Thursday, September 02, 2010

No questions!

Update (5:20 p.m.) below.

Harper yesterday, seen above (ignore video title), doesn't seem to like being questioned about the proposed F-35 $16 billion purchase:
"Everybody knows the Liberal party supports this," he said, his voice rising.

"Everybody understands the military will need this equipment at the end of the decade and everybody understands this is to the benefit of the Canadian aerospace sector, particularly the industry that is based here in the greater Montreal region. So the Opposition should stop playing political games with this and simply support this, which is a necessary purchase for all of us."
Elsewhere Harper is described as "livid" as he spoke (at about 1:00 minute mark). Stop playing political games and simply support the purchase. Just remarkable. It's only the most expensive military purchase in Canadian history, no scrutiny has yet been permitted of this arrangement that was announced outside of Parliament sitting. Yet the minority government Prime Minister is insisting the opposition should "simply support this." This is how Stephen Harper governs.

And he and his staff will haul out an octopus of possible tentacled damage that opposition to his choice will cause:
It could endanger Canadian defence contractors, who've already won $375 million worth of work on the planes, anger allied nations already committed to buying the planes and waste hundreds of millions of dollars under existing agreements signed as far back as 1997.
Portraying us as having no choice, we're in too deep, it's too costly to get out. Except, not so much.

There is no deal right now, to purchase these F-35s, contrary to the CTV headline on its story. The PM's presumptive spin doesn't make it so. They've announced an intention to purchase, that's all. No deal is to be signed until 2013. This is why there could indeed be a competition among manufacturers so that a process is competitive and we wouldn't have to live in fear of any one contractor and supposed ramifications (" having a competition, Canadian firms potentially stand to reap more industrial benefits as aerospace firms jockey to win such a significant contract.").

Further, it has to be pointed out that contrary to the major spin yesterday, any arrangements we're presently entwined with Lockheed Martin for are structured with an exit and minimal penalty:
In 2006, the Conservative government signed an agreement that would commit Canada to contributing $551 million U.S. between now and 2051. That would cover Canada's portion of equipment and development needed for its share of the JSF planes that it wants to purchase.

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.
It's not as clearly negative as the reporting yesterday would have you believe. And as for those allied nations we might anger, many of them are having doubts about their F-35 purchases too in an era of tightening military budgets and questions being raised there too about the need for combat fighter jets (Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain). It's another red herring of fear for you.

So yes, the government's proposed spending priorities can indeed be questioned:
The Liberal Leader says the Prime Minister has his economic priorities all mixed up, doling out $16-billion for 65 stealth fighter jets and $9-billion to build new jails. “Is this what Canadians want from their government right now in the middle of a $54-billion deficit?”

Mr. Ignatieff said his Liberals would take another look at the fighter-jet purchase. “We are not convinced the fighter planes are needed,” he told reporters at the wrap-up news conference to his two-day caucus meeting in Cape Breton.
“We are not convinced we need this number of planes and we are not convinced at the moment of a $54-billion deficit this is the priority for the Canadian economy,” he said.

His priorities are issues of economic security – including pensions – defending of the public health system, child care and post-secondary education.

“There is now a record of fiscal incompetence and waste of money in the Harper government, which I think shreds their reputation for fiscal credibility,” he said. “And we are saying that the thing that is on Canadians’ minds now is their economic security going forward.”
Let the questions be asked, let's have a debate, let the choices be given to the people. Not presented as a fait accompli to be accepted unquestioningly.

Update (5:20 p.m.): Dave at Galloping Beaver has a very informative post expanding on the Lockheed Martin angle in this purchase, highly recommend.