Aircraft Procurement

Hon. Jim Munson: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Here are words from then Associate Minister of National Defence, Julian Fantino. In November 2011, he said:

We will purchase the F-35. We’re on record. We’re part of the crusade. We’re not backing down.

This is the minister at that time. Tellingly, Minister Fantino may have overshadowed what was to come. Like the F-35 program, after some early successes, these later crusades were largely failures.

The minister also added:

There’s a plan A, there’s a plan B, there’s a plan C, there’s a plan Z and they’re all F-35s.

I take it from this that the minister knows both his ABCs and that the F-35 was, at that time, the only option for Canada.

Despite the words about hysteria in the media, there are a lot of questions of bungling and what has happened in this F-35 program. How does the leader explain those comments, which were made not very long ago, in light of the recent developments?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, I was not talking about hysteria in the media. I was talking about headlines in the newspapers in the last few days.

Obviously, something did happen, honourable senators, and it was the Auditor General’s report. Senator Munson is quoting from the late fall of 2011; we are dealing with the Auditor General’s report from earlier this year. As a result of the Auditor General’s report, when he made a specific recommendation for the full lifespan of the aircraft, the government put in place the National Fighter Procurement Secretariat to look at the whole program to ensure transparency and due diligence in the decision to replace the aging CF-18s. We are committed to completing the seven-point plan and moving forward with a comprehensive and transparent approach to replacing the CF-18s. Our seven-point plan, as I have said many times, so it should not come as a surprise to anyone, includes a review of the options that will not be constrained by the statement of requirements.

Again, we have only a few more days before we rise for Christmas. The government is committed to providing KPMG’s report, the comprehensive review of the CF-18 replacement program, and I would ask honourable senators to await the release of that report before jumping to any conclusions.