Posts Tagged ‘Canadian military spending’

Winnipeg peace activists joined with their counterparts in several cities in Canada this weekend to reject the federal government’s plan to spend billions on new F-35 fighter jets at a time when citizens are struggling to afford food and shelter.

They distributed the following statement to passers-by.

No Fighter Jets Coalition calls on Trudeau Government to Drop the F35 Deal

While Canadians struggle with rising energy and food costs, extreme weather events, and economic strife this winter, the Trudeau government is trying to push through a $7 billion deal for 16 F-35 stealth fighter jets with American weapons giant Lockheed Martin. On December 22, Global News and La Presse reported that the Canadian government is planning on signing a contract with Lockheed Martin early in the new year. According to a leak by federal government officials, the Department of National Defence has received approval to buy the F-35s despite years of widespread opposition from Canadian citizens, celebrities and parliamentarians. The government is advertising the cost as $7 billion; however, that is only the cost of the initial buy-in for 16 F-35’s. Further, while the government is advertising the cost as $19 billion for the full order of 88 fighter jets, according to the No Fighter Jets campaign 2020 report, From Acquisition to Disposal: Uncovering the true cost of 88 new fighter jets, the lifecycle cost of buying 88 fighter jets is estimated to be at least $76.8 billion over 30 years.

Experts, including former procurement chief at National Defence Alan Williams, have denounced this procurement, because the total cost of this purchase has not been fully disclosed by the federal government. Williams said: “It is distressing to read information being made public regarding billion-dollar procurements that is so opaque and piecemeal rather than being transparent and comprehensive…(It) makes it appear the government is hiding the truth from Canadians.”

Our report Soaring: The Harms and Risks of Fighter Jets and Why Canada Must Not Buy a New Fleet details the many adverse financial, social and environmental impacts of fighter jets. Excessive operational and maintenance costs, air pollution, extreme noise and damaging air weapons training in and around Indigenous communities are some of the many harms of fighter jets. As the U.S. Government Accountability Office explains, the F-35 continues to be plagued with cost overruns and technical flaws. In its April 2022 study, the GAO found that the F-35 has over 900 open deficiencies.

A new fleet of fossil fuel-powered F-35s will lock Canada into decades of carbon intensive militarism and prevent us from decarbonizing. One F-35 releases more carbon emissions in one long-range flight than a car does in a year.

Moreover, the F-35 is a stealth fighter jet designed for first strike attack, meaning it is only effective as an offensive warplane used against other countries. It has also been designed to carry the B61-12 tactical nuclear weapon and will put Canada in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Fighter Jets are weapons of war and exacerbate global warming.

As winter sets in and Canadians struggle to make ends meet, it is irresponsible and unjust for the Trudeau government to spend public money on American warplanes. Instead, the federal government should invest in affordable housing, health care, education, economic assistance, and climate action. Canada’s planned F-35 procurement is unacceptable and immoral and must be canceled.

For more information on the campaign, visit the “No Fighter Jets” website. In Winnipeg, contact Peace Alliance Winnipeg.

Winnipeg, April 8, 2022: Glenn Michalchuk (r) delivers a statement criticizing federal government military spending plans to the office of Jim Carr, MP (Winnipeg South Centre). Photo: Paul S. Graham

On April 8th, 2022, Winnipeg peace activists held an information picket in front of the office of Jim Carr, Liberal Member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre and delivered their message to his office. The purpose of this action was to object to the Canadian government’s recently announced plans to spend 19 billion dollars on 88 new F-35 fighter jets and increase military spending by $6.1 billion over the next 5 years. Glenn Michalchuk spoke on behalf of Peace Alliance Winnipeg and Darrel Rankin spoke on behalf of the Manitoba Peace Council. Here is some of what they had to say.

Below is a copy of their press statement:


The prevailing view that enormous military alliances and budgets guarantee peace and stability is disproved by the Ukraine war.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ranked Canada as the 13th highest military spender in 2020, easily among the top ten per cent of countries globally.

Today’s budget boosts military spending 6.1 billion over 5 years, an average of $1.22 billion or 3.7% per year, well above recent annual inflation rates.

