Commentary, Opinion

The profligacy of Canada’s new warplanes

On Jan. 9, Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand confirmed the deal to purchase 88 F-35 jet fighters from the United States to replace the Air Force’s CF-18s, introduced in 1983. Each F-35  will cost Canada $85 million USD, with the project’s budget sitting at $19 billion CAD. This represents an unexpected reversal of the government’s previous commitment to purchasing less expensive jet fighter replacements.

The military already receives a disproportionate amount of government funding and should be managing that money more judiciously. Instead of increased military investments, the government must devote more of its budget towards combatting climate change while also ensuring prudent spending decisions are made within the military. 

The Canadian Armed Forces has an exorbitant budget of roughly $23.3 billion per year, which they often do not entirely exhaust. The government has trouble spending the money it receives due to the long time frame for acquiring weapons. The waste can be attributed to poorly planned military procurements that end up taking too long to secure and are significantly above the estimated price tag. The government sometimes even buys the wrong equipment, such as when an Arctic Patrol Ship was purchased in September but did not function properly—it’s now undergoing mechanical repairs on the taxpayer’s dollar. 

Consistent with the military’s pattern of poor spending, the F-35 jets have been widely criticized. Due to issues regarding cabin pressure and damage when they fly at high speeds, United States Air Force chief of staff General Charles Brown called the F-35 program a failure. Considering the chronic waste of taxpayer dollars on military equipment, the last thing the government should be purchasing are fighter jets rife with technical problems.

Canada’s defence spending is projected to double between 2016 and 2026, and these jets will add a significant tally to the bill. The mentality to increase military spending arises from politicians and companies complicit in the military-industrial complex that profit from war. The F-35s are clearly in line with this mentality, being purely offensive weapons that are designed to inflict destruction on a massive scale, with the capability to carry over 18,000 pounds of weaponry. Proponents of the military-industrial complex push the idea that national security only depends on military spending when, in fact, it also depends on protecting the environment and diplomacy.  

The defence industry is one of the worst greenhouse gas emitters. As of summer 2021, the Department of National Defence is responsible for 59 per cent of federal government greenhouse gas emissions. The F-35s are also significant offenders as each jet is expected to release 48.76 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. The construction and use of these fighter jets will only add to this climate burden and undermine national security concerns. 

McGill student groups have long advocated against the university assisting with military research, specifically in the Aerospace Mechatronics Lab. In 2015, the Students’ Society of McGill University passed a policy that encouraged McGill to be transparent about military research on campus. This resulted in a 600-page document being released to Demilitarize McGill concerning the experimentation. But the policy expired in 2020, and it’s unclear if any measures have been taken to renew it. 

To make matters worse, McGill itself invests in various military aircraft and weapons producers including Raytheon Technologies and Lockheed Martin, which both participated in the creation of F-35 jets. As of August 2022, McGill had over $700,000 invested into the former and over $500,000 into the latter. This money comes from the McGill endowment fund, which students are forced to contribute to through their tuition dollars. Instead, McGill must divert money away from these investments and towards the students who pay tuition and deserve support. 

Spending billions on the new fleet was hasty and ignored what Canadians inside and outside the military needed. Each year that the Canadian military increases their budget, taxpayers, students, and the environment suffer as a result.

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One Comment

  1. Somebody didn’t do their history on the defunding of the military in the 90s…

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