The Commons: The $25 billion question -

The Commons: The $25 billion question

The F-34 affair is, of course, even more complicated than a matter of different numbers


The Scene. Joe Comartin stepped out from behind his desk and presented the question of the moment.

“This morning the Auditor General has said the responsibility for the misleading information that came to this House about the cost lies directly in the cabinet of the Conservative government,” the NDP House leader reported. “I would ask the Prime Minister today, will he stand in this House and tell us whether in fact the cabinet knew what the true costs were going to be for the F-35s?”

The Prime Minister might not have been expected to stand here: Mr. Harper generally declining to answer questions put to him by anyone who isn’t the leader of a recognized party. But here he stood to respond. Not to answer the question at hand, but to respond nonetheless.

“Mr. Speaker, once again, the government has not actually purchased any airplanes. The government plans to do that some years hence, and we will set up an independent committee to supervise that process,” he reassured. “What the Auditor General in fact did say is that in terms of his report the government is taking steps in the right direction. Of course he also confirms that no money has been spent on this acquisition.”

Mr. Comartin was unimpressed. “Mr. Speaker, is that not typical?” he lamented. “Again no responsibility, no true information coming to this House.”

The issue here is a matter of billions.

When the Harper government announced its decision to acquire 65 warplanes of the F-35 variety, the declared price for “aircraft and associated weapons, infrastructure, initial spares, training simulators, contingency funds and project operating costs” was “approximately $9 billion.” That was July 16, 2010. That same day, the tab, factoring in a 20-year timeline, seems to have grown to $16 billion.

Thing is, as of June 2010, the Department of National Defence had an internal estimate for aircraft, moderations, training, weapons, infrastructure, contingency, operating costs and personnel that totalled $25.1 billion over 20 years.

(It is, of course, even more complicated than a matter of different numbers. The Auditor General found that “there is no documented analysis” to explain how the government’s public figures were developed. Furthermore, estimates for purchase price remain “in flux” and “estimates for sustainment costs are not fully developed.” As a result, “there is a risk that these budgets may not be sufficient.” And, for that matter, operating on a 20-year timeline shortchanges the expected lifespan of the planes by at least 16 years.)

“Mr. Speaker, I have a very direct question,” Bob Rae prefaced his first query, apparently feeling such a gambit needed explaining in this place. “When was the Prime Minister first aware that the true cost of the proposed aircraft was $25 billion and not $16 billion? On what date was he aware of this fact?”

The Prime Minister stood, but ignored the question entirely.

“Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has asked the government to have the department officials revise their cost estimates and table those in Parliament. That is precisely what the government is going to do to ensure that the information is accurate,” he offered instead. “We are taking additional steps to independently verify that information. We will be fully transparent with Parliament on that information.”

This quite displeased Mr. Rae. Edging forward in his spot, voice rising, he pumped his left fist and then wagged his right finger and turned a light shade of maroon in the face.

“Mr. Speaker, this is a Prime Minister who, when he was in opposition, used the “accountability” word each and every day. He is now leading a government which is an exercise in organized hypocrisy. The Conservatives are not prepared to accept any consequences. They are not even prepared to tell the truth,” he charged. “Let me ask, one more time, one simple question. When did the Prime Minister become aware, for the first time, that the true cost of the aircraft proposed was $25 billion and not the $16 billion fiction that he has been presenting to the House of Commons for 21 long months? When did he know?”

The Prime Minister stood, but ignored the question entirely.

“Mr. Speaker, I understand the honourable member’s need for attention these days,” he chided.

“You misled Parliament!” came a voice from the Liberal corner.

Switching to French, Mr. Rae gave it one last try. “Mr. Speaker, the person who needs attention is the Prime Minister of Canada, because it is he who refuses to tell the truth before the House of Commons,” the interim Liberal leader shot back. “When was the Prime Minister made ​​aware of the truth?”

The Prime Minister stood, but ignored the question entirely. Verified figures will be presented to Parliament as soon as they are available, he assured.

“Answer the question!” demanded a voice from the Liberal corner.

“Liar, liar!” called another.

