Opposition parties accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of dodging responsibility for the F-35 fiasco and said Defence Minister Peter McKay should be fired for allowing Parliament to be misled about cost overruns and other problems with the trouble-plagued $25 billion fighter purchase.
“It’s absolutely scandalous that the Canadian government would intentionally provide information that they knew to be false,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said after the federal auditor general released a report saying defence officials kept Canadians in the dark about cost overruns and production delays on the aircraft Ottawa plans to buy.
“Ministers are accountable before Parliament and the Prime Minister is the first among them,” Mulcair told the media. “Did he (Harper) know that the information was false that the Conservative government was giving? If so, it’s unconscionable. And, if he didn’t know, frankly, it’s a question of incompetence.”
The criticism mounted even as the Conservative government moved quickly Tuesday to quell the fallout from Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s scathing report, which includes the stunning conclusion that the fighters could cost $10 billion more than the defence department has publicly acknowledged.
Harper responded by freezing the budget for the controversial fighter jet purchase and stripped the defence department of responsibility for the procurement process, handing it instead to a new secretariat within Public Works and Government Services.