Saturday, December 08, 2012

"Panic all over" on the F-35 at Mr. Harper's feet

If this is true, that aerospace contractors are suddenly all aflutter given the news out of Ottawa on the F-35, then it's squarely on the shoulders of Stephen Harper and his government: "‘It’s panic all over’ as Ottawa rethinks F-35 purchase." Harper and his crew inflamed and sensationalized the jobs issue for contractors for political reasons when they had no need to do so. Here's a reminder of Harper in high form on the F-35s back in the day of 2010:
“To do what Mr. Ignatieff and his allies suggest now is to put in jeopardy every single job in this room and every single job that depends on the aerospace industry with no possible upside whatsoever for the Canadian air force,” he said. “Their position here is playing politics with the lives of our men and women in uniform and the jobs of the people in this room, and we will not stand for it.”
That's what the Prime Minister of Canada did while on site at one of these contractor locations. It was totally inappropriate.

The Memorandum of Understanding that Canada is a party to and that permits contractors to bid for jobs pursuant to, is the principal contract that has always governed our bidding regime. It provides for companies to bid and we paid money in joining this regime in order for these companies to do so. The contracts were never guaranteed to Canada but given our aerospace sector, the contracts came. They may continue to do so.

Some of the panic might have to do with a contractual conflict between what aerospace contractors signed with Lockheed Martin versus what Canada's Memorandum of Agreement with Lockheed Martin states. Again, that's something that never should have happened in this mess but all these people are grownups and they knew all these details. The contractors seemed to be willing to go along with Lockheed Martin to in effect pressure the government into buying the F-35. But governments are ultimately controlled by we civilians, thankfully, and this one finally has had some sense knocked into it by the astounding costs of this plane and the sheer risk now to their political viability (Conservatives of conscience, time to step up, hello).

Back to the main point, setting up aerospace contracts as a condition of our purchase of the F-35...that framing is all on the shoulders of Stephen Harper. And it is partly why this entire episode is so sorry. People's jobs are not political playthings to be gamed for electoral success. But this is the era Stephen Harper has ushered in, so now let's make him live with it. Maybe all those areospace types might want to re-think their photo-op availabilities next time someone comes knocking too.