By Lee Berthiaume
OTTAWA — Debate over the federal government’s handling of the multi-billion-dollar F-35 stealth fighter program descended into political mudslinging on Wednesday.
Opposition parties accused Defence Minister Peter MacKay of incompetence after he incorrectly claimed that the F-35s’ $25-billion cost estimate came from the parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page — when it was actually his own department’s numbers.
The Conservatives, in turn, pointed to a 2004 Liberal government announcement about military helicopters as proof that excluding salary and fuel costs has been common practice for years, and alleged the Grits are simply trying to score cheap political points.
The comments about MacKay stem from a news conference the minister held in Halifax on Tuesday, where he again defended the government’s failure to reveal that National Defence expected the full cost of 65 F-35s to be $25 billion, instead of $14.7 billion.
“If you went out and bought…
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