Government communication strategy designed two years ago to justify the purchase of the F-35

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Government officials prepared a communications strategy two years ago to justify how the federal government could buy the F-35 even though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that Canada would not buy the stealth fighter and would not had no use.

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Trudeau promised in September 2015 that a Liberal government, if elected, would not buy the F-35 and instead choose a more affordable aircraft.

Once elected, Trudeau again rejected the need for the F-35. “Canadians know full well that for 10 years the Conservatives completely missed the mark when it came to delivering Canadians and their armed forces the equipment they needed,” Trudeau said in June 2016. They clung to a plane (the F-35) which does not work and is far from working.

The Liberals also pointed out that the F-35’s “stealth first-strike capability” was not necessary to defend Canada.

The Liberal government announced Monday that Canada is entering negotiations with the United States and Lockheed Martin to buy 88 F-35s in a deal that could cost up to $19 billion.

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Supply Minister Filomena Tassi and Defense Minister Anita Anand were peppered with questions from reporters about the Liberal government’s previous promise not to buy the F-35. “We’re in a different place today,” Tassi said.

In early 2020, National Defense officials developed a communications strategy on how to respond to questions from the media that might point out that “elected officials have said Canada will not buy the F-35.”

The response avoided addressing direct statements from the Liberals that the F-35 would not be purchased. Instead, the focus has been on the procurement process itself. “The government has indicated that it will not proceed with a sole-source contract for the purchase of F-35s, but rather will hold an open and transparent competition, which has been launched,” the talking points noted. .

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Tassi used the same argument on Monday, ignoring Trudeau’s statements from 2015 and June 2016 and instead focusing on the Liberal government’s announcement in November 2016 that it would hold a competition for a new jet plane. “We are here today to follow through on that commitment we made in 2016,” she noted.

The Liberals are now saying that the F-35 is the best plane at the best price for Canada. A contract is expected by the end of the year for the stealth jets. Deliveries would begin in 2025.

In September 2015, Trudeau said his decision to avoid purchasing the F-35 would free up more funds for other defense equipment purchases. “By choosing to replace the existing CF-18s with an aircraft that is more affordable than the F-35s, we will be able to guarantee the delivery of current supplies for the Navy,” he noted.

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The Liberal government had to invest more money in naval programs because the cost of these shipbuilding projects skyrocketed far beyond their original budgets.

Social justice and peace groups have opposed the idea of ​​spending billions on the jets. Tamara Lorincz, who received the government’s F-35 communications strategy through the Access to Information Act, argued the money could be better spent elsewhere to help Canadians. For example, she noted that the $19 billion could fund 15 state-of-the-art healthcare complexes; or 760 aboriginal wellness centres; or 240 new high schools; or 130 kilometers of light rail transit or 87,842 green affordable housing units.

US defense officials have also raised concerns about the cost of the F-35. In February 2021, US Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Brown Jr. said he wanted to develop a new, more affordable fifth-generation aircraft that would have some of the features of the F-35, but would be less expensive to operate. Brown’s comments generated a lot of media coverage, with the F-35 being called a “failure”.

In March 2021, Adam Smith, head of the United States House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, called for a halt to the F-35 program. The plane “doesn’t perform particularly well” and costs too much to maintain, he noted. “I want to stop throwing money at this particular dump,” Smith said.

Smith, however, admitted that the United States would not stop the F-35 program because it had invested too much in it.

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