OTTAWA -- The federal government is still committed to procuring 18 interim fighter jets and start the bidding process on the replacement fleet in "early 2019," says the minister in charge of the file.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Carla Qualtrough confirmed that it’s still her government's intention to move ahead on the fighter jet procurement process, despite it being taken out of her mandate letter when she was appointed to the role in August.

"Right now we’re still looking at ways to, on an interim basis, replenish our fleet until the full fleet replenishment is in place. We’re going to do a fair, open, transparent process for the full fleet replacement," Qualtrough said in an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CTV’s Question Period.

When Qualtrough took on the job -- replacing Judy Foote who resigned for family reasons -- the updated mandate letter made no mention of new jets. In her predecessor’s marching orders, it stated Foote was to: "Work with the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft, focusing on options that match Canada’s defence needs."

Qualtrough said while they haven’t landed on an option to supplement the aging CF-18s, she said it’s going to happen.

The proposal of procuring the used Australian F/A-18s in the interim is "one of the options" they’re looking at, she said.

As well, the minister said she’s "100 per cent" open to procuring the F-35 through the open process, contradictory to the Liberal's initial pledge to not buy the Lockheed Martin stealth fighter-bomber.

"We’ve got to make sure we get our people these jets as soon as we possibly can, and we can’t wait," she said.

Full fleet replacement bid 'early 2019'

Qualtrough said the request for proposals for the full replacement of the fleet will "ideally" be launched in "early 2019," before the next federal election.

"In this mandate, that was our commitment and we’re going to stick to that," she said. "That’s still the target and we’re definitely on track to do that."

However, retired Major-General David Fraser said that plan doesn’t make sense at this time.

"I think having two fleets flying and then introducing a third fleet, economically it makes no sense whatsoever. We should actually just wait and have the competition now… the time is now to just make a decision on the final, not an interim," Fraser said in an interview airing on CTV's Question Period on Sunday.

Tune in to Question Period this Sunday on CTV News Channel, CTVNEWS.CA, and CTV News GO at 11 a.m. ET