Thursday, October 28, 2010

Order, order

In the news today, Question Period reform! The group Canadians Advocating Political Participation are supporting M-517, Conservative MP Michael Chong's Question Period reform initiative. More from CAPP here on their campaign and you can read the details of Chong's motion here.

Note that element (i) of Chong's motion proposes that the Speaker's role be fortified:
(i) elevating decorum and fortifying the use of discipline by the Speaker, to strengthen the dignity and authority of the House
We've seen some steps down that road in the past year or so but not really enough.

Here's a bit of fun. A twitter friend just put this bug in my ear on Betty Boothroyd, former Speaker in the British House of Commons. Educational to watch as a contrast to our proceedings.





Betty Boothroyd is probably, as you can see, one of a kind. As the Commons committee looks at this motion, it will be interesting to see what kind of uniquely Canadian evolution in the Speaker's institution might be considered. Also important, who the successor to Peter Milliken will be.

Fun with Question Period reform, who knew.

(h/t)

Veterans day of protest may have one more reason

Good question: Has the government issued orders prohibiting military personnel and DND civilian staff from taking part in the November 6 Veterans protest? David Pugliese reports that may be the case:
Some veterans have voiced concern that military personnel and DND employees are being ordered to stay away from the Saturday, Nov. 6 nation-wide veterans protest and march…..even though they want to attend on their own time and not in uniform (for military personnel).
If this is true, it's remarkably intrusive and against their right to freedom of assembly.

When asked yesterday in the House of Commons about whether any orders had been so given, Harper replied:
Of course not, Mr. Speaker. But the government does not have to issue any such orders, because the truth of the matter is this: when it comes to standing up for the men and women in uniform, getting them the equipment they need, these people understand that there is only one party in this Parliament that supports them. It is this government. When it comes to improving benefits for our veterans, there is only one party that has not voted against those things, as the NDP has done. It is this party. We will continue to protect our men and women in uniform today and in the future.
No orders necessary when you're the most veteran supporting government ever. Who happens to be facing a national day of protest from veterans.

That is one awesome disconnect.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Contractual conflict?

Interesting timing on this one. Sun Media has been leaked a document with contractual terms pertaining to F-35 supplier deals in Canada that appear to conflict with the terms of the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding signed by Canada, at the national level. Appear to. Not so sure they do but they are being spun that way. Here's what Sun Media is reporting:
A copy of the Memorandum of Agreement that jet maker Lockheed Martin uses with its Canadian suppliers states clearly that Canada must be a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter program for Canadian suppliers to be able to bid.

In a section on requirements for a supply contract to remain in force, the memo lists several stipulations including: “C. the Government of Canada remains a Level 3 participant and procures JSF Aircraft as currently reflected in the JSF PSFD MOU dated December 31st, 2006.”

The document was provided to QMI Agency by an industry source on the same day Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff promised to cancel the order of 65 jets if he forms government after the next election.
Not having read the whole thing, it's hard to say whether any other terms expand upon the clause "C" above.

But it is possible to read that clause as consistent with the 2006 MOU. The term of that agreement is 49 years (I believe) and its purpose is indeed to permit Canadian companies to bid on JSF work with Canada as a participant. So Canada can remain a participant, irrespective of whether it buys the F-35 or not (see post this a.m. for more). The latter part of that clause, that reads Canada "...procures JSF Aircraft as currently reflected in the JSF PSFD MOU dated December 31st, 2006," means that yes, Canada, if it procures, procures in accordance with that MOU. I can see why indeed companies and those seeking to press on with the sole-sourced deal are reading this clause "C" as a mandatory requirement to buy the F-35s.

But the MOU provides for Canada and any other nation to engage in its own particular procurement process (clause 3.2.1.1.1). The Conservatives have chosen to indicate that they will sole-source the F-35s from Lockheed Martin. The Liberals are saying that if they form government, they will hold a competitive process. So I'm not sure how this clause above changes that. Here is 3.2.1.1.1:

That reads that actual procurement is subject to the outcome of each participants' national procurement decision-making processes. The outcome in any given nation might be to say no. Or to buy less. Like the British seem to be doing and the Dutch and Norway. But Canada seems to be skipping this step of having a procurement process. Recall that the Department of National Defence was contemplating having a competition for the jet purchase, planning for one, according to its own documents. That is something we can do because as we know, there is no contract to buy the F-35s in existence right now and won't be until at least 2013. A lot of the media reporting, including the Sun Media report, seems premised on the fact that a deal would be cancelled. There is no deal.

