The Commons: Stephen Harper’s Royal Canadian Air Farce

Suddenly, the F-35 purchase no longer seems to be about ‘lives’ and ‘jobs’

The Scene. “They knew it.”

What did they know? They knew the cost of purchasing the F-35 would be higher than they had let on. This much, Thomas Mulcair explained, had now been proven by the Auditor General.

“Why,” the leader of the opposition thus asked, “did the Conservatives deliberately gave false information to Parliament and Canadians?”

The Prime Minister stood here, shrugged and dismissed it all. “Mr. Speaker, I do not accept these conclusions of the opposition leader,” Mr. Harper said, without elaborating. The Auditor General had, Mr. Harper explained, made “certain findings” and “identified the need for greater supervision.” The government accepted this much.

Switching to English, Mr. Mulcair was sharp and stinging in response.

“Mr. Speaker, this is a question of ethics,” he posited.

For the Prime Minister’s benefit, he succinctly offered his own review of chapter two of the Auditor General’s spring report.

“The Auditor General has concluded that the Conservatives knew their figures were misleading but they gave them to Parliament anyway. The Auditor General’s report on the F-35 is a litany of poor public administration, bad decision-making and lack of accountability by Conservative ministers.”

Now then, the question. “The key question to the Prime Minister is: How could he allow Parliament to be intentionally misled on the F-35s? Either he knew, and it is unconscionable, or he did not know and it is incompetence.”

Mr. Mulcair turned and stared directly at Mr. Harper. “Which is it?” he demanded.

Once more, Mr. Harper claimed some mistake. “Mr. Speaker,” he begged, “that is a misconception of what the Auditor General actually said.”

Of Parliament and parliamentarians, the Auditor General makes several references.

“In presenting costs to government decision makers and to Parliament, National Defence estimated life-cycle costs over 20 years,” he explains. “This practice understates operating, personnel, and sustainment costs, as well as some capital costs, because the time period is shorter than the aircraft’s estimated life expectancy.”

“Also, we observed that National Defence told parliamentarians that cost data provided by US authorities had been validated by US experts and partner countries, which was not accurate at the time,” he adds. “At the time of its response, National Defence knew the costs were likely to increase but did not so inform parliamentarians.”

Mr. Harper addressed none of this. Instead he offered two sentences that contradict much of what his government has been saying these last two years.

“I remind the leader of the opposition that the government has not yet purchased this airplane,” the Prime Minister declared. “It has not yet signed a contract.”

This has always been something of  a farce. Not just because the Conservatives once said there was indeed a “contract” that guaranteed 65 warplanes at a price of no more than $9 billion. But because of all the ways the Prime Minister and his ministers sought to justify this demonstrably flimsy premise.

Not purchasing the F-35 presented a “real danger” that the country would be unable to defend our airspace and our sovereignty. We would be left susceptible to terrorist bombings and a Russian invasion. This was about “lives” and “jobs.” It was “disappointing” and “sad” and “unbelievable” that anyone would even think of doing otherwise. This went beyond politics. To not purchase the F-35, would leave our air force with an “operational gap,” isolate ourselves from our international allies and fail to sufficiently support the troops. Buying the F-35 was the “only option.” This was a “crusade.”

“We’re not backing down,” Julian Fantino declared last November.

“We have not as yet discounted the possibility, of course, [of] backing out of the program,” Mr. Fantino clarified last month.

So apparently the Harper government has decided that it fears the Auditor General slightly more than it fears Vladimir Putin. And so now there is a “secretariat” and a “deputy ministers’ committee” and a “seven-point plan.” None of which seems likely to satisfy the opposition side.

“Mr. Speaker, if one accepts the recommendations, who will be held responsible for this fiasco?” Christine Moore loudly demanded after the Prime Minister had returned to his seat. The government side audibly mocked her enthusiasm.

Ms. Moore demanded to know what the former minister of public works, Christian Paradis, had done to avoid this mess. Mr. Paradis remained in his seat. Mr. Fantino stood and vowed that the government would be “refining” its “cost estimates.”

