By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Stinging criticism of the political and bureaucratic fiasco surrounding the F-35 by…
OTTAWA – Stinging criticism of the political and bureaucratic fiasco surrounding the F-35 by the country’s budget officer and even the auditor general was edited out of the final version of a parliamentary investigation, a draft copy of the report shows.
The Conservative-dominated all-party House of Commons public accounts committee held seven hours of hearings and spent much more time arguing with Opposition members behind closed doors last spring and fall over the handling of the stealth fighter program.
A Nov. 1, 2012 copy of the draft report, obtained by The Canadian Press, shows some of the most pointed critiques of Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page and Auditor General Michael Ferguson — both of whom testified before the committee — were removed or softened in the report’s final version.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 8:36 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – There’s been hand-wringing within the federal bureaucracy about whether Canadian aerospace companies…
OTTAWA – There’s been hand-wringing within the federal bureaucracy about whether Canadian aerospace companies will receive all the contracts expected from the oft-maligned F-35 program, an internal assessment shows.
The concern is that the project will face substantial cuts in the U.S., which would affect suppliers world-wide, including 72 Canadian companies that have received US$438 million in contracts to date.
A newly released analysis from last summer calls the potentially fewer orders of the stealth fighter an important concern.
The U.S. is facing what may be massive defence cuts if lawmakers in Washington cannot agree on deficit-fighting plans, and the long overdue F-35 program is widely acknowledged as a huge target.
By John Geddes - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
When it comes to assessing the performance of political leaders, there’s often a good deal of talk about how well they succeed at setting the agenda. But since the agenda rarely conforms for long to anyone’s manipulations, what matters more is how well they adjust to the unexpected.
Stephen Harper didn’t plan for aboriginal affairs to emerge as the dominant federal issue at the start of 2013. But when the House resumes sitting on Jan. 28, he’ll have to cope anyway with a first order of business imposed largely by Idle No More and Theresa Spence.
The Prime Minister will try, judging from his own public statements and comments made by his officials and cabinet ministers, to pull this unwieldy set of issues, foisted on him by shopping-mall drum circles and a fasting chief, into the safer confines of his own, preferred economic agenda.
By The Canadian Press - Friday, January 25, 2013 at 6:00 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A questionnaire meant to gauge what options exist to replace the air…
OTTAWA – A questionnaire meant to gauge what options exist to replace the air force’s aging CF-18 fighters has landed on the desks of aerospace companies in North America and Europe.
The 15-page survey is considered the first step in evaluating whether the Conservative government should bail out of its planned — and controversial — F-35 stealth fighter deal with U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin.
It is considered a “draft” and asks potential rivals to outline the capabilities of their aircraft, but does not request detailed cost information.
That will come in a follow-up survey next month. It also leaves the door open for aerospace companies to give suggestions on what questions the government might have missed, or what technical aspects should be explored.
Lockheed Martin has been asked to fill out the survey along with other potential bidders including: U.S-based Boeing with its Super Hornet; EADS Eurofighter, also known as the Typhoon; Dassault, which is selling its French-built Rafale; and the Saab-manufactured Gripen from Sweden.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 3:30 PM - 0 Comments
Paul Wells on Stephen Harper’s recent reversals
The other day Stephen Harper’s government announced it will support an NDP bill that will require officers of Parliament to be fluent in French and English. “Our support for this bill,” said Industry Minister Christian Paradis, “sends a clear message that the promotion of the two official languages, now more than ever, guides the actions of the federal government.”
Paradis’s comment was accurate. But it would have been more precise if, instead of “now more than ever,” he had said, “now more than in October 2011, when we appointed an auditor general who couldn’t speak French and spent months insisting that was no big deal.” In short, the government is now preparing to require, by law, that it not do what it just did.
It has been that kind of month. More or less explicit repudiation of previous acts and stances has been the theme of the year-end for Stephen Harper and his colleagues. One of the questions we are left with is how Harper, notoriously a risk-averse, control-freak incrementalist, managed to leave hundreds of feet of skid marks around a bunch of big files.
Take the new jet fighters. We used to call them F-35s, but now we are less sure. In the office of Rona Ambrose, the public works minister, there is a jar. I am told in all seriousness that if anyone involved in ﬁnding a replacement for Canada’s aging F-18 fighter fleet calls that replacement “the F-35,” the minister has them put a dollar in the jar. That’s how adamant Ambrose is that the choice of the F-35 not be locked in.
Of course for two years the government was adamant that the choice of the F-35 was locked in. It’s a little cruel to dig up old quotes on this. But just one. On March 10, 2011, the Prime Minister said: “This is the option that was selected some time ago, because it is the only option available,” he said. “This is the only fighter available that serves the purposes that our air force needs.” Hope you have a dollar for the jar, big guy.
Of course what happened is that times changed. The government’s costing of the F-35 was optimistic and short-term to begin with. Optimism worked out the way it usually does when you’re buying something big and untested. The old talking points grew stale, then ludicrous, and the government stuck with them until the government looked stale and ludicrous, and now it denies saying what it once said. None of this is a tragedy: the jets haven’t been bought, no purchase order has been cancelled, there is still time to choose a more realistic course. But it’s all been a bit awkward.
