The Conservative government has pitched the purchase of 65 new F-35s as a job creation program, as a military recruitment tool, as our best defence against a Russian invasion, as a necessary escort for planes carrying potentially dangerous cargo and as part of staking our claim to the Arctic. But when Mr. Harper was asked this week by Peter Mansbridge to explain why the country needs these 65 state-of-the-art fighter jets, the Prime Minister responded without invoking any of those reasons.
Will we need them? Look, I know this. We’ve heard these arguments before whenever budgets are tight: “Does the military really need them? We don’t need them today.” Did we know we would be in Afghanistan ten years ago, twelve years ago? Did we know we would be in the Balkans? Did we know we were going to have the Gulf Wars? Did we see the end of the Cold War? We don’t know these things, Peter.
What we do know is that the international situation will evolve. We don’t know what the risks and the threats will be in the future, but we know there will be some. And we know the men and women in the Canadian Forces, air, land and sea, will be called upon to respond. And when they are, we want to make sure they have a range of good, flexible equipment so they can respond safely and do their jobs effectively. And if you look at the level of military spending we’re maintaining in this country, if anything we may remain below where most of our allies are.