Top Canada defense procurement official steps down temporarily

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada October 31, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s top defense procurement official, in charge of a hotly contested effort to find new fighter jets, is taking a leave of absence for personal reasons, a government statement said on Thursday.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote will be away until further notice, Ottawa said. Her duties will be performed by Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, who is also staying in his current job.

In 2014, Foote announced she was fighting breast cancer for the second time.

Foote, 64, unveiled plans last year to buy 18 Boeing Corp Super Hornets as a stop-gap measure while Ottawa prepares an open five-year competition to buy new jets.

Canada’s Liberal government opted for the Boeing jets despite being a member of a consortium that helped fund development of Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealth fighter, which has been hit by repeated delays. Lockheed said it was disappointed by the decision.

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Dan Grebler