He hid cost from us for so long; now it's out
The F-35 attack jet fiasco hit Prime Minister Stephen Harper smack in the face yesterday.
We learned that Harper's very expensive Lockheed Martin attack jets will cost five times what Harper promised us two years ago. This is an increase of 500% -- a first in Canadian military history.
Harper promised the F-35s would come in at $9 billion for 65 aircraft. The cost hit $45 billion today.
But Harper refused to apologize, or even express regret for what happened. It's never his fault.
Harper admits only that he may have to re-think the purchase of the F-35 if the cost keeps going up, and he may have to look at another type of attack jet instead, perhaps the Eurofighter Typhoon or the Boeing CF-18 Super Hornet.
Harper keeps saying he hasn't spent a cent to date on the F-35. That's not altogether true, like most of what Harper has been saying about his plane. He's spent to date $ 414 million in the lead-up preparation to the F-35 contract.
Harper says he has no excuse about price to make to anybody. He's right. The cost keeps going up at Lockheed, and every time another country cancels its order or cuts back on deliveries, the price goes up again. Even the American military is cutting its orders.
So Harper's not responsible for the cost going up, but he is responsible for what he told Parliament and the Canadian people during the last election campaign.
His decision to buy the fighter F-35 came in July 2010, without the normal competitive process, without calling tenders and without discussing in Parliament what kind of aircraft we need, one engine like the F-35 or perhaps two engines, better to patrol the Canadian North.
Did we need his very expensive "stealth" version, and what about payload? And the range of the aircraft? After all Canada is not a small country. It was all Harper who did everything. Why do we have a single-engine F-35 for patrolling the Canadian North?
It was almost as if Harper woke up one morning and said: "This is the plane we need." Something like how Vladimir Putin makes decisions. Actually Harper did say: "this is the plane we want at the price we want."
Harper announced the cost of F-35 would not be more than $ 9 billion over a 20-year lifetime. He said he had it on paper, black on white. It was not true. We know that now.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page would later establish the real cost at $ 30 billion over a lifetime of 30 years. Harper mocked Page. Now we see Page was right.
Last spring, the Auditor General Michael Ferguson said the F-35 would cost $ 25 billion over 20 years. Ooops, another increase. The price was definitely not right. The worst came this week.
The independent auditor, KPMG, disclosed yesterday that including the cost of aircraft losses over the next 40 years as well as the costs of maintenance and operating costs, those Harper jets will end up costing 45.8 billion dollars.
That's twice the size of Harper's entire national deficit for this year.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay refused to apologize for the fiasco. So did the Status of Women and Public Works minister Rona Ambrose who was also in on the deal.
The Conservatives could have at least expressed some regret or that their hearts were in the right place. But no, nothing!
These were the same guys who back in March suggested that anybody who didn't buy into their F-35 spin was not patriotic. It was Harper's plane or the highway. We see what that got us.
Another report released today reveals that the industrial benefits resulting from the F-35 deal should be around $ 9.8 billion. However, these opportunities will disappear if Canada pulls out of the F-35 purchase, exactly the opposite of what Harper promised in 2010.
If Harper orders all 65 planes, each one will cost $ 92 million rather than the $ 75 million that Harper promised at the start.
And finally, there is one more note. Not even a single F-35 is ready for delivery to Harper. The first one is planned for 2017.