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Budget watchdog confirms Harper regime deception on sky-high F-35 costs

Budget watchdog confirms Harper regime deception on sky-high F-35 costs

Posted on March 10, 2011

An internationally peer-reviewed report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) has found that the Conservative government is dramatically misrepresenting the cost of their untendered F-35 stealth fighter purchase, Liberal MPs said today.

“This is an unconscionable amount, and the Harper Conservatives have again misled Canadians and Parliament,” said Liberal Defence Critic Dominic LeBlanc. “Now we know why the Conservatives deceived Canadians about the real costs of the F-35s. Mr. Harper’s $30-billion sole-sourced jet deal is badly out of sync with the priorities of Canadians.

“To put this in perspective, $30 billion is equivalent to $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada, and equals the entire federal government’s annual spending on health care.”

Yesterday, the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that the government breached parliamentary privilege for refusing to disclose the costs of their untendered F-35 purchase.  Today, a non-partisan, peer-reviewed report issued by the PBO pegged the total ownership cost of 65 F-35 stealth fighters at $29.3 billion, or a total lifetime cost of $450 million per plane – a far cry from the $250-million cost claimed by the Conservatives.

“The Conservatives’ numbers don’t add up, which is why they breached Parliament’s privilege and refused to show us detailed cost figures for these stealth fighter jets,” said Liberal Industry, Science and Technology Critic Marc Garneau. “Hiding the costs of these jets not only misleads Canadians but undermines the credibility of the entire budget. We demand answers on why these costs were hidden from Canadians.”

The report was independently peer-reviewed by non-partisan experts at the United States Congressional Budget Office, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and Queen’s University.

“This report makes it clearer than ever that the Liberal Party of Canada is making the right choice to cancel this untendered purchase,” said Mr. LeBlanc. “A future Liberal government will save billions of dollars by cancelling the Conservative F-35 stealth fighter deal and holding an open competition to replace Canada’s CF-18s.”

Among the findings of the PBO report:

  • An open competition would reduce costs and support transparency by making the true costs public;
  • Even though Canada participated in the development of the F-35, we were never under any obligation to buy these planes without an open competition; and
  • There is no penalty for cancelling the current deal and holding an open competition for our next fighter jet.

“Canadians would be shocked to discover that the Harper Conservatives did not negotiate any industrial regional benefits for Canada when they agreed to buy the F-35, while this report found that other countries are pushing for such benefits,” said Mr. Garneau. “An open competition will allow all potential contenders to prove the quality of their product while putting their best price and industrial benefits proposals on the table.”

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