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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Conservative and Liberal MPs trade blame for failed Military Procurement

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — The Conservatives and Liberals traded barbs in the Commons Wednesday, arguing about who was to blame for failed military equipment purchases after an Ottawa Citizen article revealed some of the Canadian Forces key acquisitions will see their funding delayed.

The Liberal government’s budget, released in late March, calls for $3.7 billion in spending on equipment to be delayed until 2021 or later.

But the Citizen revealed that some of the military’s top equipment programs — including projects to buy new Cyclone maritime helicopters and Arctic patrol vessels — will be among the projects to see their funding delayed.

Citing the Citizen article, a trio of Conservative MPs launched attacks on the government, accusing the Liberals of cutting the defence budget.

“Unfortunately, here in Ottawa our military is entering another era of darkness,” said Tory defence critic James Bezan.

But John McKay, parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, said it was the Conservative government that left military procurement and funding in a mess.

McKay said no money is being cut from the defence budget. Instead of fixing procurement and financial problems, he said the Conservatives were “climbing in and out of fake airplanes,” a reference to former defence minister Peter MacKay’s $40,000 press conference during which he posed in a model F-35 jet.

Then-defence minister Peter MacKay checks out the cockpit of a mock F-35 Joint Strike Fighter following an announcement in July 2010 that the federal government would be purchasing a number of the jets. The purchase never went through.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld/File - Then-defence minister Peter MacKay checks out the cockpit of a mock F-35 Joint Strike Fighter following an announcement in July 2010 that the federal government would be purchasing a number of the jets. The purchase never went through.
“Had the former government actually done its work, then the procurement cycle would have matched the fiscal cycle and accordingly we possibly would have had some procurements met,” McKay said.

Besides delays in funding for the Arctic patrol ships and Cyclone helicopters, the budget plan would affect the CF-18 replacement, the modernization of the Halifax-class frigates and a program to provide new communications equipment to soldiers. Another $2.6 billion in equipment funding – not yet earmarked for specific gear — will also be withheld until 2021 or beyond.

It is unclear how some of the programs, such as the Cyclone helicopters, which are now being delivered, might be affected by the decision.

Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant said the plan to delay funding for the Cyclones is similar to then Liberal prime minister Jean Chéetien’s decision in the 1990s to cancel the EH-101 maritime helicopters.

Some analysts have voiced concern the $3.7 billion won’t be returned to the DND.

But Ashley Lemire, a DND spokeswoman, noted in an email, “some major projects experienced delays in their original timelines, which resulted in funds needing to be moved forward to future years.”