Ralph Goodale stood and squared up to the matter. “The government cannot dodge responsibility,” he said. “It is not credible. It is simply not true for Conservatives to say that they did not know until today. They were told by the Liberal opposition 21 months ago.”

In his seat, the Prime Minister noticeably chuckled at this.

Marc Garneau rose and told Mr. Harper to seek Peter MacKay’s resignation. Neither the Prime Minister nor the Defence Minister stood. Instead, both Mr. Fantino and Rona Ambrose stood, each offering answers until Mr. Fantino was motioned to sit down. ” Mr. Speaker, this morning the Auditor General was very clear. He said that the Department of National Defence needs to refine its cost estimates and it needs to be more transparent,” Ms. Ambrose recounted. “Our government’s response is also very clear. We will ensure that the Department of National Defence does refine its cost estimates.”

The NDP’s Matthew Kellway zeroed in on Mr. Fantino, suggesting he had misled Canadians and wondering if he might thus apologize. “Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Fantino protested. “I certainly do not accept the premise.”

Ms. Ambrose eventually came to carry the duty of responding. And so far as she was concerned, the Auditor General had really only made one recommendation. ”His one recommendation was that the Department of National Defence continue to refine its cost estimates for the F-35 and that they be more transparent,” she said. “We accept that. We will not purchase any new aircraft until the Department of National Defence has met that recommendation.”

Except, of course, that one anonymous government official has already indicated, with fitting metaphoric awkwardness, that “the F-35 train is still on the track.”

The farce is strong in this one.

The Stats. Military procurement, 14 questions. The budget, Old Age Security, infrastructure and Rights & Democracy, three questions each. Air safety, Lebanon and firearms, two questions each. Employment, crime, veterans, Spain, arts funding and food safety, one question each.

Julian Fantino, Rona Ambrose and Denis Lebel, six answers each. Stephen Harper, John Baird and Diane Ablonczy, three answers each. Jim Flaherty, Kellie Leitch and Maxime Bernier, two answers each. Candice Hoeppner, Peter Van Loan, Eva Adams, James Moore and Gerry Ritz, one answer each.

The Commons: Stephen Harper’s Royal Canadian Air Farce

  1. ‘The farce is strong in this one.’

    So is the govt BS.

  2. Aaron, you really need to revise the format of The Stats.  There is absolutely no need for the lower section enumerating answers, since none are ever given.  Evasions would be a better term, or perhaps segways, but definetly not answers. 

    • That’s amazing because I was just coming on to say the same thing.  And he puts the stats up every time, but this is the first time I got to thinking it should be changed to “responses.”  I’d even suggest there have been more outrageous non-answers.

      • Like the ” I don’t accept the facts of your questions”…my favorite Harper response to any pointed challenge 

      • “I was just coming on to say the same thing. ”

        That perfectly encapsulates the modus operandi of the Wherryites.

        • And in the BG a poodle-haired Tammy sings “Stand By Your Man” as ‘Man’ breaks another bottle and looks at her with that ol’ menacing look that is badness itself.

          There is a contract. There is no contract. The facts in questions are something we disagree with. Well, you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. 

          We’re all, nationally, into such whirling-flashing-siren-y, noisy, danger ranger territory that one suspects your battered self is stockholm-ed to the major x. Get help.

          • Hey FB – you’ve got some serious reading comprehension deficits.  I can’t believe I have to point this out to you, but there’s actually a difference between:

            1. observing that the Wherryites tend to be, by and large, remarkably similar in their ideological outlook and partisan political leanings, and

            2. defending Stephen Harper and/or his government.

            So where is it on here that I’m defending the government’s performance on the F35 file?  Oh that’s right, nowhere.

          • “So where is it on here that I’m defending the government’s performance on the F35 file?”

            Nope, you don’t even find it worth commenting on – it doesn’t bother you nearly as much as 2Jenn does.