Various Conservatives groaned and grumbled at this airing of the l-word.

Now it was Matthew Kellway’s turn. “Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General suggested this morning that Conservative ministers knew they were low-balling the cost estimates in response to the PBO’s report and we want to know when they knew that information, when they knew that the PBO’s estimates were accurate,” the New Democrat MP offered. “It is clear that they knew before the last election and failed to tell Canadians the truth. Did the government know the true cost before the Minister of National Defence did his top-gun photo shoot and announced the government was going to purchase this F-35? When will somebody take responsibility?”

Peter MacKay stood and sought to correct his tormentor. “Mr. Speaker,” the Defence Minister declared, “once again the member opposite is misrepresenting what the Auditor General said.”

But Mr. Kellway had a news bulletin for the minister.

“Mr. Speaker, it is true that the Auditor General was in committee, today but he was also in scrum in front of the media this morning,” he explained. “He was very clear in scrum when he said that the government knew about the $25 billion estimate and that it was low-balling. He meant cabinet ministers.”

The New Democrat wondered if any government minister might stand and take responsibility for “this fiasco.”

Up came Mr. MacKay. “Mr. Speaker, that is what we are doing,” he ventured. “We are accepting the Auditor General’s conclusions. We are accepting the recommendation that he has made. We are going further than that recommendation, putting in place a comprehensive plan to respond to this concern.”

“You misled Parliament!” called Mr. Rae from the far end of the room.

Undeterred, here Mr. MacKay decided to make a joke.

“The member can light his hair on fire, or not,” he mocked, “but he can listen to the Auditor General’s words and be accurate.”

Mr. Kellway, you see, is bald.

The business of the House now pauses for two weeks. If one assumes this won’t all be resolved by then, Mr. MacKay might need to spend the time coming up with more jokes.

The Stats. Military procurement, 15 questions. Ethics, National Defence and gas prices, three questions each. The CBC, government services, affordable housing, Katimavik and firearms, two questions each. Employment, veterans and aboriginal affairs, one question each.

Peter MacKay, eight responses. Stephen Harper, six responses. James Moore, four responses. Rona Ambrose, Peter Van Loan, Ted Menzies and Christian Paradis, three responses each. Kellie Leitch, two responses. Julian Fantino, Eve Adams, John Duncan, Candice Hoeppner and Maxime Bernier, one response each.


The Commons: The $25 billion question

  1. I notice you took the advice of some previous comments and switched from “answers” to “responses.” Nice. Though I do look forward to the day where we can see legitimate answers instead.

    • I wonder if Wherry would take some new advice and change the opposition ” questions ” to opposition ” whoever can scream the loudest will get the love of the few remaining leftists “

      •  “When did the PM become aware of the real cost of the planes?” isn’t a real and legitimate question?   It isn’t a question to which I and the rest of the country whom he leads on behalf of, and who pay his salary are entitled an answer?

  2. And they have their corporate brothers-in-arms out in the wild with the
    “well, it’s not good but it’s not THAT bad” chorus in full swing.

    Off topic .. but not really .. the good folks at APTN are starting to sniff
    around the still-stirring remnants of Bruce Carson. Good for them.

  3. Wow – many more lies and the little boy’s nose will be so long, he’ll topple over.  Prime Minister Pinocchio – and wooden to boot!

  4. Cicero ~ o tempora o mores!

  5. Oct 31. 2002
    Harper to Chretien:
    ” should adopt the all-party Catterall-Williams report on accountabilty and crutiny of government spending”

  6. Wow.  G & M has Russian Sukhois as one of our potential options.  I doubt Russia would sell to us but those things could maybe give Raptors a run for their money in a dogfight.  Their problem years ago was finding pilots skilled enough to manupulate the naturally unstable plane’s incredible maneuvering ability.  If CHC Helicopter could build Jet Simulators…
    In other news you guys didn’t make the evil list.  Forbes and Microsoft and Eli Lilly did.  Those Libertopians are fucking nuts.  A maimed little Parliamentary Squirrel’s nuts were eaten by a cat.  Big squirrels are okay but you guys should be covering a story about the little squirrels stuck living with alley cats.  Have whoever is on the Environment Portfolio weigh them or ultimate fight-test them.  And this is real fighting, not your pussyfoot everything banned.  400 squirrels vs the losing CPC Senator.

