Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been locked in a lengthy tug of war with his defence minister over the future of the military's VIP Airbus, newly disclosed documents show.
Peter MacKay has repeatedly rejected requests from the prime minister's staff to have the Airbus painted a civilian white and red instead of its current military grey.
MacKay and senior officers argue that the white colour scheme would be too visible whenever the passenger jet is sent on troop and cargo missions to risky locales, as happens now when the aircraft is not needed by the prime minister or the Governor General.
Senior government officials say no final decision has been made. But internal emails indicate the Privy Council Office — Harper's own department — in fact ordered the military last September to arrange for the new paint job at the next scheduled maintenance.
... "PCO has received direction to proceed with the painting of Airbus 001 in its white configuration," a senior military officer reported to air force brass on Sept. 13.
The decision "to have an Airbus permanently configured for VIP use in a colour other than the standard grey would have an impact both financially and on operations as essentially it would leave you with one less air resource," another officer wrote about the plan.