Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Political theatre

Update (below).

Ignatieff has it right, the largest military purchase in Canadian history deserves scrutiny:
“The costs are skyrocketing, we are in the middle of a $54-billion [deficit], the bid was not competitive,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “How can we go to a town hall anywhere in Canada and explain this choice to Canadians when there are so many other priorities that are pressing on hard-pressed Canadian families?”
Or, here's a better statement of the point:
Mr. Speaker, yesterday evening at a public forum in Outremont, a woman asked why the government was spending $16 billion on airplanes when there is a serious shortage of funding for affordable housing in Quebec. My question is for the Prime Minister. Can he explain to this woman why he needs to buy this particular plane at this price on an untendered contract while ordinary Canadian families are having trouble making ends meet?
On the point of economic priorities, see this report from yesterday, for example, on Canadians taking on second jobs, dipping into savings, adjusting their retirement savings due to the recession.

Meanwhile, we had the contrast yesterday of the Conservatives lining up with industry, putting the pressure on, trying to essentially scare Canadians into believing that jobs are on the line if we don't hang with the Conservatives'sole-sourced F-35 purchase decision. There was no mention in the Globe reporting, however, of the fact that the PMO was the organizing force behind yesterday's aerospace industry p.r. event.

As for the content of the event, the admonishments from the business leaders for political opposition to get on board, while understandable, coming from their perspective, are irrelevant in terms of the democratic process. Canadians have a right to know that the right choice has been made, that the right amount of dollars are being expended and that we actually need these planes. There are competing budgetary priorities and our representatives have the right to put forth their own. There has been no debate over these planes, just a decree issued on a lazy, hot Friday in July and instructions ever since to get on board and ask no questions. In a minority government situation. A competitive bid process had been planned by National Defence. Just as is done with other military purchases. These aerospace leaders are familiar with those processes and if this jet issue had been handled competitively from the start, as Peter MacKay stated it would be in May, they'd likely have no issue with it.

As an aside, the US Navy just ordered 124 Super Hornets from Boeing. The Australians are getting a version of new Super Hornets as well. Are these Super Hornets options for us? We don't know. We have no competitive bid, despite Boeing being interested in participating.

Yesterday's event was predictable and didn't really tell us anything we don't already know. Industry wants to maintain jobs, as does everybody. And the Conservative talking points are being pushed relentlessly.

Update: See also Pogge, TGB for more perspective on the aerospace industry's participation in the Tuesday F-35 p.r. event.