Yesterday we’d a jolly good laugh when Yukon Tory MP Ryan Leef got overjoyed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit and invited those gathered to “join me in welcoming back to the Yukon, the Prime Minister of Cannibal.”
Conservative MP, Chris Alexander’s recent take on the F-35 fighter jet controversy is no such laughing matter. It’s an insult to Canadians’ intelligence.
During a CBC News’ Power & Politics panel discussion on the Harper Government’s F-53 jet plan, Alexander offered the following statement:
“There was a misunderstanding, to some extent, in the Canadian public opinion, to some extent perpetrated by the opposition who claimed that a decision had been made, contracts had been signed, obligations had been undertaken and that is not the case.”
In 40 words, the rookie MP packed a huge lie, insulted us and drastically revised the history of the controversial military purchase plan. But public statements by Harper, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and other senior government officials contradict Alexander. They confirm that a decision had already been finalized before the public debate started in July 2010. That an irreversible commitment had been made.
A July 16, 2010, news release from the Department of National Defence/Canadian Forces announced: “The Government of Canada today announced it is acquiring the fifth generation Joint Strike Fighter F-35 aircraft to contribute to the modernization of the Canadian Forces, while bringing significant economic benefits and opportunities to regions across Canada.”
In the same release, Rona Ambrose, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women, took us a step back to when this whole mess started. She revealed the depth Canada’s involvement in the development of the F-35. She said: “A lengthy and intense competition was completed in 2001 for who would build the F-35. Canadian companies and the Canadian government helped develop the F-35, and now we are exercising our option under the Joint Strike Fighter memorandum of understanding to acquire it.”
Then she confirmed the cost and a few other important details with: “The Government of Canada has committed approximately $9 billion to the acquisition of 65 F-35 aircraft and associated weapons, infrastructure, initial spares, training simulators, contingency funds and project operating costs. Delivery of the new aircraft is expected to start in 2016.”
The Hansard tells us that on December 13, 2010, MacKay again confirmed the anticipated cost of the gadget. During a debate in the House of Commons, he said, “Mr. Speaker, let us look at the actual contract. What the Canadian government has committed to is a $9 billion contract for the acquisition of 65 fifth generation aircraft.”
Earlier on, on September 15, 2010, MacKay had employed the all-too-familiar Conservative tactic of fear-mongering and tried to force Canadians to accept the plan. “This is the right plane. This is the right number. This is the right aircraft for our Canadian forces and for Canada,” he said. “If we don’t make this purchase there is a real danger we’ll be unable to defend our airspace, unable to exercise our sovereignty or unable to share our responsibility to both NORAD and NATO.”
On January 14, 2011, Harper also deployed the fear strategy to defend the multibillion dollar purchase. He also deliberately misrepresented the anticipated benefits of the program, and asserted that canceling the contract would be “irresponsible”. “Contracts like this are not a political game,” he said, speaking from a blue podium with government Action Plan slogans perched in front of him and behind him. He added: “It is about lives and, as you well know, it is about jobs.”
There’s no “misunderstanding” in the “Canadian public opinion”, Alexander. That’s why the majority of us are vehemently opposed to the F-35 fighter jet plan.