OTTAWA — Opposition parties have accused the Liberals of hijacking a committee report that recommended buying new fighter jets within a year and re-opening the debate over ballistic missile defence.
The House of Commons defence committee on Monday released the results of a two-month study into the defence of Canada and North America that had been requested by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan as part of the Liberal government's plan to publish a new defence policy.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Sept. 19, 2016. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)
Three of the 13 recommendations contained in the final report deal specifically with replacing the Royal Canadian Air Force's aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets, including one calling on the government to decide on a replacement "within the next 12 months."
Another recommendation lays down a number of criteria for the new warplane, including compatibility with the air force's existing infrastructure and "well-defined" costs that won't shortchange other military projects.
The Liberals promised during last year's election not to buy the F-35 stealth fighter, and redirect any savings back into new warships for the navy.
BMD debate ahead?
The report also calls on the government to "reconsider Canada's position with regard to ballistic missile defence (BMD) in the context of Canada's defence priorities and limited financial resources."
But in dissenting opinions attached at the end, both Conservative and NDP committee members accused the Liberals of having written the report and recommendations without opposition input.
"No opposition members were present for the final stages of drafting," the Conservatives wrote.
"Some members of the committee, with the tyranny of the majority, rushed through the final stages of the draft report, which included making recommendations and established the short deadline for the dissenting opinions for opposition members."
Report reflects Liberal agenda, opposition says
Conservative committee members alleged the final report simply reflects the Liberal government's political agenda with regards to defence, a charge echoed by the NDP.
"The committee report marshals evidence to bolster the Liberal decision to sole-source the purchase of Super Hornets, their desire to reposition Canada's current fighter jets, and their attempt to justify participation in the U.S. missile defence program," the NDP wrote.
The Liberals have said they need to replace the CF-18s quickly to avoid a shortage of aircraft. Opposition parties, however, have accused the government of manufacturing a crisis to justify buying a fighter jet other than the F-35 without a competition.
The report released Monday is the second in as many years from the Commons' defence committee dealing with defending North America. The first, published in June 2015, received unanimous approval from all committee members.