The makers of two different fighter jets Canada is not buying made their sales pitches anyway to Parliament's defence committee Tuesday.
Representatives from the German-based Eurofighter Typhoon and Sweden's Saab Gripen appeared at committee and told members their planes can meet Canada's air force demands, and are far cheaper than the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth jet the government agreed to buy in July.
Canada intends to buy 65 F-35s for $9 billion — plus maintenance costs — to replace the aging fleet of CF-18s, with delivery expected to start in 2016.
Antony Ogilvie with Saab said they could supply Canada with 65 upgraded Gripens, with 40 years of maintenance costs included, for under $6 billion.
The Liberals have vowed, if elected, to cancel what they decry as a sole-sourced deal to buy the American F-35, and instead would open up the new jet purchase to a competition.
NDP defence critic Jack Harris said Tuesday's committee hearings made it "obvious" there are other, cheaper options available.
"The Conservative government is being very bull-headed about sole sourcing the F-35, and have made no attempt to even look at the available competition after the requirements were known," Harris said. "There are other aircraft that could potentially meet Canada's needs at a lesser cost."
But Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, reiterated Tuesday only the F-35 will do. It is the only fifth-generation stealth jet available.
"The F35 is the only available aircraft that meets the Canadian Forces requirements," Paxton wrote in an e-mail. "It provides our men and women in uniform with the best chance of succeeding in their missions and the highest probability that they will return home safely from their missions."
The Canadian aerospace industry has been begging the opposition parties to get on board with the government's plans because they say they stand to gain far more through the F-35 deal, which would allow them to work on the entire 3,000 to 5,000 expected sales, rather than a more traditional contract that would only guarantee Canadian industry with work on the 65 planes Canada is buying.
Also, while the F-35 is the newest, most cutting-edge technologically advanced plane in development, the Eurofighter and Gripen are older, with the Gripen first flying in the 1980s and the Typhoon's first flight in 1994.