On November 26, peace and antiwar activists launched a week of actions to oppose the Canadian government’s planned purchase of 88 new fighter jets. At an expected cost of at least $76 billion, these warplanes will soak up resources that are urgently needed by working people and communities across Canada, and will further integrate this country into US and NATO wars and aggressions.
Of course, many people have actively opposed the fighter jet purchase since it was first proposed by the Harper government in 2010. Many of them have come together to form the No Fighter Jets Coalition, whose purpose is to stop the fighter jet procurement and re-direct funding to needs like climate justice, healthcare, housing and education.
The coalition has organized at least 19 actions in communities across Canada. These events build on previous organizing by the coalition and its members, and these efforts are having an effect.
The government recently announced that it will not meet its previously scheduled timetable to finalizing the procurement, and it has not specified a new one. There is strong speculation that the delay is partly the result of growing opposition to the new jets’ capability to carry nuclear weapons. Both frontrunners – the F-35 and the Super Hornet – are designed to deliver B61 nuclear bombs, which means that the countries which purchase these jets are essentially a multinational delivery mechanism for US weapons of mass destruction. This publication has repeatedly written about this danger.
Opposition to the procurement is also connected to the destructive impact war planes have on the environment. A single F-35 at cruising speed is estimated to burn 5600 litres of fuel each hour, 60 percent more than the jets they are replacing. Higher fuel consumption means higher carbon emissions. This is highly concerning given that the military is one of the single largest contributors to climate change – an impact that the government allows to fly under the radar by excluding the military from official calculations of Canada’s carbon footprint.
The economic side of the purchase plan is also spurring resistance. As the government escalates its Cold War rhetoric and policies against China and Russia, it is driving for huge increases in military spending. But with millions of working people facing unemployment and precarious work, low wages and incomes, soaring housing costs and living expenses, there is widespread recognition that there are more urgent – and better – ways to spend $76 billion.
The arms corporations and their supporters in government argue that every $1 billion invested in military industry creates approximately 11,000 jobs through direct, indirect and spinoff employment. This pales in comparison with investment in socially useful industries and sectors. That same $1 billion would create 17,000 jobs if invested in either clean energy or healthcare (54 percent more than military) and a whopping 27,000 if invested in education (145 percent more than military).
The risks are huge – nuclear war, climate devastation, mass poverty, rights violations. But the possible benefits of changing direction are equally massive – full employment and livable incomes, comprehensive universal healthcare, free childcare and post-secondary education, climate justice and environmental security. Which direction we take is clearly a question of class priorities, and will be determined through class struggle.
There are myriad reasons to prevent this government (or any other) from buying new warplanes. What we need now are myriad actions.
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