Canadian government provides more than $525 million for housing – warplanes
In recent days, the news has reported that the Treasury Board has approved a $7 billion allocation to the Department of National Defence for the purchase of a first block of 16 F-35 warplanes along with associated costs.
The formal announcement of this purchase and signing of a year-end contract with weapon manufacturer Lockheed Martin is expected in January.
While this purchase works out to about $450 million per F-35, the Canadian Press has highlighted that other costs are included in this $7 billion expenditure, including “much-needed upgrades to the Air Force’s physical infrastructure”.
Just how much is the Canadian government spending to provide housing for warplanes?
According to Defence Construction Canada: “The total value of the contract [to build the hangars] is approximately $525 million—$272 million for a 34,500 square metre facility in Cold Lake and $253 million for a 22,000 square metre facility in Bagotville.”
In the State of Homelessness in Canada 2016 report, it was estimated that at least 235,000 people experience homelessness in a given year.
The actual number is potentially much higher.
In addition to the visibly homeless, it has been estimated that there are between 450,000 to 900,000 people who experience hidden homelessness, meaning individuals who are living temporarily with others but without guarantee of continued residence or immediate prospects for permanent housing.
Veterans are among those who experience homelessness. In Budget 2021, the Canadian government allocated $45 million, a fraction of the money being spent on the hangars, for a two-year pilot project to reduce veteran homelessness.
Overall, the cost of purchasing and maintaining the new fleet of 88 F-35 warplanes is likely to exceed $76.8 billion over a 30 year period, according to the Uncovering the True Cost of 88 New Fighter Jets report produced by the No Fighter Jets coalition in September 2020.
This report included the $21.3 million for the design of the new hangars, but not the $525 million for the construction of them.
It had also calculated $689 million for development costs, but two years after the report was issued that figure is now closer to USD $712 million (about CAD $971 million).
It’s also unclear how much money will be specifically spent on the bombs and missiles for the F-35. The report presumes that is included in the $19 billion acquisition cost.
But to give some sense of how much could be spent on this, we know that the Canadian government spent $1.1 billion in June 2020 for 50 Sidewinder AIM-9X Block II Tactical missiles, radars and other various equipment.
With 88 F-35s to be ordered, more than 50 missiles will be purchased. A separate accounting of this expenditure is important for public accountability.
Along with the unanswered questions about the monetary cost of the F-35 is the human cost of Canada’s current fleet of CF-18s.
How many people has it killed and displaced?
The Globe and Mail has reported on allegations that a CF-18 airstrike killed 5-13 civilians and injured more than a dozen people in northern Iraq on November 19, 2015. Both The Globe and Mail and the CBC have also reported on the allegation of the killing of 27 civilians from a CF-18 bombing mission in northern Iraq in January 2015.
Of the 606 bombs dropped by CF-18s in Iraq and Syria, 17 went off course, but the Department of National Defence has said it has “no information” that any of its airstrikes, on-target or otherwise, killed or wounded civilians.
Given Canada’s fleet of CF-18s conducted an estimated 1,598 bombing missions over the past 30 years, it is likely fair to say that their bombs not only killed more people but displaced and made many others homeless.
The public disclosure of the monetary and human costs of warplanes should be an important part of the discussion on the F-35 purchase.