Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the main estimates for DND, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Communications Security Establishment.
As you know, our defence policy, launched in 2017, stresses the importance of ensuring that our armed forces are well funded, well equipped and well supported to defend Canada and North America, and to contribute to peace around the globe.
With Russia's illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, we have been reminded how vital it is to uphold these commitments. That is why, in budget 2022, we announced that we would be redoubling our efforts to keep Canada safe and to secure our place in the world through a broad and ambitious range of investments.
The roughly $26.8 billion we are requesting through these main estimates is the first step in this plan. It will lay the foundation for everything we do to modernize and transform our military over the next fiscal year and to make meaningful investments to shore up Canada's cyber-related capacities as well.
Our requests for funding fall broadly into the following categories: operating expenditures, capital expenditures, grants and contributions, and payments going toward the long-term disability and life insurance plan for members of the CAF. This amount also includes roughly $800 million for the CSE to maintain and bolster Canada's cyber-capabilities.
Let me start with operating expenditures.
Mr. Chair, more than half of the funding we have requested in these estimates—over $17.5 billion dollars—is for our operating expenditures. This funding will help the CAF carry out its critical missions at home and abroad, and work with our international allies and partners to uphold global peace and security.
It will also support the CAF reconstitution process that General Eyre announced last year, ensuring CAF readiness following the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, a key part of reconstitution is the ongoing work we are doing to change the culture of our organization and to ensure that those who were affected by sexual misconduct or other harms in the line of duty receive the support they need. As I announced just last week, I am pleased to note that we have received Madame Arbour's final report. Building on the report to create a more inclusive and safer defence team is a priority.
Madam Arbour's report is just one of several lines of effort across the national defence team.
These include the work that the chief, professional conduct and culture, is doing to unify and integrate all of our culture change efforts, the support that the sexual misconduct response centre provides to affected team members and our efforts to modernize the military justice system, to name just a few of the initiatives. The business of defence clearly covers a wide range of activities, but everything we do comes down to having a force that is ready, that is resilient and whose members are well supported at all points in their careers.
This funding will help us keep building that military force.
I'll turn to capital expenditures.
With respect to capital expenditures, through these main estimates, we are requesting almost $6 billion to keep funding several critical procurement projects over the next fiscal year.
These projects include our Canadian surface combatants, joint support ships, Arctic and offshore patrol ships, and armoured combat support vehicles as well. These large, multi-year, multi-billion dollar projects are essential to our success as an organization and are even more important in a geopolitical environment governed by uncertainty, instability and great power competition.
I'll move now to grants and contributions.
We are also requesting $314 million in grants and contributions through these main estimates.
The grants and contributions allow us to spur innovation in Canadian industry and academia.
These will support organizations outside of defence that provide services for defence team members.
They also allow us to do our part to stay engaged internationally.
Of this funding, we are allocating almost $225 million towards NATO programs like the NATO military, the security investment program and other activities. This represents an increase of $63.9 million over last year's main estimates towards our collective defence and security through NATO.
We are also providing $447 million dollars towards the CAF long-term disability plan and for optional group life insurance for general officers.
Through this funding, the CAF will keep working with partners to ensure that our people and their families receive the support they need when they are ill and injured, including when they hang up the uniform for the last time.
Finally, as I noted earlier, we are requesting roughly $800 million in funding for the Communications Security Establishment. This funding will go towards enhancing CSE's ability to prevent cyber-attacks and to defend Canadians, Canadian businesses and our critical infrastructure against them.
Mr. Chair, it's a pleasure to be with you today. The funding requested in the estimates covers a broad range of investments, representing a 6.8% increase in yearly spending over last year's main estimates for DND and the CAF, but it is just the beginning.
In the months to come, we will be announcing new funding opportunities for defence, including a robust plan to bolster our continental defences and modernize NORAD in collaboration with our U.S. partners.
As highlighted in budget 2022, we have initiated a review and update of our defence policy to make sure we are keeping ahead of our biggest threats now, and into the future.
