Here's the black and white of Canada's maritime helicopter fiasco: the Sea Kings are way, way past their best-by date
, the procurement process for a replacement has been shamefully politicized for at least the past ten years, a new helicopter
has at long last been chosen, and this choice has spawned a highly predictable lawsuit
The rest of the story falls somewhere in the gray, albeit in the dark grey. Put another way, there's enough smoke out there that you're going to have a tough time convincing me there's no fire causing it all. But I'll give you as 'balanced' a perspective as I can, and let you decide.
in Canada have charged that the entire process was redesigned to avoid the political embarrassment that would inevitably be attached to a purchase ten years later of the same helicopter the Liberals cancelled in 1993. It's an easy argument to make. But we already bought the Cormorant
as a replacement for the Labradors which have given our search and rescue operations yeoman's service in past years.
Of course, reporters understand politics much better than military procurement and technical specifications, so this angle plays right to their natural bias. And just because the Sikorsky is the most politically expedient option doesn't mean it's not the best option for our beleaguered armed forces.
In fact, some within the military community (sorry, personal conversations, no links) have said that 'dumbing-down' the technical requirements for the new chopper was the right decision given budgetary considerations and operational realities. If you're a secretary making $35K a year, you don't buy a Hummer to take you back and forth to work, you buy a Jimmy. Sure, the Hummer's the better vehicle, but when you look at what else you could spend that money on, it's not the best value. This is a valid line of argument, but other experts in the field say it doesn't apply here
There has been speculation that the Augusta-Westland people gave up on the bidding process awhile ago - having seen the writing on Chretien's wall - and only continued to participate minimally in the process in order to bolster their case in an eventual lawsuit against the government. Perhaps this explains their disqualification
from a procedure they had already aced in previous competitions. But it's too bad they bailed out early - in substance, if not technically - because it makes them look petty and gives their detractors ammunition to use against them.
As you might have already guessed, I can see both sides of the argument. But in this case, all the otherwise-reasonable points made by NDHQ and their political masters just don't pass the smell-test. If this government had truly been serious about finding a non-'Cadillac' replacement for the Sea Kings, it would have done so years ago. No, I believe they've screwed the Canadian military, they've screwed Augusta-Westland, and they've screwed the Canadian taxpayer.
I just wish I had Augusta-Westland's legal recourse, and could sue Chretien, Martin, and the whole sleazy Liberal crowd into bankruptcy for wasting my tax dollars while squandering Canada's proud military legacy.