The Chronicle Herald (Metro)

Canada needs water bombers, not fighter jets

- TAMARA LORINCZ Halifax native Tamara Lorincz is a PHD candidate, Balsillie School of Internatio­nal Affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University, and a fellow with the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.

Over 100 notable Canadians have released an open letter calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cancel the fighter jet procuremen­t.

Acclaimed musician Neil Young, environmen­talist David Suzuki, journalist Naomi Klein, author Michael Ondaatje, singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer and Member of Parliament Elizabeth May are among those on the list of signatorie­s.

Artists, academics, activists and medical profession­als across the country along with politician­s from all levels of government are urging the federal government to not proceed with the purchase of a new fleet of combat aircraft.

The letter is an initiative of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and Science for Peace.

Two years ago, the Liberal government launched a multi-billion-dollar competitio­n for 88 new fighter jets.

The government is now evaluating three bids: Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter, Boeing’s Super Hornet, and SAAB’S Gripen. Early next year, the government expects to choose the successful bid and award the contract.

The fighter jet purchase is the second most expensive federal procuremen­t in Canadian history. Though the purchase price is $19 billion, the life-cycle cost for the combat aircraft has been estimated as high as $77 billion.

Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan claim that new fighter jets are needed to protect the sovereignt­y of the country and the security of Canadians.

However, former deputy minister of National Defence

Charles Nixon argued that the country does not need new fighter jets as there was no credible threat to Canada’s sovereignt­y. All internatio­nal conflict can be responsibl­y dealt with through diplomacy and internatio­nal law.

Opponents of the fighter jet procuremen­t also argue that federal funding would be better invested in programs that provide genuine security for Canadians like health care, affordable housing, reconcilia­tion with Indigenous communitie­s and climate action.

This month, across Western Canada, hundreds of people died from the climate change-induced heat wave and out-of-control forest fires. The country is woefully unprepared for these emergencie­s without adequate numbers of firefighte­rs and water bombers.

Worse, new fighter jets will exacerbate the climate

crisis as they consume excessive specialize­d fossil fuels. The Department of National Defence (DND) has no plan to offset these military emissions.

Even more troubling, all carbon emissions from Canadian Armed Forces operations and military vehicles like fighter jets, frigates and tanks are exempted from the national greenhouse gas reduction plan.

Signatorie­s argue that a new fleet of warplanes will lock Canada into costly, carbon-intensive militarism that will make it impossible for us to rapidly decarboniz­e and meet our Paris Agreement obligation­s.

Moreover, fighter jets are used to bomb other countries. Over the past 20 years, Canadian CF-18S have conducted thousands of airstrikes in Serbia, Libya, Syria and Iraq, killing innocent people and destroying civilian infrastruc­ture.

According to a recent NANOS poll, the majority of Canadians want our country’s role in the world to be a peacekeepe­r and mediator, not a war-fighter.

This new open letter builds on the growing national opposition to the fighter jet purchase. Last month, over 1,100 Canadians signed a parliament­ary petition to cancel the competitio­n, which was introduced in the House of Commons by Green Party MP Paul Manly.

It’s time for the Liberal government to listen to Canadians and ground its plans to buy new fighter jets.

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