I am pleased to take your questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Minister, for being here today and for all the work you have done and are doing.
Minister, Russia's unprovoked illegal invasion of Ukraine has been something that you've been obviously focused on for these past few months. I think members of this committee can all agree that we need to do everything we can to support Ukraine.
I know that you've been in close contact with your Ukrainian counterpart to discuss Ukraine's military needs. In fact, half of the members of this committee were in Vilnius last week and heard from the defence minister in Ukraine. He name-dropped you and said.... I don't want to paraphrase, but he said something along the lines of “my very best friend, Anita Anand”, which was really wonderful to hear in front of the entire NATO delegation.
Since your last appearance before this committee, you've announced a number of additional supports for Ukraine, including $500 million in budget 2022. Can you please let us know what you've done so far to directly support Ukraine and to coordinate with our international partners?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for that question, and thank you to the member for his important work on this issue.
Since February alone, we have made a series of announcements of additional military aid, including $98 million on May 25 for 20,000 artillery rounds of 155-millimetre NATO-standard ammunition, including fuses and charge bags, and $50 million on May 8 for high-resolution satellite imagery, an additional 18 drone cameras and ammunition. There was the delivery of M777 howitzers and associated munitions and training for our Ukrainian partners outside of Ukraine on how to use them, anti-armour weapons systems and rocket launchers, heavy artillery, commercial pattern armoured vehicles, and personal protective equipment such as body armour, gas masks, helmets and other specialized pieces of military equipment.
As you know, and as you mentioned in this question, we allocated an additional half a billion dollars. Before that budget, we sent well over $100 million, and now we are well over $260 million, including funds from the budget. We are working around the clock to allocate the remaining funds from the budget. As mentioned in the question, I am in close contact with my Ukrainian counterpart to discuss the specific needs of Ukraine's army.
An important contribution, in addition, that Canada has set up is a coalition air bridge with two CC-130 tactical aircraft to Europe to transport military equipment from Canada and our allies and partners to Ukraine. We have delivered over two million pounds of aid, and this work continues every day.
As Ukrainian heroes fight back against Putin, we will continue to help them defend Ukraine's territory and the rules-based international order.
Yes, of course. Thank you for the question.
Canada's sovereignty in the Arctic is secure and it's well established. We're taking action, and we're making landmark investments to increase our ability to operate in the Arctic, including joint exercises in the Arctic, purchasing six Arctic and offshore patrol ships and enhancing our capability to defend Arctic sovereignty with 88 new fighter jets.
Last month, May 16 in fact, I hosted a very productive security and defence dialogue with Arctic allies and partners from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the United States, to discuss evolving security and climate dynamics in the Arctic as well as Russia's unlawful invasion of Ukraine.
Your question specifically mentioned the Arctic offshore patrol ships. Those are integral to defending the north. We have had two of those six ships delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy already. As many of you already know, the HMCS Harry DeWolf recently completed a circumnavigation of North America. That's the first Royal Canadian Navy ship to do so since 1954. A third vessel is also in the water, and we look forward to its delivery this fall.
In addition, this procurement project is helping to revitalize the Canadian shipbuilding industry by sustaining 2,000 jobs annually. That is why we are requesting $340 million in the estimates to continue funding construction efforts during the implementation-phase activities of the project, including construction on ships three to six.
These ships are simply critical to enhancing the navy's ability to assert Canadian sovereignty in Arctic and coastal waters. We will always remain firm and unwavering in defending Canada's sovereignty, the peoples and communities of the north, and our national interests. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Chair.
Thank you, Minister, as well for being here today. I appreciate your taking some time with us.
I am the proud representative of the 19 Wing in Comox, and I just want to have a bit of an opportunity to ask you about an article that came out not too long ago in which one of the senior officers was telling some of the members that perhaps the only way they could find housing would be to work with the Vancouver Island North Habitat for Humanity.
