Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Can we correct the record, please?

Babble on.

Given his typical distrust of Martinite propaganda, I'm guessing Paul Wells hasn't swallowed the government's pronouncements regarding Canadian military spending hook, line, and sinker. Having said that, he's doing an awfully good job of regurgitating their propaganda.

From his blog earlier today:

Unfortunately, some people are harder to buy for. Condi Rice wasn't impressed with a $12.5 billion investment in our military. Apparently Condi doesn't like time travel, so even if Pierre Pettigrew takes her aside today in London and tells her about every decision that'll be made at next week's Cabinet meeting, she may still be in a bit of a snit. So sad. (Babbler's emphasis)

As you might remember, that figure is...how can I say this politely...ambitious, since 91% of that money is scheduled to arrive in DND coffers from 2007-2010, and nobody expects this government to last longer than 2006.

Rick Mercer even joked about it last night when he said the feds will put $13 billion into the military...over the next 13 billion years...with most of the money coming in year 13 billion.

This post from the February 23rd is a little more subtle:

Imagine it's 1991 and someone is seriously proposing a budget that would subtract from the federal debt; cut corporate and personal income taxes; build our military and development-assistance capacity; add jillions to health care and equalization; reallocate billions in stale spending toward new priorities; and project a half-dozen similarly deficit-free budgets out into the future. (Babbler's bold)

In 1991, Canada spent $12.3 billion on national defence. In 2005, Canada will spend $13.8 billion on national defence. Looks like an increase, right?

Except that when you adjust for inflation, $12.3 billion (1991) is actually $15.8 billion (2005). So how exactly is projected spending of $13.8 billion an increase?

Some would argue that Wells' comments need to be taken in the context of a year-over-year increase. I say if you're taking things in context, you should look at the fact that compared to 1991, the 2005 defence department is much more in need of a cash infusion - which again makes the comparison misleading.

The funny thing is that the main thrust of these two posts isn't even the military. I don't think Wells is spreading disinformation intentionally; he's just using the government's defence budget propaganda numbers as a convenient blunt object with which to beat his intended targets.

But I'm finally going to get to my point here: if Paul Wells - a well-respected, widely-read journalist who is openly critical of the Martin government - is going to use misleading figures on defence spending casually, in stories that aren't even about the military in the first place, what hope do those of us who care about the Canadian Forces have of getting the real story out?

Because the real story is this: since the Liberals took power in 1993, the actual budget of the Department of National Defence has declined 6.8% in inflation-adjusted terms ($11.97 billion (1993) versus $13.8 billion (2005)). As a percentage of GDP, our military expenditures have been almost halved over the same time period (1.9% to 1.0%). Put into that context, the Liberal's wishful-thinking five-year spending plan barely begins to repair the damage they have done to the Canadian Armed Forces.

There's a story, if only someone with a bigger audience than mine were willing to tell it.

Babble off.


At 5:24 p.m., Blogger The Monger said...

Well said. Proof that all that's required for spin to triumph is for careful men to do nothing.

At 5:39 p.m., Blogger Jane said...

The RSS feed is back to normal. Thanks Damian!

At 8:38 p.m., Blogger James Bow said...

Congratulations on your link from Paul Wells!

At 11:38 p.m., Blogger JimBobby said...

Whooee! Good figgerin', DamianFeller. That $13 billion number they throwed at us had me bamboozled, too. I even seen it had a few soldier fellers in the upper ranks tricked an' they was on the TV all happy-faced on accounta they figgered they's gettin' sum bigass dough comin' in.

Ol' PollyWolly Inkwells done a good deed fer you an' fer everbuddy interested in what's what with these spinny numbers when he sent'm over here t' yer boog. I hope lots of'm been comin' by an' seein' the sensible stuff you got t' say. Good on you!

Yores trooly,

At 12:06 p.m., Blogger MAW said...

Well said.

I did my basic training when I was 16 years old and after graduation I took an honorable discharge to get a job in the private sector. Even back then the Armed Forced was il-equipped.

I was a top marksman despite the decrepit condition of the weaponry.

It's all in the eyes, don't ya' know.

Wells is usually pretty accurate, although his numbers are less than forthright, and he knows it now.

Nice shot over his bow too!

At 5:26 p.m., Blogger Greg Staples said...

Nice looking Wells-alanche!

At 4:50 p.m., Blogger Timmy the G said...

Nicely done, Damian. Blows away the smokescreen around the defence spending very nicely.

Well done on the Wells link. Looks like you got that larger audience you were looking for.

At 9:06 a.m., Blogger Daveyy said...

I was recently out of the country on vacation with friends. We had a serious discussion about the benign neglect of our Armed Forces and the absolute need to get serious.

On the plane home, the Canadian newspapers were filled with news about MASSIVE defence spending to come. I could hardly believe my eyes- at last the liberals had seen the light!

Alas, as you so rightfully point out, it was just smoke and mirrors yet again.


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