With nearly a year in office under his belt, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet will have to make some tough choices over the next year with analysts warning they could effect popularity and political capital. The biggest question in relation to the defense industry is of course the decision over the replacement of CF-18 fighters following the valiant vow to drop of the F-35 during the election campaign. It’s expected that the Liberals will soon announce whether they intend to break this pledge to launch a new competition for fighter jets, with talk inside military circles believing that Ottawa could announce a sole-source contract.
Justin Trudeau vows to ditch F-35 in favour of ‘more affordable’ fighter jets and a ‘leaner’ military
Justin Trudeau promised Sunday that a Liberal government would forgo the F-35 in favour of “more affordable” fighter jets, but Stephen Harper called it evidence the Liberals aren’t serious about keeping Canadians safe.
The Liberal leader announced plans for a “leaner, more agile, and better equipped” military that will operate under current National Defence spending plans, and pledged to replace the Conservative government’s “failed” Canada First Defence Strategy.
Canada has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the F-35 stealth fighter jet program — even without buying a single jet — but the procurement process has been a political problem for the Conservatives.
Trudeau said the Liberals would launch an open process to acquire new fighter jets other than the F-35s, with the tens of billions of dollars saved used to “fast-track” and expand spending on the Royal Canadian Navy that would “guarantee” the acquisition of long-promised icebreakers and surface combatant ships.
“The Conservative government never actually justified or explained why they felt Canada needed a fifth-generation fighter. They just talked about it like it was obvious. It was obvious, as we saw through the entire process, that they were particularly, and some might say unreasonably or unhealthily, attached to the F-35 aircraft,” Trudeau told reporters at Pier 21 in Halifax.
The procurement process would also ensure that bids guarantee industrial benefits for Canadian companies, he said, typically at a rate of $1 for $1.
Harper suggested Sunday that Trudeau’s announcement raises troubling questions about what sort of capabilities the Liberal leader wants for Canada’s air force.
“My understanding is that it isn’t just that the Liberal leader said he would scrap that particular program; he has indicated we do not need that kind of capacity in our air force,” Harper said in Windsor, Ont. ‘‘We, along with our allies, have been using this exact capacity with our current CF-18s in various parts of the world, including right now in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”
The Conservatives “are not going to abandon” Canada’s fight the Islamic State, Harper said, promising to stand alongside Canada’s allies and not abandon “that kind of capacity in our air force.”
In July 2010, the Conservative government announced plans to buy the F-35 Lightning II, without following a competitive process, as replacement for the current fleet of CF-18s. The purchase is worth an estimated $44 billion over its four-decade lifetime.
The Conservatives and Department of National Defence had favoured the F-35 fighter jet for replacing the CF-18s, and the government repeatedly trumpeted the F-35 aircraft’s stealth capabilities when explaining why it was the only aircraft that meets Canada’s requirements.
Last year, the government said it would extend the CF-18s’ life until 2025.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called the purchase a “completely failed process” that showed a need for a new bidding process. He didn’t rule out purchasing the F-35.
“An NDP government would start the process over, make sure we define what we need for our military, and then we go to the lowest conforming bidder that has the product that meets our needs,” Mulcair said.
Talk on the campaign trail Sunday also turned to a more urgent issue: what to do about the relentless waves of Syrian refugees currently flooding Europe’s besieged borders — a file both Trudeau and Mulcair say has been badly bungled by the Tories.
On Saturday, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said Syrians fleeing the conflict in the region would be presumed to be convention refugees under the United Nations Refugee Agency in order to streamline their applications — a two-year, $25-million commitment aimed at slashing wait times from three years to 15 months.
“Our policy here has been more refugees, a faster process, and more financial support for the region all done with careful selection of the refugees and screening,” Harper said Sunday before being drowned out by partisan applause. “The other guys in response, chasing headlines over the past month, would have made the kinds of decisions that other countries are now regretting. They would have acted in ways that were reckless and irresponsible.
Mulcair said the country needed a prime minister “who understands the urgency to act as crises unfold, not one who keeps offering up excuses for his inaction.”
Trudeau said Sunday he’d consider airlifting Syrian refugees in order to fulfill his pledge to welcome 25,000 asylum seekers by Jan. 1.
On Sunday, the U.S. said it will accept 85,000 refugees from around the world next year, up from 70,000, and that total would rise to 100,000 in 2017.
Original post @nationalpost.com
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