Now, I don't want to say anything negative about the senior officer. I think they were providing a real alternative in a situation that is profoundly hard. Housing in our riding is hard to find, whether it's to rent or to purchase. The costs have gone up dramatically. We know that our military families have to travel quite extensively. We also know that in our area, there's a long relationship between Habitat for Humanity and the 19 Wing members, who've spent many years volunteering their time to help build houses for other people, but we also have to acknowledge that there is just not enough military housing. I notice that we're not seeing a substantive support for that in these estimates.
Minister, why isn't there a substantive amount of resources going into military housing when we know that military families have to travel from one part of this country to another and provide stability for their families? If they have nowhere to live.... Just so you know, Minister, there are many service members in my riding who are travelling, in some cases, an hour to an hour and a half just to get to work every day because of the lack of housing.
To come back to that, though, Minister, we know that the residential housing unit numbers have gradually decreased since 2013, while the need has increased substantially, and that the Canadian Forces housing agency has identified a need for about 5,200 to 7,200 additional housing units across the country. That is pretty substantial, and we're not seeing the numbers follow that at all.
I'm just wondering. We know that retention and attraction continue to be significant challenges, and I would assume that those things are correlated. If you have nowhere to live, if it's hard to move your family because there is nowhere to live, if you're having to have that lifestyle of driving an hour and a half away, which means that you're missing up to three hours a day with your family because of that, it's going to put a damper on people's impression that this is a good plan.
How are you addressing that ideal of retention and attraction and putting in that idea of having housing? I hear the numbers you're throwing out, but what we're seeing again and again is that housing is not being built. We're not seeing the commitment to building it, and that means that it's getting harder and harder for military families. I think we ask enough of them.
How are you going to address this in a more meaningful way and could you give a bit of a timeline? You threw out some numbers, but how long are the people in my constituency specifically going to have to wait until there's any housing built on the base?
To be clear, I'm not simply throwing out numbers. This is actual funding that we are committing to address the issue you raised, but moving on, I will respond with the specifics that we are undertaking in addition to the items I outlined just a moment ago.
First, to ensure the post living differential allowance effectively supports CAF members and their families and addresses affordability concerns, DND is reviewing the actual policy. We are undertaking a policy review to address retention issues, among a number of other things, and we know that housing and relocation is one of those things.
In addition, the funding that I mentioned in my previous answer will go towards...and this is what I believe the member was specifically asking. We're going to be using that funding to address renovation projects to ensure the existing 11,000 or so housing units are functional and suitable. We're going to be constructing new housing units at bases and wings, including at CFBs Comox, Shilo and Dundurn.
We are working on this as part of a comprehensive approach to recruitment and retention, and we know and will continue to reiterate that people are at the core of everything we do. That's why, when I am at bases, I always meet with families, because families are at the heart of supporting our Canadian Armed Forces. This was the case last week in Valcartier when I met with the families on the base right there.
Thank you for the question.
You're right—my top priority is to build an institution in which everyone feels safe, respected and protected. Madam Arbour's fifth recommendation in her final report is that Criminal Code sexual offences should be entirely removed from the jurisdiction of the military justice system and that they should be prosecuted in civilian criminal courts. This is a thoughtful and system-changing recommendation, and we will examine it in earnest.
As you pointed out in your question, I had already accepted the interim recommendation of Madam Arbour in the fall of 2021. I want to reiterate the progress that has been made in terms of accepting that interim recommendation.
First of all, in January, the RCMP began accepting transfers of new files from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Second, in February, Quebec's Ministry of Public Security advised their police force to accept new files and transfers based on their capacity and highlighted that a detailed protocol was in progress.
Third, several municipal and local police forces have also accepted transfers on an ad hoc basis. We have made progress, but of the 49 cases that were referred to provinces and territories, 23 cases were declined. That's why I wrote last week to provinces and territories urging them to exercise their jurisdiction and accept these cases. I made clear that the path forward requires collaboration with the civilian law enforcement and justice systems.
It is clear to me that more work needs to be done to implement Madam Arbour's interim recommendation in full, and that's why in my letter to provinces and territories, I confirmed that we are establishing a formal intergovernmental table to build durable transfer processes that will serve Canadian Armed Forces members well in the long term, and this will be a useful forum in which to discuss issues that have arisen so far.
