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News Conference

The Government of Canada Announces a Plan to Acquire New Maritime Helicopters

UPDATE

August 17, 2000

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NOTE:  The following transcript is presented in the language(s) in which it occurred. There is no translation available.  We are providing the transcript for your information.
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August 17, 2000 10:00 a.m.

PRINCIPAL(S)/PRINCIPAUX: The Hon. Art Eggleton, Minister of National Defence;
The Hon. Alfonso Gagliano, Minister of Public Works and Government Services

SUBJECT: The Government of Canada Announces a Plan to Acquire New Maritime Helicopters

Moderator: Mesdames et messieurs, the Honourable Art Eggleton, Minister of National Defence and the Honourable Alfonso Gagliano, Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Good morning. Bonjour. I'm delighted that we can gather today for what is a good news announcement. I'm joined by my colleague, Alfonso Gagliano, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and also by my Parliamentary Secretary, Robert Bertrand. I'm pleased to announced today that the government has granted approval for the Department of National Defence to begin the process of acquiring 28 new maritime helicopters. As I've stated before, acquiring a suitable maritime helicopter to replace the Sea Kings has been my number one priority. It has also been a commitment of the government since the 1994 Defence White Paper. At that time we made it clear that modernization of the Canadian Forces required several key equipment purchases and we have been doing just that.

The navy will soon begin taking possession of its new Upholder class submarines for example. The army now has new armoured vehicles. The air force has precision guided munitions and is upgrading its CF-18s. And the replacement for the Labrador search and rescue helicopter, those replacements are now being built. Today's announcement demonstrates the government's commitment to re-equipping the forces for the future.

Un hélicoptère maritime moderne et performant est essentiel au maintien d'une force polyvalente et apte au combat. Le Sea King nous a rendu de fier service à titre de hélicoptère maritime au cours des quatre dernières décennies. Maintenant nous devons nous assurer que les Forces canadiennes sont équipées adéquatement afin de répondre aux demandes de demain.

By launching the process to acquire new helicopters we are reaffirming this government's commitment to ensuring that the professional men and women of our armed forces have the tools that they need to do the job. For the forces to continue making a vital contribution, both at home and abroad, they need robust, state-of-the-art equipment. This helicopter will be exactly that with the advanced mission systems needed to be interoperable with our allies.

Also today I am releasing the Statement of Operational Requirements which can be viewed on the National Defence web site. We'll also be making draft components of the Request for Proposals available in the near future. And this will give us the maximum benefit from external consultation with industry. We are looking for their feedback.

Delivery of the first fully integrated helicopter is planned for 2005 as I've said on many occasions and that's a schedule that we will attempt to adhere to. In the meantime we will be continuing with a $50 million upgrade to the Sea King to ensure that it remains effective and capable until the new helicopters arrive.

Je suis ravi de lancer le processus de compétition. Our final decision will ensure that the maritime helicopter replacement satisfies our Canadian Forces' needs of the future. Thank you very much. Merci. Alfonso?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Merci. Je suis heureux d'être ici aujourd'hui en présence de mon honorable collègue pour annoncer le lancement d'un processus visant l'acquisition d'un appareil qui remplacera les hélicoptères Sea King. Mon ministère de Travaux publics et services gouvernementaux est le plus gros acheteur du Canada et le principal organisme d'achat du gouvernement du Canada. As such we have a lot of experience in management of major crown procurements. We will be using this knowledge to manage the procurement of the new maritime helicopters in a fair, open and transparent manner.

We are planning two separate competitive procurements which will be held over the next two years: one for the basic helicopter and its service, support and a second for the mission system integration with the intendant supports. With this procurement strategy, contracts for the basic helicopter will be awarded next year followed by a contract for the mission system in 2002. La livraison du premier hélicoptère avec système de mission intégré est prévue pour 2005. En travaillant en collaboration avec nos collègues du ministère de la Défense nationale, nous sommes d'avis que nous avons élaboré une stratégie d'achat qui permettra au Canada de se doter d'un hélicoptère et d'un système de mission qui répond à ses besoins et ça au meilleur coût possible. Merci.

Moderator: We'll now take your questions. One question, one follow-up. To my left.

