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OTTAWA — The federal cabinet will soon be asked to make an initial down payment on the navy's $104-billion frigate replacement program with an approval that will lay the groundwork for the new fleet. It will be asked not only to approve requirements for the new warships and cost tradeoffs, but also first-stage funding, which will allow defence planners to get the ball rolling. But several defence and government sources say getting a revised cost estimate before the Liberal government has proven to be a painful exercise. That's because budget planners at National Defence and the Finance Department have been engaged in a tug-of-war over projections ahead of Tuesday's federal budget. The sources, who cannot not be named because of the sensitivity of the discussions, say Finance Minister Bill Morneau's office has been anxious for military planners to produce numbers on the Canadian Surface Combatant program for the last couple of months, but defence officials have been reluctant to be pegged down. The sources say ever since the political fiasco over cost estimates for the F-35 jet fighters a few years ago, there's a desire to get the numbers as close to 100 per cent as possible.
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