Finally, I will also be consulting with survivors and victims groups to determine the path forward. This is something I have done since I was appointed as minister. It is a priority for me to be in touch with victims and survivors. I do look forward to informing Canadians and parliamentarians by no later than the end of this year on next steps.
Thank you very much, Minister.
The 29th recommendation in the Arbour report obviously drew my attention, as the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean is in my riding. That recommendation calls for a review of the role of military colleges.
The Royal Military College Saint-Jean is smaller than the one in Kingston, and different. Initiatives have been put in place there concerning misconduct, including hiring a full-time social worker. However, the structure is different. The Corporation du Fort St‑Jean handles maintenance of the site and services for students, and officer cadets at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean seem to be happier than those at the Royal Military College in Kingston.
Instead of throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater and considering the outright closure of the military colleges, would it not be appropriate to look at what initiatives have worked well at each one? What could improve the situation at the military colleges to be able, in particular, to maintain bilingualism? If we send everyone to civilian universities, there may be a loss of bilingualism. Justice Arbour noted that that's already a problem, and it might get worse.
In your work, Minister, are you seeking to determine what improvements can be made instead of outright closing the military colleges?
Thank you for your question.
I'd like to point out that I'm the Chancellor of the Royal Military College of Canada and that I visited both colleges for the convocation ceremony in May.
As you said, the 29th recommendation in Madam Arbour's report notes the need to address this problem. Of course, there's no recommendation to close the colleges; there's a recommendation to review the education program at the colleges. We'll therefore study that recommendation, of course, but we'll also respond to that recommendation to create a safer and more inclusive learning environment for our officer cadets, including by increasing the scope of the exit evaluation, as recommended by Madam Arbour.
Of course, no officer cadet should be a victim of harassment, misogyny or discrimination, but there is no recommendation to close the colleges or programs. The recommendation is to review the programs at the colleges to create and build educational institutions for safety, for our—
Thank you again, Minister. I have a question.
In 2015 and 2017, the Liberal government promised CAF personnel and veterans that it would eliminate the archaic and sexist marriage after 60 clause from the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act.
Six years ago, in 2015, DND reported to the REGS committee that it was amending legislation and regulations to remove the marriage after 60 clause and that it was on their to-do list. In 2020, the wrote to the REGS committee stating that a legislative change to repeal the gold digger clause was needed, but didn't offer any commentary on how to move forward with that.
It is clear that DND knows how to fix the problem, but the department is not putting forward any amendments to do so until this government directs the officials to work on it.
I want to be really clear. There are some cases where couples have been together for well over 15 years. It means that they are either living in poverty, because this military service person is giving up a significant part of their pension so that their loved one can have something when they're gone, or they're predicting a poverty-stricken future for their partner. It is ridiculous, in my mind, because it puts mostly elderly women at risk of homelessness and poverty, and insults them by labelling them a gold digger.
I'm wondering, Minister, if you plan to eliminate this clause from the pension legislation, or will the government continue, as it has since 2015, to just drag its feet?
Good afternoon, Minister.
I'm happy to finally be able to speak in my mother tongue.
First, I want to congratulate you for your excellent work since your appointment.
Minister, like many Canadians, I was very happy to see you announce the start of the finalization phase of the future fighter capability project. That's excellent news for Canadians and all military members.
Can you explain why this procurement project is so important to Royal Canadian Air Force members, Canadians across the country and, specifically, the base at Bagotville?
Thank you very much for this question.
You're entirely correct. It's excellent news for the Royal Canadian Air Force and for all Canadians. Our government is now closer to delivering a new fleet of 88 state-of-the-art fighter jets to the Royal Canadian Air Force. This is the largest investment for the RCAF in over 30 years.
The F‑35 aircraft is used by several partners in NORAD and NATO and has proven to be a mature, capable and interoperable aircraft. It will allow our pilots to use the most advanced equipment to protect Canada's sovereignty, including in the Arctic, and to respect our commitments to NORAD and NATO. It will be used, for example, to deal with unforeseen threats. We expect delivery of the first aircraft early in 2025.
