The Honourable TONY CLEMENT: MP AND CRITIC FOR PSPC.
CDR: Mr. Clement thank you for taking the time to speak with CDR. Defence procurement in Canada is, anecdotally speaking, considered to be among the worst in the world in terms of bureaucracy and the time it takes to acquire a platform or piece of equipment. What do you think is at the root of these issues, and what thoughts do you have to improve defence procurement in Canada?
MP Clement: Thanks Joetey, I appreciate the opportunity. So there is ample evidence to suggest that our allies, like Australia, have had better results on military procurement. The recent example of the Liberals buying used Australian fighter jets, while the RAAF is fitted out with new F-35s marks a stark contrast. There are inherent problems that need addressing for certain, but the political commitment is also missing with this government, seriously exacerbating the situation.
The total mishandling of the new warships process is just one case in point. There have been 50 amendments to the request for proposals on the surface combatants, and we still don't know exactly when the design will be chosen. The Liberals talk a good game, making big announcements, but we know after looking at spending outlined for this fiscal year, that the Liberals will fall billions of dollars short on their own defence spending targets. It's all talk, zero action.
Photo: Clement says Canada should acquire a second supply ship like MS Asterix
SECOND INTERIM SUPPLY SHIP REQUIRED
CDR: Many defence programs which are moving forward today were started by the Harper Government, or even earlier if we consider programs like the CH-148 Cyclone and the Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue project. As a Conservative Party Member of Parliament, how do you rationalize criticizing a Government today who is working on procurements which were started years ago by your party?
MP Clement: The difference is that the Liberals have shown nothing but incompetence on the military procurement file. There is not a single shred of evidence that they have moved the ball forward in the last two years. Instead they have set projects, started under the former Conservative government, back even further. One recent example of the different approach between the Conservatives and the Liberals was our commissioning of the Resolve Class supply ship Asterix from the Davie shipyard in Levis, Quebec.
The previous Conservative government recognized the need for an interim supply ship for our Royal Canadian Navy and took action. The ship was delivered in March on time and on budget. But, there's a catch here, the obvious thing to do is allow Davie to build a second interim supply ship, the Obelix [a second-identical sister-ship to MV Asterix], but the Liberals flat out refuse. I guess Prime Minister Trudeau does not value procurement success.
CDR: During oral questions in Parliament (6 December 2017), Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, is quoted as having said: "We are investing unprecedented amounts in the Canadian Armed Forces, an additional $63 billion for the next 20 years." How do you view this statement, knowing that there is no certainty that the current government will even win re-election, let alone be in power for another 20 years?
MP Clement: It is hard to have any confidence in this Liberal government when it kicks projects 20 years down the road, and then in the first year of their elongated plan, they have fallen at least $2 billion short of their own military procurement spending targets. That doesn't bode well for the long run. This government is all about the photo opportunities and press releases, but has problems with following up on its promises.
TRANSFER OF IP BAKED INTO NSPS
CDR: Defence contractors selling product to Canada have offset obligations to fulfill. But, shouldn't we as a country stress greater importance on transfer of IP, or inclusion in Global Supply chains, which would in theory lead to greater innovation and competitiveness in Canada?
MP Clement: I agree, it is important that Canadian companies, who can absolutely compete on the world stage, have access to international supply chains and global IP. There always has to be room to foster and support our local defence sector. Offset obligations should be all about increasing Canadian companies gaining inclusion in supply chains and developing our own IP. If offsets are not enforced, we lose jobs and opportunity. When the previous Conservative government initiated the National Shipbuilding Strategy in 2010, those principles were baked into the plan.
CDR: A number of companies have expressed concerns regarding the Liberal Government's "Boeing Clause" which in essence assesses "economic harm" a company might have on Canada's economy because of its policies or trade complaints. What do you think of this clause, and do you feel it has the potential of being used to advance a particular agenda?
MP Clement: It's important to stand up for Canadian workers and industry, but when we are talking about the massive delays in military procurement at the hands of the Liberal government, where is the value of inserting the "Boeing Clause" into an already lethargic exercise? There are enough levers at the government's disposal to ensure that large procurement contracts serve the best interests of Canadians. This clause, to me, smacks of political game-playing on the part of the Liberals, and it has no inherent value.
CDR: What are your thoughts on the Liberal Government's plan to acquire Australian F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets? Do you feel the Government has done its due diligence to seek all options for an interim fighter, or do you feel we need an interim fighter jet at all?
MP Clement: We learned last month (February) that the Royal Canadian Air Force will not receive its first set of fighter jets from Australia until the summer of 2019 and the full order won't arrive until 2022. It is unacceptable that the Liberals would even consider buying used equipment for our Armed Forces, let alone accept a deal that would force them to wait years for it.
