When Canada's auditor general ripped into Ottawa's bungled effort to replace our aging fighter jets recently, he placed the blame for the debacle at the feet of deceiving bureaucrats. But even if Defence department staff did mislead politicians about the costs and risks of the program, our elected officials are hardly innocent in the affair.
In his report to Parliament, Michael Ferguson claimed officials at the Department of National Defence not only failed to exercise due diligence in choosing the F-35 to replace Canada's antiquated CF-18s, but that they withheld vital information about the program from the MPs who would ultimately approve its enormous price tag.
This would seem to paint our elected leaders as the victims of conniving underlings, but this is far from the case.
When the Conservative government announced in July 2010 that it would be buying 65 of Lockheed Martin's fanciest warplanes, critics screamed that making such a huge purchase without inviting any competing bids was lunacy.
Those critics, it turns out, were right. Government procurement policies exist to guard against precisely this type of needless waste.
The Conservatives knew that, yet they chose to skirt due process for the sake of expedience.
Had they followed their own rules, the gross underestimates and hidden risks of the F-35 contract would have come to light long before the auditor general started sniffing around the program.
Defence department bureaucrats may well have deceived MPs to get a new toy, but it was our government's wilful myopia that allowed them to.
© Copyright 2013