02/09/2012 05:28 EST | Updated 04/10/2012 05:12 EDT

F-35: Julian Fantino Makes 'Holy' Defence Of Canada's Fighter Jet Purchase

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OTTAWA - Holy question period, Batman!

Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino reached heavenward for words Thursday when trying to defend his government's purchase of F-35 fighter jets during question period.

Fantino said a recent report criticizing the purchase in the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal was "critical of everything that is holy and decent about the government's efforts" to equip the Canadian Forces.

The junior minister was immediately drowned out by less-than-angelic heckling and laughter in the House of Commons.

New Democrat MP Matthew Kellway said Fantino's remark explained the Tory commitment to the plane.

"It's on a wing and a prayer that they're moving forward on the F-35," Kellway said.

"There's no reasonable grounds, there's no evidence available to suggest that this is the right plane, which is why we're proposing that they put it out to tender, to determine what the right plane is."

The debate over the cost of the F-35 fleet continues to bedevil the Conservatives in Parliament.

The Harper government insists it will pay roughly US$75 million per aircraft when it starts buying in 2016, but critics say they don't have any faith in those numbers.

The U.S. and Britain recently signed a deal for the delivery of early-production aircraft at between US$140 million and US$145 million per plane.

Canadian officials have long insisted that the price will drop as the assembly line ramps up. Ottawa is looking at a fleet of 65 to replace the current CF-18s.

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