How have the Conservatives, NDP and Greens responded to the Liberal decision to spend $70 billion on F-35 fighter-bombers?

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: The No Fighter Jets coalition mobilized for a January 6-8 weekend of action that called on Members of Parliament to #DropTheF35Deal.

On January 9, Defence Minister Anita Anand announced that Canada is purchasing 88 F-35 warplanes at a cost of $19 billion.

Video: Defence Minister Anita Anand speaks at the virtual media conference on the F-35 deal.

In a technical briefing before the announcement, Department of Defence officials acknowledged that the lifecycle cost of the jets would be about $70 billion.

The decision by the Liberal government to purchase F-35s stands in contrast to the promise they made during the 2015 federal election not to buy the fighter-bombers.

How have the Opposition parties responded?

Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poilievre tweets: “Justin Trudeau said that buying the F-35s would be a “nightmare” for taxpayers. Now he is buying 88 of them. Phoney. Out of touch. Incompetent.”

And his Defence critic James Bezan tweets: “Trudeau said he would NEVER buy the F-35. Then, he wasted years and taxpayer money on rusted out Australian CF-18s, only to realize the Conservative plan was right all along. The fact is Trudeau has failed to provide our military with the equipment they require now. #cdnpoli #F35.”

Bezan has also commented in the media: “This is a situation where [Trudeau] originally said he would never buy the F-35 and did everything in his power to stop it from actually happening, but at the end of the day, this is the only modern fighter jet that can deliver the capabilities Canada so desperately needs. And so here we are today, where Justin Trudeau has to eat crow and do what’s right for Canada, do what’s right for the Royal Canadian Air Force, and do it right for our NORAD and NATO allies.”

Bob Zimmer, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies, has also commented: “We’ll be getting the best fighter in the world. It is at a hugely increased price from when we were looking at the F-35 ourselves. So again, pleased with the acquisition, but alarmed by the costs.”

New Democratic Party Defence deputy critic Randall Garrison basically makes the same argument as the Conservatives.

He says: “In 2015, Trudeau said that Canada didn’t need F-35. He promised never to purchase them and promised to purchase one of the many lower priced options to better serve Canada’s defense needs. That statement is in complete contradiction with today’s announcement, and yet again, the price tag announced today is higher than what was announced a few months ago—with no guarantees for Canadian jobs.”

Garrison also notes: “The NDP critic for national defense, Lindsay Mathyssen, has put forward a private member’s bill, Bill C-300 [that can be read in full here], which would protect Canadian jobs for defense contracts.”

This appears consistent with the NDP platform from the 2021 election that states: “In contracting for new military equipment, including ships and fighter jets, New Democrats will ensure maximum industrial benefits and jobs.”

And Green Party leader Elizabeth May says: “Trudeau was elected opposing F-35, saying they didn’t work and weren’t needed. Now, in the midst of accumulating economic, health and housing crises, this is how they decide to spend Canadians’ money? By purchasing planes that don’t work and aren’t needed?”

The other Green MP Mike Morrice adds: “This is a deeply disappointing decision, one that Trudeau himself was opposed to in 2015. We can’t let ourselves become accustomed to broken promises, from the Liberals or any other political party.”

The Bloc Québécois does not appear to have responded to yesterday’s announcement, but on April 1, 2022, following the news that the Liberals had chosen the F-35, BQ Defence critic Christine Normandin stated: “Imagine: the Liberal government cancels the F-35 project in 2015 on the grounds that it is too expensive, then spends hundreds of millions of dollars to buy and upgrade 18 old Australian F-18s, gobbling up huge sums to keep these aging aircraft on the ventilator. After this shameless waste of public funds, he finally announced the purchase of 88 F-35s! You can’t make it up!”

And Bloc Québécois Aerospace critic Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay commented: “The choice of the F-35 will not generate additional benefits for Quebec, which represents more than 50% of the Canadian aerospace industry. We have solid expertise, but under pressure from Washington, Ottawa did not want to guarantee any benefits here. Once again, we see that the Liberal government has not been able to demonstrate a strategy to benefit Quebec’s industry and economy.”

(Mario Simard, the BQ MP for Jonquière, while seemingly supportive of the purchase of new warplanes now, says: “70 billion over 30 years, including maintenance costs. I cannot believe that Canada has not ensured that this $70 billion is a firm amount, so that we do not have unpleasant surprises with a final amount of $80 billion or $90 billion.”)

While parliamentary opposition parties are mostly either focusing on Trudeau’s flip-flop or the economic benefits of the weapons industry, but ultimately supporting the purchase, the No Fighter Jets coalition will continue to mobilize against new warplanes.

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