          • Yes, yes, we’re all aware you’ve nothing of substance to add to the issue, but feel like you need attention, so try to attack the posters instead.

          • Boy, you sure seem to get upset when I point out that most of you have the same opinion about everything.  Wonder why . . .

          •  perhaps, because when it comes to this harper government,
            you either think every thing they do id fine no matter how ethically challenged or  illegal, or you share the opinions that what they are doing is often wrong, lacking transparency, and an attempt at obfuscation.

          • Hey mjoa, go look up “false dichotomy”.  You might learn something.

          • That’s an entirely fair comment regarding my response to you. You did not, in that particular comment, rise to a particular defense of the government. That, in and of itself, is somewhat unusal.

        •  Perfect encapsulation of Bean’s thoughts on the matter:

          While others speak of lies, contempt and incompetence, I simply stare into the beautiful icy blue depths of your  eyes.   No deceit or abuse, no humiliation or betrayal, no matter outrageious could ever make my love untrue, my dearest Stephen.

          •  …how outrageous…

          • Hey Lenny, I didn’t even vote for Stephen, so your comment is idiotic.  Thanks for coming out.

          • It’s so sad we can’t all live in Calgary West, isn’t it?

        •  I don’t wish to alarm you, but there’s a suspicious conformity about the total of the sum of two and two as well. 

          • I see.  So anyone who isn’t a Wherryite partisan cheerleader is the equivalent of a flat-earther.  That’s quite a tolerant and progressive outlook you have — diversity is obviously important to you.

        • There is no such thing as a Wherryite.  So long as you continue to disrespect everyone’s opinion’s in such a way, I will continue to disrespect you by considering you to be onside with every Conservative decision made to date.  That makes you a antichoice, F-35-loving, anti-worker, poor-bashing dittohead, you lucky so-and-so.

          • So you will knowingly accuse me of opinions that you know I don’t hold?  THAT’s an interesting attitude . . .

          • As you do to all of the “Wherryites” (whoever they are).  You are a troll are I will treat you with all the respect due a troll.

          • Name calling.  Classy.

        • So do you think ANY of the responses given by the government and repeated in Wherry’s article are really ANSWERS in the common sense of the word,in that they address the question?  Or are they illogical non answers that simplu amount to saying we refuse to answer. 

          • Probably the latter.  I don’t really expect much else from QP, it’s a sad joke and has been for many, many years now.  That’s why The Rt. Hon. John Turner used to derisively call QP “Bullsh*t Theatre.”  For that nickname alone, I will always have a soft spot for John Turner.

    • Even better, why not keep the “answers” stat but add a “non-answer reply” stat and see how they fare in comparison.

      That way if the government ever actually answers a question we’ll be alerted to the fact and can buy our lottery tickets immediately. LOL

  3. Farce?  No.   Outrageous incompetence, misleading Parliament, arrogance? Yes.
    Lying in the face of facts, refusing to accept responsibility, a cavalier attitude towards the truth, and contempt for others- all the hallmarks of a sociopathic personality disorder- The Prime Minister and his Defense minister.

  4.  It seems that last week’s budget sans details was to be the first of many from the harper government that would attempt to prepare for the time when they would have to announce ‘unexpected cost overruns’ and ‘unexpected underemployment from supplier contracts’ for the F-35.  

  5.  “The contract we signed shelters us from any increase in those kinds of costs, so we’re very confident of our cost estimates.” (Stephen Harper, Press Conference, April 8, 2011)1) Harper claimed there was a contract. Was He Lying?2) This “contract” would shield us from cost overruns? Was He Lying?3) He was confident of his cost estimates? Was He Lying?That is as many as three possible lies in a 22 word sentence. That has got to be some kind of record. 

    • Never trust a liar! Has everyone fortotten the worst of them all Brian Mulroney?