  7. The transformation is now virtually complete: Harper has finally morphed into the very entity he vilified so self-righteously before he ascended to the dictatorship of the CPC: an arrogant, deceiving, contemptuous, self-important tyrant, as bad as any of the Ottawa establishment he claimed he would bring low.

    And the frightening part is he seems to lack insight into the arrant hypocrisy…or worse yet, he is aware of it and is enjoying every moment.

    • He’s gone way beyond what he used to vilify; he makes the late-years Chretien seem open, honest and modest by comparison.

      • It has to be disturbing to thoughtful, sincerely populist, small government believers who carried him on their shoulders to the promised land in the hope he would reclaim government for the people. They’re silent here but I wonder how they’re processing all this.

        • Yeah, we are all real sad…….. and confused too. 
          We are all wondering who we will cozy up to now—-Mulcair or Rae.

          •  A good law firm would be a better bet

          • That’s either lame sarcasm or a cry for help…only you would know.

    • I don’t believe he was ever anything but an “arrogant, deceiving, contemptuous, self-important tyrant” though possibly he has gotten more arrogant, contemptuous and self-important. But I’m an Albertan and I never trusted him.

  8. Gawd, if we put $25B into education we’d be the most advanced nation on earth.

    • Naw, while it would easily pay the tuition, there wouldn’t be enough room for all 33 million of us in the best schools on the globe.

      •  LOL lots of room online

        •  Perfect! Imagine a virtual university of cyber-canucks.

          •  It’s the way education is going all over the world….why should WE be left behind?

          • Why? Because, right now Canada has the most primitive, immorally expensive internet infrastructure in the developed world…something Muskoka Tony promised to fix quite a while ago, before his attention span was captured by the twitterverse.

            I know all about this because I live in an internet wasteland in the boonies.

            Sorry, ‘way off topic…

          •  @neuroticdog:disqus

            Yup….all Canadians should have proper access….but that doesn’t change the fact $20B would revolutionize our education system.

          • Absolutely. I’m a retired college teacher so no argument here…education instead of ridiculously overpriced jets.

    • Still annoyed U of M had 2001 IPCC posters wallpapered around forestry building projecting arctic precipitation loss.  2007 IPCC projections 100mm annual precipitation rise, to 400mm.
      Big difference.  5C or so was the warming 50M yrs ago from melting (and subsequent drying?) permafrost, possibly an amplification of orbital cycles tuned for a minor warming…

      A dogfighting thread makes me think we should get the best simulators, and ask the pilots what they like.  The F-22 wiki puts additional Jet costs from $70M-$420M.  What about getting enough F-22s, designed for dogfighting, to fill whatever dogfighting roles we have projected?  Maybe that is 24 planes?  Put more into pilot training then planned…and sit tight until someone has a multi-role plane ready?  How much would our own retro-fitted Avro Arrow cost to revive?  If everyone is cancelling F-35, would USA revive F-22 (Dec cancelled).  One of the selling pts of F-35 was supposed to be cheaper than F-22.  The USA researches Chinese and Russia fleets and R+D timelines of future fleets of China and Russia, along with market research of allies needs, then military-industrial adds an imaginary multiplier…what do we do?

      •  This is not Snoopy and the Red Baron, we won’t be ‘dogfighting’ anyone.

        Fighter planes have been obsolete since the advent of ICBMs

        • Even more obsolete with the advent of drones. A lot of a modern aircraft’s cost is technology is dedicated to the safety of the pilot (and rightly so).

          • I think I could disable a drone using balloons, CCD cameras, and lasers if I had warning I was on a list.
            What if Iran nukes someone?  What if a country like Somalia, except with SAMs, maybe Indonesia in the future, sinks a Canadian Destroyer?
            What if Russia starts setting up an oil rig in our archipalego and stations an aircraft carrier nearby.  Especially for the latter, we need to be the ones to sink the carrier, not someone else.

