MP Paul Manly puts on Order Paper key questions about timeline of Canada’s planned fighter jet purchase
Paul Manly, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, has put a question on the Order Paper about Canada’s planned purchase of fighter jets.
“With regard to the government’s acquisition of 88 advanced fighter aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force: (a) in what month are the successful bidder and aircraft expected to be chosen by the government; (b) in what month is a contract expected to be signed with the chosen bidder; (c) will the government conduct a revised cost analysis of the acquisition, and, if so, (i) when will the analysis be conducted, (ii) will the analysis be made public, and, if so, when; and (d) will the government sign the contract before the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s cost analysis of the acquisition is completed and made public?”
These are crucial questions for an informed public debate.
What we know (and don’t know) at this point
The Canadian government intends to award a contract at some point in 2022 to one of three companies bidding to build a new fleet of fighter jets.
Public Services and Procurement Canada has stated: “The initial evaluation of proposals is anticipated to be completed by spring 2021, at which point Canada may choose to enter into dialogue with two or more compliant bidders and request revised proposals.”
That media release adds: “Canada will finalize terms with the preferred bidder prior to the contract award, which is anticipated in 2022.”
Skies has reported: “Canada will select a winner by late 2021.”
Last month, Troy Crosby, the assistant deputy minister of materiel at the Department of National Defence, told the Canadian Press: “[This] is a project where COVID has created some challenges. Despite all of that, I still see the evaluation being completed this year. And that would get us to a point where we could enter whatever the resulting agreements or contracts are next year in 2022.”
The Government of Canada says the acquisition of the new aircraft, associated equipment and setup to enable entry into service will cost $15-19 billion.
Despite the scale of the purchase, no official calculation has been made public on the full, lifecycle cost of the new warplanes, but it is a certainty that the actual cost (when operations, sustainment, disposal and contingency acquisition costs are considered) would be billions more than the sticker price. This No Fighter Jets campaign report has pegged the life cycle costs of the fighter jets at $76.7 billion.
It is not known when the Parliamentary Budget Office will do an assessment of the cost of the fighter jets. It has been our understanding that the PBO would not do a cost-analysis until a winner has been chosen from among the three contenders.
Nor is it clear how wide the scope of the report would be (a more precise calculation vs a life-cycle cost analysis). It has also been our understanding that a PBO report generally takes between 3 to 6 months to produce.
The Canadian government has not given a specific date of when it will shortlist one of the contenders or if that decision will be made public.
We also do not know if it will be a matter of days, weeks or months before the selection of the fighter jet and the signing of the contract. Nor do we know where the Parliamentary Budget Office calculation of the chosen warplane would fit into that timeline.
The House of Commons is currently scheduled to sit until June 9, with a possible extension to June 23. It is our hope that there will be answers to the questions posed by Paul Manly by that time. A specific timeline is crucial to an informed public debate.