It is widely believed that the Harper Conservatives lied about their knowledge of the cost of purchasing F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin during the 2011 campaign. Once accused of knowing and hiding the actually costing — and the $20 billion difference from what they had been quoting — the Tories have come up with myriad reasons as to why their numbers differed and what they knew when.
Now the government is moving to shut down the committee hearings where witnesses have been called in to discuss Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s report that the government knew about the real, full costs of the F-35 and hid it. During the 2011 campaign, the Tories told Canadians that the jets would cost $16 billion, but the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, put out a report saying it seemed closer to $25 billion to him for “full lifecycle costs.” After Kevin Page challenged their numbers, the Conservatives said the acquisition costs would be $9 billion and the 20 year “sustainment” costs would be $5.7 billion. He was attacked — as is the norm with this government. Page has also said there seem to be two sets of books for the F-35 purchase, a departmental set and a PR set.
When the AG report came out and concurred with the PBO about the costs, the Minister of Defense and Associate Minister of Defense indicated that their number of $16 billion was for the jets themselves and didn’t include these ‘full life cycle costs,’ which includes gas, maintenance, etc. Why they didn’t make that argument when attacking the PBO we’ll never know. Possibly it is because Treasury Board guidelines require the full projection of life-cycle costs.
The motion to put an end to the hearings, like many of the happenings at Parliamentary Committees these days, was introduced while the committee was in camera. The motion called for an end to witness testimony and the start of the report writing stage.
If the committee is successfully shut down, they will have had seven hours of testimony, which is a little more than $3.5 billion an hour. Conservative MP Andrew Saxton said that the government feels they’ve delved deep enough into the issue.
The opposition says this attempted shut down just proves that the government has something to hide:
“To shut this committee down is a scandal,” said Gerry Byrne, a Liberal MP on the public accounts committee. “It means the government is desperate to hide something.”
Since the Tories have told multiple stories about the F-35 costs and whether or not there is a contract, agreement or understanding, it’s hard to figure out who knows the truth.
Photo Credit: Secretary of Defense
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