How much will Canada’s mission to Iraq cost Canadian taxpayers?
It’s a question that’s been asked by opposition parties, media and even the Parliamentary Budget Officer but to no avail.
Well, we might just have an answer — thanks to a thorough analysis by some intrepid reporters at the Ottawa Citizen.
"A Citizen analysis estimates the first week of air operations against the Islamic State cost taxpayers between $2.7 million and $4.1 million.
"That means if the Canadian military aircraft tasked with helping the U.S. fight ISIL continue flying at their current pace, the initial six-month mission will cost Canadian taxpayers between $60 million and $90 million."
Canada officially joined the United States and other allies in launching airstrikes against ISIS over Iraq earlier this month. The Harper government has committed to a six month mission deploying six CF-18 fighters, two surveillance aircraft and one air-to-air fuel tanker as a means to degrade the ongoing threat of the Islamic extremist group.
The Citizen notes that their estimates — derived from publicly available information about the number of sorties and departmental operating cost estimates of the different aircraft — are likely understated because they don’t include the full costs of personnel salaries, general maintenance or equipment depreciation. If you include those, notes the newspaper, the full-cost of the six-month mission could total between $178 to $266 million.
And remember, Canada is keeping the door open to extending the mission.
To date, the government has been hesitant to provide any official cost estimates of their own — last week both military and defence ministry staff would only say that costs would be disclosed as part of “regular parliamentary processes.”
One of the reasons the government may be afraid to release estimates is because military costs — especially during a war — have a tendency to skyrocket due to uncontrollable circumstances.
But according to Aaron Wudrick, the new Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Canadians deserve some clarity.
"We think it is reasonable that governments be required to at least provide a cost estimate for any initiative. The CTF has even proposed legislation to this effect, requiring every government or private member’s bill to be costed," he told Yahoo Canada News.
"In the case of a military mission, which is a little bit different due to its unpredictable and often open-ended nature, this would certainly be more difficult, but some estimate would be better than nothing."
Meanwhile, it seems that different countries, have different philosophies when it comes to providing cost targets.
Shortly after they began their airstrikes in August, the Pentagon had said that the war would cost U.S. taxpayers about $7.5 million per day.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated his country would spend $500 million over the next 12 months.
The David Cameron government in the U.K., however, didn’t provide details about the cost of their mission.
Over 20 countries are involved in the U.S.-led airstrikes.
According to RTT News, the list of allies bombing ISIS in Iraq include the US, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The US, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are included in the list of countries that are participating in airstrikes over Syria.
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