Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has reported that the price tag for the F-35 stealth fighters that the Harper government wants to buy is likely to end up much higher than the government has been suggesting.
Page’s report, which echoes concerns voiced by F-35 critics, warns that the real figure could end up close to $30 billion (Steven Chase, “Fighter-jet price tag will approach $30-billion, budget watchdog warns,” Globe and Mail, 10 March 2011):
His report was independently peer-reviewed by non-partisan experts at the United States Congressional Budget Office, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and Queen’s University. Opposition Liberals, who’ve promised to cancel the F-35 contract if they win office, said Mr. Page’s report is proof the Tories have been hiding the program’s full costs of nearly $30-billion.
“This is an unconscionable amount, and the Harper Conservatives have again misled Canadians and Parliament,” Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc said. “To put this in perspective, $30-billion is equivalent to $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada, and equals the entire federal government’s annual spending on health care.” Mr. Page’s report is an effort to get at the full price tag for the 65 F-35 Lightning fighter jets the Conservatives have agreed to purchase from Lockheed Martin. The budget watchdog is also warning there is a “risk that costs may increase” further.
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On March 23rd, the Parliamentary Budget Officer released a response to the government’s criticisms of his cost estimates (Comparing PBO and DND Cost Estimates on Canada’s Proposed Acquisition of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: Some Preliminary Questions and Answers on Key Issues, Parliamentary Budget Office, 23 March 2011).
Bottom line: The PBO stands by its estimates.
See also this op/ed piece by Alan Williams, the former Assistant Deputy Minister Materiel at DND (“Let’s be honest about the price tag on those planes,” Ottawa Citizen, 23 March 2011), in which Williams comes up with a cost estimate of his own, very close to the PBO’s figures.