Take energy. A year ago Harper pronounced the nation’s energy sector open for business, shed a tear for the newly reluctant Yankee customer who had blown whatever right he might once have had to our bounty, and looked eastward, which means westward across the Pacific, to new markets. These markets included China, which was new only in the sense that Harper had spent five years hoping he could find some other market as ravenous as China but less, well, Communist. The Chinese welcomed our new-found willingness to sell them things, and responded with new-found eagerness to buy Canadian things. Things like Alberta. Harper faced another conundrum.
At the beginning of the month he announced his solution: state-owned enterprises would be permitted to buy Canadian firms just this once, and then not again. His stated reason was that if too many state-owned enterprises from one country bought up parts of the oil patch, it would constitute foreign government ownership of an entire industry. So he would permit two proposed takeovers, including the purchase of Nexen by China’s CNOOC, then no more.
Got it. State-owned industry bad, oil sands sensitive. None of this explains why the government rejected the purchase of Potash Corp., which is not in the oil sands, by Australia’s BHP Billiton, which is not state-owned. Nor does it explain why the government first blocked the takeover of Progress Energy by Malaysia’s Petronas, before accepting it later.
(Full disclosure: my spouse, Lisa Samson, is a registered lobbyist for Progress and Petronas.)
The likeliest answer is that Harper was surprised by the antipathy the CNOOC-Nexen bid stirred up. His candidate and visiting party dignitaries heard an earful about it from voters on the doorstep during the recent Calgary Centre by-election campaign. So he improvised an adjustment to earlier plans, and left himself tons of wiggle room for next time. Further energy-sector takeovers by state-owned companies will be accepted “in exceptional circumstances,” which means: “We’ll tell you when it happens.”
None of this is a pretty sight, but neither does it spell trouble for Harper in the short term. As long as he usually moves from more trouble to less, he is moving the way Conservative voters want him to. The PM has had a messy year, but on jets, language politics and energy, he has stopped digging himself deeper. Jan. 23 will mark the seventh anniversary of his election.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 6:00 PM - 0 Comments
The Avro Arrow was put forward as an alternative to the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets, according to documents obtained by Global News.
OTTAWA – A Canadian company is seeking to go back in time to help fly Canada’s air force into the future.
Documents obtained by the Global News program “The West Block” indicate an update to the storied CF-105 Avro Arrow was put forward as an alternative to the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets.
And among the project’s champions is one of Canada’s top soldiers, retired Maj.Gen. Lewis MacKenzie.
The Arrow was an advanced, all-weather supersonic interceptor jet that was developed in the 1950s. Several prototypes were built and flight tests were conducted, but the project was abruptly shut down in 1959 and the aircraft never went into production.
But MacKenzie told the “The West Block” that the Arrow’s basic design and platform still exceed any current fighter jet and it is perfect for Canada’s needs.
“It’s an attack aircraft. It’s designed for attacking ground targets and its stealth is most effective against short range radar, protecting ground targets,” MacKenzie said.
“What we need in Canada is something that can go to the edge of our airspace, from a sovereignty point of view, and be able to catch up with intruders.”
The plan to build an updated Arrow in Canada instead of buying into an international deal for a fleet of F-35s was originally put before the Harper Conservatives in 2010 by a company called Bourdeau Industries, which has offices in the U.K. and Canada.
The proposal, which was updated in 2012, suggested the plane could fly 20,000 feet higher than the F-35, soar twice as fast and would cost less.
For example, the proposal said that the total cost of the Arrow program would be $11.73 billion, compared to the $16 billion the federal government says the F-35 program will cost.
That figure has been disputed by the auditor general and parliamentary budget officer, who peg the true cost of the new stealth fighters at closer to $25 billion.
The Arrow project would also create a made-in-Canada plane and an industry that would add thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the Canadian economy, the proposal’s author wrote.
“The government of Canada is in a position to project foreign policy initiatives within the global community while simultaneously leading Canada’s socio-economic capabilities to rise to real security, defence and industrial policy challenges at home and abroad,” the proposal said.
But in June, the government rejected the plan, saying too much money and time was required to execute it and the plane didn’t meet the technical specifications required.
“Unfortunately, what is propose is not a viable option for Canada’s next generation fighter,” said a letter from Julian Fantino, who was then Canada’s associate minister for national defence.
Meanwhile, the plans for the F-35s remain on hold.
Last spring the auditor general tore a strip off the government, accusing the Department of National Defence of hiding $10 billion in continuing costs for the fighter and the Public Works department of not doing enough homework to justify the purchase.
Conservatives responded with a seven-point action plan that took responsibility for the plane away from defence, giving it to a secretariat at Public Works.
