Libya mission cost seven times what the government said it would: documents
OTTAWA — Amid allegations the Conservative government intentionally lowballed the price of the F-35 stealth fighter project, newly released National Defence documents indicate the full cost of last year’s Libya mission was nearly $350 million — seven times what Defence Minister Peter MacKay told Canadians it cost.
The revelation is likely to raise further accusations of a systemic effort to hide the true cost of Canadian military operations and equipment purchases, and lead to fresh demands for accountability.
Last October, with Moammar Gadhafi dead and NATO wrapping up its seven-month air-and-sea campaign in Libya, MacKay said the mission had cost taxpayers $50 million — or about $10 million less than the Defence Department had predicted.
“As of Oct. 13, the figures that I’ve received have us well below ($60 million), somewhere under $50 million,” MacKay told the CBC on Oct. 28, three days before the mission officially ended. “And that’s the all-up costs of the equipment that we have in the theatre, the transportation to get there, those that have been carrying out this critical mission.”
Even taking into account the Defence Department’s controversial practice of only reporting “incremental costs” — those deemed to be above and beyond normal operating expenses — the mission still came in at $100 million, or almost twice what MacKay claimed.
The minister’s office did not respond to questions by time of press.
The Conservative government and Defence Department have been under fire in the past few weeks for using incremental costs instead of full costs when reporting the price Canada will pay for the F-35 stealth fighter — a difference of $10 billion.
The Rideau Institute actually had projected in June 2011 that the Libya mission would cost tens of millions more than the Defence Department was saying. MacKay publicly declared at the time that “the Rideau Institute, as so often is the case, is wrong.” As it turns out, the Rideau Institute’s prediction was much more closer.
MacKay also described Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page’s report in March 2011 — which said the F-35 would cost $30 billion — as “flawed,” though many observers now believe that estimate was much more accurate than the figures provided to Parliament by National Defence.
University of Ottawa defence expert Philippe Lagasse said there is an underlying culture within the Defence Department of hiding full costs to Parliament and the public.
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