Dan Albas

Dan Albas

COLUMN: Considering the decision to buy F-35 fighter jets

Recent decision a change from earlier policy

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has long held a firm position on the Lockheed Martin F-35 multi-role jet fighter aircraft.

In 2015 his promise to Canadians was clear “we will not buy the F-35 stealth fighter bomber.” Trudeau further stated the F-35 “did not work” and that “It no longer makes sense, if it ever did, to have a stealth, first-strike capacity fifth-generation fighter.”

Things changed this week as the Trudeau Liberal government announced that it has now decided that the F-35 will be the preferred replacement aircraft for the CF-18. Negotiations will now begin to purchase 88 new F-35 fighter jets at a currently estimated cost of around $19 billion.

READ ALSO: Liberals launch negotiations to buy F-35 fighter jets

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What was also very interesting about this Liberal decision was that recently released documents obtained under Access to Information revealed the Liberal government communication strategy to justify purchasing the F-35 was developed two years ago, in 2020. Why was a communications strategy required?

As reported by the Ottawa Citizen it was to “justify how the federal government could purchase the F-35 even though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claimed Canada wouldn’t buy the stealth fighter and had no use for it.”

What was in this communication strategy? Advice to avoid “dealing with the direct statements from the Liberals that the F-35 would not be purchased. Instead, the focus was on the procurement process itself.”

This is largely what Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi did at the announcement that Trudeau did not attend.

This is not the first time the Liberals have played politics when it comes to replacing aging equipment required by our forces. Many may recall that in 1992 the Liberals also campaigned to cancel the EH-101 helicopter replacement for the aging Sea-King helicopter.

This cancellation cost taxpayers $478 million in penalties when the Liberals cancelled the $4.8 billion EH-101 helicopter order that was to replace the aging Sea-Kings.

Cancelling the replacement for the Sea-King did not negate the need to replace this aging helicopter, it only delayed it further, and at a much greater cost to taxpayers.

In fact when the same Liberal government, only a few years later announced the replacement of the Sea-King, the new helicopters came at an increased cost said to be $6.2 billion. When that contract was finally signed for 28 new CH-148 Cyclone helicopters the total cost had increased more to $7.6 billion.

Because of the many delays created by this Liberal cancellation, an additional $495 million maintenance contract was required to keep the 55-year-old Sea-King helicopters safely in the air.

I mention all of this because playing politics with military procurement does little more than leave our forces with aging, less effective aircraft that is very costly to fly. It also drives up the eventual replacement costs to taxpayers.

My question this week: Do you support the purchase of the 88 Lockheed-Martin F-35 jet fighters?

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan Similkameen Nicola and the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Climate Change.

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ColumnistFederal Politics