As for the country's bases, including Bagotville, the acquisition of these fighter jets will have a number of benefits. For example, to prepare for the arrival of our future fighter jets, we're preparing for the construction of the new facilities for the fleet in Bagotville and Cold Lake. As a result, upgrades are needed to infrastructure to support the maintenance and operation of these new aircraft.
The funds requested in the main estimates will allow activities to continue for the construction of infrastructure and new facilities for the fighter squadron.
As for economic benefits, we expect the production of facilities for the fighter squadron to generate over 900 jobs, which is very significant.
We're very excited about the procurement of this equipment for our armed forces, for the defence of our country and for a stronger contribution to NATO and NORAD.
I guess I'll be coming back to you, Mr. Matthews, because it sounds like we have some things to figure out here.
You may not know this, but of course I'm normally a member of the committee for veterans affairs, where we have just completed a study on the marriage after 60 clause, and I want to figure this out. Brigadier-General Tattersall came to our committee and said this. I will quote it:
The Minister of National Defence, under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, is responsible for the overall management of the pension plan, including the financial management of Canadian Armed Forces pension funds.
I'm just wondering if you could clarify that.
One of the challenges I'm having right now is that we also heard from somebody who works in National Defence and who said in her statements to us that the has not yet been briefed specifically on this issue. We also heard from Veterans Affairs staff, multiple ones—and I'm willing to quote them as well—who said that the marriage after 60 clause belongs under National Defence. Now I'm here, sitting in this room, listening to you tell me that it's actually Veterans Affairs.
Now, I agree that there definitely is some confusion, so could you just clarify that?
The next question I have is, how do these things get worked out? I am not clear where they belong. There are a lot of people advocating for this to change. It has a huge impact on veterans and on members who are serving. It also has big impacts on people who are working for public services. All of these folks cannot get married after 60. If they do, they have no supportive benefits left for the survivor. This issue continues to go on and on, and nobody lays claim to it.
Could I just get clarity on how the multiple agencies communicate to one another in order to figure out who this belongs to so that people who are fighting to get it changed know who to speak to?
Maybe I'll offer a few things here, Mr. Chair.
Number one, I do apologize, because it is confusing. It's joint, to a certain extent, so maybe I would offer that, just to be perfectly clear, we get back to the committee and to the member to show on paper the roles and responsibilities so that we all have a common understanding.
Given that the rule in question is about retired members, yes, the Minister of Defence is responsible for the financial aspect of the plans, but my understanding is that Veterans Affairs has a role in terms of the benefits. That's why it is a bit of a shared responsibility.
The final point—and I will then turn it back to the member, because I suspect she has more questions—is that my more recent history on this was back in 2019. There was a veterans benefit announced specifically to compensate members who were in the situation of getting married after 60. I know that National Defence was working actively with veterans to better understand the numbers around the survivor community. It's a related issue, but different from the one you're raising.
Thank you. That's the survivors fund of $150 million, of course, of which none has been spent, and none of those people have had any supports or help. I appreciate your getting back to the committee, and I'll look forward to that. We'll come back again.
One of the things that I also have a lot of concern about, as I mentioned earlier, is the issue of housing. We know that Comox, in my riding, has the second-highest average market rental rate of all of the different wings and bases across the country.
I'm just wondering. As you're looking at building housing, residential housing units, on these locations, are you addressing that issue of where the market rate is so high that it's very hard for people to find a house either to buy or to rent? I want to be really clear. Those are often options and, like I said, people are in some cases moving very far away because there is nowhere else for them to live and they're having to travel.
When those actual steps are taken to prioritize, is that market rental rate taken into consideration?
Perhaps, if it's all right with the chair, I'll start on the first part as it pertains to women and recruitment.
The target of 25% women within the Canadian Forces, I think, is a goal that we have been striving towards, but one that I think will be challenging for us to meet by 2025. Of the intake we had in the 2020-22 years, 15.6% of the over 8,000 people who were recruited into the Canadian Armed Forces were women.
