Dan Ross, the former assistant deputy minister of defence materiel, tells Postmedia that the Harper government is to blame for the handling of the F-35.
Ferguson said officials failed to communicate the F-35’s risks, including escalating costs and schedule delays, to Parliament and decision-makers. Ross says National Defence had all the information — but the Harper government wouldn’t let officials go public with it. “For seven and a half years, whenever a journalist asked to do an interview, it was denied,” he says. “The Defence Department doesn’t communicate and it asks the (Prime Minister’s Office) for permission and they say no, and no one ever communicates. If we’d had a tech brief bi-weekly that had the good news and the bad news, the facts, went through costing in great detail, I don’t think you’d be in the same place,” he says.
In the lead-up to the 2011 federal election, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page asked officials in Ross’s section to discuss the true cost of the F-35 program as he prepared a report about the stealth fighter’s pricetag for Parliament. Ross says he never received approval from above for the meeting. “At the end of the day, communications in federal governments is a political decision,” he says. “Bureaucrats don’t get to decide.”
Lee Berthiaume previously detailed how defence officials avoided the Parliamentary Budget Officer in 2011. Mr. Ross appeared at a news conference in March 2011 to attempt to counter the PBO’s report on the F-35.