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AG to examine fighter-jet 'capability gap'

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OTTAWA—New documents show Canada's auditor general plans to dive into one of the Trudeau government's most contentious claims: that the country is facing a severe shortage of fighter jets.

The assertion was first made in November 2016 and was central to the government's plan to buy Super Hornets from Boeing, before that deal was scuttled late last year in favour of purchasing used fighters from Australia.

The Liberals say Canada doesn't have enough CF-18s to meet the country's commitments to NATO and defend North America at the same time, which is why a stopgap purchase is needed until the entire CF-18 fleet can be replaced.

But critics, including opposition parties and former air force commanders, have questioned whether such a shortfall exists, and accused the government of fabricating a “capability gap,” as the shortfall is known, to avoid having to buy the F-35 stealth fighter.

Now an internal report obtained by The Canadian Press through access to information legislation shows auditor general Michael Ferguson is scrutinizing this capability gap as part of an overall fighter-jet review.

Ferguson previously released a scathing report on fighter jets in 2012 that derailed the Harper government's plan to buy the F-35 stealth fighter without a competition.

His latest fighter-jet audit is expected this fall.

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