          • ..what if those tar pipelines get built?

          • If you’re intent on arming this nation against every possible scenario you can invent, I don’t think even the Cons could dedicate enough $$ (although they seem prepared to try).

            In the highly unlikely event one or more of these calamities unfolds as generated in your febrile imagination, I recommend you run downstairs and hide in your root cellar. I’m told the fetal position is the best posture.

          • All cases where a first-strike attack stealth fighter would be useful? Sounds like all those scenarios are where the first stealth attack already occurred and could have been mitigated by talking aforehand.

          • “..what if those tar pipelines get built?”

            Well we would certainly need to defend those….. :-)  just about the only case where attack stealth fighter planes would be useful is defending our natural resources – made more valuable by global climate change.

          • Not necessarily stealth or F-35, but we might need some airforce, even present planes, to exert a peaceful influence.
            If Iran sinks an Israeli ship, and Israel missiles Iran ports, and Iran missiles Israeli air bases, and Israel bunker busts nuke facilities under Tehran, and Tehran nukes Israel, and Israel nukes Iran and invades neighbouring Iran allies…Russia and EU will be very curious what our response (along with everyone else’s) is.  “Peacekeeping” might involve shooting down every aircraft between Israel and Iran…

          •  @d856c260f35c9b3c8ab2ae2166ff0a99:disqus

            ‘Russia and EU will be very curious what our response (along with everyone else’s) is.’

            Why would we respond at all?

          • The US likes to pretend to be the world’s policeman. Canadians are not stupid enough to expect Canada to police the world. It’s always better to talk than to start stupid wasteful wars.

          • OE1:  “Why would we respond at all?”
            Pearson responded during Suez Crisis to either give USSR and USA time to think, or to act, in a way that arrested the Israeli, UK, and French, hawkish positions.

            The key detail would be we would need to already have, or quickly get, airbases in Asia and maybe Africa.  I like this military aerial objective.  We know the North will need attention, and have time to wait for it to melt.  We have NATO commitments.  I like the idea of enforcing a unilateral Canadian no-fly zone in an international conflict where a nuclear weapon has been used against a population.  It doesn’t matter too much if we win the engagements or not.  The idea would be to shoot everything in sight down, long enough for others to copy and eventually hit missile sites and airfields.  With aerial superiority a ceasefire would be easier.  The plan would be to make Canadian airforce the target of the combatant nations.  It is a crazy plan.  I like it.

          • I totally agree with you, it is a crazy plan.

          • @The Keystone Garter 

            Under the scenario you gave us, we wouldn’t be responding at all…except for help in a clean-up crew.

  9. Fast forward a short time into the future of the interested public:

    Yeah, there was some kind of hullaboo a while back.
     The opposition were trying to bring down the elected government by insinuating that the reporting of estimates by the government to purchase some airplanes was inaccurate and therefore……bad bad government……blah, blah, blah.
    The government decided with the advice of the Auditor General, amongst others, not to purchase the original plane and has since moved on to make the purchase elsewhere.

    If there was any inclination of the public to examine this story closely and possibly punish the government then it has been lost a long time ago due to the constant whining and braying and crying wolf  from the opposition and media like Wherry about insignificant tidbits like wafers and bodybags and robocalls and census and contempt and ………well you get the picture.
    Sorry guys, you converts may think these non-stories are important but most of us don`t.

    Your constant braying has left us just wanting to shut you all off. Had you exercised some restraint and good judgement, maybe we would have listened. But now it is just noise. Blame Rae, blame Mulcair, blame Wherry, blame yourselves.

    •  Tsk tsk…bitter tonight. LOL

    • If you’re merely a CPC communications flack, you present yet further evidence that this government is in trouble.

      If you’re not, you’d be doing them a favour by remaining silent. Dismissive indifference in the face of legitimate criticism is rarely a good idea.

      • And if you think the narrow and hysterical opinions of retired school teachers have any credibility, than you are representative of what is wrong with our opposition parties.

        •  There is nothing wrong with our opposition parties, they are doing their job.

          You just don’t like it.