Question: Yes, to Mr. Eggleton. I'm just doing a little bit of basic math here. It seems to me when you add in the cancellation fee that you paid, the contract for the replacement Labradors, the 15 Cormorants you've ordered, the $2.9 billion here, you're going to be spending way more than the $4 billion the Tories were going to spend over 20 years and also the Tory contract if you hadn't ripped it up we'd have those helicopters now. I'm wondering whether you figure how we're better off, the military and the taxpayer, for you doing it this way or whether you think in hindsight that tearing up that contract in '93 was actually a mistake?

Hon. Art Eggleton: No, it was the right thing to do and your math I don't agree with. The contract that would involve the EH-101 was for $5.7 billion. The contract for this helicopter purchase, at about 2.9, plus the helicopter purchase for search and rescue brings it up to 3.7. That's a difference of $2 billion. Now if you subtract from that the cancellation fees, and even if you subtract from that the additional money, $50 million that I've noted today as being part of the upgrade of the Sea Kings to keep them in operation between now and 2005, we're still a billion and a half dollars ahead. And the reason we're a billion and a half dollars ahead is two things. One, we are not buying a developmental product. We're buying an off-the-shelf product in both this case and the case of the search and rescue helicopter. Secondly, that helicopter, the EH-101 purchase made by the Conservative government, was in fact based upon requirements - a statement of requirements for the military that goes back to the Cold War period and had substantial involvement with anti-submarine warfare in the open seas. Now we evaluated - and that's what's happened over the last few years, a review of what our requirements are and our requirements today are for a more multi-purpose helicopter to serve in the maritime role and as a result of all of those differences, we're able to save the taxpayers a billion and a half dollars and come up with a helicopter that is more suited for our current and future needs.

Question: Sorry, just to check the math, it's actually I think about 1.3 billion, and also the Tory contract included 20 years of maintenance. As I understand it here you're talking about eight years so you're going to have to start coming up with more money after eight years to maintain these helicopters are you not?

Hon. Art Eggleton: No, that's not the case at all. We're going to save a billion and a half dollars. The maintenance is because of a multi-purpose kind of helicopter as opposed to anti-submarine will be appropriate to that kind of role rather than if we had bought a submarine with a mission system that was unsuitable for today's needs that we'd be putting even more money in to making the kind of modifications that we now don't need to make because we're buying it for today and tomorrow's needs.

Moderator: Next question to my right.

Question: In the news release that's been put out it talks about this helicopter being bought at the best possible price. Does that mean in effect you're looking for one that meets your requirements, the cheapest one that will meet your requirements?

Hon. Art Eggleton: The best price for a helicopter that meets our requirements, yes.

Question: For this particular project?

Hon. Art Eggleton: Yes, for this particular project.

Question: So there's no question at all about - there's been some suggestion that it would make sense because you have bought the search and rescue side the Cormorant that in order to integrate things it would make sense in effect to go to the same manufacturer and get slightly different helicopters for this because that would make the whole project overall in terms of helicopters cheaper. You're not taking that into consideration.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Oh well, listen, if it is cheaper to have one helicopter for both search and rescue as well as for maritime patrol then that will be reflected in the bid prices. We'll see it in their bid.

Question: These particular helicopters could be more expensive but the overall project could still be cheaper, that's conceivable. When you say the best possible price -

Hon. Art Eggleton: I don't know what you're getting at.

Question: The best possible price for these individual helicopters.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Yes.

Question: Not considering what the old ones cost at all.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Well, we are looking for helicopters that are going to meet our modern day needs, not helicopters that are quickly becoming outdated and can't meet our mission system requirements. So I'm not sure if your comparison is apples and apples or apples and oranges but -

Question: No, I'm talking about the helicopters right now, you're saying that you're looking for ones that are available at the best possible price.

Hon. Art Eggleton: That's right.

