|F-35 purchase stirs controversy as Bob Rae calls for Harper's resignation|
Written By Scott Taylor
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Last week’s release of the much anticipated Auditor General’s report on the acquisition of F-35 fighter planes sparked a furious barrage of media and opposition party outrage. The word “boondoggle” was revived and, while interim Liberal leader Bob Rae called for Prime Minister Harper’s resignation, others demanded that Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk be removed from their posts.
In his report, Auditor General John Ferguson aimed his sights on DND bureaucrats for allegedly misleading their masters. The office reviewed briefing material from 2006 and 2010, concluding that “neither the Minister nor decision makers in National Defence and central agencies were kept informed of these problems and the associated risks of relying on the F-35 to replace the CF-18.”
While a quick glance at this statement would appear to exonerate DND senior managers and top politicians, it is the dates in question that beg closer scrutiny.
It was in July 2010 that Peter MacKay staged a photo-op with a full-scale model of an F-35 and pledged
The combined total projected cost of $16 billion instantly made the F-35 the largest defence procurement in
Of course, the majority of the F-35 media crap-storm of negative stories blew up after the Conservative government announced the purchase and, not coincidentally, after the time frame
In fact, as the controversy began to swirl prior to last year’s election, Harper and MacKay embarked on a coast-to-coast public relations mission to sell the deal to Canadians. To assist them in their efforts, those in the Canadian aviation industry who stand to benefit from the F-35 program were trotted out in front of the media to explain the virtues of high-tech job creation. Retired air force generals were also dusted off and set to work penning op-ed pieces praising the capabilities of this new fighter technology.
Throughout that entire sales campaign you can bet that Harper and his most senior communications brain-trust were watching every minute detail and development in the ongoing F-35 saga. In other words, even if
Yet, during the past two years, the Conservative government steadfastly reassured Canadians at every opportunity that the F-35 project would go forward, no matter what the critics claimed.
That was, of course, up until the internal release of the Auditor General’s initial findings several weeks ago. It was at about that juncture that Harper started to remind reporters that no contract had yet been signed for the F-35s.
This was a far cry from the same jubilant Prime Minister who told aviation workers at the Bristol Aerospace facility last year that “We are buying [the F-35] in a way that gets the best deal for Canada… [The Liberal’s] position here is playing politics with the lives of our men and women in uniform and the jobs of the people in this room, and we will not stand for it.”
This from the same man who flew to