Today (June 14), Canadian MPs will debate a motion to extend its participation in a United Nations-authorized military mission Libya.
Bil Robinson, a senior advisor to the nonprofit, Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, has estimated the Canadian cost of the Libyan military exercise to reach $80 to $85 million by the end of September.
That's 20 to 24 percent higher than Defence Minister Peter MacKay's estimate of $60 million.
Robinson based his spending forecast on a comparison with Canada's role in NATO's 1999 military bombardment of Yugoslavia in response to its treatment of Kosovo.
The Kosovo war lasted 78 days and cost Canada about $60 million in today's dollars, according to figures presented by Robinson on the Rideau Institute site.
CF-18 fighers flew 684 combat missions and dropped 532 bombs, Robinson writes. The Kosovo mission started with six CF-18s, and peaked at 18 CF-18s, plus more than 300 personnel.
The Libyan mission lasted 76 days until June 2—at a cost estimated at $26 million by the Canadian government. As of June 6, Canadian CF-18s had flown 393 sorties, and by May 25 had dropped 240 bombs, according to Robinson.
He notes that the mission in Libya includes six CF-18s plus one spare, two CP-140 Auroras (which have flown 650 sorties), and three tanker aircraft (which have flown 146 sorties). In addition, there's a Canadian frigate in the Mediterranean Sea with 650 personnel.
If the Libyan mission continues until the end of September, this will add 120 days beyond June 2.
According to Robinson, "if previous cost estimate is correct and activities/costs continue at about the same average daily rate would add ~$40 million to the total, for a total incremental cost of ~$66 million, about 10% higher than the estimate provided by the minister."
However, he emphasizes that if the experience in Kosovo is "a reasonable guide, however, this is also likely to be an underestimate".
At the current pace, Robinson writes, there would be 960 CF-18 sorties over Libya and 690 bombs dropped. This would amount to 24 percent more sorties and 30 percent more bombs than in Kosovo.
"It also suggests a total of ~160 Aurora sorties and ~357 tanker sorties (cost unknown)," he adds. "Personnel contribution in person-days (excluding the frigate, which will be addressed separately) would be more than 3 times as high. Altogether this suggests incremental costs on the order of 30% or more higher than the Kosovo mission, which would suggest ~$76 million in today’s dollars. The incremental cost of 6+ months of frigate operations would add about $7 million, for a total incremental cost of about $80-85 million."
Therefore, he concludes, the Department of National Defence estimate of $60 million could only be achieved if there was a "significant decrease in operational tempo over the next three and a half months compared to the war so far".
In advance of today's debate in Parliament, the Rideau Institute has issued a list of 10 questions about Libya:
The governments objectives
1. What precisely are our objectives in Libya and how do we define success?
2. The Speech from the Throne stated that the government would pursue a foreign policy that advances Canadas interests. How are Canadas national interests being advanced through this military mission?
3. What conditions will determine whether Canada will extend its Libya mission a second time, when this authorization expires in the fall of 2011?
Military operations and alternatives
4. What alternatives are being considered if the airstrikes are not successful?
5. Are Canadian special forces operating in Libya, and under what conditions would the government consider deploying regular troops to the country?
6. Are diplomatic steps being taken to promote a ceasefire and a democratic transition in Libya?
Understanding the rebels and protecting civilians
7. Who exactly are the rebels, and have they been recognized as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people?
8. What specific steps will the government pursue to ensure the protection of civilians, including providing humanitarian aid to displaced people?
Securing peace after the conflict
9. If regime change is achieved, are the rebels capable of securing the country, or will UN peacekeepers be required? Would Canada contribute?
10. How will Canada support a long-term peaceful, secure, and democratic outcome following the conflict?