Something else to think about is just what is being apparently floated here. That Lockheed Martin, presently under tremendous cost pressures from the Pentagon, would be likely to axe current suppliers in the JSF programme, including the Canadian ones, and re-obtain new suppliers from elsewhere. That would seem to be an additionally costly proposition but anything's possible.

Beyond all the contractual interpretation is the dynamic we're seeing here. These contracts between Lockheed Martin and the suppliers seem designed to pressure the government of Canada into buying the F-35. Locking us in, in a sense. But the 2006 MOU is the governing agreement Canada has. Lockheed Martin and its suppliers are free, obviously, to contract for whatever stipulations they want. What a Canadian government will ultimately do is up to the government, not the contractual requirements of third parties.

More renogate, an update

A follow-up here to yesterday's post. There was a committee hearing where Public Works officials appeared yesterday which should be addressed.

First of all, the big issue this week, as a reminder, is the situation pointed out in this report on the weekend. A change was made in the bid process on a $9 million Parliament Hill renovation contract which ended up working to the benefit of the smallest contractor in the process. That change happened one week before the bid closed. Here was the answer provided by the officials on the reason for the change:
Tom Ring, assistant deputy minister at the acquisitions branch of the department, said changes to criteria for contracts are a normal part of the contract process in exchanges with industry,

“We looked at the request from LM Sauve and found that it was reasonable, and in fact, we had made a similar change in the criteria for the southeast towers so there was no reason to not accept that request,” Mr. Ring said, in response to questions from Diane Bourgeois, public works critic for the Bloc Quebecois.

Mr. Ring said the changes were posted seven or eight days before the closing date and there were no subsequent questions or complaints.

“In fact, our view is if we had not made that change, we would have left ourselves subject to legal review from LM Sauve for making an unreasonable request and a more stringent requirement than was necessary,” said Mr. Ring, who appeared at the committee alongside Pierre-Marc Mongeau, assistant deputy minister at the parliamentary precinct branch; Robert Wright, director general of major Crown projects and Jacques Leclerc, senior director of the real property contracting directorate.
That cool, matter of fact response by the Public Works officials on why the change was made was a real contrast to how the other contractors bidding on the contract viewed the change:
"That amendment blindsided all the other pre-qualified general contractors, and it came out of nowhere," he said. "Who asked for it? Why was that amendment even created? Making a new amendment to benefit only one of the people who applied is pretty strange."
It was perfectly normal according to the officials yet it wasn't perceived that way. I assume these contractors have been around the block a few times?

It does seem strange that a contractor can make such a request for a rule change and it goes into effect one week before the bid closes. And further, that the government feels it'll be in for legal problems if they don't go along, when it's that late in the process.

Also of note yesterday, the Public Works officials testified that they have assessed emails, documents and all the other written records for evidence of any interactions in connection with the bidding process change with political personnel. None were found.

The hearings continue next week and the RCMP investigation continues. So there'll be more "Renogate" blogging in our future. The whole thing is too odd not to wonder about. How did that firm, said to be less qualified than the other bidders and the one who gave $140,000 to a Conservative-linked politico, end up winning that contract anyway? 

P.S. How can people not like "Renogate?" I don't get that at all. But for one letter in the word, we have renovate. Renogate/renovate, it's just perfection. (And just a label, folks, the details are what's important...)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Renogate expanding today

Update (5:20 p.m.) below. 

More today on the the burgeoning Parliament Hill renovation brouhaha affectionately termed "renogate."

1. The latest and potentially big story on this file that popped up on the weekend is worthy of some attention. It was reported that the week before a crucial competitive bid process closed, the one that contractor LM Sauve won for $9 million, the criteria that contractors had to meet were suddenly changed. As in, downgraded in a way that would benefit LM Sauve in particular, being a smaller firm. We know the allegation that the LM Sauve firm owner paid a lobbyist "with ties to the Conservatives" the sum of $140,000 to help win the contract. And we also know that LM Sauve did go on to win the contract but went bankrupt and couldn't complete the work.

