By Canadian standards, the C$10.4 billion military purchase announced this week moved at lightning speed, perhaps in just nine months.
Traditionally, when Canada purchases major military items such as aircraft, the process turns into a Wagnerian opera of epic length and complexity. This purchase of at least 14 Boeing maritime surveillance planes was also surrounded by political protests, but the operation remained on an accelerated track, in part because the government was willing to toughen up some reactions to make it happen.
While there are many examples of sluggishness in Canadian military procurement, the most dramatic has been the recent fighter aircraft replacement program. In 2010, the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper, the then prime minister, said it would purchase 65 F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin.
The agreement was immediately opposed by the Liberals. Their opposition intensified after the auditor general concluded that the purchase was made without “fair competition” and that the estimated cost of C$9 billion was grossly underestimated. The estimated cost of the program was estimated at C$45.8 billion.
After forming his first government in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau canceled the deal and began a new fighter jet purchase program. Due to the further delay, the government also retired some new F-18 jets from Boeing 25 used from Australia to face the Royal Canadian Air Force.
After all this, the end result was that Trudeau’s government reversed its previous opposition earlier this year and said that it would buy F-35s after all88 of which for a total program cost of 70 billion Canadian dollars.
The first F-35s could arrive as early as 2029, two decades after the Conservatives’ announcement.
But this time the Trudeau government accelerated the purchase.
Unless things take an unexpected turn, the first of the newly purchased Boeing P-8A planes – which are basically Boeing 737 airliners packed with various types of sensors, weapons, computers and analyst workstations – will begin flying with the RCAF in 2026. The estimated cost of the program is C$10.4 billion, of which just under $6 billion represents the purchase price of the plans. (The cost of the program includes weapons, training simulators, spare parts and renovations at Air Force bases in British Columbia and Nova Scotia where the planes will be stationed.)
As with the 1980s-vintage CP-140 Aurora plans they replace, the newcomers’ primary task will be to track the submarines. But, as is the case now, they will most likely carry out a variety of other tasks ranging from monitoring drug trafficking in the Caribbean to monitoring pollution in Canada. The RCAF turned to its Auroras to help search for the doomed Titan submarine earlier this year.
And the Poseidon is not only used by the United States. Several other allies, including Britain, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, have already flown the plane, allowing Canada, among other things, to swap crew members and parts during joint exercises.
But even before the announcement was made, Premier François Legault of Quebec, Premier Doug Ford of Ontario, Yves-François Blanchet, the leader of the Bloc Québécois, and a parliamentary committee all criticized the government for not opening the bidding contract. In particular, they wanted Montreal-based Bombardier’s proposed maritime surveillance aircraft to be considered.
Blanchet said the government is “turning down” Quebec and Canada for a “flying dinosaur” from Boeing.
Bill Blair, Defense Secretary, said the Poseidon is the only aircraft of its type currently in production and is the only option that guarantees the Auroras will be replaced as they reach the end of their service life starting in 2030 .
“The fact that it met all the requirements defined for us by the Air Force made this not only the right choice, but frankly the only choice,” he told reporters.
Unmentioned by Blair and other ministers was Bombardier’s weak track record for developing new plans in a timely manner. A series of delays played a major role in the failure of its ambitious plan to conquer Boeing and Airbus in the airliner market. Despite more than $1 billion in government investment, Bombardier effectively gave the plane, originally known as the CSeries, to Airbus for nothing.
Philippe Lagassé, a professor at Carleton University who studies military procurement, said he found it a notable break from the past that the government decided to act quickly rather than go through a lengthy bidding process.
It is unclear when exactly the government decided to use only the Boeing aircraft. But in March it opened a preliminary investigation with the U.S. government into the Poseidon purchase. (Boeing is not allowed to sell the plane directly; the purchase is made between the two governments.)
Professor Lagassé said that several factors most likely contributed to the government’s decision to enter into a rapid and exclusive contract. In addition to the availability of the Poseidon, he said, there are also indications that Boeing may cease production of the plane.
And, he said, the government clearly decided that it could defend its decision even if it disappointed or angered some people and groups.
“In the past, there would have been more caution and hesitation, particularly around political risk or risk around how other companies might react,” he told me.
An indictment released in the United States this week accused an Indian government official of directing an unsuccessful assassination plot against a Sikh separatist in New York and of linking the plot to the killing of a Sikh nationalist in Surrey, La. British Columbia – an accusation raised months ago by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. My colleague Norimitsu Onishi writes that the American accusations have strengthened Trudeau’s allegations, which India has vigorously denied.
Canada’s standoff with Google ended this week when the tech giant agreed to provide C$100 million a year in compensation to Canadian publishers for the use of their information material. But Meta, Facebook’s parent company, remains at odds with the government, Vjosa Isai reports.
A man who was a teenager when he killed one woman and seriously injured another was sentenced as an adult this week following his conviction. For the first time in a case of violence against women in Canada, the judge also declared that the brutal attack was an act of terrorism because the man had used a sword engraved with a sexist epithet and had a note in his pocket promoting an ideology of violence against women.
Montreal-born Marty Krofft, who joined his brother in creating great children’s television programs, including “HR Pufnstuf,” has died at age 86.
Two Canadian nutrition researchers discuss how our protein needs change as we age.
And Daniel Levitin, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University, talks about the reliability of Christmas music for self-soothing.
Born in Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen studied in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has written about Canada for the New York Times for twenty years. Email email@example.com
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