Sunday, February 12, 2012

F-35 deal source of panic for Tories: NDP

Last Updated: February 12, 2012 7:47pm

OTTAWA - The official Opposition says the government is "pushing the panic button" regarding its controversial F-35 fighter jet program.

NDP MP David Christopherson believes Washington's plan to slow production on the fighter jet is prompting its partners to rethink plans, which is concerning for Canada.

Associate defence minister Julian Fantino has said the government is committed to the F-35 program, but he asked defence department officials to evaluate how the Pentagon's decision impacts Canada.

"Minister Fantino is interested in hearing an update on the program's progress and challenges," his spokesman, Chris McCluskey, said Sunday. "We are always in discussions with our allies and partners in the multinational Joint Strike Fighter program."

The NDP has long criticized the government¹s fighter jet plan. They say the fighter is far too expensive, and an open and transparent procurement process is needed in order to replace current F-18s.

Reports suggest Canada has tentatively scheduled a meeting with F-35 partners at its embassy in Washington, but can't confirm if there is a meeting in the works.

Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's primary supplier, and U.S. officials are prepping for a meeting mid-March in Australia, where Canada, Britain, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Australia and Turkey will outline their procurement plans.

Delays and shrinking orders could drive up costs for each country, according to defence experts.

- With files from Reuters

On Twitter: @kkirkup

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