So why did the criteria for the bidders change and who instigated that change? The questions were asked yesterday in Question Period and rather shockingly, here was the response: "Tories point to bureaucrats in renovation contract."

The government must be worried, however. Get a load of the explanation that came last night from this government, the one that wants to sole-source $16 billion in fighter jets.

Last night came word from a "senior government official" admitting that yes, the changes were to the benefit of LM Sauve, but the contracting process needed to be filled up with extra bidders. Yep, they needed to dot the i's and cross the t's to make sure the bid was competitive enough. See, on some matters, competitive bids seem to matter to this government. Seem to, anyway.

I'm not familiar with exactly how many contractors they needed in order to satisfy a competitive process here, but based on the Maher report on the weekend, it certainly sounded like they had enough other and larger reputable firms bidding:
"The other four companies that pre-qualified — PCL, Daoust, EllisDon and Thomas Fuller — are large, corporate general contractors."
All of those firms qualified for the bid without the loosened bid criteria. So why was there a need for more? The senior government official pleads that the bid became more competitive and "...had the change not been made, the government’s tendering process would have been vulnerable to a legal challenge."

Surely there must be some provision to maintain integrity in the process where you don't open up bids to just anybody simply out of a need for bodies to fill your quota. On the Parliament buildings? Look at what happened to the project by adding this unqualified bidder to the process.

Now that's the government spin in any event. The cause of the change to the bid criteria remains a question mark. Whether there was political interference is still a question to be answered. You have to love the irony of these Conservatives citing the need for competitive bids though! Their actions as a government suggest they value such processes only when it's convenient to them.

2. There is also a report by CBC's Greg Weston on the cost of temporary meeting rooms while Parliament Hill is under all this renovation. An expense of $24 million for four meeting rooms is being reported when the budgeting was apparently in the $11 million range for those facilities ($11 million figure from Weston video on that CBC page link).

Guess we'll be hearing the explanations today, variations on parliamentary needs and, well, given the tendency to buck pass, possibly that public servants were in charge. Explaining the costs will be the big issue though. Especially since we're all against gravy trains these days. Aren't we?

Apparently we're building a big new parliamentary building too. Out of the blue, an old plan that was buried has been resurrected. Look forward to hearing the explanation on that one. Not necessarily a bad thing if it's needed and can be justified. However, this is a government that is repeatedly pointing at the opposition as having big spending plans and nickels and dimes the opposition on its policy plans. How they can justify not disclosing this plan, which must be for hundreds of millions, is a glaring question.

All in all, "renogate" seems to be serving up some very sloppy financial management from these Conservatives. Who would hire these people?

P.S. Don Martin doesn't like the renogate term ("Please, no"). I'm going to keep using it anyway, because really, there's nothing better on tap and we need to capture this one in some neat label. BCL likes it too, good enough for me.

Update (5:20 p.m.): A little birdie suggests to me that there is a flip side to the government's explanation above, that they needed to get more bidders in the contract bidding in order to avoid a legal challenge to the process. In changing the criteria, did they open themselves up to possible legal action? Those who prepared their bids based on the original criteria spent time and money in reliance upon those criteria. I don't know if there's a cause of action but it's worth considering.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Asleep at the switch

There is more on the veterans' privacy breach story today: "PMO knew about 'security breaches': government documents." Veteran Sean Bruyea had dealings with the PMO in 2006 on the subject of intrusions into his privacy and abuse of it by Veterans Affairs yet the PMO doesn't seem to have done much about it other than refer it back to Veterans Affairs.

This is very newsworthy because Mr. Harper spoke quite indignantly about the situation on October 7th (video of Harper is at that link, 4th down, 1st question asked):
"The government has absolutely no tolerance for the behaviour that went on here," Harper told reporters following a press conference at an aerospace plant in Winnipeg.