Question: And what I'm trying to figure out here is whether that, the calculation of that best possible price has to take into consideration the helicopters that you bought for search and rescue and the fact that the integration of those and maintenance and all -

Hon. Art Eggleton: Oh, and I said - I answered that at the beginning. I said well if the provider of the Cormorant, the provider of the search and rescue helicopter in fact would have a lower price because of the economies of scale of servicing one helicopter instead of there being two helicopters then that will be reflected in their bid price. Now, I also have to add that there is in fact quite a difference between these two helicopters in terms of their requirements in terms of the mission system. One's search and rescue operating substantially inland, the other operating at sea, with mission systems that are relevant to assisting our ships at sea in surveillance of our water boundaries. So they are quite different missions but if the helicopter frame is the same, it's quite possible it could be, but on the other hand at the moment we don't have the same helicopter frame. We have a different one for search and rescue than we do for maritime patrol. We'll see what comes out in the pricing in the bids.

Question: I've got some questions about critical path and timing. There was a mention that the mission suites, the black boxes, that contract would be awarded in 2002, is that right Mr. Gagliano?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Yes. We're planning to go right away, as soon as possible with the main helicopter and right after we'll do the second contract on the mission control and the equipments.

Question: My question would be then on the air frame when - there is mention of as early as possible in 2001 that the contract for the air frame would be awarded. Are you anticipating that it might be as early as January or when in 2001 do you think that contract would be awarded?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Well we'll -- in the next few days a letter of interest will be put out and we'll have the (inaudible) and once that's terminated we will proceed with a formal offer to purchase and the formal bidding will take place. So we hope that somewhere in 2001 we will be completing that process so that we can start the second contract.

Question: But I mean -- well some cynics might suggest that you're going to delay it until after an election. Are you anticipating, let's say -

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Let me be as straight as I can be. This has nothing to do with election. This is a a four or five years process. We have been talking and discussing to get the best procurement strategy for months now and we're launching this process today and it has nothing to do with election because we don't know when the election will be.

Hon. Art Eggleton: I might add that the bottom line for defence is to get the replacement by the year 2005. I've been saying that for some period of time. That is our aim and certainly we will want the procurement process to reflect that.

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Like I said we expect to get the first helicopter, integrated helicopter ready to function by 2005. This is our commitment.

Question: Monsieur Gagliano vous vous rappellerez que dans le processus d'appel d'offre pour les hélicoptères de recherche et de sauvetage il y avait eu des questions de soulevées à propos justement du cahier de charge et des spécificités là. Il y avait des compagnies qui disaient qu'elles étaient exclues d'office du processus parce que c'était trop spécifique, entre autre sur la grosseur de la cabine. Cette fois-ci on a un cahier de charge, on vient de nous le donner, qui est encore une fois très spécifique. Avez-vous peur de encore une fois vous exposer à ces accusations par certains consortiums, c'est un gros contrat, que vous êtes trop précis, que vous excluez d'office certains types d'hélicoptères.

L'hon. Alfonso Gagliano: La façon que nous avons développé -- fait politique d'achat pour ce contrat c'est clair que tous les renseignements, la transparence totale va être sur la table dès que nous mettons dans les prochains jours la lettre d'intérêt sera publique. Tous ceux qui sont intéressés pourront consulter, pourront -- auront connaissance de tous les détails, soit les fonctionnaires des Travaux publics et de la Défense nationale sont prêts à s'asseoir avec les gens intéressés pour s'assurer que c'est clair pour tout le monde. Donc une fois que c'est clair là il y aura un appel d'offre formel et public et tout le monde sera sur la même égalité de pied puis il n'y aura pas -- personne pourrait dire que il y a eu des choses qu'il savait pas qui étaient cachées parce que la transparence c'est la règle numéro un dans ce contrat.

Question: Monsieur Chrétien est très spécifique sur -- enfin aussi précis que possible sur les prochaines élections en nous laissant entendre depuis le printemps dernier que ça serait à l'intérieur des 12 prochains mois. Croyez-vous que l'appel d'offre sera adjugé à quelqu'un avant cette échéance électorale.

L'hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Premièrement j'aimerais dire comme je l'ai dit tantôt en anglais il est très clair que tout ça n'a rien à faire avec des élections. Mais deuxièmement nous prévoyons -- ces deux contrats nous prévoyons pouvoir finir le processus pour accorder un contrat de l'hélicoptère de base d'ici la fin 2001 et le deuxième contrat qui aussi sera l'intégration de l'ensemble en 2002. Alors donc vous voyez que le timing d'élection n'est pas tout à fait en considération ici.

