The Canadian government, despite all of its rhetoric about Boeing no longer being a trusted a defence partner, still plans this fall to review a U.S. government offer to purchase Super Hornet jet fighters from the company.
That offer has to be delivered, and several sources close to the file in Washington and Ottawa say no formal notice has been sent to the Pentagon indicating that Canada is no longer interested in the stopgap purchase.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was pressed on that point during a conference call with reporters Thursday, where he re-emphasized the Liberal government is looking at “other options” to fill an urgent requirement for the warplanes.
“It’s very clear we’re sending a strong message,” Sajjan said. “Having said that, the process [to acquire interim fighters] is taking place.”
Public Works and Procurement Services was asked on Thursday about the status of any potential withdrawal notice, but an official wouldn’t comment and only pointed to the department’s web site, which says the federal government is still awaiting Washington’s formal response.
It also says, when the offer arrives this fall, it “will be reviewed” but that “Canada is under no obligation to purchase” the jets.
Government-to-government offers always have an expiration date.
The federal cabinet has the option — in addition to withdrawal — of letting the decision linger without giving an answer, said one source with knowledge of the file.
The fact that the government has taken no action and will wait for the U.S. proposal is a sign to defence observers that it is scrambling for some kind of leverage in the dispute Boeing has with Bombardier.
The process to buy the fighters directly from the U.S. government was initiated last March when Canada delivered a letter to the Pentagon, establishing that it needed 18 Super Hornets on an urgent basis.
The planned sole-source deal to buy Boeing Super Hornets, estimated to be in the range of $6.3 billion, was put in jeopardy in the spring when Boeing filed a trade complaint against Bombardier, the Montreal-based aerospace and train manufacturer, claiming government subsidies allow it to sell passenger jets at below market cost.
The Liberal government’s line about Boeing, from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on down, has been: “We won’t do business with a company that’s busy trying to sue us and trying to put our aerospace workers out of business.”
It has been often…