This will only reinforce existing global economic policies of rivalry that led to the present war, a war which is creating danger, hardship and uncertainty for all people.

Peace groups in Winnipeg oppose the hike in military spending.

The Liberal budget grows Canada’s military spending from 1.36 per cent of GDP in 2021 to about 1.5 per cent, or to $34.2 billion.*

High military spending dampens long-term economic growth and worsens the cost of living.

It robs resources from more important social needs like equal and democratic relations with Indigenous Nations, housing, creating a sustainable economy, wage increases, and education and health.

One of the key beneficiaries of the Liberal budget is the military industry, largely based in the United States.

For example, the purchase of 88 F35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin is unnecessary, economically harmful and dangerous. The Liberal government says the purchase price is $19 billion, but neglect to say the cost over a 30-year life cycle may reach an estimated $76.7 billion.**

These warplanes are not compatible with a defensive military doctrine protecting Canada’s territorial sovereignty.

Using past behaviour as an indicator, the Liberal government will use fighter jets in illegal wars of aggression, occupation and regime change.

It is time to reorient Canada’s foreign policies to respect for state sovereignty, mutually beneficial trade and respect for the right of national self-determination, which Canada violated in Ukraine’s coup d’etat and civil war since 2014, in Yugoslavia, Syria, Iraq and other countries.

This means Canada must not be a part of a military alliance like NATO that imposes arbitrary military budget commitments and whose member states practice regime change.

NATO’s original Cold War purpose to roll back and contain socialism disappeared more than thirty years ago. NATO and leading NATO member states, including Canada, have committed serious crimes of aggression in recent decades, from Yugoslavia and Afghanistan to Libya and Iraq – with impunity.

For all these reasons Canada must get out of NATO.

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting continues to raise the alarm over threats to our nation’s public broadcaster and well they should. While Heritage Minister James Moore promised in May to maintain and expand support for the CBC, Tory antipathy to the CBC is well known. Recent initiatives, such as the petition by Tory MP Rob Enders to end CBC funding cast doubt on the Tory pledge to support the CBC. (His surname says it all, eh?)

Because Harper is a notorious control freak, no Tory backbencher who wanted to keep getting nominated would post a petition of this sort without his blessing. This has to be taken seriously.

The Friends have taken a humorous approach in their current attempt to awaken Canadians to the Tory threat. I hope it works.

Under Harper’s majority government, we are beginning to see the unraveling of Canada.

The next four years will be trying times for Canadians who do not want to see our society hideously disfigured. We will have to fight them every step of the way. Take a moment to see how you can begin this by supporting the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.

I’ve written about this before – the F-35 stealth fighter deal stinks to high heaven. Over priced and over sold, the stealthiest thing about this “defense contract” is the assault on Canadian taxpayers over the next several decades as we are robbed of $30 billion to bankroll the merchants of death.

This weapons system is designed for one thing only: fighting wars of aggression. We must send a clear message to Ottawa that we will no longer tolerate the use of our dollars to fuel the international war machine.

Above is a video I shot over the weekend in which Michael Bueckert of Project Peacemakers makes the case for tearing up Stephen Harper’s order for 65 of these death planes. Below is the text of his remarks, also published at the Peace Alliance Winnipeg News.

Call your MP today and tell him/her to shoot down this despicable deal without further delay.

The F-35 Stealth Fighter: A bad deal for Canada

By Michael Bueckert, Program Coordinator, Project Peacemakers

As you may know, this past July, the Conservative government announced what could be the single largest military procurement in Canada’s history when it declared its intention to buy 65 F-35 Lightning II aircraft (A.K.A. “Joint Strike Fighters”) to replace our aging fleet of CF-18s starting in 2016.

If you are familiar with this issue, then you are probably also aware of the narrow way in which the media has presented it.

On one side are the supportive arguments, provided by the Conservative government, military brass and the aerospace companies. When replacing our aging CF-18s, the F-35s are considered necessary for a number of reasons; namely, they provide interoperability with the U.S., they have the best, newest capabilities available, and the deal will create and support Canadian jobs. Additionally, by committing now we would secure the price at a low level.

And then there is the critical argument, provided by the main opposition parties: the deal is based on a sole-source contract, and without appropriate market competition we will inevitably be paying too much for the planes, and there may be better alternatives out there.