Question: Just so I'm clear, is today the beginning of the official bidding process or is today just the beginning of consultations to see what's out there?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Today is the beginning of the process but within the process of formal bidding there is also a letter of interest to see what is out there, who is interested and make sure that all the specifications, everything, every dot, line, everybody understands and once that period goes by the formal request for proposals will take place. It's part of the process. So today we're starting the official process. Today everybody will know and in the next few days what really we want to buy and under what conditions.

Question: When do you expect the official tendering process to start?

Hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Well somewhere within the beginning of the new year or the end of this year. It will take a few months to have everything ready and roll.

Moderator: Next question.

Question: With regard to the timing Mr. Eggleton that I understand that there's the $50 million to extend the life of the Sea Kings. Until exactly when does it extend their safe and useful life and when can we expect that all of the new helicopters would be purchased. I guess what I'm getting at is there's going to be some kind of overlap time where some of the Sea Kings are no longer reliable and we haven't got all the new ones yet.

Hon. Art Eggleton: We will not have an overlap time. We will make sure that these Sea Kings are safe to fly or we won't fly them. That's our current policy, that'll be our policy at that point in time. When you say 2005 that's an approximate time period. Some of them can last longer than that. And I don't think there'll be any problem. There isn't going to be any bridging of any gaps. We won't fly them unless they're safe to fly.

Question: The beginning of 2005, the end of 2005?.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Well it's hard to pin it down that specific at this point in time when you're talking about four, four and a half years off. But in 2005 the first fully integrated helicopter, that is the result of both competitions, will arrive on our doorstep and they'll quickly be arriving thereafter until we get to the 28 number.

Question: In your investigations, your department's consultations with industry, are you confident that -- these are off-the-shelf helicopters, you're confident they can all be delivered by the end of 2005?

Hon. Art Eggleton: No, I didn't say they'd be all delivered by the end of 2005 but I did say there will not be a gap in terms of having a helicopter maritime capability. We will ensure that the Sea Kings continue to fly until the replacements are there. Our aim is 2005. I want to make sure, and I know my colleague does, that we do everything possible to keep to that kind of timetable and to accelerate it if we can.

Moderator: Next question to my left.

Question: I'm just getting back to the math here. How much does it cost and will it cost to keep the Sea Kings flying? That is a factor that has to be taken into account when looking at the value to the taxpayer. And I'm also wondering when you say, I'm still confused from Sasa's question on what you're looking for here. There's a big difference between lowest possible price and best value. Is it best value that you're looking for or lowest possible price?

Hon. Art Eggleton: No, we're looking for a lowest price that meets our requirements.

Question: So that's best value, that's not purely lowest -

Hon. Art Eggleton: No, it isn't best value. No, no, it isn't. It has to meet our requirements. The best price that meets our requirements. It's not a best value situation. It's a different process than we used for the search and rescue helicopter and the reason for a different process is that at that point in time we weren't sure about the numbers of helicopters, the numbers of air frames that might qualify for search and rescue. We felt that that was the best approach to take to flesh that all out and get the helicopter that we needed. And the result of that was the Cormorant. In this case we know a lot more about our requirements. We know a lot more about what's out there that can meet our requirements and therefore we think that the best price that meets our requirements is the route to go.

Question: I'm sorry, my question about the Sea Kings. How many hundreds of millions is it costing to keep those flying?

Hon. Art Eggleton: Well that'll be determined at the bidding process of course because we are moving the in-service contract right up in each one of these two competitions, something we haven't done before. We're going to know the total amount, both for the price of the machine putting it into service and the in-service maintenance of it down through its lifetime. Now that is a very good, solid change. Now, later on you'll be getting a technical briefing. They'll be happy to go through the math with you. They'll sit down and work all over the numbers. I'm telling you we're going to save a lot of money and get a better helicopter than we would have if we'd gone ahead with that EH-101.

Question: Which leaves my follow-up, what is it that your new helicopter and specifications will have that the original one would not have had? You told us what the other one had you didn't want. What is this one going to have that the original helicopter didn't?

