In case his readers have forgotten, Jeffrey Simpson reviews the increasingly tangled web of deceit which surrounds the F-35 fiasco:
The contract, insisted the government, would cost $9-billion for the aircraft, and $7-billion for maintenance over 20 years. Over and over, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the entire Conservative chorus repeated this mantra.
Critics in the U.S. alerted Congress that cost overruns were plaguing the project. The Parliamentary Budget Office in Ottawa said, no, the cost would be more like $30-billion over 30 years, for which the PBO was predictably denounced by the Conservative chorus.
Alan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister who had forgotten more about procurement than any minister had ever learned, warned repeatedly that the project was off the rails. Predictably, the Conservative chorus denounced him. The Speaker of the House found the government in contempt of Parliament for refusing to reveal the full costs of the program, but that didn’t stop the government from being re-elected.
Other countries, alarmed at the F-35’s mounting costs and questionable technical reviews, began to delay purchase commitments. Still, the Conservative chorus stuck with the mantra, denouncing all doubters as anti-defence, pacifists and know-nothings.
Deeper and deeper, the Harperites dug themselves into the hole of their own rhetoric – until Auditor-General Michael Ferguson’s devastating report last April unveiled the true costs to be way higher than the government’s mantra. Worse, the report said the Defence Department had told the government that costs had skyrocketed. Yet, the government, campaigning for re-election, kept that information from the public.
The Harperites, as is their habit, all sang from the same hymnal. Most importantly, they did so during the last election, after they had been found in contempt of Parliament for not revealing the cost of the purchase. In a court of law, that's called fraud.
And they got away with it.