Politics

Tory candidate lobbied for F-35 jet firm

Conservative candidate Raymond Sturgeon lobbied for Lockheed Martin, maker of the controversial F-35 jet.

No indication northern Ont. candidate met with government officials

A pre-production model of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is shown in a file photo. A report from the Parliamentary Budget Office on Thursday questions the cost of a federal contract to buy 65 of the planes. (Northrop Grumman/Associated Press)

A candidate running for the Conservative Party was also a lobbyist for Lockeed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35 fighter jet that has been a source of controversy on Parliament Hill.

Raymond Sturgeon, who is trying to unseat NDP MP Carol Hughes in the northern Ontario riding of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing, is a senior partner at the Ottawa-based lobbying firm CFN Consultants. It specializes in defence and security and Lockheed Martin is one of several clients that sells aircraft and equipment to government departments.

Sturgeon, who had a long career in the Canadian military and at the Department of National Defence before becoming a lobbyist, now has an "inactive" registration with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada on the Lockheed Martin file.

The registry shows he was an active lobbyist for Lockheed Martin until December 15, 2010. There are no records indicating he met with any government officials on behalf of his client. Shortly after his registration as a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin ended, Sturgeon was selected as the Conservative candidate in January.

He has years of experience working on the procurement sides of the military, and the Department of National Defence. He held several senior titles with the Canadian Forces and at DND and holds undergraduate and master's degrees in political science.

Lockheed Martin has won a number of contracts with DND over the years, but the big one that has proven to be a divisive issue on Parliament Hill is the F-35 fighter jet deal — the largest military procurement in Canada's history.

Last year, the Conservative government signed a memorandum of understanding to buy 65 jets through the U.S.-led Joint Strike Fighter program, which Canada joined under a previous Liberal government in 1997.

There are conflicting estimates of how much the acquisition is going to end up costing taxpayers. The parliamentary budget officer estimates it will cost about $30-billion to buy and maintain the planes for 30 years.

The Conservatives dispute Kevin Page's figures. It says it stands by its numbers that $9-billion will be spent to buy the planes and equipment and that maintenance will cost around $250 million to $300 million.

The Liberals accuse the Conservatives of hiding what they say are the real costs for the procurement. Their push for more cost estimates, and their dissatisfaction with what was provided by the government, was one of the issues that led a parliamentary committee to find the government in contempt.

The Liberals say the government is wasting taxpayers' money by going with the Lockheed Martin planes and leader Michael Ignatieff says his party would cancel the current agreement and hold an open competition to buy new planes.