"The fact that some of the bureaucracy had been abusing these files and not following appropriate process is completely unacceptable. And we will ensure that rules are followed, that the recommendations of the privacy commissioner are implemented -- that if this behaviour continues there will be strong action against it.
Yet it does look like his office - and he is responsible for the staff in his office, accountability wise - had four years notice to do something about it yet failed to act.

The report notes that most of the abuses of Bruyea's confidential information occurred in the last four years.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday night



Have a good night.

Late night humour



If you've never seen the British political satire series, Bird & Fortune, this is what they do, hilarious takes on current events. This one's from 2008 but amazingly relevant to the UK's present budget constraints where they'll be ending up with two newly built aircraft carriers but there'll be a gap before they have British planes upon them. That predicament is neatly explained here:
Even by the low standards of defence procurement, the continued muddle is madness. Rather than fashioning defence forces around real needs, Britain continues to pretend it is capable of providing the full spectrum of military roles.
That ridiculous situation in Britain is not a perfect parallel for us but the point of making choices based on military needs rather than job considerations, etc. is an apt one in that editorial. Making decisions carefully, in processes with integrity, helps you avoid white elephants. The UK looks to have two big ones on its hands now.

And you may not think it's possible but the British Joint Strike Fighter purchase, as it stood in 2008, gets some comic attention in the video too.

(h/t)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

More census litigation on the way

On the heels of the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne's decision not to appeal their census case loss at the Federal Court, we have a new effort that's sprung up. The Canadian Council on Social Development is "...joined in its challenge by a dozen social, community and legal organizations." The cause of action is not explicitly stated in the report but it sounds like a Charter equality challenge:
The Canadian Council on Social Development is spearheading the case in Federal Court to defend what it calls “the equal right of all Canadians to be counted.”
You can see the theoretical equality argument. That the move from the mandatory long-form census to a voluntary one undermines the ability of the government to make policy decisions with a legitimate statistical underpinning. The data that will now be collected will skew to certain demographics over others, meaning that government decisions made on the basis of that information would also be unequally skewed.

They're claiming there's time to still halt the axing:
“While the decision remains unchanged, this battle is far from over,” the group said, adding that despite “misinformation” from the Conservative government, the decision can be changed well into 2011. “It's not over until the surveys hit our mail boxes.”
Any effort to maintain the long-form census should be applauded, best of luck to them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

And then there were three...

Update (Thursday a.m.) below.

Further to a previous post setting out the delays of F-35 purchases by Norway and the Netherlands, the U.K. is reported to be following the same path:
The government also has opted to reduce its F-35 buy. Britain will shift its carrier-based version to the F-35C, away from the short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing B version. How many F-35s will be bought, as well as whether the Royal Navy and Air Force will use the same type, remains to be sorted out. A defense official says those decisions may await the next review in five years, leaving a lot of uncertainty about the program.
More:
Future prospects for the F-35 joint strike fighter program got a lot murkier Tuesday after British government officials announced plans to delay and dramatically trim their purchases of the warplane from Lockheed Martin.

The sweeping review of defense programs unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron envisions cutting purchases of F-35s from 138 planes to as few as 40. It would also delay the first orders until later this decade and switch the type of jet the British navy will operate.

The moves by the British, who for 15 years have been the foremost ally of the Pentagon in planning and paying for development of the F-35, figure to drive up the costs of buying aircraft for the U.S. and other governments and lead to further delays by other nations expected to buy the jets.
Uncertainty about the programme. Driving up costs for "other governments?" How can our government credibly maintain, with all these developments, that our costs would be under control? We have no contract now, it's hard to see the basis for their claims. (The U.K. government ordering fewer also reported here.)

That Star-Telegram report goes on to suggest that the move away from the F-35B (aircraft carrier version) by Britain could put the U.S. Navy's buy of that F-35 version in doubt too, opening the door to increased purchases of the Boeing Super Hornet. One analyst describes the UK's move away from the F-35B as "...disruptive to all aspects of the program schedule and costs."

Meanwhile, what are we hearing in Canada from the one-noters? "F-35 is the only plane in town: Senior official." Perhaps our Conservatives could tell the allies. Instead of jumping on board and signalling large orders like we are, they're delaying and reducing their purchases. You have to wonder what kind of bubble we're living in.

