Friday, April 13, 2012

Cool the jets on the jets

Like many of the faux “issues” dreamt up by the Opposition NDP and Liberals, the latest hysteria over the purchase of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter planes is no exception.  The inherently anti-conservative main-stream media has been more than happy to oblige the Opposition in their outrageous claims and demands.

The hysteria stems from the Spring Auditor General’s report, which, as I have already reported , was actually a mostly positive report commending the Conservative government for their strong fiscal management, “real progress,” and “adequate controls,” in various federal government programs.  But of course, the Opposition has no interest in reporting the good things this Conservative government does.

They’re instead out to make outlandish claims.  Leftist commentators are out to say this was even worse than the Liberals’ AdScam – the outright theft whereby Liberals sent millions of taxpayers’ dollars to their friends for “reports” that could never be found and “advertising” that was never done.

Common sense, however, prevails.  No money has been spent on these jets.  No money is missing.  These jets have not yet been acquired.  It was a cost estimate – the very meaning of the word means the cost can change!

Luckily, the ridiculous claims are being singled out and the more responsible ones yet again save the day.

The Auditor General’s way of estimating the cost of the F35’s was to include the pilots’ salaries, the oil, the gas, the maintenance, and so forth.  As Peter MacKay put it, that’d be like buying a van then including the gas and your salary as part of the purchase price.  They’re two separate costs.  Both costs have been known by MacKay but gas is not part of purchasing the F35’s.

The Prime Minister’s Office has released a response clarifying the same.  They note operating and salary costs “are not unique to the F-35 program, and would be incurred regardless of the type of fighter aircraft operated by the RCAF as noted by the Auditor General in paragraph 2.68. These costs would include such things as jet fuel, oil, consumables, pilot and support salaries.”

What’s more, Defence Parliamentary Secretary Chris Alexander was more than willing to accept the realistic recommendations of the AG, while clearly noting parliament was not misled.

Even the Department of National Defence has posted a cost comparison of the F35 – both as they calculated as well as the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s calculations.  It’s pure openness and transparency for your own department to post two competing estimates on their own government webpages.

Regardless, the government has accepted the AG’s recommendation that operating costs and salaries be included in procurement costs, even though this has never been done before.  The government has frozen all funding for the F35 program and will be implementing a rigorous seven-step process with Public Works at the helm of the acquisition.

That’s leadership.  That’s adapting changes to the Auditor General’s suggestions quickly, openly, and transparently.

So let’s cool the jets on the jets “issue.”  This is yet another attempt by the left-wing Opposition to derail the positive moves by the Conservative government, with the media all too willing to be the NDP’s spin machine.