        • Thanks for exemplifying the dismissive attitude that infects this government and its shills regarding legitimate dissent. With contributions like yours I can rest my case.

          • Hey, you are the one who chose to try to label my contribution as that of a flack.

            I am simply pointing out the similarity between your views and actions and that of the opposition parties. If you think it`s working—carry on.

        • Anti-education bias on display.  It’s always denied  by the Cons but it pokes out when they let their guard down.  Meanwhile the government has backed down from new ammo legislation after what no doubt was hysterical’ reaction from the gun lobby. 

          • Yes, Conservatives hate education.

          • Even you’ve noticed it, that is something.

    •  Who are the “most of us” you’re referring to?   A majority of the 39%?

    • Love the vintage talking points – they never get tired – no wait, they must have lulled me into a trance – they’re beyond tired, they’re the Norwegian Blue of political messaging.  They need a decent buriel.

      • Those are not really their words but the words sent to them daily by the PMO too earn their trolling fee’s.You know those 15000 hired trolls by Harper too spy on all blogs and report to Harper himself. They are too stupid to understand that when the PM is done with them, they will be tossed out like yesterdays garbage with no hesitation and likely no warning. A bunch of parrots living in Red Neck country and living in their parents basements and likely stoned 24/7

    • Bullsh!t.

       You build a case by chipping away at the stone and building a narrative. Canadians are slow to awaken, but once they do, they act with authority.

       What do you think Harper did in the Opposition benches?

      • Good question !
        I will tell you what you didn`t do—he did not go off sideways every time a party worker saw an opportunity to possibly embarrass the Liberal government.
        There is a planning and a strategic component to an opposition Party. It requires intelligence, focus, and discipline. Harper chose to focus on the Sponsorship Scandal in order to highlight the Liberal tendency to use public money to fund their own projects.
        You guys have no no focus and no discipline.
        The only people who grant any credibility to opposition constant whining are the diehard followers—-and that is probably 10% of the voters, some of which spend their lives on these boards.

        This story will die in a short time, just like all the other fake scandals and just like the next bunch.

        • While I happen to agree that in all probability nothing will come of this, and I agree that by-and-large people aren’t going to care about this, I disagree that this is a ‘fake scandal.’ What happened was not ‘nothing’, and was not something that should go unremarked. The opposition is quite right in ‘braying’ about this — whether anything comes of it or not isn’t really the point. They were on the right side of the issue before the election… and they’re on the right side of this issue now. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who follows these sorts of things to argue with a straight face that they’re not.

          • The best thing that can come out of this story is that there is a serious message sent to Armed Forces bureaucrats and the Minister of Defence that we will not tolerate massive overspending on any type of futuristic toys. Good solid defence equipment is needed but let`s not have the type of ridiculous expenditure that is usually connected with the Americans.

            This is the type of message that the public would like the opposition parties to take the lead in sending. However, I suspect that Harper has already sent a message to both the bureaucrats and MacKay, who has reached his pinnacle.

          • Ironically, in your first paragraph you describe the opposition’s position before the election. They were then accused of not supporting the troops, and of trying to scuttle a ‘done deal’ and killing Canadian jobs in the process. Oh, and by taking what was obviously the right position, the opposition… lost the election. They followed your advice even before you gave it… and lost.

            Any other ideas on how the opposition should play this one?

          • The main selling point of F-35 is the partial stealth (good from certain plane cross-sections).  I don’t think (not sure) it is useful against any aerial opposition.  It isn’t good enough to beat SAMs built in this century for sure.  I don’t think it would’ve been necessary for 1980s SAMs even, certainly not 1970s.  There is a narrow window where partial stealth is useful, and I’d guess stealth doubles the cost of these planes, at least for early buyers.  F-35 stealth useful against China or future India Naval anti-aircraft munitions?  Can we project F-35s up north?!

          •  Oh, but they will tolerate massive overspending.  And they will lie to Canadians faces repeatedly that they are not overspending in the most brazen manner.

          • You’re assuming Harper doesn’t want these at any cost.  He knows as much as anyone about the cost escalation and until the AG’s report, was totally gung ho to purchase them.

