In The Media

Trudeau would scrap F-35 bid, divert money to navy

by Janice Dickenson (feat. David Perry)

September 20, 2015

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau aimed to expose weakness in the Tories’ defence procurement strategy as he outlined his party’s priorities – which include spending more money on the navy by scrapping the controversial F-35 fighter jet.

“Our Canadian Forces are in a state of stagnation,” Trudeau told a cheering room of nearly 800 supporters at Pier 21 in Halifax Sunday afternoon. Trudeau was joined by Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.

Instead of sticking with the Conservatives’ expensive F-35 fighter jet plan, Trudeau would launch an open and transparent competition to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18’s, he said.

He said cancelling the F-35 jet would save “tens of billions of dollars,” and that money would be reallocated to the navy. But while Trudeau promises not to lapse military funding from year to year – instead re-investing in the military – he could not put a price tag on how much the navy would receive because it depends on the outcome of the competition to replace the CF-18’s.

The Conservative government planned on buying 65 F-35 jets for the Royal Canadian Air Force but the plan was put on hold after the auditor general said the government’s plan lacked sufficient research. The purchase would have cost taxpayers an estimated $44 billion.

Speaking at an event in Windsor, Ontario, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said the Royal Canadian Air Force needs the jet because of its ability to replace the CF-18’s that are currently deployed in air operations in Iraq and Syria.

“We, along with our allies, have been using this exact capacity with our current CF-18s in various parts of the world, including right now in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” said Harper.

But according to Dave Perry, the senior analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Trudeau’s made a lot of “excellent points.”

Perry said Trudeau’s commitment to existing funding, implementing a full and open defence review and the fact that he has prioritized defence investments is a “really good start toward putting defence on a sound fiscal footing.”

Restarting the process to replace Canada’s CF-18s with a focus on protecting North America rather than participating in international engagements is a good idea, said Perry.

Trudeau made other promises in Halifax, where shipbuilding is a hallmark for employment. He pledged to speed up the navy’s “capital renewal,” which he described as recognizing that “what the shipyards in Halifax and the west coast need are guarantees that the money is going to flow – that we are going to build the ships.”

Trudeau said the Conservatives initially promised six to eight ships in Halifax and that the Parliamentary Budget Officer said the Conservatives only budgeted for four – Trudeau said the Liberal Party is committed to ensuring there will be at least six ships.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney took to Twitter to respond to Trudeau, saying the Conservatives’ National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy already ensures 21 vessels will be built in Halifax. Five to six Arctic patrol ships and 15 surface combatant vessels will be built in the city’s shipyards, he said.

Trudeau reiterated his promise to make significant investments to meet the needs of veterans and to re-open the nine closed veterans affairs offices.

Trudeau’s continuing his east-coast tour with a rally in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador, Sunday evening.

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