Tories confirm that they will examine other options to F-35s

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

The Harper government is pressing the reset butting on the controversial F-35 fighter-jet program.

That announcement came from Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose on Wednesday after a government commissioned KPMG report pegged the cost of the 65 jets at $45.8 billion.

The cost estimate is based on a 42 year a lifecycle — the estimated cradle to grave time frame.

"We have hit the reset button and are taking the time to do a complete reassessment of all available aircraft," Ambrose told reporters, according to the Globe and Mail.

"Let me be clear: the government of Canada will not proceed with a decision to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft until all steps ... are completed."

[ Related: Canada resets search for fighters, may still buy F-35 ]

Both Ambrose and MacKay also continuously repeated the Harper government talking point that not one dollar has been spent on acquisition of the jets.

Since the government announced two years ago it would be purchasing the F-35, the overall cost estimates for the fighter jets have skyrocketed.

During the 2011, election campaign the Tories suggested the 65 planes would cost around $16 billion.

In April 2012, the Auditor General pegged the cost at $25 billion. Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page said it was more like $29 billion.

The Tories have consistently dismissed the cost discrepancies as simple accounting issues — they argued that the different numbers represented different life cycles.

Today's announcement is not a full Mea Culpa — the F-35 is still an option.

But the KPMG report could result in considerable political backlash for the Tories who often tout their fiscal prowess.

NDP defence critic Jack Harris said the new number's prove that the Tories have misled Canadians.

"In the last election campaign they told people it was going to cost a maximum of $16 billion. They had at that time on their desks a $25 billion price tag. They misled Canadians. They deceived them," he told reporters.

[ Related: F-35 reports could be Christmas nightmare for government ]

"And they continue to mislead them. They haven't admitted for one moment that they made a mistake. This is certainly a flawed mandate based on that. And I think Canadians should be very upset."

A look back at the Harper government's defence of the F-35 program:

Harper's gang didn't just support the F-35 program, it chastised, ridiculed and name-called those who questioned it.

As a result, critics seem to be savouring the government's F-35 retreat.

Can you really blame them?

Let's take a look back at the government's defence of the F-35 program:

Nov. 23, 2010:

"If it was up to the Liberal/NDP coalition, they would cancel the F-35 program and put hundreds of Winnipeg aerospace jobs in jeopardy."

"These contracts are being negotiated and signed right now. Cancelling this deal and spending years dithering, as the Liberal/NDP coalition would have us do, would be devastating to the tens of thousands workers in Canada's aerospace industry and the hundreds based here in Winnipeg."

—Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Winnipeg

April 26, 2011:

"Many of the reports you're citing are comparing apples to oranges. Our experts have put out their detailed figures and everything we've seen is within those figures and their contingencies — the contingencies that have been allowed."

—Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Quebec, in response to reports the F-35s would cost more than initially thought

Nov. 8, 2011:

"We will purchase the F-35. We're on record. We're part of the crusade. We're not backing down."

—Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino, Fort Worth, Texas

Oct. 18, 2011:

"There is no fifth generation aircraft other than the F-35 available to Canada and the United States."

[ Related: Canada's contentious F-35 figures in danger of falling off U.S. fiscal cliff ]

"All of the hypothetical discussions and quite negative discussions, quite frankly, about this program are really just clatter and noise. This program is going ahead."

—Minister of Defence Peter MacKay, Halifax