While Canada’s schools, hospitals, and communities lay in disrepair, the Trudeau government has inked a deal to purchase 88 F-35 fighter jets, designed for new air strikes which will level schools, hospitals, and communities abroad.
Billions for new jets
On Jan. 9, the Trudeau government finalized an agreement with Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney to build 88 F-35 fighter jets.
With a 25-year timeline, the 88 fighter jets will replace Canada’s existing 79 CF-188 Hornets.
While the jet purchase has been promoted with a $19 billion price tag, at $85 million per jet, the real cost is likely closer to $70 billion. Indeed, the No Fighter Jet Coalition estimates the lifecycle cost of the new fleet may rise to $76.8 billion.
Already, The Trudeau government has called the purchase “the largest investment in the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) in the past 30 years.”
What the F-35 actually is
According to Defence Minister Anita Anand: “The F-35 will be essential for protecting Canadians,” but in one of his more honest moments, Prime Minister Trudeau let it slip that what actually distinguishes the F-35 is its “stealth first-strike capability.”
According to its marketing materials, the F-35, in “stealth mode,” is equipped with “radar absorbing coating” and an “Electro Optical Targeting System” to “jam radars,” and “infiltrate territory” without notice. Armed with up to 5,700 lbs. of bombs and missiles, Lockheed’s website markets the F-35 as a “decisive differentiator in near-peer warfare.”
In “beast mode,” according to Lockheed, each of the 88 warplanes acts as a “bomb truck”—capable of deploying up to 22,000 lbs. of bombs and missiles for maximum destruction. That’s well above the 13,700 lb. capacity of Canada’s existing CF-18 fleet, and as the marketing materials note, the F-35 is able to project an even wider range of munitions: “Side-winders,” cruise missiles, smart bombs, “hypersonic weapons,” and more.
More money for war, more cuts for workers
Canada’s history with the F-35 began in 1997 when the Chrétien Liberal government joined the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter “exploratory program” to replace the RCAF’s CF-18 fleet. While the joint plan, at $1 trillion, was soon dubbed the most expensive program in military history, the Conservatives’ 2008 Canada First Defence Strategy set out plans to proceed.
But when the Conservatives announced plans to purchase 65 F-35 jets, for between $16 billion and $40 billion, the Liberals—led by both Michael Ignatieff and Trudeau—feigned disagreement.
“It no longer makes sense, if it ever did,” Trudeau said during the 2015 campaign. Only now that he’s in power does it make sense to increase the purchase to 88 of the same jets for over $70 billion.
The same Trudeau government that is wasting at least $70 billion on warplanes is, at the same time, refusing to increase funding for Canada’s overwhelmed hospitals. Just last month, on Dec. 20, Prime Minister Trudeau remarked: “There’s no point putting more money in a broken system.”
A review of Canada’s 2022-23 budget estimates, moreover, finds that the $70 billion dedicated to these warplanes will exceed:
- The Canada Health Transfer ($45.2 billion),
- The Canada Social Transfer ($21 billion),
- Public Health Agency of Canada ($8.4 billion).
Moreover, housing all homeless people across Canada would cost just $5.2 billion, universal
Pharmacare would cost $15.3 billion and ending all boiled water advisories on Indigenous reserves would cost $7.4 billion.
Yet, the Trudeau government would rather waste money on war and destruction.
According to Anand, the acquisition of the F-35 reflects the “importance of interoperability with our allies”—especially other NATO members.
Interoperability, the government’s obscure military jargon of choice, has been reiterated by the Department of Defence-funded academics and the Canadian Press. Though it sounds complicated, its real meaning is fairly simple. Noting that 27 countries have F-35s, mostly other NATO powers, Canadian Forces Journal explained: “If Canada wants to use air power to do anything other than defend its sovereignty in the coming decades, military interoperability with its allies will be of paramount importance.”
Failing to do so, it argues, will mean sacrificing Canada’s “regional interests” abroad.
In short, Canada’s acquisition of 88 F-35s will improve NATO’s “interoperability,” by allowing its member military forces to combine their techniques and share material resources for air wars and air strikes in the future.
This is a noticeable departure from how previous air force procurements have been pitched—as a means of patrolling Canada’s skies or intercepting hypothetical incoming missiles.
On the latter point, Lockheed Martin F-35 Senior Test Pilot Billie Flynn left little room for doubt: “We will not be training to shoot down the arrows, we will be shooting to kill the archers,” he said, “before they can ever fire against Canadian interests.”
The federal NDP has let this pass without comment, dropping any trace of its old anti-war position.
Aside from noting the fleet’s inflated cost and expressing a few mild concerns about how many jobs Canada might gain, NDP Defence Critic Randall Garrison pledged: “We all want the men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces to have the best equipment and support possible to carry out the difficult and dangerous work that we ask them to do.”
The “work” Garrison describes is imperialist war. Ordinary workers do not benefit from these wars, and we do not “ask” for them.
‘Missions across the globe’
When the deal was announced, Minister Anand boasted “The F-35 is a modern, reliable, and agile fighter aircraft used by our closest allies and missions across the globe.”
This is part of a pattern—a more aggressive turn for Canadian imperialism, generally.
Last year, the same Trudeau government escalated its plans to massively increase Canada’s general military spending by as much as 67 per cent. Here too, the government appealed to its “regional interests.” The Trudeau government’s plan pledges explicitly to create a force capable of waging war “with effective military capability,” across at least “two theatres,” simultaneously.
NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept similarly called on its members to massively expand their military power and “extend” the alliance’s influence deeper into “regions of strategic interest”—especially “the Middle East and North Africa and the Sahel.”
This is imperialism, pure and simple. As the Global Affairs itself observes, Canadian firms, like those elsewhere, especially in a time of crisis, are increasingly scrambling to find new markets and “lower-cost inputs”—especially lower wages and cheaper raw materials. And they’re willing to fight to defend them. For imperialist powers, Canada included, that requires weapons, warships, warplanes and the constant threat of a “first-strike” attack.
Canada’s recent air war adventures, moreover, provide ample reason to believe the human consequences of these acquisitions will be grave. Canada’s airstrikes in Serbia, Kosovo, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere all targeted civilian and military infrastructure alike, killing tens of thousands and forcibly displacing many more. There is no reason to believe a string of “first-strike” attacks by Canada’s incoming F-35s would be any less destructive.
These fighter jets are not being purchased to sit idle. These jets are being purchased to project the power of Canada’s ruling class abroad. Every dollar that goes to the military is a dollar for war—actual or threatened.
Funds for war and military equipment, as Trudeau has shown, come at the expense of the housing, healthcare, schools, and anti-poverty programs which working people depend on—only to further oppress workers elsewhere. Both reflect the aims and needs of the capitalist class, especially in a time of crisis.
The working class recognizes that this militarism runs against its interests. Multiple polls have found that most Canadians do not support increased military spending. This opposition must be organized.
Defending working class livelihoods and working class lives is the responsibility of the whole labour movement. The same capitalists who plunder the globe and benefit from war abroad are undercutting wages, benefits, and social conditions at home. The capitalist class, and its lackeys in parliament, must be fought on both fronts.