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The Globe and Mail

Attacks against 'not too bright' MacKay intensify after AG's scathing F-35 report

Canada's Defence Minister Peter MacKay speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 5, 2012.

CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters/CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

The calls for Defence Minister Peter MacKay to be fired over the auditor general's scathing report on F-35 fighter jets have become louder and nastier.

The opposition Liberals say Mr. MacKay doesn't know his file and pointed to a flub yesterday in Halifax where the minister referenced the wrong statistical table in trying to make his case over the conflicting numbers associated with last week's bombshell audit.

Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau says Mr. MacKay is either incompetent or "not too bright."

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The personal attack followed claims that the Conservative government lied over the cost of the multi-billion-dollar program by not including roughly $10-billion in regular, ongoing operational expenses.

The Defence Department was accused of hiding the truth by Auditor General Michael Ferguson, who says — had operational costs been included — the real cost of the F-35 program would be more like $24.7-billion, instead of the reported $14.7-billion.

The inclusion of ongoing operational expenses is a long-standing disagreement between the military and the auditor, dating back a decade to when the Liberals had to defend their expenses and the use of Challenger jets.

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