Defense Minister Peter Mackay’s cost estimate of Canada’s mission in Libya was 700% less than what it actually was. Canada paid close to $350 million for the war, quite a bit for a country that is dealing with economic constraint. None the less, above all, this reflects his honesty more than his management of taxpayer funds.
Last October, NATO wrapped up its 7 month Libya mission victorious after killing its dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Mackay told Canadians at the time that the cost would be about $50 million, $0 million less than the prediction of the Department of Defense.
"As of Oct. 13, the figures that I've received have us well below ($60 million), somewhere under $50 million," MacKay told the CBC on October 28, three days before the mission officially ended. "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."
However, buried in a report that was tabled in the House of Commons this week, the Defense Department outlined the full cost to be $347.5 million, close to 7 times more than what was initially said by MacKay.
This matter of honesty links directly to the F35 controversy where MacKay has given us values $10 billion below the actual cost, and based on the expenses incurred in the US, the final cost will likely climb even more than what is currently being said.
Steve Staples, president of the Rideau Institute, a think-tank, discovered the hidden figures and accused Mackay of trying to hide the truth.
"Just like the F-35, Minister MacKay has been caught lowballing costs and minimizing overspending in his department, to the point now where I think a lot of Canadians are questioning his credibility and whether we can continue to believe his funny numbers," Staples said.
At the time, the Rideau Institute predicted a cost millions more than the $50 million that was said and Mackay said "the Rideau Institute, as so often is the case, is wrong."
It turns out that there estimate was indeed closer than his.
University of Ottawa Expert of Defense Philippe Lagasse said that there was a culture of hiding full costs to Parliament and the public within the Defense Department.
"This has been an ongoing problem," he said. "It's linked to departmental culture. We've seen this for a number of years and on a number of files. And it's linked up in the nature of what they do."
"The question becomes how come the defense minister has a clear, secure number, but that clear, secure number doesn't end up in the documents," he said. "Something doesn't match up there."