So the way it is framed, the debate is essentially one side saying that the F-35s are the best possible planes and this deal will support our army and industry, versus the other side saying that the deal is irresponsible and that we should have an open competition to get the best price.

This excludes the many important critiques being made by analysts in the peace community, primarily by the folks at Project Ploughshares, and by Steven Staples at the Rideau Institute. It is their work that I will draw from most in this presentation.

So let’s look at some of the main arguments put forward by proponents of the F-35 deal.

First of all, is the planes themselves. Proponents argue that these Fifth Generation fighter jets are top notch, with stealth and interoperability technology that makes them second to none.

As Defense Minister Peter McKay has said, “This aircraft is the best that we can provide our men and women in uniform, and this government is committed to giving them the very best.”

Without spending much time on this, what is it that the F-35 is designed to do?

Well, they are geared for aggressive military roles. According to the CBC, it is designed for tactical bombing and aerial warfare, equipped with a 25-millimeter gun, air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles, plus a variety of bombs. As Steven Staples puts it, the F-35 is “highly capable in air-to-air combat against other advanced fighters,” designed as “a first strike fighter-bomber intended for use in ‘shock and awe’ attacks.”

Well, I think that anyone who has read accounts of the American “shock-and-awe” bombing campaign of Iraq can appreciate how sickening it is just to imagine ourselves with that kind of capability.

But even without an appeal to moral sensibilities, even if we believe that in some cases the use of fighter planes is justifiable, and that national defence is a primary responsibility, we don’t have to look any further than the Government’s own 2008 “Canada First” defense strategy document to see that the purchase of these planes is inappropriate.

In that document, the government outlined the various threats that Canada could face in the future. According to Project Ploughshares, “you would be hard pressed to create a credible scenario from them where a stealth-enabled fighter jet is logically part of Canadian Forces’ response.”

This sentiment is reflected by Major General Leonard Johnson (retired), who argued in the Ottawa Citizen that apart from the incredulous prospect of war against an advanced enemy–Iran doesn’t count–it is “hard to see any useful military role” for the F-35.

And this argument–that there is no necessary role for the F-35 either domestically or internationally–is essentially accepted by F-35 proponents. Rather than point to how the planes could be used, they point to the unpredictable threats of an unknown future. We need the planes in order to keep our options open, and keep an aggressive militarism on the table.

The second main argument used by F-35 proponents is that by committing to these planes we are getting a good deal, and that it will provide and protect Canadian jobs. Conversely, rejecting the deal will waste taxpayers money and threaten billions of dollars in contracts for Canadian companies.

Well, to analyze these claims we need to look at the deal and the Joint Strike Fighter program in more detail.

Canada joined the Joint Strike Fighter program in 1997, under the Liberal government. The JSF program is a partnership of nine countries—the US, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Denmark, Australia and Canada—to invest in the development, production and sustainment of three versions of a stealth, multi-role aircraft. Lockheed Martin won over Boeing in an early competition to develop the planes for the program. To date, Canada has invested 168 million U.S. dollars in the program, and is committed to spending an additional 551 million dollars between now and 2051 in production costs.

The planes are currently in the Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development stage, and we are expected to start receiving them in 2016. What Canada did last summer is unusual, when it committed to buying 65 planes before they had even been completed, or tested.

The planes themselves, when we buy them, are said to total $9 Billion, with up to $7 Billion in maintenance costs over their lifespan. That would bring the total cost of the planes to $16 Billion, on top of the 711 million dollars in ongoing investment.

This sounds like a lot of money in itself, but even the $16 Billion is bound to be too low, for a number of reasons.

First, the program has been plagued by cost overruns, and estimates continue to grow. Project Ploughshares, using U.S.-based data, has estimated that the planes will come to a total cost of $30 Billion, which is about double what officials are saying. Further, because the planes are not completed and have not been tested, and there is simply no idea how much we will have to pay.

