Harper on the F-35

From the Prime Minister’s interview with Global, Mr. Harper’s explanation of the F-35 procurement.

Dawna Friesen: Let’s talk fighter jets for a moment.  I don’t want to go through all of the numbers because I think we’ve done that.  What I’m wondering is why wasn’t there more transparency about the full cost of the fighter jet program right from the beginning, and do you wish in retrospect that there had been?

Stephen Harper: Well I think we’ve been very clear about what the numbers are that we projected, which actually have been validated by the recent KPMG report. But what the Auditor General said in the spring was he looked at the process as it had gone to this point and let’s remember we’re very early in the process. We haven’t spent any money on acquiring the next generation of fighter jets, but he said that he thought that both the costs and the options analysis had not been as thorough as it should be. So, based on that, the government has reset those parts of the process and we’re going through that again.  As I say, I think the cost numbers from the KPMG report look in fact, identical to what the government has budgeted but they’ll also do an options analysis.  I think what happened here, I think it’s very easy to explain the process whether it’s right or wrong, is that you know, back in 1997, the previous government made a decision with an international … with its allies to be involved in an international consortium to actually develop the new fighter jet and to make sure that Canadian industry was part and parcel of the development of that airplane, as opposed to coming in after the fact and trying to get what we can an industrial and regional benefits.

Dawna Friesen: And so there would be Canadian jobs?

Stephen Harper: There would be Canadian jobs, a much more profound position of Canada in the worldwide supply chain for this aircraft. I think because of that, an assumption was just made all along the way that of course, if we’re developing this plane, this will be the plane we’re purchasing. It’s not an unreasonable assumption, but I think what the Auditor General pointed out is because of that, National Defence had not done as thorough an analysis as it should on some aspects of this, both the costs and options and that’s what we’re now doing.  And we will continue to do that. And we’ve been very clear; we’ve set up a multi-stage process. We set up some independent expert panels and we’ll go through this step by step to make sure we are making the right purchases. The CF-18, the current fighter jet fleet will start to reach the end of its life in the middle to end of this decade and we’ll make sure both that we have aircraft ready to go when we need that and also at the same time that Canada is involved in the development of next generation airplanes.

Colin Horgan reviews and footnotes the Prime Minister’s explanation. The Auditor General’s report on the F-35 is here.

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