Monday, July 26, 2010

A few must reads for the day: fighter jets, the census...and theme parks

1. David Pugliese with some clarifications on the fighter jet announcement that Harper ministers made just over a week ago: "No contract means future government can cancel fighter deal." The contract doesn't need to be signed until 2013, meaning a review of the deal would indeed be possible, as is the Liberal position, should there be a change in government. As also noted in Pugliese's piece, the present contractual arrangement the Canadian government has with the JSF program provides for an out with minimal penalties, contrary to some of the talking going on out there:
That memorandum allows for a country to pull out of the agreement, with aerospace industry officials noting the penalties at this point would be small as Canada has yet to order aircraft.
Also of note, that last paragraph with its suggestion that the Canadian military may not be uniformly behind the purchase.

Sounds like the Conservatives' announcement may have been a political boost to the U.S. program which is perceived to be in trouble due to cost overruns which are in turn translating into countries having second thoughts about their purchase of these jets. Anyway, this report is welcome clarification of some of the terms and parameters we're dealing with on this issue and is worth a read.

2. Michael Valpy with more background on Harper's one-man census decision. Lots of interesting stuff there, where to start. First, the news that Harper decided in December to junk the mandatory long form census. In December. So he waited until Parliament was out of session, to avoid any, you know, opposition galvanizing in the seat of our government. Likely because he knew his decision was controversial. The change was made under cover of the G20 weekend, if I recall the history on this one correctly. And with this six month delay in implementing his decision, he's possibly jeopardized that anything could be done to save the mandatory long form census, given the lateness of the hour. So this timing issue is big, breeding distrust as it does.

There's also further itemization of the opposition within the government that Harper has overruled. Stats Canada officials told him "that important data would likely be lost or impaired as a result" of the decision. Also mention here of officials in the Privy Council Office objecting as well as senior finance department staff. Opposition to a political decision by bureaucrats is not a new phenomenon and is not necessarily determinative of an issue. Those voices should count, one would think, given their expertise and seniority. Not the case, apparently. So we see a picture here of internal opposition to this decision along with the many groups outside of government that are being completely dismissed. Yet one man's views do not a democracy make.

Also interesting there, the disclosure of a cabinet confidence. Valpy writes of a cabinet meeting "at least 18 months ago" where Maxime Bernier proposed "major cuts" to Statistics Canada and Harper was on board. Kevin Lynch, the clerk of the Privy Council was not, however, and the cuts weren't implemented then, clearly. I think this timing is wrong, as a side note, Bernier wasn't in cabinet 18 months ago, he resigned in May of 2008. So, even if it's true that Bernier made the suggestion & Harper was on board, in some venue (caucus?), it would make the point that this census axing may have been a long time coming. If the mulling of cuts to Stats Canada was going on 18 months ago, that would have been at the time of the January 2009 crisis budget, clearly not an opportune time to be going all ideological in the budget. But maybe they were thinking about it in the background. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose with these people and all that.

This is Harper, with a contempt for Parliament, a penchant for secrecy and an unwillingness to listen. This issue has got it all.

3. Oh, and then there's Presto with a capital idea, pardon the pun. Just go. I laughed and I laughed...

4. Finally, BCL reads & debunks the Neil Reynolds piece in the Globe so you don't have to. You're welcome.