Emergency Commons committee meeting over F-35 fiasco

Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau speaks to the media as Liberal Defence Critic John McKay (R) and Liberal Leader Bob Rae who appears via Skype hold a press conference in Ottawa April 11, 2012.

Credits: Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY



OTTAWA - The Liberals and NDP are teaming up to force the Commons public accounts committee to hold an emergency meeting next week over the F-35 fighter jet controversy.

Normally, MPs would be in their home ridings next week, but Grit MP Gerry Byrne has written to the committee clerk to request a meeting on the "F-35 fiasco."

NDP MP Malcolm Allen confirms three New Democrats will also write to the committee clerk.

Once four MPs request a meeting, the committee will have to convene within five days, with members given 48 hours notice to show up.

That means the emergency meeting could take place mere days before the public accounts committee would have met anyway on April 24.

Byrne argues time is of the essence.

"A week is a lifetime in politics and the Conservatives are desperate to change the channel," he said in a statement.

But the Conservative majority on the committee will still be able to control the meeting's agenda.

Tory MP Andrew Saxton says his party wants to discuss its motion to set up a planning session "to determine the witness list and agenda" for a study of the auditor general's report on the F-35 procurement process.

The last time the public accounts commitee met, government and opposition clashed over the witnesses list.

In a report released earlier this month, Auditor General Michael Ferguson found National Defence officials didn't adequately inform ministers about problems with the F-35 fighter program, underestimated expected costs and bent the procurement rules.

Ferguson also pointed out defence officials had an internal estimate of $25 billion to buy and operate 65 F-35 jets over 20 years, but only presented a $16-billion figure publicly.

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