A Joint Strike Fighter STVOL version, which is being built by Lockheed Martin as the F35 Lightning II.
Credits: REUTERS/Andy Wolfe/MoD/Crown Copyright/handou
OTTAWA - Partisan deadlock has kept the Commons public accounts committee frozen on one issue for months now - Canada's proposed purchase of the F-35 fighter jet.
Since mid-May, the committee has been hashing out how to respond to auditor general Michael Ferguson's findings on defence bureaucrats' handling of the F-35 purchase and how the government accounted for projected costs.
Since Sept. 18 the committee hasn't dealt with anything else except its draft report on the auditor general's findings.
"That would be nice," one frustrated MP said when asked whether Thursday's meeting had yielded results.
The committee has repeatedly heard testimony from Ferguson, as well as Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.
Page said buying and operating 65 stealth fighter jets would cost $29 billion over 30 years, questioning the Conservatives' $15 billion estimate over 20 years.
Reports published in The Hill Times indicate one of the sticking points has been Tory efforts to eliminate Page's testimony from the report.
Meantime, with the Netherlands possibly buying up to 85 F-35s, the debate on the issue in that country is very different.
The Dutch Court of Audit - equivalent to the auditor general's office in Canada - has concluded that pulling out of the F-35 program now would be bad for taxpayers.
"It would produce only disadvantages for the state, both functionally and regarding timing and cost," the court stated in last week's report.
The Dutch are part of the current F-35 test program and haven't decided whether to buy the plane.
The Court of Audit didn't make any recommendation regarding purchase.