where Canadian Major-General Dany Fortin has taken command of the NATO training mission. In total, we are requesting $313.9 million in support of international operations.
Further, we are seeking to transfer $18.4 million internally to contribute more to the NATO security investment program. This program supports global peace and security by funding NATO's communication systems, military facilities and navigational aids. As a founding nation of NATO and one of its biggest financial contributors, our commitment to the alliance is strong. Unlike the previous Conservative government, which cut defence spending, withdrew from NATO's airborne warning and control system, known as AWACs, and stepped down on multilateralism, Mr. Chair, we are stepping up.
Canada is also contributing to NATO's efforts to strengthen gender equality, because we know that empowering women is not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do. In fact, our own Clare Hutchinson is currently acting as NATO's special representative for women, peace and security. Clare was a gender adviser for the United Nations for more than 10 years, and she is now responsible for all aspects of NATO's contribution to the women, peace and security agenda.
Here at home, our government is taking steps toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples. Last year, we signed an agreement in principle with Treaty 1 first nations on the sale and transfer of the former Kapyong Barracks in Winnipeg. Today, we are requesting to transfer nearly $57,000 to help remove unexploded ordinance from the Tsuut'ina Nation's land, part of the former Canadian Forces base in Calgary.
Mr. Chair, Canadians expect their government to deliver on its commitments, and that is what we are doing and why we are requesting $569.4 million in additional funding under supplementary estimates (B).
Separately, we are requesting $2.7 million for the CSE to increase its secure communications capability, along with the transfer of $13 million, of which $11.5 million will support the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. I was happy to announce the launch of the centre last fall. Its important work in educating and advising Canadians on how best to deal with cybersecurity threats is increasingly important as we spend more and more time online. CSE is also working with our national security agencies to protect Canadians and safeguard our democratic institutions against cyber-threats in the lead-up to the 2019 general election.
On a closing note, I will address the interim estimates. In the first quarter of the fiscal year 2019-20, DND requires $4.9 billion dollars, representing one-quarter of the anticipated main estimates. The bulk of this includes capital expenditures and operating costs to cover salaries, utilities and maintenance.
Our women and men in uniform are the country's greatest strength. These funds will make sure that they have everything they need to ensure we are strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world.
Thank you very much. I'd be happy to take your question.
Yes, I don't support that.
I want to go back to Mali. I want to echo the thanks around the table to DND for facilitating our visit. I think it was very important for us to go there to visit the troops and see what they were actually doing and also to help raise the profile in Canada of the importance of the mission in Mali. The consequences, if there were a failed state in Mali, would certainly, we all understand, be quite severe in terms of refugee flows, arms trafficking, human trafficking, destabilization of neighbouring states. It is thus a very important mission.
We heard three things. Two have been discussed here.
We heard about the excellence of the Canadian contribution. We heard it from everyone—from the UN officials, from other countries' ambassadors, from people on the ground.
Our contribution has set a very high bar, when it comes to air evacuation, that is very difficult for anybody else to meet. It includes new techniques that we're piloting in the field for delivery of blood products, which may end up being very important to emergency services at home. It also included—and people commented on this—a number of women in key roles in the mission, including heading up the supply hub in Dakar. If we're talking about doctors, I know most people's image of doctors in the field is men, but in fact doctors in the field there are women. That's all very good.
The second thing we heard, which the minister has mentioned, is that the medevac is key to operations. You singled out the most important thing: without the air evacuation services, MINUSMA has to scale back its operations. Canadians, I think, sometimes don't get what MINUSMA is doing. They're protecting schools, they're protecting transportation routes, they're protecting hospitals, they're protecting food delivery. Having that air evacuation capacity is really important for them to continue to do those things.
The third thing we heard, which neither of my predecessors mentioned, is the concern about the gap we're leaving.
Your government has set a hard date for departure of August 1. We met with the Romanian ambassador; we met with UN officials. The Romanians and the UN officials tell us that the Romanians cannot have a capacity in place before October 15, which means there would be at least a two-month gap there, without the services we're providing.
Mr. Minister, why are you not here today requesting the money so that we can extend that mission and prevent that gap in our support for the mission in Mali?