Update (Thursday a.m.): Boris at TGB has more.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday night






Have a good night.

Quite the political specimen

That specimen would be Rob Ford. Must see highlight video at Curran's blog that all Torontonians (and other interested Canadians) should see. Laughter guaranteed. And not the kind of laughter a candidate really wants.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

No love from India

Et tu, India?
When the time came for Canada to count its friends in its bid for a seat at the United Nations Security Council, India wasn’t there.

Those with a close knowledge of how nations voted in the General Assembly say India supported Portugal over Canada in the contest for a temporary seat on the council this week. That vote stings: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has invested a great deal of political capital in improving Indo-Canadian ties. In this instance, at least, his efforts were for naught.
Another shocker in the fallout of the UN Security Council failure. There has indeed been all that political capital invested.

I mean, we have a Bollywood superstar as our new tourism ambassador for India. How much deeper can you get in terms of fostering national ties? I hear Shakira is next up to promote that Columbia-Canada FTA.

And surely that little diplomatic row this summer where we called the Indian border force "...a “notoriously violent unit” that engages in “systematic torture" wouldn't have factored. We apologized for that bungle, profusely.

It all continues to be so puzzling.

USAF comments on the F-35

Updated below.

The U.S.A.F. Chief spoke about the Air Force budget, "U.S.A.F. Chief Makes Stark Budget Predictions," the bad and the good, at a National Press Club luncheon on Tuesday. He put the future of the F-35 in an interesting light:
But there are a few positive trends. Selection of a winning design for the KC-X tanker replacement is expected to be announced next month. The number of Air Force personnel will not decrease, and new systems — despite being fewer — will be designed with more flexibility, versatility and efficiency. The Lockheed Martin F-35 program, for example, could benefit from a multiyear contract, but only if there is a long-term requirement for the aircraft and if there is budget stability, Schwartz says. (emphasis added)
Only if there is a long-term requirement for the aircraft? What does that mean? Obviously, he's saying they might not require it in the long-term. What he means by "long-term" is anyone's guess, whether it's that they might cancel it or whether it's going to go into full production with a limited run as they start developing another option, who knows. But it is put conditionally, that's what we can read. Note also the continuing concern regarding the cost of this plane which we have yet to contract for.

More for the "why this F-35 prospective purchase requires a competitive process" file.

(h/t)

Update: More worthwhile reading on the F-35 today from Glen Pearson (h/t).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lesson learned: Planet before donuts



From the archives, a good video reminder of an event that is said to have factored in to today's Security Council loss.

(h/t)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Saturday night



Performing for the leader in Harperland

The Globe runs an excerpt from Harperland today. It's a day in the life of Stephen Harper. When Parliament is in session, that day includes a dress rehearsal of Question Period where cabinet ministers are made to run through their lines for the leader and are critiqued and tweaked. Despite David Emerson's quoted earnest appreciation for the exercise, it comes off strangely. Not that they're preparing, but that Harper sits and watches them run through their lines:
When an iffy answer was given, Beardsley would look over at Harper with raised eyebrows, as if to say, “What do you think?” And Harper, he recalled, “would just shake his head like ‘That’s no damn good.’“
No wonder there's such a trained seal perception of the Harper cabinet. It's true. This is very weird stuff.

The emphasis on style over substance, the lack of trust in his cabinet to competently answer questions, the question of the devotion of time to acting out answers all spring to mind as obvious points.

All the world's a stage, including the House of Commons, with Harper as director and his ministers as merely players putting it over on us all.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Friday night

A few songs from the week. The first one is a thing of beauty in its simplicity.



This one I circulated the other night on twitter but I'm still liking it and it seems to be a good companion to the first.



Have a good night.

