The F-35 Boondoggle

I know we’ve been over this ground before, but remind me again… why does Canada even need this heinously expensive new class of fighter jet at all? What possible military threat are we defending ourselves from? Seriously. What is the point?

Aside from the absurdity of ploughing something like $30 billion into a high-tech gizmo that serves no useful purpose whatsoever (it’s worth noting that Lockheed Martin’s last iteration of this plane, the F-22 “stealth raptor” fighter, has never actually been deployed in combat), there is the matter of the Harper government having egregiously misled Canadians about the cost of the program during the last election and then repeatedly lying to parliament subsequent to that. For instance, according to Harper and his ministers last year, there was a contract in place that would prevent cost overruns, but now they claim there is no contract. So which is it?

Bob Rae has called on Harper to resign over the issue, but, of course, nobody seriously imagines that’s going to happen. I mean, we’re only talking about a complete lack of government oversight involving a measly $10 billion discrepancy in accounts… it’s certainly nothing anywhere nearly as serious as the “AdScam” fiasco where possibly $100 million of taxpayer money was at stake! In that case, it was entirely justified that every “conservative” worth his or her salt should howl with OUTRAGE! like a gut-shot dog every day for years and years and years…

Private MacKay

On the next episode of the new CBC series Make the Politician Work, Defense Minister Peter “Spuds” Mackay gets sent to boot camp. Looks like it might be quite fun to watch. Although really, for the sake of verisimilitude (and morbid hilarity), he should have been thrown into the front lines of battle in Afghanistan… Come to think of it, I’d like to see every politician that voted in support of that asinine, multi-billion dollar misadventure to be drummed into service and marched into the line of fire.

But seriously [cough]… does anyone have helpful suggestions for the CBC producers as to what kind of work Michael Ignatieff or Stephen Harper might appropriately be made to do, should they ever choose to participate? Presumably something more humiliating and/or grueling than Jack Layton’s stint the other night, ineffectually shadowing an ER team in a Toronto hospital.

Sour Grapes

I will never for the life me understand the enduring celebrity appeal in this country of an obnoxious buffoon like Don Cherry, let alone completely fathom how anyone in their right mind could approve of his glibly autographing artillery shells in Afghanistan — particularly on Christmas Day for goodness sake! But hey, that’s probably just because I’m a left wing, pinko kook…

It’s understood that Defence Minister Peter MacKay who headed up the jolly “Team Canada Christmas Day tour” of Canadian military bases in southern Afghanistan awkwardly quipped, “Don, this is a different type of ‘He shoots, he scores.’” Ugh.

Much Ado About Torture

Why doesn’t Gen. Natynczyk support the troops?

Notwithstanding a new EKOS poll indicating that 83% of Canadian surveyed believe the Harper government was aware “there was a strong possibility that prisoners would be tortured,” I seriously doubt this issue will have any discernable impact on support for the Conservatives because, let’s face it, most of the party’s backers view torture quite favourably, especially in the case of suspected terrorists or enemy combatants.

Porky Pete’s Spending Spree

While the Harper government was busy axing money to leftist infested arts groups last week, Peter MacKay was generously doling out the pork in his home province as fast as diminutive Finance Minister Jim Flaherty can say, “This is not a time for excessive spending.”

$12 million here, $6 million there, and so on — all super-worthy infrastructure expenditures, I’m sure. But what about the more than $760,000 over three years from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency for the nebulous Atlantic ECONOMUSEUM® organization to help them sign up ten new businesses by September 2010 to its “network” of local artisan ventures/tourist attractions?

From its website, this top-heavy, bureaucratically intense, non-profit outfit doesn’t really seem to offer much in the way of value other than providing links to various companies in the region offering handmade soaps, jewelry, specialty alcoholic beverages, etc. So why does it take $75,000 to get each new quilt-maker or whatever on board with its little marketing scheme?

Is this one of the “efficient and effective” government initiatives “that meet the priorities of Canada”? Perhaps some so-called “Conservative” can tell me why businesses that help promote tourism are different from the arts sector in terms of receiving government support in their laissez-faire vision of things…

Peter MacKay: A Lowly Man

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.

Woo-hoo!

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.