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Opinion
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Federal Politics

Canada, Ground Your Plans for 88 New Fighter Jets

From rock stars to scholars, 100 public figures tell the Trudeau government to spend $77 billion some other way.

Neil Young and dozens more 14 Jul 2021 | TheTyee.ca

[Editor’s note: A long list of signatories to this letter, more than 100, runs at the bottom of this opinion piece submitted to The Tyee today by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute.]

As wildfires blaze in Western Canada amidst record breaking heat waves, the Liberal government is planning to spend tens of billions of dollars on unnecessary, dangerous, climate destroying fighter jets.

The government is currently moving forward with the competition to procure 88 warplanes, which includes Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter, Saab’s Gripen and Boeing’s Super Hornet. Despite previously promising to cancel the F-35 purchase, the Trudeau government is laying the ground to acquire the stealth fighter.

Officially the cost of buying the jets is about $19 billion. But, a report from the No New Fighter Jets coalition suggests the full life cycle cost of the planes will be closer to $77 billion. Those resources could be used to eliminate boil water advisories on reserves, build light rail lines across the country and construct thousands of units of social housing. Seventy-seven billion dollars could turbocharge a just transition away from fossil fuels and a just recovery from the pandemic.

Conversely, purchasing new jets will entrench fossil-fuel militarism. Fighter jets consume huge amounts of specialized fuel that emit significant greenhouse gases. Purchasing a large number of warplanes to use in coming decades is at odds with Canada’s commitment to rapidly decarbonize by 2050. With the country experiencing the highest temperatures in history, the time for climate action is now.

While exacerbating the climate crisis, fighter jets are not needed to protect our security. As a former deputy minister of national defence Charles Nixon noted, there are no credible threats requiring the acquisition of new “Gen-5” fighter jets. The expensive weapons are largely useless in responding to natural disasters, providing international humanitarian relief or in peacekeeping operations. Nor can they protect us from a pandemic or the climate and other ecological crises.

Rather, these offensive weapons are likely to generate distrust and division. Instead of resolving international conflicts through diplomacy, fighter jets are designed to destroy infrastructure and kill people. Canada's current fleet of fighter jets has bombed Libya, Iraq, Serbia and Syria. Many innocent people were killed directly or as a result of the destruction of civilian infrastructure and those operations prolonged conflicts and/or contributed to refugee crises.

The procurement of cutting-edge fighter jets is designed to enhance the Royal Canadian Air Force’s ability to join U.S. and NATO operations. Spending $77 billion on warplanes only makes sense based on a vision of Canadian foreign policy that includes fighting in future U.S. and NATO wars.

Polls show the public is decidedly ambivalent about warplanes. An October 2020 Nanos poll revealed that bombing campaigns are an unpopular use of the military and supporting NATO and ally-led missions is a low priority. The majority of Canadians said that peacekeeping and disaster relief was a priority, not preparing for war.

Instead of purchasing 88 new fighter jets, let’s use these resources for health care, education, housing and clean water.

At a time of health, social and climate crises, the Canadian government must prioritize a just recovery, green infrastructure and invest in Indigenous communities.

Signatories:

Neil Young, musician
David Suzuki, geneticist and broadcaster
Elizabeth May, member of Parliament
Naomi Klein, author and activist
Stephen Lewis, former UN ambassador
Noam Chomsky, author and professor
Roger Waters, co-founder Pink Floyd
Daryl Hannah, actor
Tegan and Sara, musicians
Sarah Harmer, musician
Paul Manly, member of Parliament
Joel Harden, MPP, Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Marilou McPhedran, senator
Michael Ondaatje, author
Yann Martel, author (Man Booker Prize winner)
Roméo Saganash, former member of Parliament
Fred Hahn, president CUPE Ontario
Dave Bleakney, vice-president, Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Svend Robinson, former member of Parliament
Libby Davies, former member of Parliament
Jim Manly, former member of Parliament
Gabor Maté, author
Monia Mazigh, PhD, author and activist
Chris Hedges, author and journalist
Judy Rebick, author and activist
Jeremy Loveday, Victoria city councillor
Paul Jay, executive producer and host of The Analysis
Ingrid Waldron, professor and HOPE chair in peace and health, global peace and social justice program, McMaster University
El Jones, department of political and Canadian studies, Mount Saint Vincent University
Seth Klein, author and team lead of the Climate Emergency Unit
Ray Acheson, disarmament program director, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Tim McCaskell, founder AIDS Action Now!
Rinaldo Walcott, professor, Toronto
Dimitri Lascaris, lawyer, journalist and activist
John Greyson, video/film artist
Brent Patterson, director, Peace Brigades International-Canada
Aaron Maté, journalist
Amy Miller, filmmaker
Tamara Lorincz, PhD candidate, Balsillie School of International Affairs
John Clarke, packer visitor in social justice, York University
Clayton Thomas-Muller, senior Campaign specialist, 350.org
Gordon Laxer, author and professor emeritus at University of Alberta
Rabbi David Mivasair, Independent Jewish Voices
Gail Bowen, author and retired associate professor, First Nations University of Canada, Saskatchewan Order of Merit
Eva Manly, filmmaker
Lil MacPherson, climate change food activist, founder and co-owner the Wooden Monkey Restaurant
Radhika Desai, professor, department of political studies, University of Manitoba
Justin Podur, associate professor, York University
Yves Engler, author
Derrick O’Keefe, writer and activist
Dr. Susan O’Donnell, researcher and adjunct professor, University of New Brunswick
Robert Acheson, treasurer, Science for Peace
Miguel Figueroa, president, Canadian Peace Congress
Syed Hussan, Migrant Workers Alliance
Michael Bueckert, PhD, vice-president, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
David Walsh, businessman
Judith Deutsch, former president Science for Peace and faculty Toronto Psychoanalytic Institute
Gordon Edwards, PhD, president, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility
Richard Sandbrook, president Science for Peace
Karen Rodman, executive director of Just Peace Advocates
Ed Lehman, president, Regina Peace Council
Richard Sanders, founder, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade
Rachel Small, Canada organizer, World Beyond War
Vanessa Lanteigne, national co-ordinator of the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Allison Pytlak, Disarmament program manager, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Bianca Mugyenyi, director, Canadian Foreign Policy Institute
Simon Black, assistant professor, department of labour studies, Brock University
John Price, professor emeritus (history), University of Victoria
David Heap, PhD, associate professor and human rights advocate
Máire Noonan, linguist, Université de Montréal
Antoine Bustros, composer
Pierre Jasmin, Les Artistes pour la Paix
Barry Weisleder, federal secretary, Socialist Action
Dr. Mary-Wynne Ashford, past co-president International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
Dr. Nancy Covington, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
Angela Bischoff, Greenspiration
Raul Burbano, Common Frontiers
Dru Jay, executive director, CUTV
Martin Lukacs, journalist and author
Nik Barry Shaw, author
Tracy Glynn, assistant professor, St. Thomas University
Florence Stratton, professor emeritus, University of Regina
Randa Farah, associate professor, Western University
Johanna Weststar, associate professor, Western University
Bernie Koenig, author and philosophy professor (retired)
Alison Bodine, chair, Mobilization Against War and Occupation, Vancouver
Mary Groh, former president of Conscience Canada
Nino Pagliccia, activist and political analyst
Courtney Kirkby, founder, Tiger Lotus Co-operative
Dr. Dwyer Sullivan, Conscience Canada
John Foster, author, Oil and World Politics
Ken Stone, treasurer, Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War
Cory Greenlees, Victoria Peace Coalition
Maria Worton, teacher
Tim O'Connor, high school social justice teacher
Glenn Michalchuk, chair Peace Alliance, Winnipeg
Matthew Legge, peace program co-ordinator, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Freda Knott, activist
Jamie Kneen, researcher and activist
Phyllis Creighton, activist
Charlotte Akin, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace board member
Murray Lumley, No New Fighter Jets Coalition and Christian Peacemaker Teams
Lia Holla, executive co-ordinator of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Canada, founder of Students for Peace & Disarmament
Dr. Brendan Martin, World Beyond War Vancouver, activist
Dr. W. Thom Workman, professor and director of international development studies, University of New Brunswick
Dr. Erika Simpson, associate Professor, Western University, president of Canadian Peace Research Association
Stephen D’Arcy, associate professor, philosophy, Huron University College
David Webster, associate professor, Bishop’s University
Eric Shragge, Immigrant Workers Centre, Montreal, and retired associate professor, Concordia University
Judy Haiven, PhD, writer and activist, retired professor, Saint Mary's University
Dr. W.G. Pearson, associate professor, chair, department of gender, sexuality and women's studies, University of Western Ontario
Dr. Chamindra Weerawardhana, political analyst and author
Dr. John Guilfoyle, former chief medical officer for the Province of Manitoba and inaugural chair of the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Canada
 [Tyee]

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