Canada’s participation in the Libyan mission cost the country almost $347 million – a staggering seven times what Defense Minister Peter MacKay said it did last year.
The figures come from a report released by the Department of National Security. They include all the expenses of the operation – from jet fuel to salaries. The total incremental costs – spending deemed to exceed normal operating expense – were pegged at $100 million. Even that is twice what the Defense Minister said last October.
Back then, MacKay reported that the Libyan mission cost Canadian taxpayers $50 million, $10 million less than what the Defense Department had predicted earlier.
“As of Oct. 13, the figures that I've received have us well below that, somewhere under $50 million,” Kay told CBC News. “And that's the all-up costs of the equipment that we have in the theatre, the transportation to get there, those that have been carrying out this critical mission.”
The discrepancy in the numbers has put MacKay under intense scrutiny from Canadian MPs.
“What is it this time?” David Christopherson, the deputy leader of Canada’s opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) was quoted by CBC News as saying during a questioning session. “That they still can't keep their numbers straight or that they're misleading Canadians?”
MacKay responded by defending his October assessment of the spending, arguing that the additional spending took place afterwards.
“What I said was that, as of October 13, the figures that I received from the department were under $50 million,” he stated. “Of course, the mission went on. There were extensions … there was, in fact, then the cost of bringing equipment and personnel home. This is incremental costing.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also backed his Minister, saying that the $347 million includes the cost of operating the Canadian military and that Canada always gives the most up-to-date information on its military spending.
Harper also stressed that the total cost of the Libyan mission was within the budget set by the government. But the opposition is arguing that the Defense Minister thinks he can get away with presenting a lower cost of military operations to the public.
“Peter’s got problems with his math yet again and this government’s got problems with trying to figure out how to cost things,” said NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar. “I suppose he just thinks that if he can lowball it, people won’t be concerned about the costs. But, you know, in the end, the costs add up and it caught up to Mr. MacKay.”
Earlier, the Canadian government came under fire for intentionally reporting only the incremental costs of buying F-16 stealth fighter jets. Incremental costs for the airplanes are $10 million less than the actual amount of money the Canadian government had paid for them.
Canada deployed six CF-18 fighter jets and a navy frigate, plus 570 military personnel to Libya last year as part of what it dubbed Operation Mobile. The aim of the operation was to enforce a UN no-fly zone against Gaddafi loyalists.