Problem: The Department of National Defence says it needs 65 warplanes, but $9 billion may not be enough to purchase 65 warplanes of the F-35 variety. Luckily, Colin Horgan has a $3.5-billion back-up plan.
Assuming that money is available, the government could use that $3.54 billion to hold a separate, open and fair competition for another, different fighter jet. The second plane could act as an interim buffer to tide Canada over between the decommissioning of the CF-18s and the delivery of the F-35s.
Against the other international alternatives, the winner of that competition would likely be the F-18 Super Hornet – a plane suitable to Canada’s needs in the Arctic (it’s a twin engine, for one). The Air Force is already equipped to handle the F-18, and with its contract from Boeing, Canada could theoretically obtain a traditional industrial regional benefits package – another thing the F-35 program lacks.