Monday, October 18, 2010

Quebecers weigh in against F-35

A Leger Marketing-Le Devoir poll out today presents a clear level of opposition in Quebec to the F-35 buy. 62% of respondents say it is an unjustified expense:
Ainsi, 62 % des Québécois estiment que cette dépense fédérale est «injustifiée». Ils sont 21 % à juger que cette acquisition est «justifiée». Environ 17 % des gens ont dit ne pas savoir ou ont refusé de répondre.
Notably, this comes after several federal announcements on the F-35 that have taken place in Quebec. There was MacKay's September 9th announcement of the Bagotville, Quebec basing of the future F-35s, years from now. There was a September 15th industrial visit to Montreal by Ministers Clement and Lebel. And of course, there was also Harper's showy event in Mirabel outside Montreal to award that CF-18 maintenance contract, framed in the context of the F-35 acquisition. That was the event where Harper was described as livid in expressing his demand for the opposition to get on board with the big sole-sourced contract. So clearly, this big Quebec push has paid off handsomely with the voters to date.

The Aerospace Industry Association of Canada, however, led by Claude Lajeunesse has been quite active in pushing the F-35 deal. That's not too surprising, they are the industry association after all. It is, however, a little surprising how much he and the association are allowing themselves to become partisan pawns in this public debate by mimicking Conservative talking points. There is an article in the Hill Times today further debunking those Conservative talking points.

If this is the dynamic taking shape, with industry lining up with the Conservatives and Liberals (and other parties) who are holding the government to account on this proposed deal lining up with voters, that's not such a bad dynamic. As long as the issue is fought vigorously, cognizant of that dynamic and constantly pushing back against this Conservative job-killing fear mongering. The opposition has a job to do in our parliamentary system, despite the pressure from industry and there are many factors, including Alan Williams recent committee testimony, suggesting the need for questions here. The government, by contrast, is operating mostly like a public relations outfit, sprinkling various jet announcements on heavy rotation across the country since the initial July F-35 announcement but with little regard for any democratic debate on this one.

Now we have some reaction to the Harper government's handling of the file. Whether these results will be replicated in the rest of Canada, guess we'll see. But budget difficulties are not going to help the government, as Liberals in particular are going to concertedly argue the point (see these events today for example).