It has to be said that there was something tremendously underwhelming in yesterday’s announcement by Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the new Public Works Minister Christian Paradis that Canada will be purchasing six used CH-47D Chinooks from the Pentagon for $292-million.
Under the new and improved scheme — that had been rejected fully two years ago by air force staff — the previously-owned choppers will be delivered next year, just before the February 2009 deadline imposed by the Manley commission. For the meantime, the air force will be leasing the same number of Russian-built Mi-8s for $36 million from Toronto-based company Skylink.
Nonetheless, MacKay made this remarkable statement to an audience at the Canadian Forces air base in St. Hubert, Quebec:
”After some dark years after previous governments starved our Forces, as the prime minister has announced with much enthusiasm, we’re happy to say that Canada is back and I’m proud to make this announcement today in support of that claim.”
So, after two years of bureaucratic wrangling, failing to the get the latest Chinook model that the Air Force had actually recommended as best meeting its needs, and settling instead on the short-term lease of six helicopters said to be a “1960s vintage design” from the Soviet era before the promised arrival of six used CH-47D Chinooks from the Americans for $292-million, MacKay is now filled with some mysterious “enthusiasm” about this? It seems Mackay’s expectations are about as low as the political road he always prefers to take.
As for “previous governments” having “starved our Forces” for years, once again, it has to be noted that when Harper was a key player in the Reform Party that was calling for massive spending cuts across the board in the name of eliminating Ottawa’s multibillion-dollar annual budget deficit during the late 1980s and early 1990s, he had supported the very cuts to the military that he and MacKay now revile the Liberals for having made.
“I do not intend to dispute in any way the need for defence cuts and the need for government spending cuts in general. …I do not share a not in my backyard approach to government spending reductions.” — Stephen Harper, Hansard, May 23rd 1995
When Harper later changed his tune and was then promising to “rebuild the military” (sometimes quite ludicrously), the Conservatives’ actual projected allocation for military spending in their 2004 platform, while significantly more than that of the Liberals, would still have underfunded the status quo budget of the Canadian Forces by some $8 billion dollars.
Update: Bonus hilarity via that awful “troll” CC regarding the Chinooks that the cash-hungry Mulroney government sold to the Dutch that are ironically still flying today on missions in Afghanistan for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.