Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to welcome the honourable minister here. You'll note that I didn't wear one of my sweaters today. I just wore a scarf today.
But I will say this. I was in Newfoundland about a month and a half ago for some meetings. On the day I was checking out to leave for the airport, when I went to the desk, there were three gentlemen there who wanted to know if they could speak to me. One was an air force gentleman. The other two were army gentlemen.
The air force gentleman said, “Mrs. Wayne, we have to have parts to replace in our Hercules, and we don't have the money in our budget. We don't have the parts for our Hercules. We need some help.”
The other two men were in the army, and one man said, “I've been in the army for 25 years, Mrs. Wayne. My son's been in the army now for five years. When I had been in the army for five years, I wanted to stay for 25, but my son doesn't want that any more because of the quality of life we have.”
I tell you this, because I was really humbled by them waiting to speak to me on these issues. As you know, I've been one of the voices speaking on the replacement of the Sea Kings. I would like to know just exactly when we are going to have the replacement of the Sea Kings. Of course, as you know, I am not in favour of the cheapest; I'm in favour of the best, whatever is the best for a replacement. But I have to tell you this is for two reasons. One reason is the coastal surveillance on the west coast as well as over in Newfoundland. When we have foreign ships coming in dragging the bottom of the ocean, taking the eggs and the baby fish and so on from the bottom of the ocean—I'm talking about hundreds of thousands of them—we're killing the fishery. That is what has killed the fishery. We don't have the surveillance we should have.
But when these men told me they didn't have the money for the parts that require replacing in the Hercules, it almost brought tears to my eyes.
I want to congratulate you, because you have not played politics with the military, and you never have. I appreciate that, but I'm going to say this. We can say what we like about the States. Down there, as you know, in the Bush government, the military is a number one priority. It truly is. They don't have to fight for money. They don't have to push for money. Everybody agrees.
I still feel very strongly, Mr. Minister, that we in Canada have to make our military a number one priority. To me, it's before health, education, no matter what we look at. We have priorities, but the military men and women—and there are some here today—can't come up on the Hill and protest. They look to us and look to you.
All of us, we have to take the politics out of it. You don't play politics around this table, and most of our colleagues do not play politics with it. We're here to try to support you, and we will continue to do so. But I still feel very strongly that the military has to be a number one priority with our Government of Canada, no matter who is the government, and we have to make sure our voices are heard.