F-35 opposition makes the PM furious

Active day on the F-35 file yesterday. Harper did his "infuriated" bit in Winnipeg on the F-35, again decrying any opposition to or questioning of his government's decision to sole-source this $16 billion contract:
“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.”
Not too much hyperbole there. Ignatieff's reaction (from same link):
Mr. Ignatieff called Mr. Harper's remarks “offensive” and “absurd.” The Liberals, he said in a phone interview, are only asking “legitimate questions that have to be answered before any sensible Canadian will agree to buy these planes.”
Harper's problem is that the facts are lining up against his rhetoric. On Thursday there was testimony at a Defence committee that contradicted what Harper said above about aerospace jobs:
Mr. Williams said our original jet-fighter partnership allows Canada to purchase other jets without losing supplier contracts, which seems to suggest the government can safely sound the market for better deals.
That's Alan Williams, a long time public servant of 33 years, 10 of which were spent in defence procurement, who has made an articulate case on the need for a competitive bid on the F-35 purchase (which is a must read, similar to his opening statement yesterday).

Also, Williams suggested we're overpaying:
...Williams said a competitive bidding process could have shaved off $3.2 billion.
Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister is taking aim at Williams, mischaracterizing Williams' advice to the government of years ago on the F-35. Williams immediately termed it a "lie" when it was put to him. Factor this in to your credibility meters, Don Martin essentially called for a competitive process after Williams' testimony.

Good to hear a voice on the scene like Williams making a different case from the government. There aren't that many people who seem to be willing to do that, actually, other than the political actors involved and it helps the debate along.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Damage control time

From Harper-come-lately on the extensive veterans affairs privacy breaches :
Harper reacted angrily to the finding when asked to comment on it by reporters on Thursday in Winnipeg.

"The government has absolutely no tolerance for the behaviour that went on here. We asked the privacy commissioner to look into this matter," he told reporters following a press conference at an aerospace plant in Winnipeg.

"The fact that some of the bureaucracy had been abusing these files and not following appropriate process is completely unacceptable. And we will ensure that rules are followed, that the recommendations of the privacy commissioner are implemented –- that if this behaviour continues there will be strong action against it.

"Our veterans are people who have put their lives on the line for this country and it is completely unacceptable that rules are being broken in this manner."
Anger, yep.

Spin that makes it look like you acted with foresight, suggesting your government prompted the privacy commissioner's investigation, yep.

Offered in a manner of the "what took them so long" variety, yep. When you didn't order the investigation at all.

Finger pointing at bureaucracy without accepting responsibility, yep.

P.R. and damage control, yep.

In charge and incompetent to oversee and prevent such abuses over the last four years? Yep.

Signals from the new GG

While bloggers are poring over the new Governor General's statements from his round of introductory interviews that have predictably turned to his likely reactions in the event of a December 2008 repeat, buried at the end of this report was perhaps one of his most significant from the week:
He told Mr. Mansbridge he deeply appreciates the “rule of law” in Canada, calling it an important bequest from the Westminster style of government. “I am a lawyer. I love the law. The rule of law to me is very important. I suppose I am passionate about a number of things but I am passionate about the rule of law. I think it’s one of the great gifts of the British system of government and of British civilization: the rule of law.”
It may sound arcane and legalistic but it means a lot to hear that from this new Governor General. Particularly given the December 2008 crisis and the tenets of our parliamentary system that were distorted during (and arguably since) that time. Look how Johnston's starting to lay down some markers:
Russell said he has organized a meeting of international experts to try to achieve a consensus about how a Governor General's powers should be used in future cases similar to the 2008 crisis.

He said the meeting, planned for February, will include government participation and will be supported by David Johnston, the new Governor General.
That seems to be notable, an early nod by Johnston to legal discussion, to fostering education about the role. If you read any of Russell's constitutional compilation, Parliamentary Democracy in Crisis, you'll probably get a sense that this upcoming conference will build on the one out of which that book came. There were a number of provocative contributions to that book. For Johnston to support such an effort seems to be a bit of a statement.

People are understandably parsing each and every word the man says given our recent history. The fact that he's a Harper appointee raises the scrutiny factor even higher. The encouraging signals in the early going look good from here though.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Allies delaying F-35 purchases

Norway:
The Norwegian government says it will delay its purchase of 16 of 20 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters as part of its bid to slash spending.

The Norwegian Defense Ministry said the order would be pushed back by two years to 2018, reaffirming, however, its commitment as a "serious and credible partner" to the Joint Strike Fighters program.
Defense Minister Grete Faremo said the delay signaled Norway's desire to buy a "more mature" aircraft at an optimum production cost, not any weakening of confidence in the Joint Strike Fighters project.
...
She also said the delay won't obstruct efforts by Norwegian industries to negotiate up to $5 billion in F-35-related offset contracts from U.S. partners.

