The House

Midweek podcast: procurement expert blasts Ottawa's fighter jet plan

On the midweek podcast, Canada's fighter jets saga continues. Alan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister of materiel with the Department of National Defence, joins us to explain why the government's latest move is "absurd" and "unnecessary."
Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode24:43

The federal government's plan to replace Canada's aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets is already getting a rough ride.

In an interview with The House, Alan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister of materiel with the Department of National Defence, blasted the government's decision as "absurd" and "unnecessary."

"I'm not sure whether the government really understands the business of defence procurement," Williams said.

The Liberal government announced this week it would delay an open competition to replace the decades-old CF-18s until next year, instead opting to buy 18 Super Hornets directly from Boeing. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan defended the government's plan, saying this stop-gap measure is urgently needed in order for Canada to fulfill its NATO and NORAD commitments.

But for Alan Williams, the real solution remains an immediate, open and fair competition.

Military personnel guide a CF-18 into position at the CFB Cold Lake, in Cold Lake, Alberta on Tuesday October 21, 2014. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

"Everybody's been on this file for at least six or seven years, if not longer. There are five big companies out there. This is not complicated. They all have been preparing for this for years and years and years," he said. "Everything could go out within a very short period of time."

Williams told host Chris Hall he worries the government's decision to drag out the procurement process could lead to even further delays.

"To hear the ministers say to the world that we need five years, when the people inside know that they can do it so much faster, is very demoralizing," he said, adding that the competition could be completed with a year.

"We're not developing anything new. This is going to be off-the-shelf or close to it. Five main products are out there. Pick the one that we want, and get on with it," he said.

As Williams sees it, the government's decision is "an affront to our military men and women."

"Minister after minister, government after government lauds and applauds the greatness of our men and women," Williams said. "On the other hand, they do everything possible to negate them getting what they need when they need it. I mean, I can't understand that duplicity."


Canadian Nurses Association president "encouraged" by home care talks with Ottawa

Health Minister Jane Philpott answers a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, October 20, 2016. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

After wrapping up a raft of meetings to push the federal government on home care, the president of the Canadian Nurses Association says she's "pleasantly surprised" her message seems to be getting through.

"What is happening, in my view, is that home care is becoming more and more part of the conversation," Barb Shellian told The House. "When we talked about the Canada Health Act and the Health Care Accord, primarily we've talked about acute care services, and I'm really pleased to say that I think the conversation is expanding now."

Shellian said it's important for Canadians to realize that a large portion of the population — beyond seniors — would benefit from increased and improved home care services.

"Home care doesn't really just apply to the person who's 78 years old, which is the average age of someone on home care," she said. "It's the young teenager with cystic fibrosis who can stay at home, make sure they go to school, and they're supported in the community. It's the mother with cancer, who can stay home with her family while she's receiving treatment."

Shellian also told The House there's a strong economic case to be made for home care, which she said costs approximately $55 per day — far less than the $1,000-a-day price tag of a hospital stay.

But while the Liberal government did promise last election to provide $3 billion towards additional and improved home care services, provinces and health care providers are still waiting for it to deliver on that commitment.

Still, Shellian said she's "encouraged" by the conversations she's had with Health Minister Jane Philpott and her colleagues.

"We think it's coming soon," she said of the government's $3-billion pledge, hoping it will be included in next year's federal budget. "We're certainly pushing for that, because we believe that has to be injected into the health-care system and we have to move on that."

Premiers, too, are eager to receive more health care funds from the federal government. With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set to sit down with the premiers on Dec. 8 to finalize Canada's plans to fight climate change, Shellian suspects the talks will inevitably touch on health care, too.

"When you get Canadians in a room and you want to talk about the weather, health care might come up," she said. "We believe that health-care services should be accessible, that they should be publicly funded, and I'm sure they'll have some discussions about that."

On the midweek podcast, Canada's fighter jets saga continues. Alan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister of materiel with the Department of National Defence, joins us to explain why the government's latest move is "absurd" and "unnecessary." 24:43