May 7, 2017 11:09 am

Time for an ‘honest’ list of defence costs, says Marc Garneau

WATCH: Transport Minister Marc Garneau, tapped by PMO to answer defence questions in the defence minister’s absence, tells Vassy Kapelos, as an ex-military person and cabinet member he accepts the defence minister’s apology for exaggerating his role in Afghanistan.

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The Canadian government needs to be honest with taxpayers about the price-tag for upgrading our military equipment, says Transport Minister Marc Garneau, and the Liberals are preparing to unveil a “realistic set of costs.”

Garneau, a member of the government’s defence procurement committee, was called upon this weekend to answer questions from The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos, in lieu of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

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READ MORE: PMO taps transport minister with defence interview in place of embattled Sajjan

Sajjan has faced sustained criticism over the last two weeks after he falsely claimed to have been the “architect” of an offensive in Afghanistan. He has since apologized repeatedly for that “mistake.”

The controversy surrounding the minister comes just ahead of the expected unveiling of the government’s long-awaited defence policy review.

Garneau said the document would be made public “very shortly,” but would not confirm if the review would include an immediate influx of new funds for the Canadian Forces.

READ MORE: Federal budget 2017’s lack of defence spending draws fire

Previous governments, including Liberal ones, have not properly assessed the real cost of purchasing new fighter jets, ground vehicles, ships and rescue planes, Garneau noted.

“I’m not going to talk about any of the details at this point,” he said.

“We’ve looked at it very carefully, we’ve calculated the costs very carefully. We’ve had them audited, we’ve had them checked by five different companies.”

WATCH: Conservatives call for Sajjan to resign amid new claims he misled military

Canada currently spends less than one-per-cent of its gross domestic product on defence (far short of the 2 per cent target set by NATO), and has cut back significantly on operating costs over the past decade.

“I’m ex-navy, I can tell you we don’t have resupply ships at the moment,” Garneau acknowledged.

“We don’t have a destroyer left. If we had to go into combined operations we’d have to work with the Americans in order to ensure area defence.”

Accepts Sajjan’s apology

As for Sajjan’s “mistake,” Garneau said that as an ex-military member himself, he accepts the minister’s apology.

“I know minister Sajjan very well and I serve with him on the defence procurement committee, and I can tell you that there is no one who is fighting harder to make sure that the men and women of the armed forces are properly equipped and taken care of,” Garneau said.

WATCH: Minister Sajjan admits ‘I made a mistake’

Asked why Sajjan would make such a provably false claim about the level of his involvement in a military offensive, Garneau said that’s not for him to answer.

“Mr. Sajjan will use his own words if he chooses to do so. I’m not going to interpret. I certainly accept his apology and I’m very glad he is the minister of defence.”

Watch the full interview with Marc Garneau above.

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