Government Watchdog Slams Canadian Fighter Jet Purchase

Stephen Harper’s hoped-for new fighter jets are getting him in hot water yet again.

The Harper Government’s failure to disclose the true cost of new F-35 fighter jets to be purchased under the Joint Strike Fighter program was, in part, one of the reasons they were found in Contempt of Parliament in March of 2011, and one of the reasons a Canadian election was forced in May 2011 – with disastrous results for the opposition.

And yet today, the Harper government is pleading ignorance as the mess ignites further with a report from the Office of the Auditor General office that slams the entire procurement process for the F-35s from top to bottom. Michael Ferguson’s report states that the process to replace Canada’s aging fleet of F18 fighter jets with the new superpowerful F35s was riddled with secrecy, lack of oversight, lack of procedure and sandbagged estimates. Lowlights of the report include:

  • The Canadian Military decided that the F-35s were the fighter jets of choice as far back as 2006, and thereafter appeared to direct the procurement process towards their preferred fighters instead of doing a thorough review of all options.
  • Once DND decided to purchase the jets, they pretended to go through proper procurement channels but actually skirted the open bidding process required by law.
  • DND internal documents showed the price of the jets estimated to be $25 billion – but when asked to provide documentation to Parliament, told them the jets would cost approximately $14 billion. (When Parliament was confronted with a more accurate estimate, the junior Defence minister at the time dismissed the numbers as “speculative and illogical”.)
  • Even the $25 billion number is probably too low – and if the project runs in to cost overruns, as is expected, DND will need to request more money from the government to cover the jets.
  • The Harper government has long defended the cost of the project in part by saying that the purchase will mean billions of dollars in industrial benefits for Canadian companies – but that assumption was never validated, and estimates of the actual economic benefit range wildly.
  • Briefing materials for ministers did not explain the “full range” of estimates of costs of the jets but rather only the best case scenarios.

The Harper government has responded with a resounding “It wasn’t us! it was the civil servants!” and has wholeheartedly thrown the Military and Public Service under the bus – yet it was their job to ask questions, especially in the face of forceful opposition and public criticism over the purchase. Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair summed it up, asking  “How could [Prime Minister Harper] allow Parliament to be intentionally misled on the F-35s? Either he knew and it’s unconscionable or he didn’t, and it’s incompetence.” The Harper government is taking several “actions” in the face of the report, including saying the deal isn’t “done” and putting a new team of bureaucrats in charge instead of the old team.

Pulling out of the deal would leave the already beleaguered Joint Strike Fighter project in limbo, and would leave Canada in a situation of still needing to find an appropriate solution to replace our aging fleet of F-18s. Yet the Harper Government and the already demoralized public service are not forthcoming with answers on any of this – and this from a government who pledged to “clean up Ottawa”. Clean, indeed.


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Colin K N A U F
Colin K5 years ago

DND ....Dungeons N Dragons....make the world go around...put yer money in bullets and gold and you can't go wrong yes...but y'll be rollin' in dough....its the Political Pension Plan

If the deficits from political blunders weren't making our penshioners eat dog would a hilarious scandal...BUT AS SILLY AS IT is it IS NOT FUNNY!...

Kent G.
Kent G5 years ago

By the way, Chen Hu, editor-in-chief of World Military Affairs magazine, has said that the F-35 is too costly because it attempts to provide the capabilities needed for all three American services in a common airframe. Dutch news program NOVA show interviewed US defense specialist, Winslow T. Wheeler and aircraft designer Pierre Sprey, who called the F-35 "heavy and sluggish" as well as having a "pitifully small load for all that money", and went on to criticize the value for money of the stealth measures as well as lacking fire safety measures. His final conclusion was that any air force would be better off maintaining its fleets of F-16s and F/A-18s compared to buying into the F-35 program. So, Ike was right when he warned us about the military-industrial complex.

Kent G.
Kent G5 years ago

And to make sure that Congress comes across with the money to cover all the cost overrides for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter this year, Lockheed Martin had $15,166,845 in lobbying expenses for 2011.

Tom Jack
Tom Jack5 years ago

How much health care can we barter for when we deliver those jets to Canada? Can we provide the 50,000,000 Americans without health insurance with Canadian Healthcare? Each jet is about $120,000,000. That could provide health insurance for our poor and uninsured. They would get a temporary travel Visa to cross the border and see a doctor or nurse. Their state or Federal debit cards that are used for food stamps could be loaded up to pay for their transportation to and from Canada plus room and board.

Gerald Landry
Gerald L5 years ago

"Old Buyers Club" with affinity points.

This Lockheed Martin contract tarnishes the census | Chris Browne ... Mar 2011 – Lockheed Martin UK, a subsidiary of the world's largest arms manufacturer, will be helping to run this month's census. Its role, contractually ...

TJ D5 years ago

Harper and the rest of his con cronies are nothing but a bunch of liars, cheats, and stealers. they need to be relieved of their positions yesterday!!

Elizabeth S.
Elizabeth Stuef5 years ago

Cut the military and buy new jets that Canadians don't want: that's the Harper Government

John Mansky
John Mansky5 years ago

Thank you for the article...

Michael C.
Michael C5 years ago

If Canada were to purchase this turkey, it would add fuel to the debate as to why the U.S. needs to buy so many. In other words, if it is good enough for our neighbor to the North, we had better have a lot of them. I know, it makes little is a Pentagon thing.

Meanwhile, the F-35 will be first deployed to Tucson, Az., where we already have jets exceeding noise levels beyond comprehension. The new jet will be 4X louder than what we endure today.

Michael MacDonald

They planes aren't even capable of flying in Arctic temperatures and they are supposed to meet our needs?
I'm not a fan of war, but I'm a huge plane nerd
and I'll vouch for the fact that these are probably the worst planes on the market that we could be investing in.
We'd actually be better off sticking with our CFA-18's than this plane.
We do need to replace them,
but for god sakes don't waste this much money on such a crappy plane.
Talk about incompetent.