          • A decent political party should know how to connect with the people.
            Bob Rae should speak more with the calmness of a Cotler or D McGuinty and less like a Bennett or Coderre.
            More specific and useful criticicm like Keystone Garter just did will be well received.
            You gotta know the strategy of the past few years has been a disaster. That cannot be solely the result of a strong and capable government.

          • So the fact that they were right is secondary to how they said it. Huh.

          • You may not like it, but perception is a part of politics.
            For example, last year the opposition parties had the legal right to have a vote and call the government of Canada in contempt of Parliament. They may have thought they were right, but the perception was horrible on them—-only pleasing the diehard supporters. Ask 100 Canadians today  why the government was held in contempt and I doubt if 3 could answer correctly.

            A little strategy and discipline would make a more effective opposition.

          • You’re up to your *ss in alligators and still take the time to give free advice to the opposition – such generosity.

      • Emulate the mind of his heroes R.Klein, R.Reagan and D.Cheney?
        You learn better by doing.  I think I scarfed down 3 of those free burgers in Cgy in 2003.  My friends had even more.  They never age…

    • Who are you – ‘Joe the Plumber’? 

  10. Wrong place….deleted

  11. At least get the headline right: it is not the F-34 but the F-35

  12. Lies my future prime ministers told me:

    1) Zap your frozen.  Trudeau promised no wage and price controls.
    2) We will cancel the GST.  Chretien promised to get rid of the GST.
    3) The estimates for the total cost of the F35’s the twenty years after we start buying them over five years from now is $16 billion dollars.  Harper subsequently tells us the real projected cost is $25 billion dollars and halts/reviews the program.

    Harper’s lie is a little white lie compared to the whoppers Trudeau and Chretien told, yet the mainstream media seems to think that Harper’s lying about the projected cost of a future program.

    And contrast this with how the Liberals hid the actual cost of the long gun registry, and the actual billions (not projected billions) wasted on cancelling and rebuying helicopters.


    Woe is us. 

    Justin Trudeau seems to have things in the proper context.  The democracy is in such danger that he is having charity boxing matches.   Mulcair also seems to realize the the old guard Liberals and the mainstream media OUTRAGE ALL THE TIME just isn’t working.

    • Oh, Harper’s got a few others under his belt:
      Income Trusts
      Senate Appointments
      Parliamentary procedure (coalitions)
      Fixed election dates
      Appointments commission
      Recessions occurring
      Cap & Trade

    •  we should be selling you a teething ring and a pair of boxing gloves jerk.  Pay checks must be fairly high to sound like an idiot and by  selling your soul to the devil Harper.

       Some religion you trolls belong too BUD. Held in the very darkness of your messed up mind and in  a very dark room. Sounds like a coven to me. I think you are in very serious trouble and should bail out now while you possibly can.

      • Yes, Harper is the Devil and all Conservatives worship Satan.

  13.  And it clearly  shows every time they open their mouths

  14.  And what if we are blasted by an atomic bomb?The “what if.’s are endless” Canada CANNOT afford those pricy fighter jets and they are not necessary ever.The little boys in Harpers regiem have to grow up and grow a brain at the same time.

    • Yes, Conservatives do not have any brains.  This has been proven via the well-respected science of phrenology.

      •  Oh go ahead and admit to astrology and alchemy too….you know you want to.

  15. P.MacKay said there are operating and maintenance costs that are equivalent with F-35, incurred by our CF-18s.  How long do we have before the current fleet is unsafe?  When do the costs for CF-18s rise, and when do the irreplaceable widgets break at the same time?  I’m not to worried about our adversaries; Chretein and Martin didn’t merge the banks in 98-99.  Many other nations are now buying new F-15s (same as CF-18).  We could do the same too if we had to unless really unfriendly USA administration.  We could even prepare a plan with existing domestic base to rapidly build Arrows if we had to.  How much for F-15s that Americans are selling to recessioned clients that were gonna buy F-35?  They are desparate for foreign dollars now.
    For the Bomber Stadium, existing one had mold in players room.  If it took more than a few million dollars to get rid of that, it is a stadium closer.  Can’t have respiratory illness.