Defence Minister Peter MacKay
Credits: DAVID BLOOM/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - Defence Minister Peter MacKay stood up for himself and his department Sunday, insisting the F-35 fiscal flub outlined in a recent auditor general's report was a miscommunication matter.
Auditor general Michael Ferguson published his debut report last week, indicated the stealth fighter jets would cost $25 billion -- not $15 billion as indicated by the federal government.
But in an interview with CTV's Question Period, MacKay blamed accounting issues for a $10 billion gap between the government's account of F-35 costs and the auditor general's projections.
"The $10 billion is money we are paying right now," MacKay said. "That is the money that goes to pay the pilots of the F-18 program and fuel, oil, upkeep of the existing fleet."
MacKay said he knew the full estimated cost of the jets in 2010 but insists Canadians were not misled.
"We have included that figure in estimates and information provided to the auditor general and that information goes back to 2010. Those figures are there for all to see," he said. "I don't agree that there was a manipulation of information."
Opposition parties disagree.
"We're talking about mismanagement here as well as dishonesty," NDP defence critic Jack Harris said on the same Sunday broadcast.
MacKay said the government and the auditor general worked from different timelines, causing the confusion.
The auditor general and a parliamentary budget officer used a 36-year model for their evaluations of the fighter jet program, but the Department of National Defence used a 20-year period.
The F-35s are expected to have a 36-year lifespan.
The government hasn't signed a contract with F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin, but it has penned a memorandum of understanding (MOU). If the government decided to change course, penalties would be attached.
"There are obligations under the MOU and by that I mean there would be consequences for withdrawing from it," MacKay said.
The minister indicated the government has accepted the auditor general's conclusions but he doesn't plan to offer his resignation over the controversy.