Inside Politics

LeBlanc makes note of Harper's chopper nostalgia

This week's federal Auditor General's report on drawn-out, over-budget helicopter purchases has prompted politicians of all stripes to dust off their favourite memories of military procurements from days gone by.

As Sheila Fraser noted in her report, the government kicked off the process to replace Canada's ancient fleet of Sea King maritime helicopters 25 years ago.

The first plan was hatched in 1992 when the Conservative government announced its purchase of 50 EH-101 choppers at a cost of $4.8 billion. But a year later, the new Liberal goverment cancelled the deal and paid more than $470 million in cancellation fees.

On Tuesday, many Conservatives, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay revived the whole episode, pointing to the cancellation as the genesis of today's issues with the on-going procurement of 28 Sikorsky Cyclone helicopters.

Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc took issue with that analysis. After Question Period Wednesday, LeBlanc joined MacKay on military procurement memory lane:

"Mr. Speaker it would be instructive to ask perhaps if you could seek unanimous consent in the house for me to table a document that would be very instructive to that point raised by the Minister of National Defence. Mr. Speaker, of course I'm referring to a document with which you'll be very familiar, it's the Reform Party of Canada's March 11, 1993 plan to in fact scrap the EH-101 purchase. Mr. Speaker, what's instructive about this document from the Reform Party is that the person who was the policy director at the time that the Reform Party advocated the scrapping of the EH-101 project happens to occupy the Prime Minister's chair today."

In his reply, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and former leader of the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada had this crisp retort, "Not being a member of the party which my friend opposite refers to, I would invite my friend to deposit it anywhere he wants."

UPDATE: This entry has been updated from a previous version which incorrectly stated the Liberal government paid $470 in fines for shuttering the EH-101 deal.
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