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Harper responsible for F-35 situation: Rae

April 4, 2012, Ottawa - Prime Minister Stephen Harper must be held responsible for a $10-billion cost overrun for the F-35 fighter jet program, given the tight control he maintains over his government, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said today.


April 4, 2012
By CBC News

Rae says the man who forced officials to use the term "Harper
government" instead of "government of Canada" can't get away with saying
a mistake worth that much money had nothing to do with the man in
charge.

 

"Any company that made a mistake of this kind, that
misled its shareholders, that misled the public, that put out a
misleading prospectus, that published false figures and false documents
to the tune of billions of dollars, any company that did those things
would fire the CEO and replace the board of directors," Rae said.

 

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On
Tuesday, Auditor General Michael Ferguson said the process to choose
Canada's next generation of fighter jets, run by Department of National
Defence officials, was inefficient and not managed well.

 

"Key decisions were made without required approvals or supporting documentation," he said in a report to Parliament.

 

The
report also shows that DND estimated the total cost of the F-35 program
at $25 billion over 20 years when the decision was made internally to
go forward with it in 2010. But in 2011, when DND responded to a report
by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, officials said the cost
would only be $14.7 billion.

Harper said the government is
putting in place more supervision over the process. He has taken
responsibility away from defence officials and given it to Public Works.

 

Government 'taking responsibility'

 

Harper says he and the cabinet ministers in charge of the process accept their responsibilities.

"The government is taking responsibility to act on [Ferguson's] recommendations," Harper said in question period Wednesday.

 

"The
government has not acquired these aircraft, the government has not
signed a contract, the government has frozen the funds for acquisition,"
Harper said.

 

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who took no
questions Tuesday after the auditor general's report was released, says
the government is "injecting more accountability" into the purchase.

 

"We
will continue now, with the guidance of Public Works, to move forward
with a proper acquisition process to replace the aging CF-18 [jets]."

 

'He called us liars'

 

Chris
Alexander, parliamentary secretary to MacKay, maintained Page's
assessments were wrong, despite the auditor general's report Tuesday
showing Page's calculations were correct.

 

Alexander said the
government hasn't spent the money on the jets yet and put the blame at
the feet of the reporters asking him questions.

 

"In the media,
there has been a consistent effort to mislead people, to imply that
money has been spent," Alexander said. "It hasn't yet."

 

Rae says
when MacKay and Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose announced in 2010
that the government would buy 65 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin,
Liberal researchers looked at all available information about the
planes. They read reports from the Congressional Budget Office in the
U.S., defence analysts and European governments.

 

"The numbers did not add up. The numbers were not real numbers. We knew it, we said it," Rae said.

"What was Mr. Harper's answer then? He called us liars. He said we were unpatriotic."

 

"He
cannot now pretend that he was just the piano player in the brothel who
didn't have a clue as to what was really going on upstairs."