Hon. Art Eggleton: Well as I said the other one was more focussed on a Cold War product, a Cold War usage including anti-submarine warfare. That was the focus of it. Well, that's a long time ago. We're in a post-Cold War era and even though we were in the post-Cold War era when the Conservatives decided to purchase this, they didn't do an update in terms of the requirements. So we've done that. We've done a complete review of what we need. We need a multi-role helicopter, a helicopter that can extend the surveillance capability of our frigates for example. It does that by some 25 times at about a tenth the cost of a frigate. It's good value in terms of the surveillance capability. It will have the sensors, the sonars, the other things that are needed for on the surface, under the surface surveillance. At the same time -

Question: Are you saying that the original helicopter didn't have that?

Hon. Art Eggleton: I'm not finished, I'm not finished. At the same time it plays a search and rescue role as a secondary mission for that particular aircraft. It's primary for the search and rescue helicopters obviously. It also is used to transport people. It was used very recently and very successfully to put a boarding party onto the GTS Katie. So there are multiple roles that are required and recognized in terms of the waters around Canada. Canada has more water around our country - we have more water around our country than any other country in the world. And the maritime helicopter together with our naval force, our ships, our submarines, are a vital part of patrolling that and ensuring our sovereignty, also working I might add as a helicopter has and will with other government departments either in terms of drug smuggling controls or fisheries controls so it has a multiple role capability and purpose and that came out of the review that we've held over the last few years.

Question: You didn't answer the question. What's new? What's new that this has?

Hon. Art Eggleton: I've just answered what's new. A lot of those roles were not the primary roles or functions that were conceived by the Conservative government when they previously ordered the EH-101.

Moderator: We'll do, once again, one question, one follow-up so everyone can have a chance at asking a question.

Question: Minister, the original Tory contract called for 35 ship-borne helicopters. What has changed to cut our requirement down to 28?

Hon. Art Eggleton: Well I think borrowing on the previous answer would also lead to the answer for this one and that is that it's a different requirement. We're in a post-Cold War era. We don't have the same requirements that we had at that particular point in time. This clearly meets our requirements. Later on the Chief of Maritime Staff and the Chief of Air Staff are here and they'll be up here to explain to you how those numbers are arrived at. I think if you look in your background material you'll see that they are arrived at in terms of the concept of naval task forces on the east and west coast in terms of numbers of aircraft that are needed for training, for maintenance purposes. So you'll quite clearly hear from them and see in the background materials that you have how that number 28 is fully justified.

Question: Minister, the Chief of the Air Staff and the Chief of the Maritime Staff and the VCDS all signed off on this Statement of Requirements 13 months ago. Where's it been for 13 months?

Hon. Art Eggleton: It's been before the cabinet. We've had numerous discussions about the product, the Statement of Requirements. The Statement of Requirements was held up under scrutiny but it is necessary for cabinet, when you're getting into what is the biggest government purchase in the life of this particular government, it's necessary for us to look very carefully at it, to ask the right questions, and that's happened. It withstood the scrutiny. But at the same time the government has also had to deal with the procurement strategy as I've been saying a number of times over the last few months in the House of Commons. And we have been developing that procurement strategy. What is the best way to proceed to acquire the helicopter and the mission system and deal with the in-service contracts for ongoing maintenance? And I think we've come up with a package that now allows us to proceed and that's why we now have that approval from the cabinet.

Question: Minister, I'd like to follow up on the question of why 28 helicopters? How much of a factor was the math, the math that allows you to get up in front of us and say it's costing 1.5 billion less than the Tory plan. How much of a factor was removing those helicopters?

Hon. Art Eggleton: No, it's not a factor as far as I'm concerned and I think the Chief of the Maritime Staff, the Chief of the Air Staff will go over those numbers with you. They're built from the bottom up. They're not take the 35 and subtract seven. They are built from the bottom up. 28 is what we require. It's a different requirement. We've reviewed our requirements over the last few years and this is what we require. I might add that the cost per helicopter - quite aside from the number of helicopters - the cost per helicopter is also cheaper than would have been the Conservative EH-101 purchase. The taxpayer wins in that area as well.

Question: On the anti-submarine warfare question, it's something you bring up again and again and again. And the last time I looked there were lots of countries that had submarines and the last time I looked submarines were still the major threat to surface vessels. Have we made a political decision here to deplete the anti-submarine warfare capability of this helicopter and leave our surface vessels vulnerable to say the North Koreans or whoever else might have a diesel submarine or a nuclear submarine out there?

