The Harper government has already spent almost $200,000 on the pan-Canadian promotion of its stealth jet purchase, records show.
In a bid to counter opposition to the controversial decision to buy a fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, federal officials have organized media events and a cross-country tour to justify the spending and explain why the government felt the need to make the acquisition without going to tenders.
Federal documents show the department of National Defence spent $131,519 on travel and hospitality costs to organize one media announcement, a cross-country "outreach tour" and an industry visit to a Lockheed-Martin facility in Texas.
In addition, Industry Canada said it spent $55,000 on the promotion of the purchase, including trips to Texas, Britain and a number of destinations in Canada to participate in government news conferences and announcements.
The Liberal Party of Canada obtained the figures from the two departments as part of its campaign to undermine the government's purchase. At $16-billion in acquisition and maintenance costs, the F-35 is one of the biggest military purchases in Canadian history.
"This government is using all of its resources to convince Canadians of the merits of this bad deal," Liberal MP Marc Garneau said. "This is totally unprecedented: teams of defence department officials and Ministers trying to sell Canadians on a blundered sole source contract."
DND's costs last year included $68,000 in flights on the Canadian Forces Challenger jets to participate in unspecified events. The department also spent $27,000 to organize a media event in Ottawa last July in which the purchase was officially announced.
Canada's top general, Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk, has defended the F-35 as "the best aircraft with the best value for Canada."
The new fighter jets are designed to replace Canada's fleet of CF-18s, which is destined for retirement at the end of the decade.
"The cost per unit is the cheapest for any fourth- or fifth-generation aircraft," Gen. Natynczyk said, explaining that any attempt to buy older jets might actually cost more money.