First, they found out the military kept senior civil servant decision-makers and Parliament in the dark about the true estimated costs of the multibillion-dollar project to replace Canada’s aging CF-18s, and that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government didn’t press hard enough for answers as credible doubts arose about the program.
Second, they learned that at least Auditor General Michael Ferguson — who blew the whistle on the astonishingly inept handling of the fighter jet purchase in his report this week — can be critical of Ottawa’s handling of this matter without being childishly accused by overzealous Conservatives, including the prime minister, of not supporting the troops.
The auditor general’s stinging critique makes a mockery of the Conservatives’ repeated claims that the F-35 procurement process was on sound footing. Perhaps even worse, the Tories now look incompetent for stubbornly refusing to see what was in front of their eyes — that there was no way on Earth, despite Ottawa’s insistence otherwise, that the cost per plane could be $75 million when available data pointed to a price closer to almost twice that.
Yes, Mr. Harper has now yanked the project from the Department of National Defence, which went rogue and misled decision-makers to get the plane it wanted, and handed it to the same kind of secretariat, led by Public Works, that handled the shipbuilding contract. That’s the first sensible thing done on this file.
But beyond that, the government can’t expect to pretend this never happened. What about Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who seemed perfectly willing to allow himself to be misled by duplicitous bureaucrats? This fiasco was on his watch. Will he take responsibility?
And what of those in DND who wilfully hid costs and overstated industrial benefits to put a false polish on the F-35 apple? So far, there are no signs that anyone’s losing their job, or even being demoted, over one of the biggest scandals in Canadian history.
Canada still needs new fighter jets. The F-35 may still be part of the answer. But meanwhile, the Tories have just spectacularly shot down their own reputation for fiscal acumen.
Source: the chronicle herald