OTTAWA — The government’s plan to buy 65 stealth fighter jets is a bad idea, an independent research agency concluded Thursday.
A report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says the multibillion-dollar purchase isn’t based on the country’s real needs.
Liberal MPs agreed, saying they will kill the deal if they get the opportunity.
Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute, who wrote the report, said the aircraft doesn’t fit the roles Canada needs to address.
“This is a massive commitment of defence spending on ‘flying Cadillacs’ that is being driven by defence contractors, not by a clear-eyed view of Canada’s defence needs,” he said.
The government wants the pricey new planes to replace the existing CF-18 fleet, which is approaching the end of its service life. The deal could cost as much as $16 billion, once a long-term maintenance contract is added in.
But Staples said the F-35 Lightning II is too much plane.
Canada doesn’t need high-tech stealth jets to defend North American airspace, he said.
“The main point is that we have time and we need to change the way we think about our aircraft,” he said. “We don’t need them for bombing missions and there is no real Russian bomber threat.”
He suggested Canada abandon the idea of using air power overseas and extend the life of the existing F-18 fleet for North American surveillance.
He also said technology is overtaking the F-35, a joint strike fighter being purchased by the United States and several allied nations.
“Let’s also investigate the acquisition of the next generation of unarmed, long-range, long-endurance, pilotless aircraft.”
Liberal MPs welcomed the report. They said the Conservative government has to answer key questions about the fighter deal.
“Liberals want to replace the CF-18s, but we expect honest answers from the government to ensure we’re getting the right plane and the best possible deal for taxpayers and the Canadian aerospace industry,” said Marc Garneau, the party industry critic.
The Liberals say the purchase is a sole-source deal with a heavy price tag and no guarantees.
“This is the single, largest military procurement in Canadian history,” said Dominic LeBlanc, the defence critic. “We are deeply concerned that the government hasn’t been straight with Canadians and that without competition, we’re not getting the right plane, the best price or the greatest benefits for our aerospace industry.”