The skyrocketing F-35 costs: Politics on TV, Dec 6 edition

Talking about new F-35 revelations, plus gun control and the ongoing Middle East issues

Message of the day

“The government will not be changing the prohibited weapons category.”

Hot Topics

  1. F-35 cost revelations
  2. Gun control recommendations
  3. Canadians’ feelings on the Middle East

Questions not answered

  • Will the government table the KMPG report before the House rises for the winter break?

F-35 costs:

Power Play opened with an exclusive leak of the KPMG report that says that costs of the F-35s will exceed $30 billion dollars, and could go as high as $40 billion. Don Martin spoke with former defence procurement deputy minister Alan Williams, and David Perry of the CDA Institute, to discuss the findings. Williams said that he expects the price to keep climbing to between $40 and $50, because this is a complex developmental program that Canada got into too soon. Williams said that the government’s big mistake was in the estimates of the maintenance, which would be double the price of maintaining the CF-18s, because the F-35s have 24 million lines of software code as compared to the CF-18s having a million lines. Perry said that some of the cost increases can be attributed to the longer life cycle cost estimates, and that it certainly appears that the government is resetting the process.

Power Play’s MP panel of Matthew Kellway, Elizabeth May and Michelle Rempel were asked about the revelations, where Kellway said that the estimate price is an interim snapshot, as the plane won’t even be fully developed until 2019. Rempel said that they have taken the comments of the Auditor General and the opposition seriously, and that the secretariat put into place after the AG Report is all about transparency and openness. May said that she is concerned that we haven’t heard about the statement of requirements for the replacement fighter jets.

Gun control:

Power Play spoke with Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and member of the firearms advisory committee, about a story in the Toronto Star which said the committee recommendations looked at reclassifying prohibited weapons to “restricted.” Bernardo said that the problem is there are tens of thousands of small handguns that were brought back from World War I and II that are currently residing in trunks and attics, but they can’t be registered legally as heirlooms. Bernardo said the report simply asked for this to be examined rather than thrown out wholesale.

Bernardo was later on Power & Politics, where he added that it was up to the minister to take that advice or not. Regarding extending the licencing period from five years to 10, Bernardo said that the RCMP have developed a program called “continuous eligibility” whose technology wasn’t in place when the system was set up. He also added in a somewhat impolitic manner that he hasn’t seen “blood running in the streets” since the long-gun registry ended, and that he doesn’t think École Polytechnique shooting victim Natalie Provost has the expertise to comment on the rules.

On Power Play’s MP panel, May said that she was reassured by the Prime Minister’s answer today about not weakening the prohibited category, but there are gaps to fix after the destruction of the long-gun registry. Rempel said that they are trying to ensure that people who perpetrate gun violence are punished more severely.

Evan Solomon had an MP panel of Candace Bergen, Jack Harris and Carolyn Bennett, where Bergen said that the committee played a useful role but they do have concerns with some of the recommendations, and that they do believe in effective gun control. Harris said that it there is a disconnect when Vic Toews said the recommendations are under “active consideration,” and listed ways in which the government has been reducing gun control. Bennett said that it was ridiculous that gun lobbyists were experts in public safety, and that it was clear that police needed a presence on that committee in order to be credible.

P&P’s Power Panel weighed in, where John Ivison said that Bernardo’s insensitivity was an indication why the government was ignoring some of the committee’s recommendations. Gerry Caplan said that there is a “provocativeness” to the government’s messaging lately, be it on gun control, abortion, or Israel. Tom Flanagan said that if it were up to him, he would disband the committee because it served its purpose, and that Harper had no problem with existing gun regulations until the creation of the long-gun registry. Liza Frulla wondered if the committee was a means of keeping certain segments of the Conservative base busy.

The Middle East:

Power & Politics opened with a poll on Canadian attitudes toward the Middle East, and then spoke with an MP panel of Deepak Obhrai, Paul Dewar and John McKay about the issues at play. Obhrai reiterated that the minister made it clear that unilateral actions on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will hamper the peace process, and that settlement construction is a unilateral action. Dewar said that the government’s actions have abandoned a balanced approach and noted that the Palestinians aren’t building settlements. McKay noted that for much of our history we didn’t have an Israel-only policy but a policy on the region, and that Canadians are dissatisfied by the indifference Harper shows to the UN. All of the MPs were concerned about the news that Syria may be contemplating the use of chemical weapons.

Martin spoke with Constanza Musu of the University of Ottawa, who said that military intervention in Syria is still unlikely at this stage because it would require an approval at the UN, where Russia and China would likely veto it. Musu said that the Responsibility to Protect doctrine has its own conditions attached, including a benchmark of success.

P&P’s Power Panel gave their thoughts, where Ivison said that Harper did phone Netanyahu to condemn the move to create new settlements. Caplan said that the government realized they went too far, and perhaps felt uncomfortable being alone in the world. Flanagan said that the government has ended up in a more-or-less even-handed place, and isn’t sure what else they can do. Frulla said that Harper’s international policy is more influenced by domestic considerations because Canada has so little influence in the world.

On Power Play’s journalists panel, Craig Oliver said that Harper is now trying to use his clout with Israel to get Netanyahu to back down on the settlements.

Worth Noting:

  • AFN Regional Chief for Saskatchewan, Perry Bellegarde said that the unilateral imposition of legislation by the government has led to the frustrations that led to the march on the Hill, and that the government needs to recognize its treaty obligations.
  • Natural Resources minister Joe Oliver said that a key part of the Responsible Resource Development legislation is engagement and consultation with Aboriginal communities earlier in the process.
  • Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre says that climate change conferences like the one at Doha are a dead horse being flogged, and that green technologies won’t achieve widespread pick-up until they are cost-competitive.
  • Tzeporah Berman of Forest Ethics said disagreed, saying that fossil fuel industries have an undue influence at these kinds of conferences, and that green technologies will be competitive once governments stop subsidizing fossil fuels.
  • Bill Curry said that ethics rules in the House and Senate tend to be pretty loose, so it may be hard to find any Senators in breach of them if they are claiming living expenses for their primary residences in Ottawa.
  • Author Roy Mayer told the story of journalist Henry Harper, who died trying to save someone drowning in the Ottawa River after a skating accident 114 years ago today, and was honoured with a statue of Sir Galahad in front of Parliament Hill.

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