Hon. Art Eggleton: Well absolutely not. I mean that's why we have submarines, that's why we have surface ships, that's why we have these helicopters, it's why we have an armed forces to make sure that our sovereignty is protected. What I'm saying is that the threats are different now from what they were back in the Cold War period. We do not any longer have the bipolar world of the Soviet Union, the United States and its allies, the Soviet Union and its allies and the potential that could have come out of that kind of a confrontation. And that's when the EH-101 was ordered and in that context was when the Statement of Requirements was built up for the EH-101. That's not relevant any longer.

Question: Monsieur Gagliano si je comprends bien vous avez en quelque sorte appris de l'expérience des Conservateurs de '93 parce qu'il y a de bonne chance que les Canadiens lors de la prochaine campagne électorale ne connaissent pas le coût exact du contrat puisque le contrat risque de ne pas être attribué à ce moment-là. Est-ce que tous les délais qu'on a vus depuis plus d'un an pourrait être expliqués comme ce choix-là?

L'hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Écoutez, je l'ai dit tantôt, je le répète, cette stratégie d'achat pour les hélicoptères n'a rien à faire avec l'élection parce que c'est un processus qui va durer plusieurs années. Nous avons pris le temps nécessaire justement parce que nous voulons nous assurer que les Canadiens pouvaient être sûr que leur argent aura été dépensé de la bonne façon puis cette politique d'achat que nous avons développée dans ce cas-ci c'est clair qu'il va être transparent. Les prix vont êtres connus pour l'hélicoptère, pour les équipements et tout va être fait d'une façon et nos estimations sont claires, on fait des économies énormes non pas seulement en total mais aussi par coût d'hélicoptère. Alors donc il n'y a rien à faire avec l'élection. Si nous avons pris tout ce temps-là c'est parce que nous voulions nous assurer que tout était fait dans l'ordre et tout est fait selon -- sur la table, va être sur la table et tout va être transparent.

Question: Mais on compare depuis tout à l'heure avec le contrat de '93 vous dites c'est un meilleur choix que nous faisons maintenant mais les Canadiens lors de la prochaine campagne électorale auront-ils les chiffres sur la table et le contrat sur la table?

L'hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Premièrement je ne sais pas quand l'élection va avoir lieu. Deuxièmement aujourd'hui on lance un processus qui commence et il y a deux contrats donc on commence tout de suite dans les prochains mois avec le premier contrat de l'hélicoptère de base. Et le deuxième on dit qu'on va commencer le deuxième en 2002. Donc ça se peut que -- parce que je ne connais pas la date des élections, ça se peut qu'il y aura une partie du contrat que le prix va être connu mais disons totalement définitivement je ne suis pas sûr. Ça ça dépend s'il y a l'élection en 2002 puis quand en 2002 on va le savoir là. C'est pour ça que toute cette question c'est spéculatif de dire que les Canadiens ne sauront pas les coûts, mais nous comme gouvernement responsable nous avons pris tout le temps nécessaire pour arriver à la décision que nous annonçons aujourd'hui et nous assurons les Canadiens que les Canadiens vont faire des économies énormes si on compare le contrat que les Conservateurs avaient donné justement à la veille des élections.

Question: Monsieur Gagliano justement vous parlez d'économies énormes. Quel est le méthode de calcul que vous employez? On comprend que c'est pas le même genre d'appareil, c'est pas le même genre d'achat, d'ententes. Bon vous y allez par deux types de contrats, etc. Et vous avez répondu un petit peu à cette question-là tout à l'heure en anglais, qu'est-ce qui vous amène à mentionner aujourd'hui publiquement que vous avez réussi à faire épargner aux Canadiens 1.5 milliards de dollars incluant, excusez-moi, incluant les coûts reliés à l'annulation du contrat.

