Creating jobs in Canada: F-35s not the best option

Analysts, activists, and politicians have denounced Canada’s controversial F-35 fighter jet purchase from day one, pointing out that the whopping $16-billion investment is not in accordance with the country’s military or domestic needs. In response, the Canadian government has marketed the purchase as an effective way of creating jobs in Canada.

Edmund Pries, a professor of Global Studies at Wilfred Laurier University, warns Canadians not to be fooled by that claim.  Any significant government investment will create jobs; the real question is if the purchase of F-35s will create more jobs than other investment options. The answer, he says, is no (Edmund Pries, “F-35 jets aren’t a good buy,”, 29 December 2010):

A 2007 study by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and the Political Economy Research Institute, titled The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities, indicates that for every $1 billion of investment per sector, each sector would create the following number of jobs (Canadian figures would obviously vary, but likely not by much):

• Military/Defence: 8,555

• Health care: 12,883

• Education: 17,687

• Mass transit: 19,795

• Home weatherization/infrastructure construction: 12,804

Clearly, investment in the military or defence sector is the least effective when compared to other sectors for results in job creation per unit of dollars invested. The F-35 fighter is, therefore, a rather poor job creation instrument. If the government’s goal truly is job creation, it would do better to invest in domestic sectors that improve the lives of its citizens and create more jobs at the same time — and reconsider whether to proceed with the purchase of the F-35 fighter or even its much heralded increases in annual military spending.

The negative impact of the F-35 purchase on job creation is even worse than a cursory reading of the above table of figures suggests. Our government has repeatedly emphasized that federal finances are in a serious deficit situation and, as a result, Canadians should expect painful, but necessary, cuts to federal programs and services. And yet $16 billion will be spent on a new fighter jet? The net result is this: we will be cutting federal programs and services to fund the F-35 fighter jet purchase. Since those other programs create more jobs per unit of government investment than the F-35 fighter jet purchase will create, the transfer of funds from an area that creates more jobs to one that creates less jobs means that the F-35 purchase could, conceivably, cost the country jobs.

With this in mind, Pries goes on to express additional concern about the government’s priorities:

It should be of great concern to Canadians that the government wishes to spend $16 billion on a fighter jet of highly dubious utility while it claims it has insufficient funds to improve health care and education or, for that matter, combat homelessness and child poverty or to assist more fully with the settlement of immigrants and refugees.

Photo by Rob Shenk

Tags: Canadian economy, Canadian military spending, Defence policy, Edmund Pries, F-35