Lockheed Martin and Boeing spin jobs argument in bid to win $19 billion in public funds for new warplanes

Published by Brent Patterson on

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This past April, Guardian columnist George Monbiot critiqued the British government’s intention to buy a fleet of 138 F-35s and the prioritization of “imaginary threats, while neglecting real ones” with these words: “Can it bomb the coronavirus?”

While the coronavirus obviously can’t be bombed by warplanes, the arms companies that want to manufacture them for Canada, aware of the public’s nascent concern about this country’s pandemic swollen federal debt of $1.2 trillion, will need to counter the argument that spending $19 billion on warplanes is a poor allocation of public funds.

More than four months ago, Elliot Hughes, a senior advisor at the Ottawa-based Summa Strategies, observed: “The soaring deficits [associated with COVID-19 spending] will place tremendous pressure on government to reduce its spending in non-COVID-19 areas in favour of healthcare and related priorities.”

Now, the CBC’s Murray Brewster reports: “Lorraine Ben, the chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Canada, said the fighter jet program is important to the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic because it delivers high-skilled, high-paying jobs.”

On June 25, Brewster had also reported that a “presentation by Boeing executives [that emphasized its history of delivering high-paying aerospace jobs] arrives against a background of a pandemic-ravaged economy…”

Lockheed Martin has already highlighted that Canadian companies have been awarded contracts as part of the F-35 global supply chain amounting to “$2 billion USD and approximately $120 million in capital investment for facility upgrades.” It omits though that this has come at the cost of US$541.3 million in taxpayer dollars since 1997.

Now, Lockheed Martin is arguing that it could add $16.9 billion to the gross domestic product of this country over the lifetime of the F-35.

Brewster also notes the implied threat from Lockheed Martin that should the Canadian government not choose the F-35, the existing contracts, worth $2 billion, would be honoured for the duration of their term but might go elsewhere afterwards.

While transnational corporations that profit from war are going to make their best pitch to win $19 billion in public funding – especially when the speculation is that Canada may reduce its order from 88 to 65 warplanes – the Canadian government should also be challenged on the logic of this planned purchase.

A former Deputy Minister of National Defence has written that “new Canadian fighters are not required to protect Canada’s populace or sovereignty” and a quick review of the 1,598 bombing missions that Canada’s current fleet of CF-18s have conducted does not suggest they helped to bring peace or stability to Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yugoslavia.

As for the economic argument, research has found that $1 million spent on “defence” creates 6.9 direct and indirect jobs, while the same amount invested in solar power creates 9.5 jobs, in health care 14.3 jobs, and in education 19.2 jobs.

This suggests that $19 billion spent on a green new deal, our public health care system and public education would do far more for the economy than buying the sales pitch for warplanes from the two largest arms manufacturers in the world.

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