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Council of Canadians demand water not fighter jets

Yesterday, the Council of Canadians landed a large toy F-35 fighter jet on Parliament Hill to demand that the federal government completely back out of plans to purchase the fighter jets and invest needed funding in critical water services. In the Alternative Federal Budget, the Council of Canadians demands that the government uphold their legal obligation to the human right to water by investing $9.336 billion in water and wastewater infrastructure, drinking water on First Nation reserves, protecting the Great Lakes and addressing other gaps in water protection.

Council of Canadians staff contrasted the toy fighter jet with a glass of clean drinking water to send the message that people in Canada want ‘Water not F-35s.’

With the release of the federal budget just days away, people in Canada face significant funding cuts to critical public services and public service jobs. Meanwhile the federal government is still wavering on the purchase of fighter jets that could cost tax payers up to $16 billion. The original price tag for the fighter jets was an estimated $9 billion but the government has admitted they could cost up to $16 billion and there are other estimates that they could cost up to $30 billion.

Scrapping the F-35s would free up needed funding for Canada to fulfill its legal obligation on the human right to water. In 2010, the majority of countries around the world voted to pass a resolution at the UN General Assembly recognizing the human right to water and sanitation. The UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to water has clearly stated that the right to water is entrenched in international law and is therefore legally binding on countries. The Human Rights Council recently passed a resolution calling on governments to ensure funding for affordable resources and to develop national plans of action. The water chapter in the Alternative Federal Budget provides a detailed plan on how the Harper Government can uphold the human right to water in Canada.

A Nanos poll commissioned by the Globe and CTV found that 68% of Canadians did not want the federal government to purchase the fighter jets at this time.

A recently leaked copy of Canada’s Auditor General review shows flaws in the procurement process. CBC obtained the statement of operational requirements which reveal that the F-35s do not meet one of the mandatory requirements. CBC further reported that “Alan Williams, a former assistant deputy minister at the Department of National Defence and the official who signed the memorandum of understanding in 2002 that brought Canada into the Joint Strike Fighter program, said normal procedures weren’t followed. ‘In 2006, the military and civilians recommended the F-35 to the minister and four years later, they developed their requirements, obviously rigged or wired to ensure that the only jet to meet the requirements would be the one that they recommended four years earlier,’ Williams said.”

For these reasons, the Harper government would do well to commit to calling off the purchase and listening to people in Canada on what they really want and need.