"Norwegian industry has already obtained contracts worth $350 million. Overall, the industry has good prospects to secure contracts for more than $5 billion," Faremo was quoted saying in a report by Flight Global.
So they're not buying until 2018. But in the meantime, this Norwegian minister is stating that her country is primed for about $5 billion in contracts (out of what Clement touts as $12 billion in total). That word "offset" makes its way into the report although it's not clear if Norway actually has received "offsets," or, what we in Canada would call "industrial benefits." Note also the Norwegian choice is to buy a more "mature" aircraft, later in the process, once actual costs to produce are presumably going to be known and any kinks are worked out. Sounds smart. That's what Boris is getting at today.

Secondly, the Dutch, who have just entered into a tenuous coalition government, are staying in the JSF programme and will be buying a test plane next year. But the coalition is reducing the number of jets from the 85 it had planned to buy without saying what the final number will be. They are putting off the decision beyond the life of this coalition government, which is tentatively slotted to run until 2015.

Some context for what the Harper government is saying about maneuverability within the JSF MOU and, beyond that, as to what sovereign nations can choose to do.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

About the gun registry being a winning issue for Conservatives...

They might want a re-think: "Two-thirds of Canadians back long-gun registry: poll." They likely already have. We haven't heard much on the gun registry from Conservatives following their defeat on the issue.

So what's the bad news? Fairly overwhelming support for the registry:
The national survey conducted exclusively for Postmedia News and Global Television finds that support for the registry stands at 66% nationally. Moreover, support is strong in regions throughout the country — even though Harper has said his party will not “rest” until it abolishes the registry.
Take a look at those bar graphs accompanying the report. Really astounding levels of support. 75% of women. 81% of those in the age group 18-34. In the Prime Minister's "regions" that he referenced on the steps in the Commons, post vote: 61% support in B.C., 57% in Saskatchewan/Manitoba, 66% in Ontario, 81% in Quebec, 59% in Atlantic Canada. Good luck with the "people in the regions" framing.

Notably, even among Conservative voters, a 47% support level is found versus 53% opposing. Not as strong a base solidifier as sold to the public. Also on the political aspect here, this issue could change a few votes:
The poll finds that 23% of Canadians say the results of the recent parliamentary tussle over Hoeppner’s bill could have an impact on how they vote in the next election.

Of those voters, roughly half (12%) said they will vote for a party that wants to abolish the long-gun registry while the remainder (10%) said they will vote for a party that proposes to maintain it.
In this minority parliament era, it's trite to say, but every little bit of swing could make a difference.

Contrary to some pre-gun registry vote polling on the issue, we can see that as the issue proceeds along, with greater focus crystallizing on the issue, viewpoints can change. We saw a similar phenomenon on the maternal health initiative polling back in the spring with a similar swing occurring once people sat up and paid more attention to the issue as the politics heightened.

The Conservative noise machine warrants a lot less attention, I'd say.

More.

Update (8:30 p.m.): And more.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The PM & Fantino speculation

Updated (Wed Oct 6th 10:40 p.m.) below.

Well, he better run then: "PM pressing Julian Fantino to run, source says." Rebuffing the PM is a bad look on the PM and I'm sure he wouldn't have the details publicly leaked unless Fantino was on board.

Unless...this is just more of that Liberal brand destroying PM in action, trying to demoralize Liberals who have held the seat for years, by floating a heavyweight candidate with high name recognition. Which, if you ask me, is the more likely explanation. Fantino is, what, 68 years old? And a source says this:
Early last month, Mr. Fantino tried to play down rumours he was being courted by the Tories. At that time, he told the Toronto Star he was more interested in “decompressing from 42 years of busy public service.”
And a source who knows Mr. Fantino believes that it still the case. He said he cannot see him running to be a backbench MP. The former policeman is not a “yes man,” the source told The Globe, noting that the former top cop is “famously abrasive” and would likely butt heads with the Prime Minister.
Sound like Conservative p.r. sabre rattling.

