POLITICS
11/17/2011 08:04 EST | Updated 11/19/2011 12:25 EST

CC-150 Polaris: Stephen Harper Gets His Way On Repainting Of VIP Airbus

CP

OTTAWA - After battling with the Department of National Defence over the right to repaint his airbus red and white, The Huffington Post has learned Prime Minister Stephen Harper is getting his way.

The Prime Minister's grey aircraft, an Airbus A-310, which is designated as a CC-150 Polaris, has been slotted for a fresh paint job in August 2013 and sketches of the new design are currently being tossed around the Department Of National Defence, the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office.

In fact, the first batch of drawings has already been nixed by political officials.

An early sketch by Jim Belliveau, obtained under Access to Information legislation, shows a colourful plane with native art on the tail. One side of the plane would have represented western Canada and the other side eastern Canada, but officials rejected the concept. Their response, however, hasn't discouraged Belliveau, the graphic designer at 410 Tactical Fighter Squadron at the Royal Canadian Air Forces' base 4 Wing Cold Lake in Alberta.

SEE THE REJECTED SKETCHES

"As an artist being involved in this is a lot of fun," the man whose drawing will likely be emblazoned on the Prime Minister's aircraft for years to come told HuffPost.

Since most of the public's attention is focused on one side of the plane, the side with the door, officials are being cautious to ensure the aircraft looks uniform.

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FINAL DESIGN FOR HARPER'S PLANE WILL LOOK LIKE? SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS IN OUR COMMENTS

Belliveau has been drawing plane designs for the Canadian Forces for 28 years. He said he has been asked to come up with three final drawings for the aircraft.

"A product which is easy to produce but at the same time looks professional and puts us in a good light," he said.

"I want the best looking government airplane in the world," Belliveau added. "Regal? Yeah and polished. And it has to be better looking than the rest."

Records suggest Belliveau has been given a few pointers. The words "Government of Canada" must appear in large letters above the side windows in French and English. Under the cockpit window, phrases from Canada's national anthem will be written: "True North Strong and Free" in English, and in French, "Des plus brillant exploits."

A tender for the paint job will be released after the Prime Minister's Office picks a graphic scheme, which is expected sometime in the next year.

The cost of repainting the plane was deleted from the records obtained by HuffPost. Harper's office, however, has insisted it will be "cost-neutral" since the paint job will be delayed until the plane is up for routine maintenance. The mid-1980s Airbus, which was procured in 1993, is repainted approximately every six years.

Up until this year, records suggest Defence Minister Peter MacKay was insisting the aircraft keep its utilitarian, grey look. He maintained it should not be transformed into a fancy-looking VIP plane because the Canadian Forces routinely use the aircraft in support of military missions. Delivering supplies with a white plane was considered a no, no.

"As a result of the multi-role nature of this aircraft, which includes the transporting of Canadian Forces personnel and equipment into areas of operations, it has been painted in a colour scheme appropriate for those tasks," MacKay wrote in a 2010 letter.

This January, however, when the Prime Minister's Office asked MacKay to respond to queries about the Airbus' paint job, the Defence Minister struck a different tone.

"The Polaris was last painted in 2007, and as part of its normal maintenance cycle it will require repainting in 2012. Regardless of the paint scheme selected, the Canadian Forces will continue to employ all five CC-150 Polaris aircraft for strategic airlift," MacKay wrote.

Records show the paint job was pushed to 2013 because the aircraft is scheduled for a massive strip down of all of its parts that year which will scuff its paint.

This sketch by Jim Belliveau, obtained under Access to Information legislation, shows a colourful plane with native art on the tail. One side of the plane would have represented western Canada and the other side eastern Canada, but officials rejected the concept.

Belliveau was also responsible for this Tiger-striped CF-18 from 1999.

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althia.raj@huffingtonpost.com