During a speech to a special Liberal caucus meeting
Wednesday, interim leader Bob Rae accused Stephen Harper of lying to the Canadian people during last spring’s federal election and misleading Parliament about having contractual protection against soaring costs for a fleet of fighter jets.
Rae’s remarks come a day after Michael Ferguson, the Canadian Auditor General, stated in his annual report
that the prime minister has been hoodwinking the House of Commons about the skyrocketing costs of a planned purchase of 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets in order to replace the nation’s aging CF-18 aircraft.
Aides to the prime minister deny the assertion that the Harper government deliberately hid the costs. However, Harper and his close allies, including Associate National Defense Minister Julian Fantino, agreed with the Auditor General’s recommendations of closer scrutiny of the procurement procedure.
That’s not good enough for the Grit leader.
“You can't get away with the fiction that a $10-billion mistake in calculating the cost of the F-35 stealth fighter, had nothing to do with the man in charge, with the man whose name and whose moniker is on every single publication of this government,” said the Toronto Centre Member of Parliament. “He cannot now pretend that he was just the piano player in the brothel who didn't have a clue as to what was really going on upstairs.”
He added that Harper “is not fit to be the prime minister of Canada” and that he should resign. “The buck stops at the top.”
Meanwhile, New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair was not so impetuous in insisting on a resignation from the prime minister, but he told The Canadian Press
that he ultimately blames Defence Minister Peter Mackay. “It's premature to ask for a resignation. We don't have all the details.”
Following the AG report, the Conservative government has announced
that it will not spend more than $9 billion to buy the new jets, it will provide annual updates to the House of Commons on the initiative’s progress and will transfer the responsibility of procurement from the Defense Department to the Public Works Department.
At first, costs were estimated to be $25 billion over a 20-year period, but last year the government told the parliamentary budget office last year that it would be $14.7 billion.