In testimony to the Canadian parliament, U.S. military critic Winslow Wheeler warned about the possibility of the planes being much more expensive than advertised. His testimony is worthy of being quoted at length:

“In this country, advocates cite various figures, all of them misleading. The gimmicks include excluding important parts of the airplane, such as the engine, excluding all development costs, using obsolete dollars that understate the contemporaneous cost, and – in your case – using American, not Canadian, dollars. There are other tricks that can be hard to unravel; I encourage you to thoroughly research any unit costs cited to you.

“Neither you nor I currently know, but it is certain that the costs being cited to you now are the ‘buy-in’ costs. Real costs, when your government negotiates an actual contract and as the program goes through its life cycle, are sure to be an unpleasant surprise to you.”

Moreover, the cost per plane is based on an estimated global market that is steadily decreasing. The more planes sold, the cheaper they will be, but many countries are starting to back down from their previous commitments. Project Ploughshares has reported on the fact that the sales projections quoted by proponents are now 10 years out of date; the 2001 projection was that 5,179 planes would be sold, and now it is more likely to be between 2 thousand and 3500. Using the old estimates are almost certainly intended to deceive, as they drastically reduce the expected price.

All this is to say that the 16 Billion dollar price tag is likely to be drastically inaccurate, and the supposedly good deal is not looking quite so good.

But what about the argument that this deal is good for supporting Canadian jobs? This is the most populist, and most common argument being put forward. (It should probably be noted that if the Government was committed to Keynesian economics, there are ways of supporting jobs that don’t involve manufacturing weapons. But let’s look at this anyway).

It is true that Canadian companies have benefited so far. Industry Canada notes that to date 350 million dollars in contracts have been awarded to 85 Canadian companies and research laboratories, which is more than Canadians have invested so far. Proponents say that up to $12 Billion is potentially available to Canadian companies in industrial benefits.

Some of those benefits are being realized right here in Winnipeg. A recent Winnipeg Free Press article highlighted Bristol Aerospace, noting its contracts to build horizontal tail components, and other parts for the F-35. According to the article, Bristol has committed about $100 million in capital spending to equip its Winnipeg plant, expects to ship 1 Billion dollars in parts, and had already shipped 35 million dollars worth of parts before we committed to purchasing the jets.

It is clear that Bristol, and the industry, have a lot of vested interest in this deal. Which is why its parent company, Magellan Aerospace Corporation, has come out with other companies to support the F-35 deal, citing outdated and exaggerated statistics.

However, while Canadian arms manufactures may have benefited so far, it is not at all certain that these privileges will continue. There are no guaranteed contracts built into the procurement deal. All we have is the opportunity to bid on them, and competition from industry in other countries is growing as they demand a fairer share in the distribution of contracts. Moreover, the figure of $12 Billion in potential industrial benefits is based on the outdated market projections I explained earlier, which assume an exaggerated number of planes will be manufactured.

Labour, for its part, has refused to passively accept these figures, but has refrained from speaking against the deal itself. Instead, the Canadian Auto Workers union has called for $16 Billion of guaranteed contracts to be included in the procurement deal, a demand that is certain to be ignored.

Now, what I have just done is to argue that the proposed financial benefits to Canada are not nearly as high as stated by officials and industry. The F-35s will cost much more than we think, and will give back fewer jobs than we expect. It is important to point out the misinformation that is provided on this issue, as proponents continue to sell the deal to Canadians. But the point is not simply that they are too expensive, as the Opposition parties claim. Yes, they are expensive, but we are not calling for cheaper fighter planes.

We should remember that the CF-18s, the planes which we are looking to replace, had been used to drop bombs on Iraq in 1991, and on Kosovo in 1999. Upgrading these planes–as suggested by Steven Staples–is not a peaceful alternative to the F-35s, although it would be cheaper. Similarly, buying unmanned drones to patrol the arctic–also suggested by Staples–does not get us much farther, because drones are easily incorporated into weapons systems.

Richard Sanders, of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, is disturbed about how analysts focus primarily on the relative cost of the F-35s, as if cheaper fighter planes will be more peaceful fighter planes. I tend to agree; we need to challenge not just these planes, but all fighter planes, all military spending. But we can start by working to ensure that we do not purchase the F-35, which would be a monumental waste of money towards immoral ends.

This article is the text of Michael Bueckert’s presentation to the Feb. 20, 2011 annual meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg.