An NDP filibuster has saved the House of Commons committee investigation into the F-35 procurement process, at least temporarily. As reported by Murray Brewster of the Canadian Press (“Commons committee investigation into F-35 fiasco hangs on by a thread,” 21 June 2012), Conservative members put forth an in-camera motion calling for the Public Accounts Committee to conclude its study and for public hearings on the issue to end before the Commons adjourned for the summer, but the motion was filibustered by the NDP’s Malcolm Allen and other opposition members.
Allen says the government was determined to put the controversy firmly behind it after auditor general Michael Ferguson’s scathing report April 3 tarnished Conservative credentials as competent managers of the public purse.
They really wanted it to end this session, so that the whole thing would be behind them in the fall,” Allen said Thursday.
The auditor general’s report, discussed in a Ceasefire.ca blog post on April 3rd, criticized National Defence’s lack of transparency on cost estimates for the aircraft, as well as Public Works’ failure to follow proper procedure and ensure sufficient justification for the military’s choice to purchase the stealth fighter.
The Harper government responded to the audit by transferring the file from National Defence to a secretariat under Public Works, promising to regularly release and independently verify cost estimates.
“They were looking for an opportunity to say, ‘See, everything’s wonderful. We have our seven-point plan and everything is moving along,’” [Allen] said. “But I’m of the belief there are folks whom we should be talking to.”
The committee is not finished its work and should call more witnesses, including Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, and even critics of the program, such as former defence bureaucrat Alan Williams, Allen added.
Also left pending is an opposition motion of contempt, which accuses deputy defence minister Robert Fonberg of misleading the committee with testimony that criticized the auditor, accusing Michael Ferguson of getting it “wrong” in his assessment.
Earlier Ceasefire.ca reporting on the Tories’ plans to shut down the F-35 probe.
Photo credit: DND