Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just take them at their word

Well surely this settles it. Peter MacKay's spokesperson assures us in the Globe today of the per plane price of the F-35s: "Government says cost of F-35 fighters on a par with Hornets." They're saying, without a contract being in place remember, that "...the average cost to Canada for each F-35 over the 2016-2022 period will be about $74.5-million (U.S.)" and that this is the same price as what we paid for our present jets, the CF-18s. What they are relying on, other than Lockheed Martin's say so, is unclear. Their numbers are in dispute too. Here was Ignatieff's response, in part, raising doubt about any certainty with this plane's costs:
“This plane went from a $50-million unit cost in the United States in 2002 to a $91-million unit cost in 2008.”
We've just been reminded this week by the Auditor General, via her highly critical report on helicopter purchases, of the need to get certainty about original cost estimates, ongoing costs and being "...fair, open and transparent" in these processes. In the wake of that report, taking people's word on such matters just doesn't seem prudent, especially on what will be the largest military purchase in Canadian history. And especially not through numbers disseminated in the media.

Elsewhere, Tony Clement had this strange thing to say yesterday on the U.K.'s F-35 commitment:
Clement noted that in Britain, despite "the deepest cuts across the board in funding since the Second World War, reaffirmed its commitments to the F-35."
Well, technically they did. Anyone following what the U.K. has in fact decided would have noted that the word is that the U.K. is reducing and putting off its F-35 purchase. See this latest analysis of the U.K.'s defence spending review which puts their F-35 buy at a reduction down from 138 to a possible 50-70. Others say it could be 40. There is a Jane's analyst quoted here who thinks the U.K. will actually end up buying none once they've lived without them on their aircraft carriers for a spell. So that "buyer's club" referenced in the Globe report is pulling back and reducing.

On the heels of the Liberal opposing stance, we've seen leaked documents to one media outlet and too cute price costing to another. It's a suddenly busy time on this F-35 file.