  6. Just follow Australia’s lead.

    “Sept 12/11: More F/A-18Fs? During a joint press conference with Canada’s defense minister Peter MacKay, Australian Minister for Defence Stephen Smith says that they might buy more Super Hornets – but no decision has been taken. The window is closing, however, unless the USA extends F/A-18 production beyond MYP-III. So:

    “Our position on Joint Strike Fighters I’ll restate. We’ve committed ourselves to 14. The White Paper or the Defence Capability Plan talks in terms of ultimately a number up to or around 100, but we’ve committed to 14…. we’ll do an exhaustive risk assessment in the course of next year and make a judgment next year about whether we need any transition capability…. The last thing I will allow will be a gap in our capability for our air combat capability. And if I am concerned or worried or not persuaded there won’t be a gap in terms of delivery of the Joint Strike Fighters, then an obvious option for us is more Super Hornets. We’ve made no decision to that effect.”

  7. Canada
    should have nothing to do with spending dollars on military warfare. Let the
    United States waste their money on War mongering. Sham.

    • Having the ability to defend your own country is NOT a waste of money.

      • Who do you think is going to be attacking us? How are they going to be getting here? How are these planes going to help stop it?

        The last time Canada was attacked was 200 years ago in the War of 1812. We weren’t even a country at the time. 

        • So does that mean you were opposed to us going to war against Hitler back in 1939?

          • FTW!

          •  While some wars in our past may have accomplished some good, let us never forget that we have never been in real danger as a country, and that no drop of blood shed by our military is likely to be necessary for country’s continued existence and safety.  It’s a face we should be more aware of when deciding to undertake military action.

          • What a leap!  The next time someone reminds you that Canada had the second biggest navy in the world by the end of WWII, ask them, how big was the navy in 1938?  We basically had none, a couple of ships.  What we had was the protection afforded by our geography, and wealth of natural resources to sustain heavy industrial production.  And we put all that production to war materiels. That should remain the Canadian government’s #1 defence strategy : ensuring that we can pick up  production of war materiels very quickly, and massively, and protect us from air attacks.  I do see a need for fighters.

            However, I shudder when I hear decision makers claim that we are part of the crusade. What we have here is a shining example of the dangers of being governed by ideologically dirven people who think parliament should be misled and dissent ridiculed.

          • So, your defence proposal against a possible invasion at our borders is that we ask the invader to please be patient:
            We have a lot of geography and a lot of natural resources and if you would give us a little time than we will get some trees and coal and iron to the factory and we will build some planes and tanks and then we will fight you !

            And Liberals wonder why no one takes them seriously anymore. Jeez, You guys are loonier than the dippers.

          • Tell me : from which border do you foresee a possible invasion?
            Small wonder most Canadians find Conservatives to be as delusional to facts and reality as their leader is.

            Yes, we have a lot of geography and wealth of resources; these are our best defence – unless the invasion comes from the south, and yes, there is nothing we can do against that. Our military needs are mostly needed to fullfill our responsibilities to our allies.

            You’re the one who brought WWII on the carpet,a ludicrous comparaison between the situation we’re in now and the situation in the 1930s.

            2012/4/4 Disqus

          • It doesn`t really matter which of our borders are in danger or who is threatening us. 
            Your defence proposal claims that whoever it is or wherever it is, we will just ask them to wait right there at the border until we get those factories up and running and we`ll be right back.

            Wow ! –Looney Liberals and Daffy Dippers.

          • My defence proposal – and I will copy and paste it for you as you are totally delusional: ensuring that we can pick up  production of war materiels very quickly, and massively, and protect us from air attacks.  I do see a need for fighters.

            Tell me, which part of “I do see a need for fighters” do you not understand?

            Where in my text do you see any reference to relying on others? We are members of alliances and will continue to be. Are you suggesting that we get out of defense treaties we now have with the US?

            WOW Conservatives are often referred to as ConBots, and for good reasons.

            So it matters not from where an attack might come,that it might or might not come, what really want is to give blank cheques to politicians to buy very expensive equipment while circumventing the rules ensuring that taxpayers’ money is not wasted.

            You’re a gazebo lover! 