Update: While there's no announcement yet, the Star is reporting Fantino, at the age of 67 (must be late fall birthday) will be the Conservative candidate.

Progressive Bloggers meet up Thursday

Attention Toronto based progressive blogging types! It's fall and it's a good time to get together and gab, plot, catch up and maybe have a toast or two to the general state of affairs in Canadian politics. Big City Lib along with blogger-in- exile Canadian Cynic and moi will be meeting up on Thursday as an after work bloggy beer type thing. For those of us who missed the Ottawa get together hosted by Senator McCoy, it's an opportunity to have a bit of an event ourselves but in the elite Toronto area.

In terms of logistics, you can email me impolitic@rogers.com (or BCL bigcitylib@hotmail.com) or contact me through the twitter thing...and we'll pass along the location of this momentous event. Start time would be after workish, between 6 & 7.

Mark it down and try to stop by. Cheers!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Switch the focus

This CP report this afternoon raises a few questions: "Jan. 1 biz tax cut blows hole in Lib platform." First, the focus of the article on the Liberals and Liberals' seeming admission that it should be that way is a little off. Liberals are speaking as if they're writing a budget and shouldn't be pigeon-holed into doing so in the media. We're in deficit, much larger this week due to Flaherty's deviation from his own budget, and the Conservatives are still pushing through with corporate tax cuts. That is where the big glare should be. The corporate tax cuts that are scheduled should be cancelled and every political utterance should contain that statement. What are the Conservatives doing? We're already a low tax corporate jurisdiction:
The U.S. statutory federal corporate income tax rate is 35 per cent, a number that is more likely to go up than down given the country's debt burden. Canada's is 18 per cent, down from 19 per cent in 2009. Scheduled tax cuts will bring Canada's rate to 16.5 per cent in 2011 and to 15 per cent in 2012, giving Canada the lowest statutory tax rate in the G7.
We are more than competitive with our southern neighbour. It's frivolous to push any further at the moment, particularly given the economic context and the deficit. Besides, the argument is to delay cuts. Why can't the Conservatives do that?

Recall that one of the first things Conservatives did when they came into office was to yank back personal income tax cuts. They had no problem doing that. There is opportunity here to argue who is on who's side, who is in sync with the middle class, etc. More of this angle:
"Guess what? Every time some big moneybags kicks up a fuss, it's going to prove to John and Jane Q. Public that we're actually on their side," says one senior Grit of the potential backlash among business leaders.
In other words, more offense, less defense.

Update: More here, the Nicholls point: "...Besides, it isn’t budget projections that win elections – it’s who has the most compelling narrative or story... ."

Quebec City power play still in the works

Pierre Karl Peladeau and various politicos were at the Nordiques arena rally yesterday in Quebec City on the Plains of Abraham. Peladeau is now suggesting he'd be open to making some kind of contribution, which would possibly provide cover for a federal contribution. He's being careful, just saying Quebecor is not closed to any proposals that might be on the table. And still maintaining that he will (or will be) putting in hundreds of millions of dollars already, keeping expectations low but keeping a door open at the same time. And what's good for Quebecor is good for Quebec, he actually stated, so really, he's already doing his part for Quebecer's pensions (Caisse ownership in Quebecor), how much more can a highly successful major media corporation do?

Josee Verner sounded quite enthusiastic:
«On travaille le plus rapidement possible. Nous on est ouverts à ça depuis le début ok? C’est juste qu’il faut trouver une façon de le faire et c’est là-dessus qu’on travaille», a-t-elle dit en évoquant «différentes options».

Appelée à commenter l’ouverture affichée par M. Péladeau, la ministre a dit qu’il n’était pas question pour elle de discuter publiquement de ses «hypothèses de travai » mais qu’il s’agissait d’un très bon «signe».
It's all about finding a way to do it now, that seemed to be the emphasis from Verner. And Conservative MP Steven Blaney was in the Nordiques jersey again. It seems to be in the works, and if it is, how the Conservatives go about justifying this expenditure will be something to watch. You can well imagine the cities across the country are taking note. Politicians may be lining up in support of this but whether Canadians will support it is another question.