rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Is spending $19 billion on fighter jets a good way to generate jobs in a pandemic-ravaged economy?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $5 per month!

F/A-18Fs being refueled over Afghanistan in 2010. Image: U.S. Air Force/Flickr

CBC News has reported that Boeing executives made a public pitch on June 25 about its "history of delivering high-paying aerospace jobs" as it attempts to secure a $19-billion contract with the Canadian government for their F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter jet.

The article by Murray Brewster highlights:

"In its presentation, the company estimates the value of its direct economic activity in Canada -- both commercial and defence -- at $2.3 billion, resulting in 11,000 jobs across the country. The independent report estimates that when indirect spending is taken into account, the U.S. multinational contributes $5.3 billion and 20,700 jobs to Canada's economy."

Brewster comments: "Boeing's decision to make its case publicly is significant in part because federal finances are reeling under the weight of an anticipated $252-billion deficit and staggering levels of unemployment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic."

That said, Boeing doesn't appear to argue that the Super Hornet would create new jobs, it seems to imply instead that it would help maintain those 20,700 jobs.

In contrast, Lockheed Martin, one of its competitors for the fighter jet contract, has previously highlighted: "According to the Statistics Canada model, approximately 50,000 jobs will be created in Canada through the selection of the F-35."

Still, how convincing are these jobs arguments? Is spending $19 billion on fighter jets, plus $300 million a year in maintenance costs, a cost-effective way to generate jobs?

The Canadian Labour Congress has previously pointed out that a $17.6 billion investment in public transit could create 223,000 person job years.

In the U.S. context, Phyllis Bennis has written: "$1 billion in military spending creates approximately 11,200 jobs -- but the same amount of money would create 26,700 jobs if invested in education, about two-and-a-half times as many. Or 16,800 jobs in clean energy, or 17,200 in health care."

Similarly, research by the Costs of War Project based at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs found that while $1 million spent on "defence" creates 6.9 direct and indirect jobs, the same amount invested in solar power creates 9.5 jobs, in health care 14.3 jobs, and in elementary and secondary education 19.2 jobs.

These numbers would suggest that public spending on weapons is a poor allocation of finite public dollars when it comes to job creation. With three million jobs lost this past March and April, the argument that peaceful production is a better generator of jobs than war machines needs to be seriously considered.

And yet the Canadian Press reported earlier this month:

"[Defence Department deputy minister Jody Thomas] said she had not received any order or direction [from Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan] to slow or cut defence spending and that officials are continuing to work on the planned purchase of new warships, fighter jets and other equipment."

The federal government has set a deadline of July 31 to receive the final bid from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Saab for the $19-billion fighter jet contract. The government's decision is expected in 2022, meaning the public has less than two years to mobilize to ensure this money is spent on peaceful production and jobs, not war.

Brent Patterson is the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. Follow on Twitter at @CBrentPatterson @PBIcanada.

Image: U.S. Air Force/Flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.