Word of the likely delay comes with the government moving ahead with the purchase of used fighter jets from Australia as a temporary stopgap alongside its existing CF-18s, rather than the original plan of buying brand new Super Hornets from USA aerospace giant Boeing Co.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said Canada can not meet all of its obligations to the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with its current fleet of CF-18s, arguing new fighter jets are needed before the entire fleet is replaced in the next decade.
But the Australian jets are 30 years old - the same vintage as the CF-18s - and sources say the government is concerned about resurrecting memories of the four second-hand subs Canada bought from the U.K. One of those vessels, HMCS Chicoutimi, caught fire while crossing the Atlantic in 2004, killing a naval officer and injuring nine other sailors.
Some are also wondering whether the Liberals, who promised to launch a formal fighter-jet competition to replace the CF-18s before the 2019 election, now plan to hold off until after Canadians go to the polls.
Canada is likely to ditch its deal with Boeing in favor of purchasing planes from Australia following Boeing's accusations of unfair trade practices by their rival Canadian company, Bombardier.
"We have tremendous losses with Mexico and losses with Canada, and covered by NAFTA".
Speaking to The Globe and Mail in September, Boeing International president Marc Allen said the federal government should not forget that Boeing does $4-billion a year of business in Canada, with 560 suppliers and an overall impact of 17,000 jobs. "It has to be a two-way street, there has to be this mutually beneficial relationship for it to be one that grows, one that both sides are happy and excited about".
Two of the sources said Australian military officials had been in Ottawa late last month for talks.
Canada had decided it needed Boeing's new Super Hornets to refresh its aging CF-18 Hornet fleet, but may have had a change of heart after the American manufacturer accused Canadian plane maker Bombardier of dumping in the commercial plane market. That legal process continues with final rulings expected by the U.S. International Trade Commission early next year. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at the time the country would not engage in business with Boeing till such time its dispute with Bombardier continued, a sentiment he repeated to President Donald Trump in October.
At a conference in Boston in November, Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare said: "Boeing is underestimating what they are tackling".
News of the development comes as Mr. Trump once again has taken the occasion to complain about trade deficits with the U.S.'s neighbors.