          • I am deeply, deeply hurt by your insinuation that I would be a Gazebo lover.
            I barely know the gazebos. 

          • Does this mean you were opposed to us staying the hell of of Vietnam?

          • Um, no.

        • All relevant questions, none of which detract from usacanuck’s point, however.

          I don’t think these particular planes are what Canada needs to adequately defend herself.  However, I don’t really have a lot of objections to the money being spent to that purpose.. I just want it spent wisely.

      • I don’t think America would let ANYONE come near North America.
        They got the nuclear power, NORAD.
        Let the War mongering USA do the dirty work.
        Buy every Canadian a house with the defense Money.

        • It’s nice to see the NDP defence critic visit this comment board.

          • So you’re still in support of sole-sourced planes that have limited range and can’t even meet specs that were massaged to ensure that only this plane could win the contract?  Why?

          • Where did I say that?  If you care to check, there’s nowhere on these boards where I defended the government’s handling of the F35 file.  You’re barking up the wrong tree, which seems to be a constant issue with people on these comment threads.

        • If you would like the US to defend your country for you, just let us know where to send the bill.

          Jeez where do we find these people?

  8. Hmmm…can’t understand the silence of our usual Conbot “Con”tributors…Got nothing eh…Liberals never done this before, can’t be seen as pro-Taliban/anti-our troops, demonizing the source…

  9. I don’t mind the Harperites creating thier own opinion, it’s creating their own facts that annoys me.

  10. Why does it take so long for disasters such as this to start sinking Harper? Well, it could be because he became Prime Minister with just the support of 25 per cent of eligible Canadian voters. The NDP and Liberals are going to do a pretty good job on this in the House, but we need stronger public input concerning such issues. Watch next week for the launch of the Campaign to build One Big Campaign. http://nickfillmore.blogspot.com/2012/03/part-two-of-three-part-series-what.html

    • Liberals have the support of 11% of eligible Canadian voters.
      Put that on your blog.

      • Yes, but they do not govern 100 the country with 11 per cent of the voters. Because of Canada’s outdated electoral system, the Cons are able to dictate — as they do — to the rest of Canadians with the support of only 25 per cent of the population. The support of the Liberals is irrelevant. 

        • For someone who enjoyed many years of employment with our generous publicly funded broadcaster you seem to have a bitter disdain for our democracy. 

          • Sadly, it is impossible to discuss anything in a reasonable way with rigid right-wingers such as yourself. The so-called democracy that you and Harper like — first-past-the-post — has been abandoned in most modern-thinking countries and replaced by proportional representation. In almost any other western country, Harper’s neo-liberals would never come close to winning an election.

          • OK, then you should pack up your blog and move on over to one of those ” modern-thinking countries “.
            Don`t forget to write.

  11. After watching Scott Taylor’s one-hour film on the F-35 on CPAC, this fighter-jet-challenged taxpayer has a few questions among which are –

    Why is the harper government so afraid of an open and transparent competition for a fighter jet to replace the CF-18 when so many experts had recommended it?

    Why does this country need to replace 80 twin-engine long-range (3,700km unarmed) CF-18s with 65 single-engine short-range (2,200km unarmed) first-strike stealth fighter-bombers?

    Why haven’t Canadians been told that there is a next-generation CF-18 (‘Superhornet’) already in production at a cost of one-half to one-third that of the still unknown but variously estimated cost of the F-35?

  12. they are laughing at us all while they play fast and loose with our money,lives, and way of life. thank you to all the canadians who voted for cons, you have been the most un-patriotic of all, you have done this to us.

    • Yes, Conservative voters are unpatriotic traitors.

      • Just like Kevin Page.

  13. So tired of the oppisition whining and crying about every farking thing

    • The opposition’s role is to oppose and criticize government, especially when they misstep.  That’s why they went after Gazebo Tony for missappropriating $50 million in border security funds.  That’s why they are going after the Prime Minister for lying about the costs of the F-35, and indeed lying about having a contract.

      What you are wishing for is known as a dictatorship.

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