Harper Calls F-35 Contracts Vital to Canadian Manufacturing

  • PM comments after Trudeau pledges to scrap jet purchase
  • Conservatives, Liberals and NDP in tight race for Oct. 19 vote

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said supplier contracts linked to building Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 jets are vital to Canada’s manufacturers, opening up a campaign rift with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau who says the aircraft are too expensive.

“We have been participating actively in the development of this plane,” Harper said Monday in St. Jacobs, Ontario, calling Trudeau’s proposal to abandon the purchase “bad policy.”

Harper’s Conservative government stepped back from a plan to buy the F-35s in 2012, citing rising costs in a report that said alternatives would be considered. The Canadian government had said in July 2010 that it would buy 65 F-35s to replace the country’s aging fleet of CF-18 Hornets.

Trudeau said Monday in Toronto if his Liberal Party is elected, he won’t buy the F-35s. “This government hasn’t been honest with Canadians about whether they have done due diligence,” he said.

On Sunday, Trudeau said he would instead “launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18s,” and “we won’t purchase the F-35 stealth fighter-bomber.”

Polls suggest Harper, Trudeau and New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair are statistically tied heading into the Oct. 19 election.

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