Military and non-military experts have repeatedly questioned the existence of a 'capability gap,' as well as the Liberals decision to delay launching an open and transparent competition to replace our fighter jets. We Conservatives call on the Liberals to stop playing politics with our Armed Forces and immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace our fighter jets.
AUSSIE JETS BECOMING LESS OF AN "INTERIM" PURCHASE
CDR: We interviewed Minister Sajjan for the last issue of CDR where he stated that he doesn't have an "exact answer" to the cost of acquiring the Australian F/A-18 fighter jets, and that he will "present that to Canadians" once he has an accurate number. How much do you project the Australian F/A-18 acquisition will cost the Canadian taxpayer? Do you feel this money could be better used if the Government accelerated the CF-18 fighter replacement program?
MP Clement: When the Liberals are touting the deal with Australia, but failing to give Canadian taxpayers any idea of the cost, I think it's fair to say we have an accountability problem, and that the price is higher than anyone might suspect. Absolutely, the government should be investing instead in a permanent replacement and stop this interim purchase of 1980s era jets, which increasingly seems less of an interim measure.
Conservatives have long demanded the government get on with an open competition to permanently replace the CF-18s, and given the numerous examples of military procurement incompetence on display by these Liberals, I worry that their intentions are to push the process as far into the future as possible.
CDR: With respect to Canada's fighter replacement project, what discriminators do you feel should be used in their procurement? Canadian governments, regardless of party, have clearly taken the stance that we should build our warships in country, so should we not insist the same for our future fighter jet, just as other countries do?
MP Clement: First, we need to recognize that our great Canadian companies are in the supply chain for the F-35 and we deliver great products; a prime example being tail assemblies being built in Winnipeg. But, talking about fighter jets and ship building in the same context is like comparing apples to oranges.
When you look at our shared supply chains, especially with our allies like the US, purchasing fighter jets is far more advantageous on a number of levels, unlike shipbuilding where we enjoy world class construction facilities at Irving, Seaspan and Davie shipyards.
CDR: I can appreciate that perspective, but your answer is clearly focused on a fighter solution from the United States. For example, we know that Saab is open to manufacturing its new Gripen E fighter jet in Canada - should it be selected - in partnership with a Canadian aerospace firm. And, isn't that a discriminator which should be strongly weighted as a benefit to Canada and ultimately the Canadian Armed Forces when considering through-life support et al?
MP Clement: The most important thing to do right now is accelerate a transparent process for a permanent replacement, as the Australian interim used jet purchase by the Liberals is looking less and less like an interim solution. Obviously, any strong discriminators that support the Canadian aerospace industry need to be considered. But, we must make certain the Royal Canadian Air Force is obtaining the best option to meet its needs, including achieving interoperability with our allies in NORAD and NATO, and that we receive value for Canadian taxpayers.
CDR: Figures indicate that Canada's new Resolve Class AOR - MV Asterix - is approximately 1/4 the cost of what a single Protecteur Class Joint Support Ship will be. Do you feel the Government should proceed with buying the more expensive Protecteur Class, which many contend will have less capability, or do you think Canada should pursue another Resolve Class ship?
MP Clement: Given the current lack of supply capabilities to our navy ships at sea, and having Davie deliver the Asterix on time and on budget, Conservatives have been calling on the government to move ahead with a second Resolve Class AOR, the Obelix.
I toured the Asterix at the Davie shipyard recently and was impressed by its design, the efficiency of the process and the crew. There is obviously more than enough work for Canada's three shipbuilders, and Davie has proven its abilities. To me, having the Davie yard in Levis build a second supply ship is a no-brainer, but the Liberals are again content to drag their heels.
LIBERALS CONTINUE TO BUNGLE WARSHIP PROCUREMENT
CDR: Do you feel the Government has budgeted enough for the Canadian Surface Combatant project? If you were a betting man, how many of these ships do you think Canada can actually afford to build?
MP Clement: I would bet that the Liberals will continue to bungle the warships' procurement. The government has promised 15 ships and in my view that is the absolute minimum our Navy needs. While we expect the Liberals to keep their promises, their track record on this and other files suggests they will once again fall short of their goals.
It's difficult to have any faith in the CSC process when the request for proposal saw 50 amendments, pushing some potential bidders away. The cost has already grown from $26 billion to an estimated $60 billion under the Liberals watch, and the ongoing delays keep driving that number up.
CDR: Thank you.
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|Title Annotation:||CDR NEXT QUESTION|
|Publication:||Canadian Defence Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2018|
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