Manitoba

Manitoba premier 'very concerned' by federal purchase of Super Hornet fighter jets

The Liberal government’s decision to purchase 18 Super Hornet fighter jets knocked Brian Pallister off of his normally diplomatic tone about Ottawa.

‘This is potentially a real set back to the province of Manitoba,’ says Brian Pallister

The Liberal government’s decision to purchase 18 Super Hornet fighter jets knocked Brian Pallister off of his normally diplomatic tone about Ottawa. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)

The Liberal government's decision to purchase 18 Super Hornet fighter jets knocked Brian Pallister off of his normally diplomatic tone about Ottawa.

"I am very, very concerned about the federal government's announcement this morning in respect of their intent to purchase used Hornets from the United States," Pallister said on Tuesday.

"This is potentially a real set back to the province of Manitoba."

The Liberal government said it will begin the process of buying 18 Boeing Super Hornet jet fighters to meet, what it called, the urgent needs of the air force. There was no information about when the aircraft will be purchased or how much they will cost.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also announced the government will launch a replacement program for the entire existing fleet of CF-18s before the end of the Liberal's term. He promised an "open and transparent competition" to replace the aging fighters.

Public Works Minister Judy Foote said the planned competition will ensure that the country gets the right fighter jet at the right price. 

"It is potentially a waste of millions of dollars on the part of those who are engaged, under two previous federal administrations over many years, in a tendering process in respect to the jet renewal of our country," Pallister said. "So, I am very concerned in respect of the actions that have been taken by the federal government today."

Premier Brian Pallister says the province is pursuing a course of action. (Travis Golby/CBC)
The Liberals tied Canada into the development of F-35 stealth fighter-bombers back in the late 1990s. However, the Conservatives put the F-35 program on hold in 2012 after a scathing report by the auditor general, who accused National Defence and Public Works of understating the lifetime cost.

In the Liberal election platform last fall the party promised they would not buy the F-35 and would launch an open and transparent competition to replace the aging CF-18s.

In June, U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin warned Canada that $825 million in aerospace industrial contracts signed with Canadian companies to build and equip F-35 jets would be moved to other partner nations if the Trudeau government decided to buy a different fighter jet.

Some of the components for the F-35 are produced in Winnipeg by Magellan Aerospace. It's one of 70 Canadian companies that make parts for the jet.

"It's obviously concerning to me not least of all Magellan will be an example but there are others [impacted]," Pallister said.

"It is not helpful for any government to part from its public statements in respect to things like a commitment to the aerospace industry in Manitoba."

Pallister said the province is "pursuing a course of action" but did not expand on what it would be.

"I think the federal government has left itself open to criticism in respect to the lack of transparency and openness, and the respect to the lack of intelligent use of the market and available options," he said.

In a statement, Lockheed Martin said it recognizes the decision to buy the Super Hornets as an interim measure.

"Although disappointed with this decision, we remain confident the F-35 is the best solution to meet Canada's operational requirements at the most affordable price, and the F-35 has proven in all competitions to be lower in cost than fourth-generation competitors," said the statement.

"The F-35 is combat ready and available today to meet Canada's needs for the next 40 years."

With files from Murray Brewster and Kelly Malone

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