Straight Talk
BRIAN LILLEY - Feds told truth on F-35: Opposition about clipping air force wings

A F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

Credits: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

BRIAN LILLEY | QMI AGENCY

You are being lied to about the cost of fighter jets, except the lying isn’t being done by the government.

If you’ve paid attention to the news at all lately, you’ve heard about the “rising costs” of replacing Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets with the new F-35.

Initial government costs to buy the plane came in at $9 billion, but this week headlines screamed about the cost being $46 billion.

What a load of garbage.

A report from auditing firm KPMG, commissioned by the government, said the full cost of the plane, from development through operating and on to decommissioning, was $45.8 billion.

That estimate includes fuel, pilots and maintenance — all things that would need to be paid for regardless of which plane is purchased.

It is a strange form of accounting that says we need to account for every shoelace and jug of windshield washer fluid that might come near the planes.

Can you imagine what the cost of your car would be if you calculated its cost over decades, including estimates of every brake job, oil change and fill-up?

We don’t do this for other government programs or purchases, yet the opposition and the media demand that this is the only true way to account for military purchases.

When a previous Liberal government promised a new national daycare program, no one asked what it would cost over 40 years.

In fact, the F-35 program was signed on to by the Liberals and no one asked back then how much this would cost over four decades.

Here is something remarkable you haven’t seen in the headlines.

The report from KPMG found that the government had been telling the truth from the beginning: The cost to just buy the planes was less than $9 billion.

There are plenty of areas to criticize this government about when it comes to spending, but fighter jets that we haven’t purchased just isn’t one of them.

The money hasn’t been spent and even if we do buy the F-35, it will be money well spent compared to other budget items.

National defence is actually a responsibility of the federal government under the constitution unlike, say, running a television network or giving out corporate welfare under the guise of “economic development.”

If we accounted for the cost of CBC and economic development the same way the opposition and media demand we account for the F-35, both would cost more over the next

40 years than the fighter jets.

What this is really all about is an attempt to make sure that Canada does not have a suitable military.

There is a significant segment of the population that thinks the military should just do peacekeeping, search-and-rescue and snow removal in Toronto.

This part of Canada doesn’t want us to have fighter jets or a military capable of going into battle if need be.

Unfortunately, a large part of the media and both opposition parties fall into this camp.

Sure, they will tell you they are worried about the cost, but then will say we need to look at fighter jets other than the F-35.

We did exactly that on my show Byline and found that the alternatives to the F-35 cost as much or more than the plane we should apparently avoid.

This fight of the last few months isn’t about whether we should buy the F-35.

It is about whether we should have a properly equipped military.

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