TORONTO — Canada has no obligation to purchase F-35 fighter planes, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau said Monday, but he wouldn’t confirm that Canadians won’t be on the hook for any costs associated with his promise to cancel plans to buy the jets.
Trudeau said there is no contract requiring Canada to purchase any F-35s and that it no longer makes sense — if it ever did — to buy the planes when there are others that can be purchased for less.
“A Liberal government actually engaged in the international development process (on the F-35s) and as such got a certain amount of jobs here in Canada (but) part of that agreement is that there was no obligation for Canada to actually purchase F-35s,” Trudeau said in downtown Toronto during a town-hall style event with supporters.
Trudeau said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper needs to explain fully why the country needs the F-35, which experts say would cost taxpayers about $44 billion over the four-decade lifespan of the Lockheed Martin jets.
“I think everyone was as surprised as I was to hear the prime minister recommit Canada to the F-35,” Trudeau said. “This is a real disappointment and I think the prime minister has some real explaining to do as to why he still thinks the F-35 is the only plane suitable for Canada.”
Harper has said the Liberals are “living in a dream world” if they think they can halt the F-35 procurement and not run the risk of losing jobs, particularly in the aerospace sector.
Trudeau promised on Sunday to cancel the Conservative plan to purchase the planes and instead buy lower-cost aircraft and invest the savings in vessels for the Royal Canadian Navy.
Harper said Sunday that Canada needs the jet — including its first-strike stealth ability — in order to protect Canadians and help international allies in missions such as the current war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State.