L'hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Si vous calculez le coût justement de l'annulation du contrat, les coûts des hélicoptères, des 15 hélicoptères de sauvetage, rechercher et sauvetage qu'on a achetés qui sont en voie de livraison et si vous ajoutez les coûts estimés de qu'est-ce que nous annonçons aujourd'hui, les 28, définitivement il y a un écart d'à peu près plus qu'un milliard de dollars, tout près d'un milliard et demi. Maintenant pour les détails comment nous avons calculé ici les estimés d'aujourd'hui je pense tantôt il va y avoir une session de brefage technique et nos fonctionnaires et les officiers pourront vous donner tous ces détails-là comment on arrive, mais les chiffres pour nous sont très -- là-dessus une partie est connue parce que le contrat est donné et l'autre partie c'est celle que nous annonçons aujourd'hui c'est des coûts estimés mais nous croyons que nous allons rentrer -- nos prix vont rentrer -- les prix vont rentrer à l'intérieur de ces estimés.

Question: Et également, vous maintenez que la décision à l'époque était bonne d'annuler le contrat et de revenir (inaudible).

L'hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Définitivement c'était une bonne raison parce que premièrement nous achetons aujourd'hui des hélicoptères qui sont pour les besoins d'aujourd'hui et demain. Les besoins sont différents qu'ils étaient à ce moment-là et aussi on a des économies énormes.

Moderator: We'll take two more questions. Deux autres questions.

Question: Mr. Eggleton, if I understand correctly then it's conceivable that Canada could end up with Cormorant-type helicopters for both maritime helicopters and the search and rescue which is what we would have had arguably with the EH-101 contract. What then, aside from the fact that we've waited for the better part of a decade to actually get these things long term, what then is the difference between what you're offering and what the original - what we would have had with the Conservative contract?

Hon. Art Eggleton: Well we may end up with a helicopter that is cheaper, that gives us the kind of requirements that we have without just simply doing what you suggested and that is to buy one helicopter for both. We have to wait and see how the bid process goes. That's the best way to determine are we getting the best price for the taxpayer - put it out for a fair, open competition. And that's exactly what we are going to do. And I've made it quite clear that because we're not into a developmental aircraft, because we are in fact meeting different requirements to meet different requirements today than we were back then in the Cold War period, that we are going to save the taxpayer a billion and a half dollars on the combined purchase of these two helicopters, whichever helicopter gets selected for the maritime role.

Question: But that possibility, in and of itself, that you're going to save that amount which may be that amount, may be more, may be less, who knows and you may get something that's perhaps slightly better than you would have gotten the first time around, does that justify waiting an extra seven years?

Hon. Art Eggleton: Oh absolutely, absolutely. We've been able to have our Sea King helicopters perform for us. They've done numerous missions that I think our personnel can be quite proud of. We continue to use them and will continue to use them but they are coming to the end of their life. They do require replacement. But the requirements that we have for today and tomorrow are different from the requirements for yesterday. If we had bought into that package in - back at that particular time we would have bought something that it was not in line with what we require today. As I said it's a different kind of concept. Also you have to remember that the helicopter is only half of the amount of money. We talk about 2.9 billion, we're talking about half being the helicopter itself. The other half is related to the mission system and this is an important and vital element that is not part of the search and rescue bid. Two different bids, two different requirements. This is the best way to get the best price for the taxpayers and get what meets our operational needs for the Canadian Forces.

Moderator: Last question to my left.

Question: Ça semble de presser de remplacer les hélicoptères Sea King. Pourquoi donner deux contrats et retarder de quelques années la livraison de ces hélicoptères-là. Pourquoi pas tout simplement commencer le processus en même temps pour les deux parties comme vous avez fait dans le passé.

L'hon. Alfonso Gagliano: Tout d'abord on ne retarde pas parce que la prévision pour la livraison d'hélicoptères c'est à 2005 et c'était toujours ça que le ministre de la Défense avait toujours dit. Donc il n'y a pas de retarde. Deuxièmement pourquoi avoir deux contrats au lieu de un, parce que justement ça permet encore plus de transparence, plus de compétitivité et c'est un contrat pour l'hélicoptère de base et un contrat pour les équipements (inaudible) de contrats tout ce qui est nécessaire et nous croyons qu'avec ça nous allons vraiment connaître les prix et les coûts et ça va être fait dans une transparence totale. Je pense que les Canadiens s'attendent que leur dollar d'impôt est dépensé de la bonne façon et qu'il y a une concurrence et je pense qu'il y a -- en divisant les deux contrats ça nous donne un meilleur processus, un meilleur prix.

Moderator: This completes the question and answer period. Thank you very much.

Hon. Art Eggleton: Thank you.

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