The F-35 questions that need to be asked

Philippe Lagassé offers some free advice to the opposition.

The key question that must be asked is why the F-35 is the only possible future fighter aircraft for the Canadian Forces, on what grounds the air force makes that claim and based on which defence policies and priorities. The Canadian military lacks many capabilities that larger powers possess; the Canadian Forces are not equipped to meet every possible threat or eventuality. Why was it judged absolutely necessary for the military to have a this particular aircraft and to write a statement of requirements that excluded any alternatives? Why were trade-off considerations and cost-benefit analyses not entertained in this case? How does the defence department explain the Auditor General’s finding that due diligence was not performed when addressing these concerns? And the most important question: did the defence minister or Cabinet allow the department to brush aside its duty to perform this due diligence?

Now, assuming that the F-35 best meets the military’s preferences, why was a competition not held? If the Joint Strike Fighter was without a doubt the superior plane, why not hold a transparent competition that would make this obvious to parliamentarians, stakeholders, and Canadians at large?

The Public Accounts Committee convenes this morning to hear from the Parliamentary Budget Officer and then the same line-up of departmental officials who appeared on Tuesday.

One question that might be raised was asked yesterday by the NDP’s Matthew Kellway during QP.

Matthew Kellway: In 2010, DND wrote to Public Works saying that the F-35 is the only option. Public Works agreed. Yet both departments came before committee yesterday saying that they were still analyzing their options. No decision has been made yet. However, the Chief of the Air Staff contradicted both departments. He is fixed on the F-35. Is the government misleading the Chief of the Air Staff, or is it misleading Canadians?

Peter MacKay: Mr. Speaker, here is a shock for the member opposite. The Department of National Defence obviously receives recommendations from both members of the Armed Forces, in this case the Chief of the Air Staff, as well as works very closely with our deputy minister and the civilian side of the department. With respect to the replacement of the CF-18, we have received a very specific recommendation from the Auditor General. We have responded with a comprehensive response that goes beyond that recommendation. This will provide the transparency, accountability and confidence that Canadians need.

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