With yesterday’s admission by the Department of National Defence that the F-35 stealth fighter will cost more than was budgeted, it will be even harder for Stephen Harper to avoid cutting health care, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said today.
“Stephen Harper has consistently ignored the skyrocketing cost of these stealth fighters in his quest to push this untendered acquisition through,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “But now even his own defence officials can’t ignore what the experts and what other countries have been saying for months – and these astronomically high bills will start coming due at exactly the same time as we need to start a new round of investments in health care.
“Stephen Harper has an obligation to tell Canadians the truth – the F-35s will cost more than we can afford, and if we don’t revisit this costly, untendered purchase, there won’t be enough money left over for public health care.”
According to the Canadian Press today, DND officials have been advised that the Pentagon forecasts an increase in production costs for the JSF Program. “Once we have an opportunity to see the details of the report, we will be able to assess how it may impact the cost of Canadian production aircraft,” DND officials said in a statement.
The real shock, however, is in the Pentagon’s increased operating and maintenance costs over the life of each F-35 fighter. A new preliminary Pentagon estimate sent to Congress last week indicates that the operating and maintenance costs of the F-35 will be $410 million per plane. That is even higher than the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s estimate of roughly $301 million per plane. And it simply dwarfs the Conservatives’ ongoing estimate of $107 million per jet.
While Conservatives have said repeatedly that operating the F-35 will cost the same as operating our CF-18s, the U.S. air force estimates it will cost 40% more per hour to fly the F-35s than a CF-18.
“These very real, and as-of-yet unbudgeted costs, will force billions of dollars to be diverted from priority areas such as health care – right after the Health Accord expires in 2014,” said Mr. Ignatieff.
“The Conservatives have been dishonest with Canadians about these stealth fighters from the start,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “First they said this contract would be open, competitive and transparent, and it wasn’t. Then they promised billions more in industrial regional benefits than any other estimates, but they negotiated none at all. Now Mr. Harper says he has a secret document that shelters us from any increase in costs, but it doesn’t exist either.
“Canadians deserve the truth about how Mr. Harper is spending their money before they vote on May 2nd,” he said.