As you know, we are very much putting in place programs into which women, I would say, when they meet the qualifications to join the Canadian Armed Forces, are brought forward as candidates. Those are both in the Royal Military College and in the ranks so that we can continue to try to prioritize the placement of female applicants into the Canadian Armed Forces.
As well, during the time of COVID, we had a little bit of a pause from trying to focus on listening to women's voices with respect to what they need within the Canadian Armed Forces. We have in place a women in force program that is really about trying to give women voices to bring forward the issues they see as barriers to their service moving forward.
We also do not wish the onus to be on—
I hope that the provost marshal does indeed look into grievance number 004096, but more to the point, let's get back to RMC.
What is playing out in the accounts that we are reading? There's a sort of protectorate from one generation of RMC graduates to the next. In one instance, people—our kids, recruits, cadets—are told to report any misconduct or harassment, and they do. Then they're assigned an assisting officer. Then the months go by and the cadet is told to withdraw the complaint or else. Doing so would be best for their future career. When the cadet decides to take it to the top and follow through to make sure justice is done, it turns out that the judge is the assisting officer who was supposed to be giving help to that cadet.
Now we find that we have people who have grievances, and the whole military's getting involved by attacking, for example, their LinkedIn page. It's a kind of asymmetric warfare against anyone who makes an allegation of sexual misconduct or harassment.
Has there been any plan or any discussion on how we can stop that cycle of harassing the individual who puts forward the complaint, especially ultimately when it comes to a legal matter, a charge, falling into your lap?
Thank you very much for your question.
I would reinforce that our budget is significant. It's almost $800 million and a 12% increase over last year. I mentioned earlier that some of that funding is for cryptographic equipment, but also to increase the security and reliability of Government of Canada systems.
More generally, though, there is an investment for our foreign intelligence program. Based on our mandate, we do have a really interesting aperture into what is happening from the cyber perspective, for example, what the cyber-threats are that are playing out, especially those linked to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. We are seeing what kinds of activities are happening for intelligence-gathering purposes, which ones are disruptive, which ones are destructive and which ones are in preparation and planning phases.
From that information, we are able to pass that information, the cyber-threat detail indicators, both to Ukraine and our allied NATO partners but also to Canadian critical infrastructure owners and operators. Having this information ahead of any materialized threats allows them to protect their systems and to put in place defences that can withstand some of the attacks that we might anticipate.
Thank you for your question.
I'll raise two points on this topic.
First, at the Department of National Defence, if we don't spend funds, we can keep them for subsequent years. As the chair has just said, factors like increased costs will have an impact. That's an important point.
Secondly, the Department of National Defence receives a 3% increase each year to reflect inflation.
What are we doing to prevent that? I think we're coming out of a year where spending was difficult for a period of time. Because of COVID, it impacted our suppliers. We are pressing our suppliers and also collaboratively discussing with them what their plans are to deliver.
We are often hearing about labour shortages and we are often hearing about increases in raw materials. It's an ongoing discussion as to how we, together, tackle those risks the industry is facing and ensure that defence gets the capability it needs. It is something that I would encourage committee members to ask us every time we're here, because it is a real challenge in terms of getting delivery given the current labour markets and economies.
With that, Mr. May, we're close to bringing our meeting to an end.
On behalf of the committee, I want to thank each and every one of you for your patience over these two hours. We appreciate your availability to the committee. I'll let you sign yourselves out.
Just to remind you, colleagues, tomorrow morning we're meeting with the Danish Defence Committee in Room 025-B—I think that's correct—in West Block.
For Wednesday, I'm rather hoping that we can deal with the threat assessment report and finish that off. If we have any kind of time available, I'd like to be able to try to get at least a cut at the recruitment and retention report as well. It may be available as early as this time tomorrow. It's a short report—30 pages—and there's some chance that we might actually be able to deal with it. If we deal with it on Wednesday, then there's an even better chance that we can report it, hence my—