Last week the government announced it has hired the accounting firm KPMG to crunch the numbers on the program.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said the Arrow program was cancelled before a single plane was built.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 4:27 PM - 0 Comments
Julian Fantino, the associate minister of defence, responding this afternoon to questions from the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, that premise is absolutely false. The member opposite is referring to a failed NDP candidate who wrote this report, critical of everything that is holy and decent about this government’s efforts to provide our military men and women with the resources that…
The report referred to was authored by Michael Byers (a former NDP candidate) and Stewart Webb.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 24, 2011 at 6:41 PM - 15 Comments
The latest twist in this epic tale of stealth flight involves the small matter of whether or not the expensive aircraft will be more or less useless when patrolling our vast northern frontier. ”We learned today that the aircraft will be delivered to Canada without adaptive equipment to allow communication in the Arctic. It’s really something,” the interim NDP leader exclaimed for the benefit of those who like their parliamentary invective relayed in the most folksy manner possible.
Peter Van Loan, the government House leader, duly stood here to wrap himself in the flag and throw himself around the troops. ”We are proposing to deliver to Canadian Forces the resources and equipment it needs to be able to protect Canadian sovereignty and security and to ensure that our defences are strong,” he explained. “The F-35 will have all the capabilities that are necessary to do so, including that primary critically important mission of ensuring our northern sovereignty is protected.”
This did little to assuage Ms. Turmel, who returned to her feet with a list of concerns. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 12:55 PM - 20 Comments
Canada’s new jets defeated in simulation
Canada’s next generation of fighter jets won’t fare well in dogfights against newer Russian planes, says a report in an online forum. The story, based on an anonymous source who claims to have seen a presentation to an unnamed NATO country, says the F-35 “would be consistently defeated by the Russian-made SU-35 fighter aircraft.” Canada has already committed to buying $9 billion F-35s.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 22, 2010 at 1:02 PM - 31 Comments
David Pugliese explains how the government hopes to sell the purchase of new F-35s.
The plan is for DND officials to brief analysts about the value of the JSF … Defence Watch has been told that the Joint Strike Fighter PR plan envisions that the analysts will then go out to newspapers, TV and radio to spread the word about the worth of the F-35 as well as the message that the Harper government is making the right move with this proposed $16 billion purchase. Or that they will be ready with such messages when journalists come calling as they write JSF stories…
Meanwhile, a new round of visits of Conservative ministers and MPs to companies who have F-35 contracts, or the potential for F-35 contracts begins again today … Sources tell Defence Watch that the politicians aren’t highlighting new contracts (some of these were awarded years ago).
Meanwhile, sources tell Pugliese the government has kept secret millions in equipment purchases for the Afghan mission.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 19, 2010 at 11:56 AM - 12 Comments
Randall Wakelam wonders about what we’re doing and where we’re going.
Conventional wisdom was that voters have, at most, a six-month memory for inexplicable government decisions. Do politicians today employ that same wisdom? If they do, it would certainly explain how and why we buy fighter aircraft without a clear explanation of need; why we allowed ourselves to lose Camp Mirage in the UAE because of civilian landing rights in Calgary and Vancouver that have nothing to do with security and defence matters; and why we are now staying on in Afghanistan for three years in a yet to be defined mission.
By John Geddes - Friday, October 29, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Lieutenant-General Angus Watt retired about a year ago as chief of air staff in the Canadian
Forces. That gives him a particular vantage point on the government’s plan to spend about $16 billion to buy and maintain 65 F-35 fighter jets—close enough to know the details, but a bit detached from the ferocious debate that’s erupted over the sole-sourced procurement.
Not surprisingly, Watt is a big fan of the Lockheed Martin jet, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter. He’s a sharp critic, though, of the job the federal government is doing selling the deal to the Canadian public. This is an edited version of his conversation with me earlier this week about the controversial F-35 project.
By John Geddes - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 5:34 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s vow that as prime minister he would hold an open competition for new jet fighters, rather than proceeding with the F-35 deal that the Conservatives want to pursue, sounds smart enough. All things being equal, open bidding for defence contracts is the way to go.
Yet it’s interesting that Ignatieff doesn’t appear quite ready to leave the controversial F-35 agreement behind in the dust. He seems to tacitly concede that the F-35 scheme has something going for it by asserting that a Liberal government would somehow remain part of that arrangement, while sort of walking away from it.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 6:44 PM - 0 Comments
Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s coruscating report on the slippery way the Department of National Defence handled its recent multi-billion-dollar helicopter purchases is setting off alarm bells about how DND might be managing its even more costly jet fighter buy.
Fraser’s findings from her audit of the $11-billion helicopter deals couldn’t be more disturbing. She said DND officials held back crucial information about the likely escalation in the cost of 28 Cyclone and 15 Chinook choppers, which led to Treasury Board approving the purchases based on off-the-shelf cost estimates that were ridiculously optimistic.
And Fraser drew a rough parallel between the helicopter fiasco and the planned procurement, announced last
JuneJuly, of 65 F-35 fighter jets for an estimated $9 billion, plus another perhaps $7 billion in maintenance costs. “I hope no one is assessing [the F-35 procurement] as low risk,” she said today.