It's too soon to put numbers to the cost of Canada's mission against ISIS in Iraq, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told MPs on the Commons defence committee today.
"[The costs] will be reported, you know, in the normal way. Usually within 90 days of the completion of the mission the costs are tabled," Nicholson said.
Nicholson also suggested it would be months before the costs are released to the public. "This is a six-month mission, and when the costs are known, we will table them in the usual way."
Nicholson's parliamentary secretary, James Bezan, seemed to suggest Monday on CBC News Network's Power & Politics that Nicholson would provide figures during his appearance at the committee.
But Bezan said Tuesday his remarks were misinterpreted.
"That was a mischaracterization of my words," he told the committee. "If you actually review a transcript from CBC, my comments were that there would be questions to the minister on the cost of operations, not that we would release anything."
Canada is contributing six CF-18s, two Aurora surveillance aircraft and a refuelling plane to the U.S. led-mission against militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Canada's jets arrived at a base in Kuwait Oct. 30 to take up the mission.
Speaking on CBC Radio One's The House last Saturday, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson said the military had given a cost estimate for the mission to the government.
"I'll leave it to our elected officials to determine when that will be shared," Lawson told host Evan Solomon.
Asked about the military's costs estimate by NDP MP Robert Chisholm on Tuesday, Nicholson repeated that the government would make the mission "costs known when they are known." He added, "There is a huge human cost if we don't participate. The daily atrocities we are made aware of by ISIL, the atrocities against men, women and children — I hesitate to use the word unprecedented, but as bad as anything we have seen."
Nicholson was appearing at the defence committee to discuss his department's supplementary budget estimates. Bezan said Monday those estimates reflect an increase in department spending of $900 million.
Bezan said incremental costs involved with the mission would be reported to the public through normal parliamentary processes.
The opposition has been clamouring for incremental cost estimates since debate began on the mission.
"I hope we can get a nice simple figure per day, like the Americans have provided," Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau said on the Monday Power & Politics panel.
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