Mr. Speaker, I am using this time to talk about issues relating to the F-35 procurement. I am seeking clarity as there is considerable dissonance between the minister's talking points and what experts have been saying on the F-35. I will use this time to set out in a very broad way the wide gulf between the experts and the government and offer the government an opportunity to close that gap for us.
Tomorrow is the much anticipated Auditor General's spring report. It will review the government's conduct with respect to this procurement and its commitment to the F-35. This is timely as we have long awaited some clarity on this procurement initiative. Perhaps the government will use this evening as an opportunity to provide that clarity before the AG does.
Six weeks after issuing the statement of operational requirements for the CF-18 replacement, the government announced that 65 F-35s would be purchased for $16 billion. The first problem here is that a process which experts say would normally take about two years was done in a fraction of that time, just six weeks.
The next issue is cost. The Parliamentary Budget Officer's independent analysis has concluded that the F-35s will cost at least $30 billion, nearly twice as much as the government's estimate. Despite this, the minister has repeatedly said that by selecting the F-35 Canadian soldiers are getting “the best equipment at the best price”.
On March 2, after a meeting with the F-35 partners, the minister repeated his well used talking points claiming that “good progress” was being made. However, a week later, we learned that the head of the Pentagon's F-35 program had told the associate minister that production slowdowns would further increase the cost of each plane. The question arises: Why did the minister not share this information with Canadians?
Briefing notes dating back to last September indicate that while the government was saying that all was well with the program, it was privately concerned about price, production and the transparency of the program. A day after the Pentagon's top weapons buyer called the F-35 production plan an “acquisition malpractice”, the minister stood up to reaffirm commitment to the program.
The government has repeatedly said that it selected the F-35 because it alone meets the mandatory requirements. On numerous occasions the minister called the F-35 “the best and only aircraft that meets the needs of Canada's armed forces”. Last week, I received a document he had signed that said the same thing. However, on that same day the CBC revealed evidence indicating that this statement was not accurate.
How can we reconcile what the government is telling us with expert analysis when the information it gives us is so glaringly different from what everyone else is saying?