F-35 $10-billion fib eclipses fast ferries, convention centre, sponsorships, and Airbus—combined!

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      Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cronies are trying to downplay the F-35 fighter-jet scandal.

      It's a bit tough to swallow when you compare it with other financial boondoggles in recent history.

      As has been widely reported, the auditor general revealed that the Conservative government lowballed by $10 billion the cost of buying and operating 65 of these planes over 20 years.

      To put this in perspective, here are the costs associated with other major political controversies in recent history:

      • Montreal's Olympic cost overrun in 1976: $1.5 billion.

      • The cost of Air Canada purchasing 34 Airbus planes in 1988 in a sale arranged with the help of lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber: $1.8 billion.

      • The difference between the initial cost and final price tag of B.C.'s fast ferries, which were ordered by Glen Clark in 1994: $250 million.

      • The difference between the initial cost and final price tag of Vancouver's new convention centre, which was ordered by Gordon Campbell in 2003: $388 million.

      • Then-auditor general Sheila Fraser's 2004 estimate of the amount paid to communications and advertising companies on the federal sponsorship program: $100 million.

      The Conservatives' $10-billion jet-fighter whopper sets a new standard.

      Normally, this is the type of thing that causes members of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to set their hair on fire.

      But apart from one news release—which doesn't include the names of Harper or Defence Minister Peter MacKay—the taxpayers federation hasn't exactly been in the media's face about this scandal.

      We're sure it has nothing to do with the following connections between the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Conservative government:

      • Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is a former CEO of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

      • Conservative MP John Williamson is a former national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

      • Stephen Harper's former press secretary, Sara McIntyre, is a former B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

      • Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal/Ontario director Gregory Thomas used to work for cabinet ministers in Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government.

      To claim that the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has a double standard when it comes to Conservative politicians would be to suggest that this fine organization has a political bias. Banish this thought from your head immediately!

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.



      Canada's fly-boy

      Apr 9, 2012 at 11:46am

      MacKay has no apologies for Canadians and neither did Mulroney when his little brown bag was filled with cash for a deal that never got off the ground.
      Harper just signed a death warrant for the Conservatives. I know what citizens are going to be up to as MPs are hiding out because citizens have them on the phone none stop asking for their jobs. We are talking ten billion dollars you don't make accounting mistakes for that amount unless you have hired the mentally challenged to do your books. MacKay has more than a few screws lose if he thinks his lame excuse is going to fly with Canadians who want him grounded for good.
      What happened to the good old days, before Harper's Cons when politicians stepped down and apologized for the mistakes they made. Not the Conservatives they can do no wrong while Bev Oda, who said she didn't change the documents absolutely not to well maybe I did to Harper go away pesky Canadians so what if she did the media will down play it and her lies will be rewarded all the same. Isn't it the truth.


      Apr 9, 2012 at 11:52am

      I've complained for years about self-appointed organizations like the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, claiming to speak on my behalf (given that I'm a taxpayer). Their name goes well beyond misleading into territory normally occupied by scammers.

      Note that the CTF's own website claims "70,000 supporters nation-wide".

      Are you kidding me? That is a minute fraction of taxpayers in Canada. So what gives them the right to call themselves a "taxpayers federation", and where do they get the idea that they speak on behalf of anybody except their tiny membership group?

      D. Stack

      Apr 9, 2012 at 11:54am

      No money has been spent to purchase these fighter jets. All that's taken place is that the auditor general has blended into the overall costs of the fighters, maintenance and operating costs. Whereas the Government was just using the actual cost of purchase. These maintenance and operating costs would have to be paid regardless of which aircraft was operated and therefore don't reflect the actual cost paid for the F-35.

      Bob Daye

      Apr 9, 2012 at 12:10pm

      Hey Charlie, one big problem with your column and you supposed "SCANDAL", no money has been spent.
      The difference in the price ws one number $25B included operational costs. The planes alone with parts is $15B.
      No scandal here.


      Apr 9, 2012 at 12:14pm

      @ D. Stack: Perhaps you can explain why the Conservative government - under attack for more than a year about F35 costs, from opposition parties, media and the parliamentary budget office - neglected to mention that the "difference" was simply maintenance cost?

      Did Minister McKay "forget"?

      Also, why was this excuse/explanation not offered to the Auditor General during his investigations? And why did it take a week after the release of the AG's report for Minister McKay to suddenly remember the nature of the cost discrepancy?

      Do you seriously expect anybody but the most gullible CPC member to believe this?

      my mama once told me

      Apr 9, 2012 at 12:42pm

      To live my life with honesty and integrity and avoid coming up with excuses because that is all they are, excuses and none of them fly.


      Apr 9, 2012 at 12:58pm

      Not defending Harper, but the article is a bit dishonest. Each of the cases referenced involved actual cash expenditure. Here we are talking about estimates. That's a big difference that the headline obviously misses. I suggest your headline is as purposefully misinforming as Peter McKay has been. No, I'm not a PC hack. Your point about the Cdn Taxpayers Fed references the press release that I went and read. You don't mention them using this scandal to again support the Parliamentary Budget Officer. I guess that just didn't fit your narrative. Once again, your approach reminds me more of Peter McKay than of real journalism. And, no I'm not a PC Hack - just someone tired of all sides tailoring the news to fit their agenda.

      a bit dishonest?????

      Apr 9, 2012 at 1:13pm

      I tried to rob the Bank of Canada but did not get a chance to get away with the money before being caught. I should not got to jail because there is no money involved. End of story now that is tailoring the news to fit the Conservative agenda is it not? What does the auditor general have to say about the bookkeeping practices of the Conservatives that they don't add up?
      Go with that if you are looking for honesty because you are not getting any from the Conservatives or the media that keep them afloat.

      Just Wondering

      Apr 9, 2012 at 1:20pm

      It kind of makes Campbell and Harper one and the same doesn't it? Kind of like, "you watch my back I'll watch yours". Now you have to wonder about a lot of things when it comes to the feds and the BC Liberals. HST just for starters. The Taxpayers Federation is there to mislead everyone starting with their name because they sure as hell don't speak for me or anyone else in my very large family, I asked. They should narrow down this name to cover the people they truly represent and I'm willing to bet it will paint a different picture. But it would not be as misleading would it and how do you manufacture consent if in this instance you had to be truthful. And to add insult to injury just look at the spin and the excuses.


      Apr 9, 2012 at 1:28pm

      @DHanson says nobody in the government had been suggesting the difference between the $9B capital only figure and the $25B capital+operating figure. Bullcrap. Checked out dozens of exactly such explanations in Hansard, the official record of the House of Commons. Of course none of the left heard any of it as they were ranting against the program for the sole reason the Tories were for it... Nothwithstanding that it is STILL Canada's best option for its next fighter.

      Taking the operating costs into account for a new capital program makes perfect sense and is absolutely correct as long as it isn't replacing something that is already consuming operating costs... Like the current CF-18's. Stating the F-35 is going to cost $25B makes people think it is an incremental investment... Which it clearly isn't. The current best guess on the incremental component is $9B (as even the Auditor General agrees). We're already spending the $14B rate as long as we continue to fly fighters.